This week our church hosted Vacation Bible School (VBS) for the children of our church and community. VBS always brings back a flood of memories from my own childhood, and I must confess things have changed!
Back in the olden days, the opening assembly of VBS began with the children lining up outside and then marching in slow parade following children carrying a big “family” Bible, the American Flag and the Christian flag. During the service, we pledged allegiance to the flags and the Bible, and stood up and sat down to the sounds of notes ringing out from the piano. At times the opening assembly was closer to a “solemn assembly” than it was to a worship celebration.
In the classrooms, we learned about Jesus and the great Bible stories from “flannel story boards”. On these boards our teachers tried to make “two-dimensional” figures come alive in our imagination.
Today VBS blows back your hair like a West Texas windstorm. From the open assembly to the final prayer in the midst of the clamor of children it is a total body, soul, spirit experience.
The VBS music of today stirs the hearts and minds of the children in amazing ways. The original songs put to music the verses and the themes of the week. The children sing and “dance” (Oh I meant to say “moved with rhythm and choreography” to the beat of the song!) By the way one of the most glaring reasons I did not dance as a young Baptist had more to do with my coordination than my theological convictions! If you don’t believe me just ask my wife Robyn, a converted Methodist, who danced her way into my heart.
In downtown El Paso the experience of VBS reminded me of what heaven will be like one day. During the parent’s night the children performing on stage created a choir that would rival any choir in heaven. Blended in beautiful stunning harmony sang together children with family roots from Africa, Europe , Asian, and South America. From a distance it looked like a “mini” United Nations minus the conflict and the discord.
It reminded me of one of my childhood songs which rang true in their faces: “Jesus loves all the little children…all the children of the world…red, and yellow, black and white…they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves all the children of the world!”
I know He does, and I pray we will too!
Let me close with a vivid reminder of why we open our hearts to children. On the last day, I was invited for a question and answer time with a large group of boys and girls who had just completed the fourth grade.
I must admit they peppered me with questions that we more challenging than my ordaining council many years ago. At the close of our time in a private moment one young man caught my eye and asked me a couple of probing questions I will not soon forget.
He opened by asking me: “Are you a Christian?” I smiled and nodded “yes”. Then he asked, “What does it feel like?”
He stunned me into a moment of silence. I responded “It feels like someone loves me and will always love me. It feels like knowing my life is secure in God’s hand…it feels like peace.” What does it feel like to you?