When I was a kiddie, summer meant VBS at my home church. It was a 2-week affair, daily from 9 until noon. Mom would load up the station wagon with her own plus a few neighborhood kids and we would drive to First Baptist Church in Lincoln Park. Mom drifted off to help while the kids found their places in their various classes.
It was carefully planned and I can still recall the schedule: 9:00 Opening. All the kids and teachers met in the sanctuary. Then at 9:15, we would dismiss to our various age-appropriate classes. Once there, we'd get a story plus a memory verse; we were encouraged to memorize for the next day for a prize. We'd practice that verse until about 9:45 when we moved to crafts.
Over the years, I discovered all sorts of things you can make with Popsicle sticks, string, and clay. The craft projects would spread over the entire 2 weeks, being ready to take home on the second Thursday.
There was game time outside; there was a real missionary who told his/her story throughout the week. We took a daily offering for this missionary.
And, of course, there was snack time. My church was big on some sort of red fruit juice (Hawaiian Punch?) Whatever it was, we never got it at home so that made Bible School even more special. Plus there were real, made-by-a-mom oatmeal cookies.
By 11:30, the entire group moved back into the sanctuary to decompress and recall what we had learned, and once again, we recited the memory verse and the Bible School song, and then we were sent on our way until the next morning. Second Thursday night was the program for the parents. And we repeated it on Sunday for the home folks.
Mom continued the schedule: we would load up the car and drive home. Then, it was tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.
Bible School filled the first two weeks of summer vacation. Every year. Did I memorize some scripture? Sure. For a bright, shining moment, I could recite and win the prize. Was I able to recite those verses in the months that followed? Well, no, not so much.
So had I 'hidden the word' in my heart? I guess that could be up for discussion. What I DO know is that any such training...any effort to learn the promises of God...is not wasted. Somehow, somewhere in those brain ganglia, the Spirit planted seeds. And when the need came, those seeds had sprouted and taken root.
That's the way it goes when it comes to teaching children the truths of scripture and the promises of God.
This week, it was my privilege to serve at a local VBS. I asked to be a helper, to be used wherever they could use me: it landed me in the 6 - 8 year-old class with a gifted teacher and another helper. This VBS was for one week, from 6 until 8:30.
From the director to her teachers and helpers, you could see their sense of purpose. They knew that they were doing God's work with these little ones. I was also reminded that where many an adult finds it tough to memorize scripture, brains young and agile can soak like a sponge. How great is it that this little group soaked up such truths as "God will supply all my needs."
The memory verses were set to music and fleshed out with videos. The kiddos smiled as they sang and worked the motions. And they learned.
The church's pastor was 1/3 of the skit team, playing an important role in teaching about character. What I did not know, until today, is that the pastor had to summon a lot of strength for the week. Monday night, after he had locked up the church, he took a different route home only to be stopped by some sort of traffic blockage. It took little time for him to see that there had been an accident up ahead. He told us that he donned his CHAPLAIN vest, left his car and walked up the road. He came upon a tragic scene.
A 10-year-old boy, riding his bike, had be struck by a car and lay in the road. The boy had been near his home: his mother had heard the crunch and had run to the a scene. She was kneeling by her son who was drifting in and out. She was telling him to stay with her. She was praying. He closed his eyes and left her and us.
And God had purposed that our pastor be on the scene to be large for these people.
A tale told over and over: no alcohol, no rain, no reason: a young life ended right there by the side of the road. The boy was a believer. His family is active in a local church, as is the driver. And we're all left with why oh why oh why?
It's probably impossible to find a reason. As one friend said, "It's hard to realize that this was God's plan for this boy. That he was not going to graduate from high school. That he was not going to go to church this morning." And we are left wounded, bruised and aching.
I'll leave it for the nonbeliever to find his answer. For those of us to whom God is real, it's times like this that we much cling to the truths of scripture, to those things that we know are true. God is good. God loves us (him). God has a plan and it is perfect.
That doesn't erase the pain. Or the very human longing for a different plan. It WILL bring peace eventually as we await reunion. Our God will supply all our needs. Phillippians 4:19.
Please pray for the family of Kurt Allen Engler.