July 25–29 was a big week at Sunnyside Church in Portland, Ore. The entire church building (and many of its members) were transported halfway around the world and centuries back in time to the land of the Pharaohs for Vacation Bible School.
Countless hours were spent in the planning and decorating for the annual VBS featuring the story of Joseph, "From Prison to Palace." Volunteers turned the sanctuary into a grand, golden-clad palace, reminiscent of Egypt's famous past. A lantern-lined tunnel passage led children back in time to the city streets of Memphis where they gathered in family groups, amid shops, markets and food stores to sing, study the Bible lessons and learn about the story of Joseph.
The first night the children ventured into the damp, dark, musty "dungeon" to meet Joseph in chains. They eagerly listened to his story of capture, accusation and imprisonment. The second night at VBS they met the great Pharaoh himself who was very distraught over a recent dream. With wide eyes the children and adults listed to Joseph, God's faithful prisoner, interpret Pharaoh's dream. Everyone cheered when Joseph was released from prison and given oversight of the food and grain.
With their family groups, eager children ventured through the markets to buy food and make crafts. Some crafts were for taking home and some, like the "Kids in Discipleship" teddy bear shop, gave the children opportunity to make something for those in Memphis (or Portland) who are less fortunate.
While some families were in the marketplace, others went out to the fields for games or down to the mud flats for brick-making. Gene Dennis, one of the head foremen at the brick-making center said, "Considering that we were making bricks all week, it actually wasn't too bad!" Asked if he'd consider helping again next year, he answered, "Absolutely!"
This rang true over and over as we walked the streets of ancient Egypt at Sunnyside. Lorene Beaulieu, one of the family leaders said, "The vitality and energy of the kids is just infectious. You can't help but have fun." One of the parents, Ginger Pape, said, "The staff helping with this program far exceeded my expectations." Another visitor said the sanctuary decor was the best he had ever seen at any church for any occasion.
Comments from the children were equally positive. Lauren Mann said that the shops were her favorite, especially the collar craft store. Ebba, Kelsey and Chloe each commented that the actual time in the palace with Joseph was by far and away the highlight of their week as the children learned that God gives hope, special abilities, wisdom, forgiveness and a family. Breanna Dalusong said that she looked forward to the games each night.
All-in-all it was a fabulous (and very full) week at Sunnyside. An unofficial survey taken at the door showed 92 percent of the children were not ready for VBS to be over even after five days. Certainly everyone who participated in this years' Egypt adventure at Sunnyside was richly blessed.