The hug was long and heartfelt. It was the last night of Vacation Bible School, and each child had come to the platform to place their paper heart on a cross, inviting Jesus into their lives. Now the goodbyes were underway.
Elijah — sweaty from games and lack of air conditioning, mouth crusted with remnants of VBS supper and hands sticky from craft glue — hugged his leader and mouthed “thank you” as he clutched a stuffed goat he had dubbed “Gary” earlier that week.
Gary the stuffie was among several used to illustrate a joint VBS and Adventist Development and Relief Agency mission project. As the amount of money given rose throughout the week, a stuffed goat was “sent to Africa” and a stuffie disappeared. The children were then shown a picture of a child in Africa holding a goat which looked like the one that had been "sent."
Elijah is a community kid whose family found the local Adventist VBS through Facebook marketing. He was reluctant to see Gary the goat “sent away.” Little did he know, the VBS leader had secretly given the goat stuffie to Elijah's mother to present to him at home. His mom couldn’t resist giving him the gift early.
That big hug, that cross full of hearts and other moments when God touched a child’s heart are why so many people do VBS. And they're why 23 churches in Washington Conference did VBS in 2023.
This year most volunteers were seasoned VBS leaders, but several churches valiantly took on this summertime evangelism programming as either their first or an “it’s been a while” VBS. Throughout the week, VBS attendees were taken from the African savannah to outer space, from Moab and Bethlehem to the Australian outback or from a science lab to the foot of Mount Sinai.
Despite volunteer challenges like caring for ailing parents, preparing for a family wedding or making the best of small volunteer pools and even smaller budgets, each leader prioritized prayer for their VBS. And God made things happen!
He raised up modern-day Bezaleels — artists — who not only built a life-sized wilderness sanctuary, but also turned metal trashcans into rocket ships and painted full-scale cardboard giraffes, elephants, zebras and lions.
God raised up volunteers young at heart hanging on their laurels from the “good ol' days,” and twenty-somethings engaging with technology. He even provided several hundred free kids' cookbooks for post-VBS gifts.
As the VBS season comes to a close, let us extend an Elijah-style hug to those involved for accepting God's call to shine for Him to the littlest ones in our church families. They should high-five their teammates and bask together in the blessing of being part of children's ministry.