I have no idea how old I was when I first went to Vacation Bible School but I vividly remember marching into the opening assembly (and how lucky you were if you got to carry one of the flags--the American flag or the Christian flag, it didn't matter) anticipating the rest of the morning. After the pledges and the hymns--and they were hymns ("Holy Bible, Book Divine" being one I can remember)--and finally, the "stand up" chord and then it was off to our classrooms for Scripture memory, crafts that usually involved popsicle sticks, papier mache or a wire clothes hanger, and watery Kool-aid and vanilla sandwich cookies. In those days, VBS was heavier on the "school" side of things than it is now--memorizing and worksheets and maps--but that was fine with me. I loved it.
I was 7, I think, when I decided to give my life to Christ during VBS (we called it "asking Jesus into your heart" and I was actually just making it official). And it was during VBS when I first heard the call to ministry as an earnest nine-year-old. I still remember that moment in time-slowing detail and it guides me even today. I still remember going to VBS at the Lutheran church on the hill and at the Church of Christ and at my grandparents' churches--all different places, different faces but essentially the same.
I started helping my mom when I was a young teenager, old enough to know I didn't really like kids but I liked ministry. Then there were Backyard Bible Clubs in shabby neighborhoods on every youth mission trip throughout my teenage years. In college, I was the youth director at a small-town church in a nearby town and one of my main duties was directing the Bible School. I felt very important and also very humbled--after all, these church women knew so much more than I did about it. Now I know that none of them wanted the job and were more than happy to watch me run around like a crazy person buying pipe cleaners and making copies and spray painting posters.
After that, I took a short break from VBS--the year we were married and the next year and then I taught every year after that until last year with the single exception of the year we moved to CLBC. Since we had just moved the week before, I didn't have a job at VBS so I just went and sat in the teachers' snack room every day and got to know just about every woman in the church over cookies and soft drinks as they took a short break from the hardest volunteer job the church has to offer.
In the last 15 years, I have been a site director for 13 teaching sites--there was the general store, the Arctic explorer's post, the jungle tent, the desert island (we moved about 30 pounds of sand into the choir room for that one). There was the Bible-day market (ours ended up looking a lot like the set from a harem movie) and the secret agents' lair and the mountain climbers' cabin. Every year the kids got older but because we stayed in one place for so long, we got to watch them grow from little ones to teenaged helpers. Recently I attended the wedding of a boy I first taught the year we were all spies on a secret mission.
This year, I provided snacks (I tried to make really good snacks) for the teachers in VBS at our new church. I dropped Boo off and looked around at all the sets and tried to be encouraging and enthusiastic. And then I left. And, shhhh, don't tell . . . it felt wonderful!