The stage was set. The entrancing grand entrance built. Glittery stars hung. Kitchen piled high with snack foods and lemonade mix. Craft supplies laid out. Volunteer team assembled. Anticipation built. It could be none other than Vacation Bible School week at LovingtonNaz. And it’s the first of the (big) lasts in terms of our time here.
Vacation Bible School week is one of my favorite weeks of the summer. I have great memories of VBS as a kid (everything I learned about VBS, I learned from Shawnee Church of the Nazarene), but I may have an even greater fondness for VBS as an adult. When we arrived at LovingtonNaz almost exactly 7 years ago, there was not a child to be found. The youngest couple other than ourselves were Jaron’s parents. While they’re very energetic 50-somethings, they don’t quite fit the bill of a young family.
One year later, with new life and renewed passion for ministry to children and families blossoming, our church family tackled the church’s first Vacation Bible School in years. It was successful. It was energizing. Relationships were built. New families came. It proved that our church was alive, that we could DO something.
While VBS doesn’t fit every context or community, it has become a significant piece of our identity as we seek to intentionally shape the lives of families in our community and point them to Jesus. Many people in our church would say that Vacation Bible School was the first point of connection for them. Others would say it was the very first place they actively engaged in ministry. I would say it was the first place our people began to catch the vision for themselves of what God is calling our church to be.
Just a couple of years after our first VBS, while prepping food for my sister’s wedding reception, a family friend from Shawnee Church of the Nazarene shared this story:
When I was a girl, my dad worked in the oil field. He moved around from town to town, wherever the work was. Before I was born, my family lived in a little trailer in Lovington, NM. One day, a lady showed up at our family’s trailer and invited my older siblings to Vacation Bible School at the Nazarene church. They went. My older sister started going to church regularly. My family moved not long after that, but in every town, my older sister would find the Nazarene church and take my siblings (and eventually me). Today, my sister is married to a Nazarene pastor. My family knows Jesus because a little lady invited my siblings to VBS when they lived in Lovington.
I stopped slicing the pineapple. Our longtime family friend had been impacted decades before by the ministry of our church. What a beautiful story of God’s faithfulness. It’s the kind of story that we rarely get to hear, and the kind of story that makes all of the glitter in the carpet and late nights more than worthwhile.
But there’s this other thing that I just love about VBS at LovingtonNaz. For it is in that one week, that perhaps more than any other week in the year, we are the Body. Every man, woman, teenager, and child engages in some capacity to love on hordes of kids. Whether it’s singing and dancing, serving cups of lemonade, donating hundreds of hot dogs, or counting endless change from the offering, everyone does something. It’s a most beautiful expression of the Body lived out in a Kingdom way. And every year I just want to bottle up that kind of symbiotic expression of the Church and keep it going all year long. Who needs sleep?
This morning, as I picked some remnants of blue sticky tack off of the walls, I was a bit sad that I won’t get to lead the world’s most amazing VBS team next year, but I was even more proud that this piece of the legacy, which really began decades before I was born, will continue in some wonderful capacity after I am gone. They don’t know it yet, but they don’t really need me. Because what this church family knows is how to love people well.
Note: Even these pictures were taken by other members of the VBS team who willingly shared them with me.