eNewsletter Feature Story – Week of August 8-August 14, 2021
This week’s eNewsletter feature
was written by Jim Teague,
First Pres director of communications.
This week we have hosted Vacation Bible School here at First Pres. If you haven’t had a chance to visit this week (or volunteer to help… thank you, volunteers!), portions of the church have been transformed into a train car, the Rocky Mountains, and a train station where the kids have been building a track which is extended through the participants’ sharing of “God Sightings.”
Our theme is “Rocky Railway: Jesus’ Power Pulls Us Through.” The imagery of a mighty steam engine pulling its cars through the mountains is used to help the kids from ages 3-12 understand that God is more than strong enough to pull us along with him. Jesus sees us through the difficult times of life and continues to ride with us as we go up and up in our “mountaintop experiences” too.
I never went to vacation bible school as a child. As a single parent, my mom couldn’t get us to much more than the Christmas and Easter services (I collected ear infections like other kids collected baseball cards, so we were no-shows on many Sunday mornings), and, once she remarried, it just never became a part of our new family culture.
As a result, today, I soak in the videos, images, and object lessons like a dry sponge reaching the ocean’s edge!
One of the ways VBS is teaching us about God’s love for us is through repetition of various concepts. One of them is the phrase “TRUST JESUS!”
Every time the leader (Engineer Allison) and her loyal assistant (Engineer Margee) used the phrase “Trust Jesus!”, everyone in the room would put an arm up in the air and pull it down like an engineer blowing the whistle on a steam engine (Up on “Trust” and down on “Jesus!”).
Call it a mnemonic device, an indoctrination technique, or brainwashing. Whatever. All I know is that whenever I hear a train whistle blow from now on, I’ll be pulling my arm up and down and thinking (if not shouting) “Trust Jesus!”
Don’t think the message was getting through?
I was talking with a relative of one of the VBS participants (also known as “passengers”) who said their child came home from Tuesday’s session all fired up. Later that afternoon, the child was seen trying to ride their bike… with their eyes closed. When asked why they would do such a thing, the child pulled on their imaginary train whistle rope and replied “I’m learning to trust Jesus!” That’s the kind of faith that grows up knowing how to climb the mountains life throws in their path… or move them!
People who know me know I can cry at the drop of a hat, the turn of a dramatic phrase, or the singing of a meaningful note. I’ve managed to keep my red train conductor’s bandana dry so far this week, but just barely. It is amazing to me how the producers of these VBS curricula are able to create new tunes, contemporary imagery, and understandable lyrics which meld together to raise the spirits of the whole room in worship and celebration.
In addition, they’ve sprinkled in a few classics like “The Old Rugged Cross” and “This Train is Bound for Glory” to pass along the love of songs which go back generations. What a blessing!
Forgive me if I’m beginning to sound like an infomercial for VBS guides. It’s just that I suspect many of us could benefit from spending a week of mornings worshiping, dancing, doing some crafts, and taking in some object lessons to help us get our heads around challenging concepts (on Tuesday, some of the kids “panned for gold,” looking for tiny, shiny glitter fragments in a bowl of sand, which served as a metaphor for how we sometimes need to “dig deep” to find hope and thankfulness when life gets tough. Can I get an “Amen?”).
Sunday morning, Pastor Ray Hylton will continue our “Summer in the Psalms” sermon series as he teaches from Psalm 34:1-8. His message is entitled “A Great Prayer of Thanksgiving” and shines a scriptural light on thanksgiving as a lifestyle.
We will all get a chance to worship our awesome, loving God, and take in a song or two from this week’s Vacation Bible School.
Don’t be surprised if there are a few train whistles, too, along with some fun arm movements! It might be just the thing for those who have been tripped up by the rocky road of life in recent months.
First Pres Director of Communications