When the idea of attempting the church’s own Vacation Bible School (VBS) was first proposed, Joy Stallings rolled her eyes and walked away.
She knew the amount of work it would take.
“It did take a lot of extra work, [but] it was all for a good reason,” said Stallings, director of children and outreach for First Baptist Church in Washington. “Before I knew it we had a list of people who could handle [everything].”
First Baptist’s 16-year partnership with Swaziland, Africa, played a central role in this summer’s VBS.
Because more than 75 members have gone to the country since the partnership began in the mid-1990s, members could share first-hand experiences about what it’s like while showing off pictures and authentic mementoes from their trips. One member built a hut – complete with noisy chickens and goats.
“I think it may have been more real,” Stallings said. “You felt like you had been taken to another place.”
The display also included people who told stories about Peter, his calling and how God spoke to him.
In 2011, the church was going through renovations and had to cancel its plans to hold its own VBS.
The church was meeting in a confined space while the renovations took place. Before the cancellation last year, the church averaged 150 children at Vacation Bible School.
Since the girls won the fundraiser during Vacation Bible School some of the male leaders received pies in the face to reward them for raising money for medical missions in Swaziland, Africa. First Baptist Church in Washington has had a partnership with the country since the mid-1990s.
This year, the average was up slightly with 170 children registered.
“FBC has been known for its Bible school,” Stallings said. “It hurt to skip it. We just didn’t have enough space. It wasn’t going to be safe for the kids.”
Every Sunday night for a year, five women, who made up the VBS planning team, met to discuss progress of the school.
“We just have a lot of talent in the church who are willing to give their time and talent,” said Tammy Condrey, the church’s youth minister until 2007. Stallings credits Condrey, who teaches high school math, with spearheading “this homegrown VBS.”
Condrey, along with several others, wrote the curriculum. Others pitched in to write words for a theme song. They decided to use a commonly known song from a children’s movie and inserted new words.
“We had a Swazi museum [with a] curator there every day,” Stallings said.
“It was different for the kids and the workers and it was nice.”
Swazi Safari was created by members of First Baptist Church in Washington as its Vacation Bible School (VBS) this summer. They had record attendance and raised the most they have ever raised in VBS to help with medical missions in Swaziland, Africa.
The volunteers tried to emphasize how Swazi children live without phones and iPods and other technological devices and modern amenities.
“A large number of people have been to Swaziland … and it’s where a lot of our heart is for our church,” Condrey said.
The VBS offering for the week was to help a medical mission team from their church go to Swaziland in February 2013.
“We’ve never raised over $500 for a Bible School,” Stallings said, but this year, they raised more than $1,000.
“It’ll be neat to see what they’ll use that money for,” she said.
Even some of the older youth helped with leading groups.
“That meant a lot to me that a teenage boy was able to reach out to my son,” Stallings said about her nine-year-old.
Stallings had advice for others planning VBS.
“Don’t make [the volunteers] plan anything,” she said.
Instead she asked for volunteers mainly to help with crowd control and leading groups to their next station. That cut down on the amount of volunteers needed for leading the main segments of VBS. “The easier you make it for them the more volunteers you get,” she said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Dianna L. Cagle is assistant managing editor of the Biblical Recorder, North Carolina’s main source for Baptist news.)