WARRIOR, Ala. (BP) — It’s hard for Robert McAvoy to fathom that there was once a time when he didn’t know what Vacation Bible School was, but if he looks far enough back he can remember it.
“My wife told me she was volunteering for VBS one year and I said, ‘What is VBS?’ I’d grown up around church but had never been around VBS,” McAvoy said.
As his wife Angela got more involved so did he — and the more he helped out the more he was hooked.
“Eventually she was the director and we were just doing everything,” he said.
For the past 20 years “everything” has meant spending all year building an elaborate decoration scheme for VBS at Mount High Baptist Church, Warrior, Ala.
One year McAvoy made a train engine big enough for fourth and fifth graders to get inside and “drive.” That was probably his favorite, he said.
This year for the theme “Into the Wild” he made a giraffe out of cardboard covered in fabric — an animal he modestly said he “planned to be 10 feet tall but may be a little bigger than that.”
Pastor Dan Nichols said a lot bigger was more like it.
“Our ceilings at the church are 16 feet tall and the giraffe’s ears are almost to the top,” he said. “I think he’s probably 15 feet plus some inches.”
Regardless of how tall that giraffe actually was, its imposing size was a visual of the small church’s big commitment to VBS.
In years past the church was running maybe 10 people for Sunday worship and still put on an all-out VBS for dozens of kids.
In June, with the church now averaging about 40 people on Sundays, they built out an entire savannah with 8-foot elephants, sloths hanging from the ceiling and a jeep with full-sized tires.
Other church volunteers went above and beyond with homemade animal-themed snacks like monkey cookies and penguins made of marshmallows and Oreos. And everyone helped pack bags of candy for church members to hand out in nearby neighborhoods to promote VBS week.
They had 12 more children this year than last year — a big difference in a small community, Nichols said.
“Bible school to me was a straight-up blessing — it was just fun, and everybody went the extra mile,” he said. “It’s one of the greatest tools a church can have. It gets the whole congregation involved in evangelism.”
Sharing with others
And every year, what the folks do at Mount High Baptist they’re able to share with other churches. The year McAvoy built the train engine it was “driven” at six area churches. This summer, other churches in the association have made use of the giraffe, elephants and jeep.
“Even though we’re little the work can be great with God in it,” Nichols said.