NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Thick brown vines droop from the ceiling, and a parrot sits perched at eye level. Water can be heard splashing in the background and colorful flowers are scattered on the ground.
Suddenly, from behind comes the sound of a stampede! Is it elephants? Rhinos? Monkeys? Or, could it be … preschoolers?
Yes, you’ve stepped into the world of the Amazon Outfitters, this year’s theme for Vacation Bible School. Set in the jungles of a Brazilian rain forest, children participate in adventures as they are led “On Expedition with the One True God.” Here, they learn lessons that define God as an Amazing Creator, Miraculous Provider, Powerful Healer, Living Savior and Lord of All. LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention publishes the materials.
Bellevue Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn., held its Vacation Bible School during the week of July 16, led by director Lisa Willoughby. Each morning, the day began with a high-energy worship rally during which the children learned songs and interpretive movements and even had a chance to practice their birdcalls to make the jungle theme seem a bit more authentic.
“This year’s program has been wonderful,” said Kimberly Shelton, who helped lead the Vacation Bible School worship rallies at Bellevue. “It’s exciting to watch the kids worshiping God and building a firm foundation of God’s love. It’s a powerful witnessing tool, and there is a strong impact on the community, especially when the kids invite their non-churched friends to come.”
In addition to worship rallies, Amazon Outfitters also offered many creative outlets for children to learn about Jesus Christ and missions opportunities around the world. Every day participants at Bellevue Baptist crossed a wooden plank over a crocodile-infested river to the Missions Inlet.
Each group watched two videos, one about a particular missionary and his or her work and the other featuring an Amazon-based drama focused on the day’s theme.
“The videos about missions are my favorite, ’cause they’re really cool,” fifth-grader Eric Bunkowske said. “We got to learn about a bunch of missionaries, and now we can pray for them.”
To witness the impact of Vacation Bible School, one must only look as far as Emily Orten. The 17-year-old, one of the first-grade teachers at Bellevue, said she can still remember her days of VBS.
“I grew up in a Christian home, but coming to Vacation Bible School was just different,” Orten said. “I just learned so much, and it had a really big impact on my life. I’m glad I get to help with VBS now, and to share the same things with these kids.”
Horace Gaskins, a retired teacher and principal, was also excited about sharing with his fifth-grade class.
“I like to get them to think,” Gaskins said. “These kids believe everything they see on TV and don’t check God’s Word. My greatest privilege of working at VBS is being able to introduce Jesus Christ to these kids. Then, the kids go home and get their parents involved.
“The theme is what gets them here,” Gaskins continued, gesturing to the waterfall set up in the corner of his classroom. “Then the Holy Spirit gets their hearts.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: AMAZON ADVENTURE. For more information on Vacation Bible School visit http://www.lifeway.com/yourvbs/.