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Baptist Homes brings VBS to the young at heart

OZARK – Two women at the Baptist Homes campus here enjoy a coloring activity during a VBS program for the young at heart. Photo courtesy of BHHM

OZARK, Mo. (BP) – “What would VBS look like for participants in their 80s, 90s, and 100s?” That’s a question Baptist Home leaders in Ozark had to answer before offering vacation Bible school to their residents earlier this summer. They decided it didn’t have to look much different than it does for children, since many residents already had fond memories of experiencing VBS.

Residents said the VBS made them “feel like kids again,” Pam Workman-Chainey, administrator for the Ozark campus of Baptist Homes, told The Pathway. Baptist Homes is a group of facilities sponsored by Missouri Baptists to care for the aging.

“The residents are still talking about the event and how much they enjoyed the week,” she said. “They seemed to love the theme, music, crafts and especially old songs from VBS when they were younger.”

While reminiscing two years ago about their own childhood memories of VBS, Workman-Chainey and campus pastor Ron Adrian decided it was something they wanted to do for the Baptist Home residents.

“But, being in the midst of COVID, we knew we would have to wait,” she said.

Last January, she, Adrian, and Dan Swadley – former pastor at First Baptist Brookline in Springfield and now a Drury University instructor – began working in earnest to put together VBS activities, sessions, music, guests and volunteers. Swadley led music and provided a four-part teaching series on the armor of God.

The VBS was “specifically designed for the residents of our campus, and for our independent living residents,” Workman-Chainey said. “There was special music daily, with crafts and refreshments provided by our campus auxiliary.”

The event enrolled 72 people and had an average attendance of 47 each day for the week. Perfect attendance awards were given to 36 participants.

The two oldest VBS attendees were Fawn Barnhart, 103, and Mary Hagler ,100.

“There was a 94-year-old gentleman who attended who had never had a chance to attend Vacation Bible School as a child,” Workman-Chaney said.

Adrian said the event was a “spiritually enhancing experience,” adding: “I believe the residents benefited greatly by the teaching of God’s Word, singing the old VBS songs and choruses, and enjoying the fellowship of the many others attending.” 

Joshua Hall, associational mission director for the Greene County Baptist Association, spoke at the event about the association’s work and ministry. He said he learned many of the residents “are, or had been, members of GCBA congregations.”

“What a wealth of wisdom and experience!” among the VBS participants, he said. “Many of them are heroes of the faith, having served decades as pastors, missionaries and dedicated laypeople.”

“It was a blessing to see the residents participate, not only in missions, but in Bible study and worship (complete with the motions)!”

This was the first VBS on the Ozark campus. Workman-Chainey said she hopes to do it again.

This article originally appeared in The Pathway.

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