WAIPAHU, Hawaii (BP)–The first-grader just had one question when Vacation Bible School was over.
“You mean we don’t come back tomorrow?”
No, VBS only lasts a week. But what the children learned lasts forever: God’s unshakable truth.
Hawaii Christian Baptist Church hosted Outrigger Island VBS this summer in Waipahu, just outside Honolulu. Even though Outrigger Island is a fictional place, the Hawaiian children claimed it as their own. They learned that they can know the truth, speak the truth and live the truth.
Outrigger Island was the theme for the main line of this year’s Vacation Bible School materials offered to churches by LifeWay Christian Resources.
“I think this has been the best theme LifeWay’s ever done,” said Hawaii Christian volunteer Mari Lou Baniaga. “The kids really liked it. The music has been great.”
Danny Catlin, Hawaii Christian’s VBS director, deflected credit for making the week’s VBS such a success with the children.
“The volunteers have made this all work,” Catlin said. “They have done the snacks, activities, decorations and everything. A group of the young ladies have worked for weeks on learning all the songs and motions so they can teach the little ones. I appreciate all their hard work.”
Lydia Gomintong, wife of Hawaii Christian’s pastor, Rudy Gomintong, said while she had taught “just about everything” in VBS through the years, the past two years she has used her organizational skills to take charge of registration, getting all the children and adults signed in and accounted for.
“It is a big job, but we want to get all the information on everyone. It’s important to know how many come every night, but it’s just as important to get accurate contact information so we can follow up,” she said.
To say that Hawaii is beautiful is an understatement, but the beauty belies the difficulties of living and ministering there.
“People here work two or three jobs sometimes, so it can be hard to find time to be in church,” Hawaii Christian member Gemma Jugueta said. “It’s very expensive to live here too, so money is tight for most people.”
Hawaii Christian volunteers picked up and delivered home most of the children attending VBS. Few parents were available to take their children for the 5 p.m. starting time. The church offered VBS snacks as well as more substantial fare like sandwiches and hot dogs.
“The kids are hungry when they get here and play,” Jugueta said.
Hawaii Christian has been a church for six years but doesn’t own land or a building. That’s fairly common for churches in Hawaii. A quick Google real estate search listed a quarter-acre lot available for nearly $700,000.
“We meet at Waikele Community Park Recreation Center on Sunday mornings,” Hawaii Christian member Esther Bacani said. “It’s small, but it is a good location.”
Since the recreation center was unavailable on weekday evenings, Hawaii Christian needed another location. For the past two years, Hawaii Christian has used the facilities of Waipahu Community Christian Church for VBS -– and welcomed children from the a sister Southern Baptist congregation to take part in Monday-through-Saturday outreach.
“[Waipahu Community Christian Church] has been so very gracious to allow us to use their building for Vacation Bible School,” Rudy Gomintong said.
A group of volunteers from Millers Creek (N.C.) Baptist Church came to help with the weeklong event in June. Pastor Jerry White and children/discipleship pastor Shannon Critcher led a group who helped volunteers from Hawaii Christian Church teach and do crafts.
“I was glad to see that Hawaii Christian took the lead in their VBS,” Critcher said. “I’ve been on mission trips before when our visiting team did it all, but the Hawaii Christian members have absolutely taken responsibility and ownership. We just helped.”
The past few years, Hawaii Christian did VBS during the day, but this year, they had it in the evening. Like more and more churches, an evening VBS made sense for them.
“We hope having Bible school at night will let us have more children come,” Baniaga said. “There are transportation issues for the children and having it at night will make it possible for working parents to bring some of their kids and for our volunteers to go pick up others.”
As part of the VBS program, participants were exposed to missions videos each night, which focused on various island locations around the globe. For this particular group in Hawaii, a special guest made the experience even more personal.
The third night, Joy Turner, a North American Mission Board missionary serving as director of international ministries in Honolulu, visited the children. Turner, the featured missionary on the video, told them about her work with international students attending the University of Hawaii.
In a review time after Turner talked, Catlin asked the students what she did. One child answered honestly when she said, “She meets college kids at the airport and then loves them and is their friend so they won’t be lonely.”
The fourth night’s video, which spotlighted the Philippines, was meaningful because many of the people attending Hawaii Christian Church, including the pastor, came from the Philippines or have parents or grandparents who immigrated to Hawaii.
In addition to the children, adults and teenagers had their own VBS tracks. Pastor Gomintong led the adults’ Bible study group attended by members of Hawaii Christian Church and some of the North Carolina volunteers. When they weren’t in their own classes, the teenagers helped with the younger children, especially in recreation.
Hawaii Christian averaged 88 people per night at VBS, which pleased the organizers and volunteers. But greater than the attendance was the fact several children made professions of faith, receiving Christ as Savior.
“We talked with each of the children who said they prayed to receive Christ or just wanted to talk with someone,” Critcher said. “As you would expect, some of the younger ones really weren’t clear about salvation, but we were glad to talk with them. God planted seeds that we feel sure will develop as they mature. But there were some of the other children who understood what salvation meant, so we were thrilled to pray with them as they became new Christians.”
“VBS is a lot of work,” Catlin said, “and it’s fun. But seeing these kids open up to hear God and learn about serving Him is what is important. Several of them prayed to receive Christ. That’s the whole point of Bible school.”
Polly House is a corporate communications specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.