HANNIBAL, Mo. (BP)–Outside, the sky is a steely gray as a soft drizzle falls. The sidewalk is full of shiny black umbrellas, much like the busy London streets.
But inside, the air is charged with energy. One room hosts three energetic teens dressed in tartan plaid leading a group of 5-year-olds in song and a lively jig. Fourth-graders down the hall gather under a black and white striped awning that hangs over a cafe entrance, where they clamber for fresh-baked scones. Everywhere you look, tiny detectives prowl the halls, magnifying glasses pressed to their eyes.
No, you haven’t taken the Underground to Scotland Yard, and you haven’t been transported to Great Britain, despite the London skyline. The thick Scottish brogues are heard in none other than Immanuel Baptist Church in Hannibal, Mo., where a group of children are seeking to crack a code: The Character Code, in Vacation Bible School for 2003.
“The Great Kingdom Caper-Cracking the Character Code” took the children on an almost-for-real trip to Great Britain for a thrilling detective VBS adventure. Throughout the week, the child-size sleuths were led by adult-size inspectors to find and investigate clues that helped them learn how to live with Christian character. Using biblical examples from Ruth, Abram, Isaac, Paul and Jesus, the children learned how to live lives of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, endurance, forgiveness and love. Vacation Bible School is sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
More than 70 sleuths took part in the week’s events at Immanuel. Linda Youse, also known as Chief Inspector Youse, was the director for the third year.
“I do this each year because I have seen what an important ministry it is,” Youse, a former schoolteacher, said. “VBS makes church fun. Every year we are able to see so many children come to know Christ. Then, they invite their parents to come, and before you know it, VBS has been used to bring an entire family to Christ.
“We really tried to make this year’s VBS very user-friendly,” Youse said. “We wanted this to be something that entire families would participate in, so we provided dinner each night for the families. We wanted everybody at our church to feel like they could be a part of VBS.”
Youse took her own words seriously, as she and two of her daughters took prominent roles in the activities. Her daughter, Lauren, was one of the music leaders.
“I think the theme of learning about Christian character is wonderful,” said Lauren, a junior at Hannibal-LaGrange College. “It’s something that I don’t think they learn enough about in school, and for many of them, this is the only place they will see the character traits we are trying to teach them about.
“I think I’ve learned just as much this week as they have. I’ve been studying the material for several months and have really felt convicted to live my life as an example to these children. I became a Christian at VBS, and I’ve had a blast seeing so many children learn more about Christ.”
The children were equally excited about VBS. Tanner Sublette, a second-grader, certainly fit the part of sleuth, as he showed up with his spy belt, equipped with a magnifying glass, tape recorder and sunglasses (to use as a disguise). He spent time before VBS visiting each house in his neighborhood and inviting those children to church.
“I really wanted everybody to learn about God and have Jesus in their hearts,” Sublette said. “It’s a lot of fun to be a detective and the songs were really cool. But the most important thing is that everybody learns more about God.”
“It’s been a great week,” concluded Mark Bross, who along with his wife, Lisa, also served as inspectors for the week, while their three children participated as sleuths. “As a matter of fact, I’d say we’ve had a jolly good time!”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: CRAFTY KIDS, ISAAC & VBS, GRANDMOTHER’S TOUCH and CODE CAPER.
LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention is one of the world’s largest publishers of religious materials, producing VBS resources, along with 180 monthly and quarterly products and more than 210 new undated products annually.