Karen Pearce is an IMB worker among European peoples and contributing writer.
At Lihue Baptist Church, Vacation Bible School (VBS) is not just a crazy, hectic week marking the busiest days of summer, but the touchstone of their evangelism efforts on the island of Kauai.
What started as a traditional five-day program has evolved into a summer-long event, called Summer SONsation, that draws kids from all over the island. This year, the summer began with sixty-eight registered children and ended five weeks later with 177 attendees. Fifty students professed their faith in Christ. Pastor Christopher Metcalf baptized thirty-eight of them on the last day of VBS and twelve more are planning to be immersed in the next few weeks.
“It’s a very effective ministry. It’s so simple to work with children because when they hear the truth they know it’s true,” said Michelle Metcalf, the pastor’s wife and the director of SONsation.
In this predominantly Buddhist culture, reaching the children seems to be a good first step to reaching the adults, who tend to align religiously out of fealty to their heritage, not personal belief.
“The idea is to reach the lost through the children. [The adults] are very allegiant to their culture. They often listen to the Gospel and want to add Jesus to their gods, but they don’t accept him as Lord,” Michelle said. “We can break through that barrier with the kids and once the kids get it, the rest of the family usually will follow.”
At least ten families have joined the church in the last five years as a direct result of VBS. Many more are now connected to the church through counseling or other programs offered throughout the year.
Meeting a Need
Chris, Michelle, and their four children didn’t move to Hawaii fourteen years ago planning to start a VBS ministry, but the need was so obvious that they couldn’t miss the opportunity God had placed before them. The high cost of living in Hawaii necessitates most families working two or three jobs, leaving the kids to fend for themselves during the long days of summer and making VBS a valuable resource for the community. Chris himself was saved as a ten-year-old boy through a VBS program so he was on board from the beginning.
The church did a traditional week-long program in the beginning and then began to travel around to different locations throughout the island to reach a wider audience. But they realized that many of the kids were following them from one place to another, so they decided to stay put, let the kids come to them, and focus on creating a comprehensive program.
“This is what God is doing here and we’re just trying to be obedient. He has provided a platform and we are taking it and running with it as far as we can go,” Michelle said. “He’s an amazing God and can do way far greater than what we can even dare to imagine and He’s showing us that.”
Michelle has undertaken the task of writing the curriculum each summer because of budgeting limitations. The first week they use LifeWay curriculum; weeks two to six are created in-house and follow a consistent theme. Day twenty-five connects back to day one in kind of a ‘walk through the Bible’ format, giving them a broad look at who Christ is.
“We really emphasize Christ—not an acknowledgment of God or an awareness of God—that’s very very common here. We have Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and a lot of New Agers, so introducing Christ as the one and only God is really important,” Michelle said. “It’s very evangelistic and the emphasis is on Christ. We always begin with creation and end up in Revelation so they understand God’s purpose, plan, and promises.”
VBS includes nights when families are invited to have dinner and see what the kids have learned. This has drawn entire families into the church culture, introducing them to Christ.
Chris and Michelle are also active in the community throughout the year, which helps to make the connection between VBS and life. The church’s outreach ministries are called C.A.R.E. (Committed to Actively Reaching Everyone for Christ), and include a center for meeting spiritual and crisis pregnancy needs and abstinence education, tutoring services, Backyard Bible clubs, weekly community dinners, movie nights, and monthly children’s parties. Michelle also teaches in the local school system.
One of the greatest testimonies is teenage moms who have kept their babies after crisis pregnancy counseling, and eventually bring those children to VBS. “That’s been real full circle. That’s been beautiful, really beautiful,” Michelle said.
Lihue Baptist also has regular evangelistic ministries from preaching and teaching to service opportunities, worship, and prayer.
“We try our best to have a Great Commission heart and reach the community through various avenues. Here, you can’t build and they’ll come. We have to have a planter’s mindset and work ethic of constantly planting, watering, and tilling,” Chris said.
Acts 26:17b–18 has been the impetus behind their entire ministry at Lihue: I now send you to them to open their eyes so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that by faith in Me they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified.
“We had no idea the depth of that, but that was the verse we claimed,” Michelle said. “We came in with that fourteen years ago and put it on the refrigerator, and it’s still on the refrigerator today.”
But even though this ministry has been very successful, Michelle and Chris take no credit for the results.
“I don’t look at the program as ours; I really felt like the Lord laid them in our lap,” Michelle said. “How could we not do this if God is moving in this direction?”