I was seven and we were in my backyard in Massachusetts. I was there with friends from church and friends from the neighborhood. I remember a few things from that time: first were the snacks. We had jog-o-juice and we had Goldfish. On one day, we had Hoodsies, an ice cream cup from the Northeast. All of this in the middle of the day! I remember knowing clearly that whoever organized this “school,” really didn’t know how much they exceeded my expectations when it came to snacks.
The second thing that I remembered was that my leaders were so cool. My sisters were a good bit older than me and they were my teachers, along with their friends. These high school students played with me and sang songs with me and generally made me feel like I was the coolest kid in town. These were the kids who were much too big and far too cool to be interested in me, but here they were, getting down on my level and making me feel welcomed. What’s even better is that when I saw them at church the weeks after Vacation Bible School, they said hello to me and let me know that we really were buddies.
And lastly, I remember hearing about Jesus. I grew up in the church so this wasn’t the first time I heard his name, but this was the first time his name became real in my life. I learned that Jesus loved me and would walk with me if I invited him into my life. I remember being told that whatever I did, Jesus would always care for me and be there for me.
This has of course, changed the trajectory of my life. I have leaned on Jesus in good times and in bad times. As a teenager, I knew I wanted to be a part of youth ministry, because that is where my VBS leaders came from. When I was in high school, I knew I wanted to lead small groups, because I remembered how much it meant to me to be noticed by someone older, taller, and cooler. As an adult, I have felt a call in my life to serve Christ in my vocation, and that call can be clearly traced back to that summer afternoon.
This December, I turn 30. I can still, just as if it were yesterday, remember exactly the color of the sky, the taste of the jug-o-juice, and the sound of the name of Jesus that I experienced that day. To me, that is why Vacation Bible School matters. It is a lot of work and the lay and staff team of Children’s ministry have transformed our campus into a virtual theme park of experiences for these kids. All of this work is worth it. We are creating opportunities for children, youth and adults to experience Christ for the first, second, or thirtieth time.
This week, please pray for our team, both lay and staff, that they have opportunities to remember why this all matters. Pray that our children who are coming to experience Vacation Bible School would encounter Jesus in a real way. And pray that in 25 years, someone is telling the stories of Shipwrecked, 2018.
~ Michael LeBlanc, Director of Student Ministries