Roman Gonzales lost his tooth, Jorge Hanschu became a sand-statue buried up to his knees, Reed Batterton explored the wonderful world of glue, and Autumn Ayers ate fruit she had never seen before, but all were part of a summer-time program last week, that transformed churches and children across Marion County.
At Zion Lutheran Church in Hillsboro, the children mentioned above joined others from attending church families and from the local community for a five-day desert journey, learning about Jesus Christ. Janna Huebner of Hillsboro, a dedicated group of teachers, youth, and other volunteers made vacation Bible school possible at the church.
“We started with 20 students on Monday, but by Thursday we had 30 kids involved,” church pastor Brett Huebner said. “This really is a community outreach and we encourage all kids to come have fun and make connections with Christ.”
Zion VBS prayer and snack leader Marilyn Riemer, a pastor’s wife and life-long Bible school enthusiast, said teachers and helpers divided children into caravan groups instead age-classes this year.
“We gotta change with the times,” she said. “These caravan groups give older children a chance to help with the younger children, and they all get to know each other much better this way.”
The caravan groups followed a theme of desert travel at Zion as children learned about the life of Jesus Christ, and how to trust and follow him. Decorations transformed the church into five learning stations, including a full-size drama tent in the church storage room, desert sand dunes outside the back door, and a market-square snack setting in the shade trees near the front of the church.
Crafts made during the week included handprint T-shirts highlighting Jesus’ journeys in the desert and jeweled crowns.
Even though Zion’s week ended with water play for recess and a grand-finale program at noon on Friday, teen helper Jordan Siebert said she was just getting started with summer vbs.
“I help at several Bible schools each year,” she said. “I just love playing with the kids and it’s a great way to spend the summer.”
Last week, Marion churches joined forces, as they have every summer since 2007, for community vacation Bible school at Marion Elementary School. Churches participating included Marion Christian, Emmanuel Baptist, Marion Presbyterian, and Valley United Methodist churches.
“It’s amazing when you have four different churches in town that can come together to put on vacation Bible school and you have a public school that will allow them to use the building for it,” Presbyterian Pastor Jeremiah Lange said.
“It’s helpful to do it all together. We get more kids to participate when they know all their friends are going to be here,” Emmanuel Baptist Pastor Josh Wesner said.
While the children were involved in many different activities, Emma Calhoun, 8, Dylan Cooper, 9, and Sadie Macdonald, 11, expressed common themes in what the highlights of the week were for them.
“The songs and the crafts, all of them,” Calhoun said.
“Crafts,” Cooper said. “We made a cross out of matches. They were already struck.”
“We did crafts and sang songs,” Macdonald said. “We made a house.”
Calhoun described the main lesson she learned.
“You need to trust in Him and have faith in Him,” she said.
The children also collected money that they donated to Families and Communities Together of Marion County.
Wesner said the benefits of the joint effort for children go beyond what is taught in class.
“They get to see adults from the other churches working together, so they see denominational barriers being broken down,” Wesner said. “The community takes more notice when you have 100 kids at one VBS — people around town see all these kids wearing the same shirt.”
Goessel area churches also held VBS programming last week, while Peabody community churches will host summer Bible school July 16 through 20 at Peabody United Methodist Church on North Sycamore. Ebenfeld Mennonite Brethren Church south of Hillsboro is hosting VBS sessions this week, and the Hillsboro Mennonite Brethren Church is planning a three-day weekend Bible school for community children in July.