This story can be found in my book, The Majorettes are Back in Town and Other Things to Love About the South
The word, “Vacation” in Vacation Bible School is a trick that makes sweet church ladies volunteer for the king-daddy of all summer spectacles. No longer a quiet week of coloring pictures of Moses while nibbling crunchy and creamy Oreo cookies, Vacation Bible School, or VBS, is now a production that makes Star Wars seem like a backyard puppet show. Just under 500 children and volunteers showed up at our church this year for a razzle-dazzle good time.
Costumes and decorations, sound tracks and special lighting add to the experience of being in the desert for forty days and nights, and when the fog machine is added the next day, we’re transported to a rocking boat on the Sea of Galilee.
More coordinated than the US Army, the VBS Mom Squad mans their stations for skits, songs, science experiments and even themed snacks. Yogurt with a message? Yep. The snack lady told us, “The granola on top is rocky and hard like our lives can sometimes get. But the yogurt underneath is sweet and smooth which is how our lives can be with Jesus.”
Would it kill them to find a good lesson inside an Oreo?
After I was too old to attend VBS, I followed the natural progression of church ladies nd became a volunteer. At first, I was only a teenage helper but the achieved the much anticipated and honorable position of a group leader. Since then, I've also led the music, recreation and games, dressed as Bible characters and told stories, led field trips and served snacks.
Even though I’m a veteran when it comes to Bible School, I’m still completely surprised each year at how worn out I am at the end of each day. The children are adorable, but they will suck every ounce of energy from your saved soul. When I taught in public schools, I could immediately get the undivided attention of the wildest of classrooms by slamming a book on the desk and giving them the evil eye, but at VBS, I’m forced to use my church manners and be peaceful, kind, gentle, good, patient and all that other stuff which is expected in God’s house. It’s utterly exhausting for me to be so sweet around that many children.
Every summer, God shows me his sense of humor when he sends little boys into my group who would make the preacher cuss. You know the ones. They’ll find a paper clip on the floor and bend it to form a weapon for little girl’s legs. They make naughty things out of the popsicle sticks and spin around on the floor during the prayer. Bathroom sinks get backed up with paper towels, and no lie – one year, I had a little boy who wrote his name on the bathroom wall – and it wasn’t with a crayon. Obviously, my righteousness wasn’t the only thing that sprung a leak that day.
By the end of the week, the children have finally learned the daily routine, the volunteers have reconciled themselves to feeding their own children drive-through hamburgers five days in a row, and the closing assembly is minutes away. We’re all sitting crossed-legged on the hard floor beneath a tent in faux Jerusalem when the roughest of the boys comes and sits next to me and quietly says, “I’m kind of like Jonah.”
“You mean you’re stuck inside a big fish?”
“No, I mean that sometimes I don’t do what God tells me to do. But when I finally listen, everything turns out to be really good.”
I take a deep breath, dab the corners of my eyes, and haul my weary self up off the floor and go sign up to teach Vacation Bible School again the next year.
With or without the Oreo cookies.