We have just finished another exciting, exhilarating, energetic and slightly exhausting week of Vacation Bible School at St John’s. The children who attended, the youth who took on new leadership roles, and our volunteers who came in to help were fantastic, as always.
Our theme made for a fun week – “Roar: Life is Wild – God is Good” from Group Publishing. It was a journey through the story of the Exodus, learning more about how God is at work and responding in the lives of God’s Chosen People, and then looking more at our own.
On Day One we heard what it was like for God’s people to be in slavery under the Egyptians – and they cried out to God for help. God heard their prayers and responded so we learned that "When Life is Unfair – God is Good."
On Day Two, we learned Moses went to Pharaoh and asked him to let God’s people go! We acted out the ten plagues that God sent every time Pharaoh said NO to him – when the water turned to blood, frogs, gnats, flies, the killing of all the livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness everywhere, and finally, the killing of the first born son of the Egyptians on the night of the Passover. We learned together that “When Life is Scary – God is Good.” And finally Pharaoh told the people to take all their belongings and go – and the people fled in the middle of the night, free from slavery.
We picked up the story on Day 3 as the Israelites were wandering in the desert. The Israelites were happy they weren’t slaves anymore, but were very scared and didn’t know what would happen next. We paused in our retelling of the story to look at our own lives. We asked about times when things changed in the kids’ lives – new schools, new baby brothers or sisters, friends moving away and how hard it is for them. Weaving back to our biblical story, we heard “When Life Changes – God is Good.”
From this, we started pondering about not having enough food or water to drink and again, like when Moses prayed, God has the power to respond. Luckily, there was water to drink, and in the morning, we gathered the manna to eat and quail to give us food to make the long journey (which we symbolized with some very tasty cookies!). Even though we complained a lot, God was listening and helped us when we needed it.
On Day 4 we paused in our story and talked about Jesus. The theme for the day was “When Life is Sad – God is Good.” Jesus had been teaching people about how much God loved them, healing people when they were sick and helping them to know that everyone is special to God. Jesus knew his time was nearing an end and he knew which of his friends would betray him. We asked the kids about what they would do if they knew something bad was going to happen in a certain place - would they go like Jesus did? About how upset, scared and sad Jesus’ friends were to watch him get arrested and die. We talked about the things we had done wrong (not always obeying our parents, saying mean things to our friends; not behaving at school). If each thing we did that we shouldn't have was a like a stone, the stones from our mistakes would add up and we would soon get tired of lugging them around. It would weigh us down and make life hard. With Jesus’ actions, we were forgiven and it was like the stones were gone – we didn’t have to carry our mistakes around.
And we discovered that the story of Jesus didn't end just there – after three days, he rose from the dead so we didn’t have to stay sad. "When Life is Sad – God is Good."
On Friday, our last day, we went back to our story to find out how the people in the wilderness were doing as they wandered. We found out Moses had died and Joshua was now leading them on their journey. They had learned to trust God and be confident in the promises God made to them – they carried the Ark of the Covenant to remind themselves that God would be with them, and God would hear them when they prayed.
Finally, we joyfully entered the promised land. We gathered up crafted-boulders to make a special memorial to remind us that "When Life was Good - God was Good.” We each picked a stone to keep, and talked about all the good things God has done for us – for our families, our pets, (one little girl was thankful she could do chores) and that we had friends, to name a few of our blessings. These stones would remind us to think of the wonderful things God has given us.
That is the gift of working at a program like this; it reminds us of the heart of our faith, and helps us remember that we are all beloved children of God.
That when life is unfair...
When life is scary...
When life changes...
When life is sad...
And when life is good...
God is Good!