My friend David Pannell wrote a story that appeared in Friday’s Journal about Vacation Bible School.
My take-away from the story was something I’ve known for a while now: Today’s VBS is not our grandmothers’ VBS.
Truth is, it’s not even this baby boomer’s VBS.
I learned things had changed several years ago when my niece Bailey called to share with me her “best day” at Bible school.
The story of the day was about Jonah and the big fish. Bailey and her Bible school buddies did not just sit in little chairs and listen to a volunteer read the story of Jonah from a book.
Oh, the story was told. But as it was told, the kids sat inside a tent-like structure that served as the belly of the big fish. An open can of tuna sat on a stool with a fan blowing the fishy scent into the fish belly.
It seems those in charge made certain the young attendees experienced the story of Jonah as best they could and through all five senses.
I might enjoy today’s themed Vacation Bible schools. But when my sweet Southern Baptist grandmother took me to her church for VBS when I was 5 or 6, I admit, it was not my favorite summertime activity.
My most vivid memory remains clear and fresh all these decades later.
We’d had mid-morning snacks – graham crackers and grape juice – and were allowed to have a brief time of play before we got down to the serious business of Bible school.
I took my place in one side of a rocking wooden row boat.
Another girl got in on the other side and commenced to rock the boat to a startling speed.
Suddenly, the teacher summoned all of us to our seats in a semi-circle where she waited, book in hand, to read us the day’s Bible story. It was my favorite: the story of Zacchaeus, the tiny, tax collector who climbed a tree in order to better see Jesus.
My co-captain jumped from the rocking boat with a force that made it flip, pinning me beneath.
I was not hurt, except for my pride. And the painful shyness with which I lived kept me from calling for help.
The teacher commenced her storytelling, but then noticed an empty chair in the semi-circle. “Where’s Leslie?” I heard her ask of those in their proper places.
I wiggled my hand and in nearly a whisper answered. “Here I am. Under this boat.”
The action was swift. The boat was lifted off me. And the attention of the adults focused only on me for what seemed an eternity.
Shy folks don’t like attention.
So imagine my joy when the teacher got back to business.
The business of the wee, little Zacchaeus.
Climbing up that sycamore tree.