Memories of Vacation Bible School

Memories of Vacation Bible School

The visual, sounds, physical contact, aromas, odors, and even flavors that on occasion we taste upon our tongue can roll back the pages of time without the opening of a book. Obviously, we take photographs, often organizing them into albums, to preserve and reinforce our memories. A familiar song, unexpected, all but forgotten and obscured by time, may carry us back to the days of our youth. An experiential learner myself, running my fingers across the texture of practically anything directly linked with the past makes history all the more tangible.

Each year in late spring, as I prepare for my first excursion to my favorite public swimming hole, I retrieve my swimwear. Washed, hung up to dry, and eventually stashed away for months, my swim t-shirts retain the scent of sunscreen from the previous summer. Often as I approach the gate, on my first trip to the pool, a northwest wind may greet me with a whiff of chlorine. Soon I will be reunited with old friends-regular patrons who frequent the pool and returning staff.

After closing time at the pool a few years ago, I drove aimlessly towards home. Overtaken with a sense of sadness, as one poet, his name lost to time, wrote “and open as the waves of ocean come surging into the shore; sweep ore my soul the memories of the days that come no more“. My own mind swept over by childhood memories of Vacation Bible School (VBS), I swung by the grocery store to pick up a package of Duplex Cookies.

Many years ago, while we were at outside at play, VBS volunteers would arrange cookies on a napkin next to a paper cup filled with punch on a table in front of each child’s seat. Duplex Cookies were a staple. While there in the cookie aisle, I found the inspiration for this column.

The topic, VBS, is indirectly, at best, related to food. Yet it is all about food, but not for the body. Most parents, hopefully, are aware of the importance of childhood nutrition. Nutrients found within wholesome foods are essential building blocks of strong healthy bodies. In addition to the body, both the mind and the spirit of youth must be nourished.

For generations of American children, VBS has played an important role. Lessons learned through VBS activities can last a lifetime. Decisions made as a result can extend into eternity.

VBS offered me the opportunity to be in a drama. (I still have the cardboard sandals that I made to go with my costume.) VBS also gave me the opportunity to participate in the publication of a newspaper as well as numerous arts and crafts activities. All were effective learning strategies for atypical learners such as I. The small pupil teacher ratio was also an important factor for me. Studies of public schools that compare the impact of pupil teacher ratios on academic achievement, cited to refute the importance of low pupil teacher ratio, likely do not take into consideration that some teachers would teach five children as though they were teaching to a class of thirty or more. Specifically, some teachers are not particularly interactive with pupils regardless of class size.

VBS is more important today than ever. As a result of a string of decisions made by the Warren Court, prayer and Bible reading are no longer a part of the experience of many public-school students. (A note for younger readers: The Warren Court refers to the time the time frame in which Earl Warren sat as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.) Dwight David Eisenhower, who appointed him to the Supreme Court, acknowledged publicly that he considered appointing Warren to the Supreme Court to be the worst decision of his presidency.

Years later, the so called “balanced calendar”, a euphemism for year-round school, is not only a threat to family time, essential unstructured playtime with peers, and summer camp, but also to Vacation Bible School, at a time when VBS is more critical than ever as a factor in the education and development of children and youth.

In an 1888 handbook for parents, Salvation Army founder, William Booth, wrote “In all educational effort, keep constantly before you the end you have in view, that is, to make your children Saints and Soldiers of Christ.”

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