Generally Speaking: Thank the Lord for VBS teachers

By MARILYN TINNIN COLUMNIST,

“Vacation Bible School?”

It sounds like an oxymoron to me.

I suppose it has to do with whether one is participating as an attendee or teaching as one of many recruits, all of whom deserve the Purple Heart at the very least.

Ah, but I did love it as a child. I have sweet memories of the art supplies set in the middle of the table – those little round tip scissors, the smell of that Crisco - like white paste, the thrill of creating something beautiful from glitter, oatmeal boxes, and construction paper.

The crème de la crème was the colored saran wrap that we somehow stretched over a frame made from Popsicle sticks to create a stained glass window.

The morning schedule included Bible stories, singing, refreshments, recreation period with games like “Drop the Handkerchief,” and finally, a serious devotional time in the big sanctuary. I can just see Mrs. Martha Hutcherson standing up front during the opening assembly leading “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.”

She would put her hand up to her ear as though she could not hear us.

Our 7-year-old voices would scream loud enough to break the sound barrier, and she would just keep cranking up the volume.

Looking back, I think she was smiling in hopes that we would all develop severe laryngitis before the morning ended.

By the time I was enlisted as a mother volunteer, Bible School had gotten a little more sophisticated.

Even the refreshments had begun to resemble hors d’oeuvres at a cocktail party.

What happened to Orange Crush and Nabisco Vanilla Wafers?

No more children in bathrobes with towels tied around their heads acting out Bible stories.

Shepherds were out.

African safaris and circus themes were in. One year I actually dressed as a clown (this was the 1980s when clowns were in), complete with white paint all over my face, a crazy red wig, and a baggy chartreuse jumpsuit.

However, Cindy Crutcher’s three year-old screamed bloody murder and headed for the door every time I appeared.

My servant heart for such endeavors disappeared as soon as my youngest child was too old to attend. Not having to do Vacation Bible School was a perk that came with middle age. For me, it was worth hot flashes and gray hair just to be exempt.

I got an e-mail the other day from my friend Cynthia, henceforth known as Saint Cynthia. She lives in another city, is a retired school teacher, and has children too old to attend Bible School. She had spent her entire day making palm trees and tiki huts for Vacation Bible School.

That rates right up there with a root canal in my book. She is one of a committee of two enlisted to create a tropical paradise from cardboard and crepe paper. Her project the next day would be making a paper machè volcano.

I told her she was crazy. She explained that all elementary school teachers have to be a little insane anyway. It’s a pre-requisite. I could not argue with her theory.

But Cynthia did manage to get me all nostalgic about those days at the First United Methodist Church of Indianola. Considering my lack of enthusiasm for teaching VBS, I’ve been thinking this morning about all the adults back there in my childhood and youth who unselfishly volunteered for thankless chores — VBS, Sunday School, chaperoning choir trips, and much much more.

I know those who did the recruiting always kept a straight face as they convinced their volunteers that they were “investing” in the lives of children.

As Elementary children, we were messy, boisterous, and loud.

By the time we graduated to youth group as teenagers, we could be sullen, aloof, and unappreciative – present because we had parents who had the good sense to give us no choice.

They hoped one day the godly principles our leaders were trying to instill in us would take root — even though there was often no indication that we were listening to a single word.

Who in their right mind would want to “invest” in us?

There is a great Country song that won the Gospel Song of the Year award back in 1990.

It was “Thank You for Giving to the Lord.”

The lyrics were about a very regular man who arrives in Heaven and is introduced to old friends and forgotten acquaintances whose lives he had impacted in ways he had never known. The tear-jerking words include this refrain: “Thank you for giving to the Lord, I am a life that was changed. Thank you for giving to the Lord, I am so glad you gave.” 

I am oh so grateful that God brings wise, patient, and kind teachers and mentors into our lives - those who don’t just believe children and youth are worth their time.

But they believe that in serving others, they are serving the God who also loves those who aren’t always easy to love.  Where would most of us be without Him or without his servants who love like that?

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