• Vacation Bible School joins children, volunteers

  • VBS was July 23-25 at Fort Leavenworth Chapels.

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    Every year hundreds of children from 4 years old through sixth-grade gather at the Fort Leavenworth chapels for Vacation Bible School and learn about scripture. More than 100 volunteers, including civilians, retirees, active-duty service members and spouses, are on hand to teach them for the three-day event. But one other group is also there to help as they cross the bridge from the ones being taught to the ones who are teaching.
    This year, from July 23-25, 28 VBS assistants ranging in seventh- through 12th-grades helped teach the younger children about St. Paul and his work spreading Christianity throughout the world.
    “This is their first opportunity to be able to serve,” said Carl Tillery, VBS coordinator and religious education director. “It gives them an opportunity to do something they wouldn’t normally be able to do.
    “Younger kids look up to teenagers,” he said, “and it gives them a sense of belonging to something. They are not being served; they are serving others.”
    Dorothy Ling, VBS coordinator and religious education director, said the theme of St. Paul perfectly describes the VBS assistants.
    “Paul, he had to do certain steps to prepare himself,” Ling said. “But then what did he do? He went out to all the different places, and he was on fire.
    “The volunteer spirit, especially this year with Paul, is just more engrained in their personality to serve, and as Christians, that is the thing to do is to get involved,” she said. “That first year that they hit seventh grade, they’re ready. Now this year they can volunteer and really make an impact.”
    Garrison Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Michael McDonald said he knows the impact VBS can have on young children, and how it can help them come into their faith; his very first experience with the church was VBS when he was 7 years old after being invited by ladies from the local church.
    “Their kindness really affected me greatly. I really felt welcomed even though I had nothing to offer. I was a 7-year-old kid with no promise of any family coming along with me. To this day, I still remember the songs, I remember the crafts, I remember the stories and the games that we played,” McDonald said. “Then, when I was a teenager, I would start volunteering. When I got to college, I was still volunteering.
    “(VBS), to me, has always been one of the most important outreaches that we have. I’ve always tried to emphasize that simple acts of kindness, compassion and love can change the life of a child,” he said, “so, it is encouraging to see that they (the VBS assistants) recognize the value that Vacation Bible School had for them, and that they want to continue to reach out. I’m very thankful to see them here. That speaks a lot to their character, and, … they are invaluable to us.”
    Page 2 of 2 - VBS assistant Tyler Shandy, 13, said she likes being around the younger children.
    “They are super sweet and energetic,” Shandy said. “(VBS) shows kids Jesus in a different environment, a more upbeat environment, and just like Paul, you shouldn’t be afraid to spread the word. A whole bunch of bad things happened to him, and he still spread the word.”
    VBS assistant Joseph Purvis, 17, said he has always enjoyed VBS both as an attendee and a volunteer, and feels it is a direct response to scripture and God’s call for Christians.
    “In the Bible, it says to bring up children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6). Part of that, I feel, is to definitely give them an event like this where it is focused on having fun, but at the same time showing them God,” Purvis said. “St. Paul did a lot with bringing people to God and part of our mission as Christians is to show God’s love to others, so this year’s theme helps show them that part of Christianity — how they should recruit others and bring disciples to Jesus.”
    One VBS attendee already has plans to volunteer when her time comes.
    “Then, I can tell other kids about Jesus and pass on the wisdom,” said 11-year-old Julia Minchew. “I love learning about God.”
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