Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
Fort Leavenworth Chapels took Vacation Bible School out into the neighborhoods with a part virtual, part in-person program Aug. 3-5.
Following the theme “Rocky Railway: Jesus’ Power Pulls Us Through,” more than 100 children watched a live-streamed video on the chapel Facebook page from their homes, met in one of three predesignated outdoor areas around post for Bible stories and games, and took home craft projects to complete each day.
“Our goal was to take the chapel into the neighborhoods rather than just expect everybody to come to the chapel so we could be an outreach,” said Carl Tillery, director of religious education. “This is the first opportunity we’ve had to do stuff with kids because everything has been shut down. We felt that it was important to try to offer something as best we could for the incoming students and new permanent party.
“We want (participants to know) that there is a loving God that loves them, that cares for them and that gives them power to live,” he said.
The three-day VBS program focused on a different Bible story and verse each day.
Day one focused on Acts 9:1-19: at the Lord’s urging, Ananias reluctantly goes to see his enemy Saul, with Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me” served as the key verse, teaching participants that Jesus’ power helps them to do hard things.
Day two focused on Acts 3:1-4:31: Peter and John teach about Jesus, with Isaiah 40:29: “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak” serving as the key verse, teaching participants that Jesus’ power helps them to be bold.
Day three focused on Acts 2:42-47, 4:32-35: the church is united, with John 15:12: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” serving as the key verse, teaching participants that Jesus’ power helps them to be good friends.
“Not only is the Bible our foundation for knowledge and wisdom, but also I think VBS and other fun programs like this are good because they teach (children) that church is fun and that you can meet friends and do things together as a group … (while) associating with the church …and other people who love God,” said Deanna Baldock, mom of VBS participants 7-year-old Kenton Baldock and 5-year-old Warren Baldock. “I know that (Kenton and Warren) love listening to Bible stories and different speakers.
“(Today), they were listening and really absorbing the story,” she said.
Lindsey Waitt, mom of VBS participants 9-year-old Anthony Waitt, 6-year-old Patrick Waitt and 3-year-old Gabriel Waitt, said she loved that this year’s format allowed for time outdoors.
“It’s a beautiful day,” Waitt said. “(VBS programs) we’ve been to in the past have been inside and felt crammed.
“The message that comes across (at VBS) is so important nowadays, and it’s fun. It gets them out with other kids, and they sing the songs for months on end afterward,” she said. “(VBS) makes them grow into better, loving, kind people. It teaches them positivity and kindness toward others, and I just think it’s definitely important when you’re in a school or group setting.”
During the game and activity portion, teen and adult volunteers were there helping lead the games, pass out snacks and disseminate the craft activity bags.
“I’ve helped with VBS (in Virginia) before, and I love seeing all the kids’ excitement and watching them learn and grow throughout the week,” said 17-year-old Ella Barry, teen volunteer. “I hope that they can make friends, I hope they have fun, and I hope that they have a better idea of their religion (after VBS).”
Volunteer Janette Leifker said she has also volunteered at VBS programs in other locations.
“I love watching the kids have fun and learn verses and hear Bible stories and play games and laugh together,” Leifker said. “I hope that they take something positive and fun away from their faith that they can carry on as they get older.
“Without faith, you don’t have a guide in life,” she said. “Faith, it grounds you and helps you make the best of every situation and look at it in a more positive light.”