Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"Come to Vacation Bible School! Come to Vacation Bible School!"

Every summer, the most exciting thing to happen in Kimberly, Alabama, was the back-to-back-to-back run of Vacation Bible Schools.
While Kimberly's pastors might not have agreed on such things as eternal security and being filled with the Holy Ghost "with the evidence of speaking in tongues," most years they did agree that the best juvenile-delinquency-AND-cussin'-mamas-prevention program was to keep us up to our eyeballs in Elmer's glue, macaroni, Kool-Aid and graham crackers. So, usually, they would cooperate and spread VBSes over several summer weeks.
What this meant was that, on just about any given summer Saturday, the respective church's congregation would gather in their parking lot and decorate their Chevrolets and Buicks and Ford pick-up trucks with balloons, crepe paper streamers and homemade-poster-board signs. (Me and my brother were lucky--we had Church-of-God and Baptist VBS connections.)

Most years, our Mimi came all the way from Birmingham for the Kimberly First Baptist parade. And, our cousin Donald always had the coolest vehicle--some years a convertible, others a VW van.

Well, the excitement in those parking lots would build and build...until the Kimberly Volunteer Fire Department's lone engine pulled in. As the firetruck driver (usually the pastor of that particular VBS) would give the siren a test run, kids and adults would start clapping and cheering.

Then, with the pastor-firetruck-driver leading the way, followed closely by the Kimberly Police cruiser--driven by Officer Dingler or Bullhead--followed by a line of festooned, kid-packed four-doors, we would begin our slow-but-exciting evangelistic appeal.

Because it was a highly anticipated event...and because the firetruck and police sirens announced our arrival long before we actually arrived, Kimberly's citizenry would come out in their yards--some even lined the road--and we would hang out the car windows and wave and holler "Come to Vacation Bible School! Come to Vacation Bible School!" (To this day, whenever I read or hear the Scripture, "Go out into the highways and byways and compel them to come in", I flashback to VBS parades.)

First, we'd parade down Stouts Road, eventually winding along Cutoff Road, before finally ending at Thunder Road, which--ironically--was right smack in the middle of the Morris Cemetery (not that that fact ever made us stop our "compelling them to come in.")

It was at the cemetery STOP sign that LeahJewel Nail broke her nose. (As far as I can remember, hers was the only VBS Parade casualty in the entire history of Kimberly parades.)

In a recent re-telling by LeahJewel, she told how the car in front of her had stopped  to (unsuccessfully) try to retrieve a stray balloon for a crying pre-schooler...Well, she saw the stray balloon. BUT...what she didn't see was the balloon-fetching driver's sudden, unexpected STOP. So, when she hit that car, her nose hit the steering wheel...hard. To this day, her eyes get a little bigger and  her voice raises a notch as she points to her parade-rendered "nosejob", which, to all us admirers, only (somehow) made her prettier.

But, enough about LeahJewel's cutely-broken nose...let's get back to the parade.

And...just like that...just the other side of the STOP sign in the middle of the cemetery, the VBS parade would end--sirens would silence, kids would stop evangelizing, and mamas would start yelling, "Get your heads back in this car...right this second!"

That is...until the next Saturday morning...when another denomination would take up where we had left off. (Hmmm...maybe, ultimately, that's the purpose for so many denominations.)

When I think about those summer VBS parades, I'm reminded of things exciting and wonderful and bigger than myself.

Thankfully, VBS is alive and well. At our church, it's HUGE!!! If you accidentally stumbled in during VBS week, you'd think you had discovered some Disney theme park tucked away in East Tennessee. (In fact, this past Sunday almost 70 people--ranging in age from 5 to 80--were baptized at the final VBS service! Wow!)

But...I just wish I could have offered my boys a full-fledged VBS parade (and maybe a macaroni-coated, gold-spray-painted cigar box or two). I tried a variation of the parade one year. On the way to the first morning of VBS, I rolled down the window of my unfestooned minivan and hollered, "Come to Vacation Bible School! Come to Vacation Bible School!"
...Let's just say...they were appalled.
"...When it comes to the church,
(Jesus) organizes and holds it together,
like a head does a body.
He was supreme in the beginning and
—leading the resurrection parade—
he is supreme in the end.
From beginning to end he's there,
towering far above everything, everyone.
So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God
finds its proper place in him without crowding.
Not only that,
but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—
people and things, animals and atoms—
get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies,
all because of his death,
his blood that poured down from the cross."
(Colossians 1:15-20, The Message)

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