Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Re-Run of "Come to Vacation Bible School!"

All summer long...proud church members have been bringing food, money and clothing to the non-profit where I work. Before they unload the first box or hand over that check, their first item of business is to brag on the children who brought that food and raised that money--"THEIR children," they say, with a big smile and buttons bustin' with pride--children who were part of their church's Vacation Bible School.

And...every single time they come through our doors...I'm taken back to my own sweet, gold-spray-painted-macaroni-covered-cigar-box Vacation Bible School days.

So...I decided to re-run an old post about one of our funniest Kimberly Church of God VBS "moments." Enjoy!
Every summer, the most exciting thing to happen in Kimberly, Alabama, was the back-to-back-to-back run of Vacation Bible Schools.

Now, Kimberly's pastors might never have agreed on such things as eternal security and being filled with the Holy Ghost, but they did agree on ONE thing--that the best way to nip juvenile-delinquency and WHEN-does-school-start-backslidin'-mamas in their proverbial "buds" was to keep Kimberly's children and pre-teens up to their eyeballs in Elmer's glue, macaroni, Kool-Aid and graham crackers.

And while, to this day, they might not admit it, I'm convinced that on a pre-determined midnight each spring, Kimberly pastors would hold a covert meeting behind Sandlin's General Store and come up with a master plan that would spread the Kimberly-Vacation-Bible-School-marathon over June, July and most of August.

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 an "in" for both the Church-of-God and Baptist VBS parades.)

Most years, our Mimi came all the way from Birmingham for the Kimberly First Baptist parade. And, our cousin Donald (who all us Kelley cousins lovingly called DonDon) 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 fire-truck 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 by the Kimberly Police cruiser, driven by Officer Dingler or Deputy Bullhead; and, finally, by a line of festooned, kid-packed four-doors, we would begin our slow-but-sincere-and-exciting evangelistic appeal.

Because it was a highly anticipated event...and because the fire truck and police sirens announced our arrival long before we actually arrived, Kimberly's citizenry would come out into their yards--some even lined the road--and we would hang out 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 have a 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 (but that fact never stopped us from "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 casualty in the history of Kimberly VBS parades.) In a recent re-telling, Leah told how the car in front of her had stopped to (unsuccessfully) retrieve a stray balloon for a crying pre-schooler. Leah had her head stuck out the back passenger window, in her words, "maniacally yelling, 'Come to Vacation Bible School' when the car in front of them abruptly stopped," and she hit the metal divider between the front and back doors. (OUCH!) To this day, her eyes get bigger and  her voice raises a notch as she points to her parade-rendered "nosejob" which, to us admirers, just made her cuter.

Now, for some reason, on just the other side of that cemetery STOP sign, the VBS parade would end--sirens would silence, kids would stop evangelizing, and mamas would start yelling, "Get your heads back in this car!"

That is...until the next Saturday morning...when another pastor would become a fire-truck driver and another church's parking lot would fill up with festooned Fords.

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

Thankfully, VBS seems to be alive and well! 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 our church's VBS (which is HUGE--think VBS meets Disney), I rolled down the window of my unfestooned minivan and hollered,
"Come to Vacation Bible School! Come to Vacation Bible School!"

...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)