Friday, September 03, 2010

Vacation Bible School

There is a story in my family that has become legend as stories are apt to do in families. In this story, I convert my whole family to Christianity. It's an impossible story because my family always leaned toward Christianity. But it's a good story that has roots. Those kind of stories are only pulled up with a great amount of soil.

In this story, I go to "Vacation Bible School." These kind of programs run every summer with churches vying to lure the unchurched to church through their children. They usually run for a week and involve summer themes like "Fun With the Son!" Note the clever pun with "son." I went to many as did most of the neighbors. They provide a chance for our parents to get a break from us. They were fun. Lots of crafts with a few obligatory services that were made bearable with puppets and songs.

I dimly remember the VBS that started it all. It was held at a Baptist Church on Madison Ave. It was a gray stone building that looked properly like a church. A white school bus picked us up each morning at nine. We began the day with a prayer in the sanctuary and then were taken downstairs, divvied by age, into various rooms. In these rooms, we learned Bible verses and made crafts that had something vaguely to do with the Bible verses. The end of the day was spent back in the sanctuary. It was here that the legend began.

During the last afternoon of VBS, the sermon was a call to salvation. The church was not radical. It was an old fashion kind of Baptist church that was losing its members to death. In it's own gentle way, salvation was a given. There was no hell fire and brimstone in the old pastor. But I was four. And at four I tended to follow what the other kids were doing. So when the pastor invited us to give our hearts to Jesus, and I watched the older kids obediently trot down (this was old school to them), I decided that maybe I should give my heart to Jesus. I doubt if I even knew what it meant but the older kids were doing it and they got a fair amount of attention for doing it. Thus did i give my hear to Jesus. And I got a little white pocket Bible for doing so...

That's what I remember. The little gray church on the corner with its grand stained glass window. A white school bus bring us to the church where staunch middle age Baptist ladies taught us to do crafts with white paper plates and glitter. And that little white Bible that I thought was so pretty.

What my family remembers is a little four year old coming home with the fire of God inside her. This little girl delivers a sermon powerful in its innocence about the perils of hell. She implores them with tears in her eyes to accept Jesus into their hearts. And of course they are all convicted. Thus the little girl brought her family to God.

Eventually they will use this story like a weapon.


JennInReality said...

That's my problem with those programs. They intentionally seek out children (who are too young and impressionable to know any better) in hopes that these children will then "bring their families to God." It's brilliant--and manipulative to the extreme.

Anonymous said...

I don't remember anything about the hellfire part. I do remember an ernest little girl. Of course, I can't speak to your experience, it wasn't mine. When I was very young, I too, was brought to church but my experience was different. My heart and soul was torn apart by violence and abuse and I found peace, acceptance and love there. Not by people but by God. It breaks my heart that your experience was so different than mine.
Why is this family story a weapon? Do you think people use it to "control" your thoughts and "force" you into beliefs that are not truly yours? You know how controlling our family is. But I'd like to give you a challenge. Could you think of the story not as a weapon but an authentic part of your childhood? Would you have different thoughts about it? Different feelings?
Unconditional Love,