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Baptist churches across state go Ďall outí to reach kids through Vacation Bible School comment (0)

August 6, 2009

By Jeremy Henderson

Jason Gamble, a member of Rock Mountain Lakes Baptist Church, McCalla, doesn’t really see what the big deal is.

He bought some plywood, took a couple of weekends and built a 9-foot-long, 7-foot-tall train and a 12-foot-long, 7-and-a-half-foot-tall depot to go with it. (To see a photo of this, as well as other VBS photos, visit our Alabama Baptist page on Facebook.)

But Gamble’s self-financed weekend project — which helped transform his church’s sanctuary into a three-dimensional tribute to the Australian outback — meant a lot to the children enrolled in the “Boomerang Express”-themed Vacation Bible School (VBS).

“It looked pretty good, I guess,” Gamble said. “The whole thing centered around the train. … The kids loved it.”

It’s likely the children at The Baptist Church at McAdory, McCalla, which borrowed the pieces for its VBS, loved it, too. “We thought we’d let another church enjoy it,” Gamble said. “We’re just kind of passing it around.”

Lakewood Baptist Church, Phenix City, did the same thing with its train and depot, built as an exact replica of the ones featured in the LifeWay Christian Resources’ VBS catalog by a church member who manages a carpentry crew. The church sent out an e-mail to let other churches know that the props were available for use after its VBS ended. While Lakewood Baptist had visitors coming from all over town to its Bible school every night just to look at the set up, Golden Acres Baptist Church, Phenix City, was the only one that asked to use the pieces in its VBS.

Once again, the visual aids were a hit. “The kids went crazy; they loved it,” said Chris May, children’s ministry director at Lakewood. “We had a fog machine with a tube coming up through the top of the train so it was actually blowing smoke out of the top.”

The two churches efforts are just two examples of Alabama Baptists going above and beyond this year for the time-honored tradition of VBS, which is on a two-year upswing in terms of enrollment and recorded professions of faith.

In 2007, state Baptist churches reported 235,196 enrolled in VBS, with 7,047 reported professions of faith. In 2008, 262,286 were reported enrolled and 7,488 professions of faith were reported.

Figures for 2009 won’t be tallied until January 2010, but James Blakeney is expecting continued success. And for good reason.

“A lot of churches have been going all out,” said Blakeney, who, as an associate in the Sunday School office of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, has visited 36 Bible schools across the state since VBS season started the first part of June.

In Huntsville, he snapped a picture of the giant wooden boomerang Farley Community Church erected on its lawn.

In Guntersville, he took a picture of the rustic life-size outback-style sheds that Creek Path Baptist Church built and installed in many of its Sunday School rooms.

But it was his visit to First Baptist Church, Athens, that reminded him of how big of a deal going to such great lengths can be.

“I was talking with Pastor Edwin Jenkins in the hall, and a little boy walked up to him and said, ‘Dr. Jenkins, I need you to tell me how to accept Jesus Christ as my Savior,’” Blakeney said. “That’s what Vacation Bible School is all about.”

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