by Brenda Walsh
From the moment our 3ABN President, Jim Gilley, first shared the idea of an annual Vacation Bible School with me, I knew in my heart that God was leading. He explained that his good friend, Sandra Bokovoy, had approached him with the idea, and that God impressed her that 3ABN should have a live VBS program that would be available to every church and every denomination around the world. After prayerful consideration, God impressed him to talk to me about it.
I have many wonderful childhood memories of VBS, and it was an event that I always looked forward to. My parents encouraged us to invite our friends, as well as all the other kids in the neighborhood. Even a trip to the grocery store could generate an opportunity to invite children to come. As an adult, I realize even more fully the witnessing opportunities VBS provides to children who otherwise might not know about Jesus, and how much He loves them.
A Faith Walk
Aware of the amount of work it would take to make it happen, I presented the idea to my sisters, Linda and Cinda, asking if they would be willing to join me as hosts for the program. All three of us have incredibly busy schedules, but God is the One who has control of our calendars! He’s placed a passion for children’s ministries in our hearts, so we take His calling very seriously. We pray about everything, no matter how big or small! We brought this program before the Lord, asking for direction and guidance, and God led one step at a time. What a faith walk it has been planning this program!
We marvel at how God works when He assigns a task. He brings the right people at the right time to carry out His assignments. One of those was our good friend, Linda Gallimore, children’s ministries leader for the Michigan Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. She has been in charge of their VBS program for years, and is known as an expert on the subject! We asked her if she’d be willing to help us, and after much prayer and consideration, she agreed. Then she spent many hours writing the basic program, the director’s manual, and creating all the crafts.
God also brought Chrystique “CQ” Neibauer, our Kids’ Time graphic designer, and my Kids’ Time assistant, Mellisa Hoffman, on board! Together they worked on the director’s manual, with CQ designing each page, including CDs, stickers, coloring pages, and all the promotional materials, while Mellisa did the editing. Our team also included employees at 3ABN in the graphics, marketing, and editing departments. Even management got involved!
Vacation Bible School is an incredible evangelistic outreach designed specifically for children, yet many churches have stopped having them. It’s difficult to find people willing to give the enormous amount of time, energy, and effort required to lead out in such an endeavor. People have also shared with me that a VBS program is just too costly, especially for small churches, or that the music associated with purchased programs is offensive. With this in mind, 3ABN’s VBS is designed to be easy and affordable for any church of any denomination. Best of all, it is completely Bible-based!
This year’s theme, Adventures with Paul, focuses on having a close relationship with Jesus. Each night will feature a Bible story taped on our Kids’ Time Bible story set, with our Kids’ Time pastor, John Lomacang, teaching the Bible lesson.
Elements from both the Kids’ Time and Tiny Tots for Jesus programs will be presented, such as Ranger Dwight and Farmer Manny. But our VBS is a new program all its own!
The music will consist of familiar songs chosen from our Kids’ Time Praise songbook that Jimmy Rhodes and I recently released. Jimmy will be there playing the organ and I’ll accompany him on the piano. My sisters will lead the singing, backed up by lots of enthusiastic kids who love Jesus!
God Gives a Song
Even our VBS theme song was God-given! I’d been asking 3ABN founder, Danny Shelton, to write the theme song for over a year. He’s a talented songwriter and has been known to write a song in less than five minutes! But every time I’d plead with him to write it, his answer was always the same: “I’ll pray about it, and if God gives it to me, I will. But I really feel He wants you to write it!”
Knowing that I am not a songwriter, I always ignored his admonition and kept urging him to hurry up and write the song. Then, a few weeks ago, the graphics department told me they needed the theme song ASAP, or they wouldn’t be able to complete the opening graphics in time.
I immediately called Danny and pleaded with him once again to write the song. I told him about the urgency, but he gave me the same response once again! Now I was beginning to lose my patience, so I pleaded even harder, insisting that he was the songwriter, not me!
He was quiet for a moment then said, “Brenda, have you even tried?”
Wow! That really hit home, and I quietly said, “No.”
I hung up the phone, and called my assistant, Mellisa, to come sit by the piano with me.
“Please write down anything that comes out of my mouth,” I instructed. But she had a better idea and turned on the video recorder on her iPhone. I sat down at the piano and asked God that if it was His will, to please give me the theme song. Since I play by ear, and don’t even read a note of music, I was relying totally on Jesus.
I began to play and sing, and the very first thing I played became the VBS song! I didn’t try this and that; it truly was the first thing I played!
Mellisa was shocked. I called Danny back and asked if he would listen, then I played and sang the song to him over the phone.
“Wow! Brenda, that’s the song! That’s really good! Amazing! God just gave you the song. I’ve been telling you all along that God wanted you to write it!”
To me, it was another affirmation that God has His hand on this program! A whole lot of people, following the Holy Spirit’s guidance, have worked hard to make this VBS program happen! My sisters and I can’t wait to see what God will do! We are claiming souls for the kingdom because of this program!
This will be an annual event, so churches can plan ahead for next year. And if your schedule doesn’t match ours, no problem! Just order the DVD! One of the advantages to having the DVD is that you can put on a VBS program any time you choose!
There are also many who don’t live near a church, but could still host a VBS program right in their home. So we encourage churches and individuals to become involved with VBS!
There is no greater privilege in the world than to introduce a child to Jesus, then see the smile on their face when they realize how much He loves them! Jesus is coming soon, and now is the time to reach out to His children. We pray that God will put a passion in your heart, too, and that you’ll plan now to join us July 16–20 for 3ABN’s live Vacation Bible School!