My latest book, HALLEY, awarded 2015 Jefferson Cup Honor for Historical Fiction. Available at: NewSouth Books: www.newsouthbooks.com/halley and Amazon
I don’t do vacation bible school anymore. Every protestant church in
the South has VBS for one week every summer. It’s sort of like camp,
only the kids sing hymns, do crafts, and play games, all having to do
with Jesus. And the last day–or evening–parents are invited to see
their children on stage demonstrating what they have learned. They
get to see what teachers learned too, because the kids won’t perform
if the teacher isn’t on stage, suffering along with them.
One year I allowed myself to be talked into teaching the kindergarten
class. “Piece of cake,” the coordinator of bible school assured me.
“How much trouble can a handful of five-year-olds be?”
Plenty, it turns out. First of all, there were more than a handful.
Twenty, to be exact. Twenty squirmy, talkative, rough-housing,
rock-toting kids. Or at least one had a rock. “Just for self
defense,” the little girl with golden curls assured me. “Just until
I’m old enough to have a gun.”
I talked her out of the rock and then announced that we would have our
bible lesson for the day. “I druther wrestle,” said a little boy
wearing about eight bandaids. He threw himself on top of the boy on
his right, and the two of them went rolling across the floor. Several
other boys and Goldilocks joined the pile-up.
“Back to your circle right now!” I ordered in my most authoritative
voice. It worked. Our circle reformed, sort of. “We’ll sing some
songs,” I said. I’m sure you all know ‘Jesus Loves me.’”
If they didn’t, they knew it by the time we’d done eighteen rounds.
Then we colored pictures of Jesus giving the Sermon on the Mount,
Jesus blessing the loaves and the fishes, and Jesus blessing little
children. Then it was time for crafts, where each child was given an
oatmeal box, a juice bottle and ten drink straws and told to construct
Noah’s Ark. At mid-morning snack I got to see how well the other
teachers were doing with their kids. They all had different
techniques, but they all had achieved the same result–obedient,
mannerly angels quoting scripture.
The second day was pretty much the same, and I felt pretty bad about
myself–I’d probably not instilled more than a thimbleful of scripture
in two days. All right, I thought, tomorrow, we are going to do an
activity and bring scripture into it. Somehow.
On Wednesday I arrived early, carrying all the cookie sheets I owned,
plus all my mother-in-law owned. Many of those pans were older than I
was. I also took cookie dough, a rolling pin, cookie cutters, and
tubes of decorating icing in six colors for writing verses on cookies.
Goldilocks zeroed in on the pans. Lifting sheet after sheet with two
fingers, she inspected them and wrinkled her nose. “I’ll not eat any
cookies baked on these,” she announced. “They’re dirty.”
“No,” I assured her. “They are just old and discolored.”
She shook her head. “Dirty.“
“Dirty,” chorused the rest of the class.
“Okay,” I said, don’t eat them, “but we’re going to make them.”
We did. We had flour and dough all over the classroom. Before we got
to the verses, The kids had used the icing to decorate themselves and
their clothing. Goldilocks wiped up one dribble of icing from the
floor with one finger and licked it off.
It took me two hours after the kids left to clean the room.
Friday at the closing program, we sang eighteen rounds of “Jesus Loves
Me,” and sat down to polite applause.
Now when our church asks for volunteers for bible school, I’m the
first to raise my hand. “Put me down for brownies and Kool-Aid for
refreshments,” I say.