Sunday, August 7, 2011

VBS. The Teacher Learns a Lesson.

I have just come off a brilliant week as a story leader at Vacation Bible School at church. I had the privilege of teaching Bible stories to 80+ 5th graders each day (they were actually in three separate groups). It was brilliant. We used a Son Surf Beach Bash curriculum from Gospel Light.* How can you go wrong with a giant beach shack, surfboards, skim boards and Jesus? We had a really good time. We covered lots of stories about Jesus' life, teaching kids that He is who He says He is and ultimately pointing them to the road that follows after Him. I love it. The kids were pretty engaged each day and many of them were really knowledgeable about the stories we shared. Not typical, but quite fun and a different kind of challenge. 

For me, VBS has a lot of super-naturalness to it. I've lead for years. Every year is different. Last year, God brought a huge group of unchurchy neighborhood kids who pushed me to make sandwiches for the homeless and then at the end of the week, demanded I, another teacher and my 11 year old help them into the kingdom. We prayed with some 20 kids that day. That never happened before. I learned a lot about God's open arms.

This year, I learned about love.

Earlier this summer I was pretty deeply involved in a Philippians Study. It was good. I had the opportunity to lead so I actually studied each chapter out loud twice a week -- with the other leaders (lots of pastors and interns included) and with my Tuesday night group. It was the highlight of my summer -- until now.

In the first chapter of Philippians, Paul tells this very dedicated church in Philippi, "
9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God."

I spent a lot of time wondering about how love, abounding more and more would increase my knowledge and depth of insight. A lot. I pondered this, prayed this, talked about this with friends for days. And then VBS happened. 

Of course, in all of our groups there are kids who don't believe.  This is part of outreach and its a joy to be able to share Love and Jesus with them. But this year, there was at least one (and maybe more than one) child in my class who was from an atheist home. She came in each day with a "game face." I, of all people, know how hard it is to hear an idea that conflicts with what I've been taught. It's confusing, frustrating and personally, I've spent years having to let deeper Truth seep in.

The first couple of days, I was concerned with winning her over and having her like me. Then on Wednesday, when she wasn't there and I missed her, I heard God remind me, "She doesn't have to like you -- you just have to love her." It was a game changer for me. I certainly prayed about her, but when we were in class, I just loved her like I loved all the other engaged, kooky kiddos. And in that, I became just a little like our Jesus who loves her all the time. 

On Friday she talked to me for the first time, showing me the turtle costume she'd made. It meant a lot, especially because it meant I hadn't locked her out or dismissed her because she didn't like me or think like me.

Really, the idea of love in any circumstance is a game changer. And as is often the case, the teacher learned a huge, life lesson.

* Gospel Light was founded by Henrietta Cornelia Mears (October 23, 1890 – March 19, 1963), "Teacher" at Hollywood First Presbyterian Church who also founded Forest Home. I like to think of her as a spiritual "grandmother." I never met her, but through her teaching I have great love and affection for her and her work. I'd love to grow up to be like her. Hats and all.

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