Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)


June 16, 2014

Ah, back in the day

ASHLAND — Vacation Bible School season is here once again, bringing back memories from my own days as a VBSer. Back then, though, Bible School lasted two weeks and took place all day.

We never missed Bible school at our church and often went to other kids’ churches as well. That wasn’t so much that my parents were intent on giving me a good grounding in the Good Book, but rather giving my mom a break from her already-bored kids.

Back in those dark ages, school ended before Memorial Day and began after Labor Day. Bible School came in mid-summer, about the time frazzled moms reached their wits’ end.

Much planning and work went into Bible School back then, just like today. More probably, since it lasted longer. But here are my two strongest memories of my VBS years:

Macaroni projects and Bible verse competitions.

Just as elbow macaroni was the mainstay of many a family meal, it was also the staple craft ingredient at VBS. My parents always praised my imagination and talent, but I’m sure that deep inside, they were hoping never to see a macaroni creation again.

Necklaces were a popular and simple craft. Each child was given a length of string, a pile of the curved pasta and colored beads. Little heads bent and little hands struggled to follow the macaroni-bead-macaroni pattern, putting one after another on the knotted string.

Construction paper, glue and macaroni could become any of a hundred things. Draw a house, add a “tile” roof of macaroni and voila! A house in Jerusalem where Jesus visited.

Macaroni fit together to make footpaths, streets and anything else the craft leader could dream up. Sometimes, though, we’d be presented with cotton balls rather than macaroni.

Oh, the giddy feeling of seeing them waiting on the child-size tables. We knew we were in for a treat. If the lesson was on the Good Shepherd, we’d create sheep. If it was on Noah and his ark, those cotton balls would become clouds.

There were always some kids, usually boys, who were there only because their folks made them. Those were the ones who would stuff macaroni in their noses, cotton puffs in their ears and parade around the room to gather laughs.

But when it came Bible verse time, they were cowed. See, there was a treasure chest and if you memorized the verse for that day, you were allowed to take something from the chest.

I was pretty good at memorizing the verses. Some of the kids weren’t that great, but at least they tried. The ones forced to be there didn’t even make an attempt.

One year our kindly  director decided with a little more effort, she could instill the spirit of VBS in every child. So the final Bible verse of the week, the last chance for a reward, was as simple as she could make it.

Two words.

“Jesus wept.”

She was almost at 100 percent when the last kid, a boy big for his age, was made to stand. He looked right at the director, held her eyes and said, “Christ cried.”

She took a deep breath and we could almost see the battle waging in her. Declare him wrong as she should? Or call it close enough and let him into the treasure box?

She was saved from a decision by another kid, one who didn’t usually say much. He poked the smarty-pants in the ribs, growled “Say it right” and ta-da! Out came the words “Jesus wept.”

I’m still not sure if that was an exhibition of power, the same irritation we all shared or a fondness for the director that saved the day. But I do remember that, forced to succeed and pick a prize, the boy took a whistle.

I’m sure his mother would have much preferred another piece of macaroni art.

CATHIE SHAFFER can be reached at cathieshaffer@zoominternet.net


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