I had the incredible privilege a few weeks ago to travel with a group from my church, Calvary Baptist, to Indiahoma, Oklahoma. We partnered with a local church in that area, Post Oak Mennonite Brethren, to host a Vacation Bible School for the kids and reach out to the community through fun events and worship services. Today, I’ll share some of the great experiences we shared together as we proclaimed the gospel of Christ with these wonderful brothers and sisters.
First off, let me take a moment to express a heartfelt thank you to all of you who purchased products from our store during the month of July. All proceeds from these sales went to support our team, covering expenses associated with the trip. Your prayers and financial support were instrumental in the success the Lord gave us, and we are deeply grateful.
Our trip began early Wednesday morning, when we crammed 16 people into two vehicles: a 15-passenger van with virtually NO storage space for luggage and our leader Eric’s Highlander. Eric and Brian were our gracious drivers on the 10.5-hour trip (including a few stops!) We all had lots of fun playing catch phrase, telling jokes and stories, and listening to Lydia practice her ABCs.
We arrived around dinnertime, and met our fabulous host, Victor. Several families had offered to open their homes to us, so we split off into groups of 3-5 to unpack our stuff and get settled in for the night. A small group of us headed for Walmart at 9:00 pm to load up on food and supplies. We filled four carts with food for the week, and after a rousing round of the Price is Right, Travis came away victorious by guessing closest to the $400 total price without going over! 🙂
We decided to swing by Sonic on the way home to pick up drinks for everyone and a second dinner for me (the running joke of the trip was how I was seemingly eating constantly… Sue me—I like food!! 😉 but noticed as we pulled up that there was only one minute until closing time! Thankfully, a voice answered when we pushed the button, “Did you have a call-in order?” “No,” we replied. “Oh, well then we’re closed!” Bummer!! Thankfully, I had some snap peas, bananas, and mixed nuts from our shopping trip, so I tore into those…
The next morning we all met at 7:00 am for a quick continental breakfast and devotional. I shared a lesson from the book of John, encouraging our group to thank and trust our Lord Jesus Christ, who has equipped us to share his Gospel with the world. To learn more about this devotional, see the TotalThriver post from two weeks ago.
After our lesson, we headed over to the church to prepare for VBS. Brian manned the registration table, recording each child’s info and giving them a name tag. Brian was our emcee and storyteller, and poured so much energy and enthusiasm into his role that no one could keep from laughing and learning! One of his favorite things to do to get the kids’ attention was to scream, “Feet!!” to which all of us pounded our feet on the ground. Then, “Hands!!” and we would follow with thunderous applause. Next, “Mouth” and we would all hoot and holler. And finally, “Quiet!” and believe it or not, quiet swept over the room. Pretty good trick, huh?
Our theme for the week was Psalm 100. We all practiced saying it together, and all our stories and lessons were related to this theme. Psalm 100 is as follows:
1 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
2 Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
3 Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
5 For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.
The first day, we heard the story of Paul and Barnabas in Lystra from the book of Acts. The people there worshiped false gods such as Zeus and Poseidon, and had a legend that the gods would come in their midst incognito. When Paul and Barnabas performed miracles through the power of Christ, the people began to worship them as gods! Paul and Barnabas were insistent that they were not gods, rather they were simply servants of the one true God. The people then turned on them and sought to stone them to death. Paul was left for dead, yet survived, and Paul and Barnabas left the city rejoicing that they had been able to share the good news of Jesus Christ with the city.
The story was a hit and we all shuffled off to our individual classes to practice the memory verse and discuss the story. The kids were all very sharp and asked such great and transparent questions, as only kids can do. We followed class time with games (capture the Frisbee) and crafts. Finally, we all came back together in the sanctuary for music and closing time. Michelle and I lead the music, which ended up being a mix of classic hymns like “Are you washed in the blood,” contemporary choruses like, “praise ye the Lord, hallelujah,” and fun and silly songs like, “Hip-hip-hip-hippopotamus!” My chords on the guitar were nowhere near clean and perfect, but either no one noticed or they were to kind to let on!
After a nice lunch at the church and a short nap for the kids, we headed off to climb Mount Scott in the Witchita mountain range. Before you’re too impressed though, we climbed to the top using our 15-passenger van. That’s right, it was paved the whole way! But, in true TotalThriver fashion, I did take the opportunity to free-climb down the 80-degree or so slope. Coming back up was actually easier than going down—I think because I knew what to expect, and had fewer fears of sliding down to my demise… 🙂
For dinner that night, we had a special night out at a historical local restaurant. Meers Store and Restaurant has been in business since 1901! I ordered the steak and the waitress brought out a delicious-looking slab of raw meat and a knife. I chose how thick a cut I wanted and began the cut, then she took it back to the kitchen where they finished the cut and cooked it to a perfect medium-rare. I’m not much of one for restaurant steaks, as I prefer the charcoal grill on my back deck, but I’ll tell you what—that was in the top five restaurant steaks I’ve had in my life! We left the restaurant that night stuffed full and content from a glorious day!
Our second day of VBS centered around the story of Creation. We talked about how Genesis tells us that God spoke the universe into existence. He is the one true God because He is the One who created all things. On days one, two and three, we learned that God made the places for his creation: (1) separating light from darkness, (2) separating the waters above from the waters below, and (3) separating the land from the seas. On the next three days, he filled those places with: (4) the moon and stars, (5) the birds and fish, and (6) animals and man.
The highlight of our class time that day was a fierce battle, boys vs. girls, answering questions about the story. I held yarn of various lengths in my hand, and every time your team got a question right, you drew a piece of yarn and added it to your line. Whoever string went farthest was the winner, and those boys managed to swipe the win in the closing seconds! It was a blast for everyone!
After the kids went home, our team split into the guys and the ladies. The ladies took to the kitchen to organize and clean from top to bottom. The men headed up the block to an old gymnasium belonging to the church. Unfortunately, this gym had burned down recently, so there were piles of beams and roof material in piles around the concrete pad. It was our job to load everything into a trailer and haul it away. Our gracious host Victor allowed us to use his SUV and trailer. Eric pulled the vehicle around and parked near the piles, then ran off to do something. I noticed that he’d left quite a bit of space between the trailer and the piles, so I told Travis to back it up closer. “No way!” he replied, “I don’t know how to back up a trailer.” “So what,” I replied, “neither do I; how had could it be?” In I hopped, and jammed the car into reverse. I then noticed that no matter which way I turned the wheel, I couldn’t get the trailer to move in the direction I wanted. “Crunch,” went the trailer into the back headlight of the SUV. “Oh man! Apparently this is tricky!” Well, needles to say, I learned how to back up a trailer the hard way. I told Victor vehemently many times that I was paying for the headlight replacement, but he would have none of it. “You all don’t get country folk—we slap a band-aid on it and keep going. No big deal.” I have half a mind to send him a check anyway—if I can figure out how to do it without making him mad!
You might think that the most dangerous part of moving piles of wood that have been sitting out for months would have been the snakes, spiders, and scorpions who make these piles their happy home. Or, perhaps you’d think that the most dangerous moment was when Travis and I constructed a fulcrum in order to break the long boards in half to fit in the trailer and were precariously balanced each on one side of the lever, bouncing up and down. But no, none of this led to trouble—it was Brian looking up while walking that resulted in a nail penetrating his shoe, sock, and toe, driving clear out the top of his big toe! Ouch! He pulled it out and headed for the bathtub for some serious scrubbing. Thankfully, his latest tetanus shot was a few weeks ago! Pray for his healthy recovery!
That night, we led a special worship service for the town. Michelle and I led music, with the church’s pianist playing for us. Our first song that evening was sung in the language of the people of the church. It was very beautiful, and we did our best to keep up. Eric gave the message, discussing the sacred union of a man and wife in marriage. We learned how marriage is a dramatic picture of Christ and the church, and that we men are to love our wives as Christ loves the church, and gave himself up for her. We were all encouraged and moved by this excellent sermon, and it was very clear that the members of the church were deeply touched as well.
Our third and final day of VBS, we learned the most important story of all: Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. We talked about how, because of Adam’s sin, we are all born in rebellion against God. Because God is Holy, he cannot allow us in His presence. And because God is just, He cannot overlook our sin as if it simply did not exist. Jesus came to the earth, took on the form of a man, and lived a perfect and sinless life. At Calvary, He took our sin upon Himself and endured the punishment we deserved. When he breathed His last, the curtain separating God from His people was torn in two, and on the third day, Christ rose again to demonstrate His power over death, hallelujah!! As I’ve experienced in the past, I was amazed how children can grasp such complex ideas and communicate them back so simply. One girl in our class shared with us, “to be saved, you just need to know your ABCs—Admit you’re a sinner, Believe in Jesus, and Confess Jesus as your Lord.” Wow! This must be what our Lord meant when He spoke of the faith of a child being the only kind of faith that saves!
That afternoon we went to the nearby Army base with several families from the church. There was a beautiful lake with a sandy beach for the kids to play on, and the view of the nearby mountain range was spectacular. The sun was hot but the water was cool, and we even got to go down a big water slide! Lydia and Nathan loved it, and even managed to avoid a sunburn somehow!
As usual, our loving Calvary ladies took care of the kids at the beach. Cheryl and Chrysti were so kind and gracious to watch the kids and both Lydia and Nathan formed a deep bond with all these loving ladies. As seems always to be the case on these trips, we sought out to bless another church on this trip, but found our own community blessed more than anything else. We were so thankful for the time we spent together and the closeness we found as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Sunday morning after the church service, we said our sad goodbyes. Lord willing, we will return again to Indiahoma to see our friends again, but the day we really look forward to is the one coming soon when we will all praise out Lord Jesus Christ together in heaven. Father, hasten that day!!