By Gail Rector
"You and your friends have the Bible camp at the church looking so inviting. I am tempted to...join in! [It] looks like so much fun!" a neighbor wrote to Charrette Baptist Church, Marthasville, after observing children and adults in Bible dress at "Nazareth Village Marketplace, AD 29."
Not only did Vacation Bible School at Charrette in June minister to children, it became the impetus for at least three adults to join the church.
Jenny Quinn, VBS director, was drawn to the "Marketplace" Bible school material because of its hands-on, Bible-times experiences. The 9-year-old, 65-member congregation became excited as they brainstormed ways to make their Nazareth village authentic, and their enthusiasm spread to others in the community.
Mark and Sarah Mehrhof had been attending Charrette for a couple of months but had not joined. An advertising businessman, Mehrhof offered to revamp and print the publicity flyer included in the Bible school material. He later portrayed Jesus in the Nazareth village. Sarah Mehrhof made banners to represent the 12 tribes of Israel and led the Tribe of Benjamin during VBS.
Impressed with the church's commitment to ministry, the couple joined Charrette the same week Mehrhof was due to ship out for military service in Iraq. Quinn said she believes VBS played a role in the Mehrhof's decision because they were "being active and being accepted and they were learning more about us."
Another visitor, Michelle Ruether, made costumes for all adult leaders and brought a lamb, a calf and some chickens for the village animal pen. Her daughter, Micaela, accepted Christ as Savior on the last night of Bible school. Later she was baptized, and Ruether joined the church.
The Bible-times approach also inspired a local senior adult to get involved. A member of an Assemblies of God church, Jean Kitchen has been attending Charrette for about three years. She crocheted yarmulkes or skullcaps for the men and boys and played the part of the village baker.
The village consisted of tents erected for market stalls and other activities. Members fashioned a stone "well" in the middle of the village alongside an animal pen. About 50 children were divided into "tribes" and given robes to wear while in the village.
The tribes of Gad, Dan, Benjamin and Reuben prayed and talked about Bible stories while sitting on straw mats in village tents. Before entering the tent, they recited "The Lord our God is one Lord, and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might."
Every evening the tribes visited the marketplace. Crafters told Bible stories while demonstrating their skills. The children heard about Jesus' birth and childhood as a carpenter showed them how to make a folding ruler, a hammer and a Hebrew toy called a dreidel. They learned about the "five loaves and two fish" while the fisherman taught them how to weave ropes and fishnets. Pupils listened to the "potter and the clay" as they molded their own clay, and ground spices while hearing about Lydia. A storyteller told Bible stories and church youth presented Bible dramas.
The Catholic neighbor who sent the e-mail had come by the church early in the VBS week to let church leaders know the date of an ecumenical community service rescheduled because of snow in spring. So impressed by the Bible-times setup, she attended the family night program.
After VBS was over, the church received a message from a family whose children had attended. "We just wanted to thank you all so much for the week of Vacation Bible School. Our children enjoyed it very much and we know that all the tremendous effort put forth into bringing God's Word to life will have a lasting impression on them. Thanks again and see you next year!"