Every year it was the same. Vacation Bible School sneaks up on you. Oh, we had purchased the program back in January, as soon as it came out. But VBS is, by nature, a hectic event.
There are lots of things you can prepare in advance, but the big thing, the thing that takes the most time, can't be done until after church the Sunday before it starts. That afternoon we work hard to transform the church into an exotic jungle, a theme park, or a dude ranch just so the kids can be surprised when they walk into VBS that first Monday evening. It takes a lot of work and, typically, involves most of us staying until nearly midnight to finish.
Ask me how many of us can get off work during VBS. Usually none. So we drag ourselves out of bed on Monday at our usual time, work a full day and then try to rush to the church afterwards. Luckily, we have a few people who can be there early to make and serve dinner. This buys some time for the rest of us when traffic, work, or something else, causes us to be delayed. Most have straggled in by six o'clock, giving us fifteen minutes, or so, to prepare.
As co-directors, my wife and I fill in for teachers or activity coordinators who didn't make it (there's always at least one) and we crazily try to cram everything we can learn about their assignment into the short amount of time we have before kids rotate to us.
Like I said, VBS gets a little crazy. The weird thing about it, though, is once you've started for the night, everything seems to just slow down. You get into the characters and the theme for the week (you're a cowboy on a ranch, or a lifeguard at the beach or a guide through the jungle) and things just seem to fall into place. The kids get caught up in the setting and play along with the scenarios and it's really sort of magical.
There is one set of kids who are pretty much immune to the whole theme concept, however. That's your pre-k and kindergarteners. They spend most of their days in imaginary worlds, and ours just doesn't impress them that much. This specific VBS, I was filling in for the teacher who was supposed to be leading this particular group of four and five year old skeptics. All two of them.
Molly and Andrew were fairly inseperable, being the only kids their age at our church. Molly was a year older and was pretty much in charge all the time. The concept I had to impress on them this night was that Jesus was their “Forever Friend”. I hate that phrase. It's just so cheesy. So, I was trying to figure out another way to get the point across.
“Molly, who's your best friend?” I was pretty sure what her answer would be.
Okay. I was wrong. That was not the answer I expected.
“Who is Blueberry Chicken-Nugget?”
Molly leaned in conspiratorally, indicating that she wanted to tell me a secret. “That's the baby in my mommy's tummy – if it's a boy.” She yelled in my ear.
I turned to Andrew, who was actively ignoring us both. “Andrew, who is your best friend?”
Andrew shrugged his shoulders.
BAM! Suddenly a fifty pound girl was tackling poor Andrew to the ground.
“I'm your best friend!” She yelled as she straddled his chest. “You tell him Andrew! I'm your best friend! Tell him or I'll punch you!”
As I lifted Molly off of the eerily calm child, I asked him, “Andrew, is Molly your best friend?”
“Do you always do what Molly says?”
I sighed heavily. Another man broken by a woman – and so young. But, still, none of this was helping me get to the point I needed to make.
“Molly, why is it that you are Andrew's best friend, but he's not your best friend?”
“On account of he doesn't do anything for me. I do everything for him, but he just ignores me most of the time. But I keep on being a friend to him, even though he doesn't deserve it!”
I smiled. I think I actually looked up at the lightbulb hovering over my head.
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