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Previous Challenge Entry
Topic: First Day of School (06/28/04)

By James Snyder


The first day of Daily Vacation Bible School, or DVBS as it is commonly known, is as frightening to the staff and director as the first visit to the dentist. Both require pulling of teeth to get anything accomplished.

One year, for a change, we decided to do away with the traditional DVBS program and bring in someone to conduct a children’s program.

We contracted Clara Lehman, a lady who did summer children’s programs for churches and camps. We agreed on a date and everything seemed set for a good summer program for the children in our church.

The church I served at the time only had a dozen children. We thought this would be an excellent opportunity to expand our children’s program and incorporate more children into the Sunday school roll book.

We channeled most of our energy into promotion. No stone was left unturned in our enthusiasm to advertise our program.

Mustering all the faith we could, we planned for 30 children. That would have been a good group of children for our small church to handle. As a small church, we were space-challenged. Therefore, 30 children would tax our facility as much as the IRS.

Our part of the preparations was primarily the handcraft and refreshments with Mrs. Lehman handling the songs and Bible stories. Although expecting 30 children was a real stretch, we could use any leftover materials for our weekly Sunday school program.

The night before any planned event is always full of apprehension. Will anyone show up? Did we forget anything?

At least we were sure of 12 children, but beyond that, it was anyone’s guess. We were ready for anything. At least we thought we were.

When Mrs. Lehman arrived, we assured her, although we were not too sure ourselves, that we would have a good bunch of children come Monday morning.

When the time arrived, cars began pulling in front of the church emptying children into the front yard. The stream of children threatened to continue forever. When it finally stopped and we got a head count there were 107 children before us. This turned out to be the lowest attendance for the week and immediately posed a predicament from the first day.

Sometimes success carries a large baggage of problems. We were definitely in trouble.

With 3 times more children than refreshments, not to mention the handcraft, we were facing a dilemma. If you don’t think that presents a problem, you do not know children. Within an hour, 107 children would be expecting refreshments. The refreshments could make or break our week.

Stretching the refreshments was the easy part. But we also advertised handcraft for each child and not to deliver on a promise could bring some serious repercussions from the children. After all, we’re not politicians.

A quick trip to the store solved the refreshment problem but the handcraft posed another problem. Confidently, we had prepared all the handcrafts for the entire week ahead of time. That was good but all the handcraft for the week was used up the first day.

Where do you get handcraft on short notice? We scrounged around and found in the storage cupboard five plaster-of-paris molds. Immediately we established a production line. It takes at least one full hour for plaster-of-paris to dry. We could do five molds per hour and it would take 22 hours to make enough for one day’s program. Who needs more than 2 hours of sleep during DVBS?

Working around the clock in one-hour shifts, we made enough plaques for the week. We became experts in the art of making molds although our sanity suffered in the process. Even to this day, I shudder every time I see a plaque.

Not knowing the frantic behind the scenes, the children loved painting those plaques. On the last day, several children asked if we would have these plaques next year. We smiled and patted them on their little heads and through a greasy smile mumbled something unintelligible.

That summer I learned a valuable lesson. No matter what the situation there is a solution if I only seek divine guidance. The Apostle Paul wrote of this when he said, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:13 KJV).

No matter what happens, we’ll always have plaster-of-paris.

Member Comments
Member Date
L.M. Lee07/05/04
as always your stories are delightful. i don't think any amount of planning prepares you for VBS...at least that has always been my experience.
Linda Miller07/05/04
Oh James - you had me in stitches by the time your story ended. I can laugh because I have been working VBS for years. I have never had your experience though. I remember painting plaques in VBS as a kid and I enjoyed it so much. God will bless you all for your forbearance. Thumbs up on your entry!
Theresa Knight07/06/04
Very refreshing. Good Job!
Mary Elder-Criss07/07/04
Ah, sometimes God blesses us beyond our wildest imaginings!! Having directed VBS for many years, I can definitely relate. Great job, as usual.
Melanie Kerr 07/08/04
An entertaining story as ever. You seem to have a huge fund of experience to draw on for these challenge topics.