Every summer for one week my little church in south Mississippi would be transformed. Some years it became a mountain campsite, others years it was a seaport, still others an Olympic stadium, or even an outpost in the far-flung reaches of Outer Space. As a little girl, this was truly magical. As an adult looking back, I now see something else even more wonderful was taking place—I was growing to love God’s people and His Word in ways that have shaped the rest of my life.
Of course, the decorations were marvelous and the stickers . . . I lived for the stickers. (Anyone who grew up with Reachout, knows exactly what I am talking about!) What was even better was that every summer I was fed on God’s redemptive story across the Bible showing me rather than just telling me that God was working out His plan to rescue His people from the very beginning. I was learning and relearning God’s plan of salvation under names like “Salvation Flight Plan” or “Salvation Sea Crossing.” To this day, when I say Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” the picture that comes to mind is the picture from the Upward Bound VBS of the hiker sitting on a cliff separated from God by an uncrossable chasm. To borrow a metaphor from a children’s ministry director I once knew, the spiritual hardwiring was being laid in my heart during all those summers of Reachout VBS so that it was prepared for the Holy Spirit to “flip on the electricity.”
Even as the spiritual wiring was being laid in my heart through the teaching, I was also growing to love the Church by experiencing God’s people as my people. Sue Jakes, former CDM children’s coordinator, once said that VBS can be for the modern church what the Old Testament feasts were for the Israelites. The whole faith community comes together to celebrate and remind ourselves of God’s wonderful salvation. When Miss Pam dressed as Rahab to tell her story and Mr. Bruce led us in games, I came to see that the Church is like no other community on earth. I am not alone in this experience. Not long ago, I was with a group of several women who grew up in churches that used Reachout VBS. Every one of them had stories to match mine. One even said that some of her favorite childhood memories revolved around Summer Seaquest VBS. For each of us, these sweet experiences with the Body of Christ were among those things the Lord has used to continually draw us back to a local church family.
Now as an educator of more than 15 years with a deep interest in curriculum, I am delighted to find myself a part of the refreshing of this much-loved VBS. Digging into Summer Seaquest, I can now see how it is beautifully integrated from stickers to story time. I am also impressed by the spiraling of the content from year to year. Like painting a piece of furniture, every summer our children participate in Reachout VBS, we are able to lay on another coat of the same truths. With this Summer Seaquest refresh, my prayer is for children to have the same wonderful experience so many others and I have had, and that children’s ministry leaders and volunteers will find the Reachout VBS an accessible tool as they continue to grow little ones in their love for God’s Word and His people.