Whale of a tale: Vacation Bible School takes its theme to great proportions
There's a whale behind the church, a tree house in front, off to one side a boat and some fishing equipment are "for sail" and one corner of the building looks like Mt. Sinai. You might wonder what was going on if it weren't for the big sign out front telling everyone it's time for the Rinehart Christian Church's Vacation Bible School, 5:30-8 p.m., today through Friday, and Sunday.
Under VBS director Nathan Forkner the concept has grown each year. Pastor Ricky Walles credited Forkner with the imagination and creativity that has been the driving force behind the church's VBS program for the past three years.
"He is very creative," Walles said. "He has had the ideas and the vision for the VBS program the last several years."
Walles said that last year they had 140 different children come over the course of the week-long VBS and this year they are hoping for more than 200.
"Last year we had 140 different kids, not every day but over the week, and yesterday we already had more than 120," Walles said.
Walles said the VBS drew a varied crowd.
"I'd say 20 percent of the kids are from other churches, 40 percent are from our church and the other 40 percent aren't connected to any church at all," Walles said. "They're the ones we really want to connect with, we'd like for them to find a home with us."
This year the theme is Worldwide Delivery. The VBS participants are all dressed as delivery people for the Gospel Delivery Service. The hats and shirts everyone wears resemble United Parcel Service uniforms.
The concept seems to go over well with the children as well as their parents. The interior of the church looks like a warehouse with boxes stacked on shelves and "conveyor belts" resembling the real working of the a delivery service.
All of the stories are selected to emphasize the delivery of the good news. For example, the story of Jonah and the whale is told from the perspective of a woman of Nineveh who had salvation delivered to her when Jonah obeyed God's commands.
Each evening before the actual start members of the church feed the participants supper. Walles said it helps get people to come.
"Parents don't have to feed their kids before coming, it saves them a lot of time," Walles said. "We use the room as our craft room so as soon as everyone is fed we get busy and clean the tables off and we're ready to go."
After the meal, everyone gathers in the sanctuary for the "Pledge of Allegiance" and two other pledges, to the Christian flag and to the Bible. Then it's time for group singing and a short video from Good News Productions, Joplin. As the children file out to the five areas, one for each group of children who rotate between them over the course of the week, a collection is taken up.
At the end of the week each child will have seen each lesson and those who have never attended before will receive a Bible.