VBS focuses on Swaziland

Published 9:42 pm Thursday, July 19, 2012

Students create hair for dolls in the Toy Shop. (WDN Photo/Sara Cowell)


Editor’s note: This is the second installment of a two-part series. The first part was published Thursday.
Vacation Bible School at Washington’s First Baptist Church is helping explain, in part, the church’s connection with Swaziland.
This week, the church and its grounds have been transformed into something akin to a Hollywood soundstage and outdoor set to evoke images, sounds and aromas of Swaziland, a kingdom in southeast Africa. The Vacation Bible School curriculum was developed by church members and staff. About 160 children are attending VBS at the church daily.
“One thing we would like to get across to the kids is to show them how fortunate they are and how good their life is because we take so much for granted, even as adults,” said Joy Stallings, children’s ministry and outreach director for the church. “We show them videos of (Swazili) kids who sing with no music. They sing their own song. They make their own music. … In a world that is so materialistic, we want to show kids (they) are fortunate. These (Swazili) kids don’t have anything, but they make it work. They love Jesus without having a Bible, without having video, without having iPods, radio. They do it because somebody came and showed it to them, showed them Jesus.”
Developing the VBS program took about two years and involved church members using their various talents to produce the curriculum.
“The (commercially produced) curriculum that’s written has already been tested. That is something that is different,” said Susannah Berry, a church member who helped develop the VBS program, when discussing past reliance on already-prepared VBS programs that have been tested on children. “This is the first time (for an in-house program). … We have never actually tested it with children. … We’re working out kinks as we go.”
The church’s VBS team met every Sunday the first year “to really get the curriculum down,” Stallings noted.
“By us not having Vacation Bible School last year, which made us sad because of construction (at the church), I think it actually helped to make this a better program. We were not rushed, and they were about to get those fine details down,” she said.
The Rev. Dr. Jimmy Moore, the church’s pastor and amateur photographer who’s made several mission trips to Swaziland, is showing photographs taken by him in Swaziland to the VBS children as a part of the VBS curriculum. He discussed why that VBS program is important to the church and its ties with Swaziland.
“First of all, I think we were able to pull this off. We were able to do our own theme and write our own curriculum and do our own Vacation Bible School because we have so much experience in the church with people who’ve been (to Swaziland),” Moore said.
Moore said the 75 or so church members who have been to Swaziland, some of them several times, have lots of experiences and knowledge to share with children attending VBS this week.
“Since we’ve being doing this, we’ve be going to Swaziland since 1996, we’ve built a very strong relationship with people there. We know many of them by name. We know the places. We’ve been to all parts of the country,” Moore said. “We’ve seen the needs in Swaziland. We’ve seen the medical needs, the poverty. We’ve seen the need to share the Gospel in Swaziland. So, there’s just a great passion in our church, a great passion to tell the Swaziland story and to continue our ministry there.”
Moore believes the VBS curriculum reinforces the experiences of church members who have visited Swaziland and educates the VBS students who have not been to Swaziland to the needs faced by Swazilis.
“I really do think we have made a difference,” Moore said. “Sometimes you go on a mission trip and you go for a week or 10 days or two weeks, and, yeah, you make a difference. I think going back time and time and time again and building those relationships, I think our ministry in Swaziland has really made a difference in the lives of the people there.”
Tammy Condrey, a church member, one of the VBS program developers and the church’s former youth minister, said although this VBS program has several components, not one is as important as bringing the Gospel to children. She believes the uniqueness of the VBS curriculum lends itself in helping the church share the Gospel.
“Vacation Bible School is the most awesome outreach that a church can do,” Condrey said. “With Vacation Bible School, you are with the kids 15 hours during one week. That’s equivalent to about three months of Sunday school. … To have the entire Vacation Bible School centered around what God is doing in the lives of the people in this church and in the lives of the children in Swaziland and in our church, that has just brought it all together for our church family.”

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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