“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17 (NIV)
“Why do you do all that you do?”
I was asked this question after friends and I had spent weeks developing plans, recruiting help, and putting together decorations for vacation Bible school. It was the perfect time for me to figure out why I push hard to make VBS an exciting environment for kids of all ages to step into.
At first, I wanted to simply say, “I’m originally from St. Tim’s.” But that short answer would make sense only to the church members and visitors who experienced VBS during the time that Janet directed the program at a little church in Livonia, Michigan. She and her husband, Matt, had everything to do with my dedication to VBS. It was their passion long before it became mine.
At St. Tim’s, men, women, and children came together annually to hammer, saw, carve, paint, papier-mâché, staple, glue, clip, hang, and construct—any way possible—things like temporary outdoor classrooms and inanimate life-sized people and animals. It would take us months to get ready for the children, and I can’t say that we were ever done. Even after the program was underway, there was always someone—usually Matt—working after hours to implement just one more piece of the grand design.
We tried to make Bible stories come alive for the children who attended and the adults who taught and led. Interesting things to look at, touch, and experience helped everyone have fun all the while interacting with one another and learning about Jesus.
This past July, I met a pastor at a neighboring church who graciously lent my decorating team the expensive and time-consuming things that he and his crew had put together for Cave Quest, a popular VBS theme. He even supplied the trailer needed to transport the six-foot tall foam stalagmites and stalactites, a screen-printed backdrop, posters, and pop-up cardboard decorations.
Pastor Scott had the same zeal and generosity that I saw in Janet. As I was thanking him for sharing the impressive creations, he reminded me of why we do what we do. He said, “It’s all about the relationships we establish with the kids.”
I think he would agree that it’s even more broad than that. It’s also about the friendships that are formed between adults who work side by side during the day and evening and sometimes into the midnight hour. It’s about: the fun that men and women have in scouring their homes for perfect props; the purpose that people feel when they’re needed to do anything from heavy lifting to folding tissue paper into something useable. It’s about the joy that young adults experience and convey when they give up their free time to play tag with younger children and to give pony-back rides to the littlest ones.
Through experience, Janet knew these things to be true. And indeed, “all that we do” can bring us great personal pleasure, especially when it results in smiles and hugs. But when we consider why we get involved, why we volunteer, and why we work hard, remember that Janet would be quick to point us back to Jesus as the inherent source of our motivation. In her final and unfinished sermon, she wrote: “We are ambassadors for Christ...appointed to represent Him to this world.”