Jerusalem Marketplace

I’m not really talking about Group’s VBS from this year. Honestly. At least not intentionally.

My mom visited us this week, and she brought a DVD she had put together of some videos from my childhood. One of those was some random video from a Vacation Bible School program that my church put on when I was about seven. I was ecstatic to see this, because of all the VBS programs I attended (and even the ones I’ve volunteered at–sadly, even ones in recent memory!) this is the one year I really remember. I can still remember many of the craft projects, and as soon as I saw the video, more came rushing back. I still remember being outside at the church, because almost all of that year’s program was held outside. There were tents set up, just like a marketplace from Bible times, each one with a different purpose or activity. All the volunteers were in costume–mostly “robes” made out of sheets and sandals, but it really lent an air of authenticity. I remember sounds and smells and impressions more strongly than most memories I have from that period of my childhood.

I mention all this because this Vacation Bible School obviously made a huge impact on me. Not in a “make a decision for Jesus” sort of way (I’m a Lutheran; we don’t do that!), but in a “I really learned a lot about Jesus and His life” sort of way.

I have no idea where my church got the program. For all I know, it was put together by church leaders (actually, it was a joint operation between two churches in my old town, so it could have been put together by a lot of people!), or it could have been purchased. From Googling the title, I have discovered one thing–Group Publishing had a VBS kit this year that was very similar to what I remember from my childhood. Did Group buy it from another company that created the one I remember? Who knows. I have a hard time believing that my church would have gotten the program from Group directly in the mid-80s. I know they were around then, but I don’t think they were that well known, and I just can’t really see my church having used them. Did somebody involved in that VBS actually write the program and sell it to Group at some point later? Also possible–I know several people who have sold stuff to Group and/or work for Group, so I can’t discount that possibility. Is it a big coincidence? Also possible, I suppose, although not as likely, because there seem to be just too many things in common for that to be the case.

At any rate, watching the video has reminded me of a lot of the cool things we did that summer, and also either triggered memories or created ideas (sometimes it’s hard to tell between what I actually remember, and what the church worker in me knows is a good idea!) of other things. I would love to someday either re-create this VBS, or rework Group’s version to make it more appropriate (is that the right word?) for my church. Probably not for a few years at least, because I don’t want to undertake anything huge while my children are still so small, but it’s something to ponder for the time being.

Craft Projects

  • Jewelry making–both punched metal (using hammer and nails, I think) and pottery
  • Basket weaving
  • Musical instrument making (the one I remember involved metal bottle caps loosely nailed to wood we painted)
  • Brick making, stamping mud and all!
  • Scroll making
  • Making those yarn cat’s eye things
  • Rope making
  • Making a Dreidel and playing the game
  • Candy making (ours was honey based)

Other Ideas

  • The storyteller (this was the way the day’s Bible story was conveyed–this role happened to be played by my mom, which is probably why I remember it!)
  • Bible stories acted out by the pastoral staff (Seeing two of my childhood pastors on the video re-enacting the Good Samaritan brought this memory back)
  • Copying English and Hebrew translations of a Bible verse (conveniently on the scrolls made in craft time)
  • Jewish dancing
  • Music time, of course
  • Jewish games (see Dreidel game, above)

Just looking at Group’s website, I got some other ideas, but I digress. This is about what I remember from my childhood, not what’s out there now. The point is, because it was all so hands-on (notice the huge amount of crafts–I’m guessing we probably did at least two every day, even though I can’t seem to remember them all right now), it was much more memorable.

Now, I will admit, I don’t remember a lot about the individual Bible stories. Of course, when you go to a Lutheran dayschool, and learn about Jesus at home everyday, it’s kind of hard to separate what you learned where, so I don’t know that I don’t remember the Bible portion because it wasn’t well done. What’s important is that I remember that week at all, and that I learned, and can still remember, what daily life must have been like for Jesus and His family and friends. I just can’t help but think that this is a lot more effective than a lot of the programs that are out there today (sorry CPH!).

My children had a great time at VBS this year, and I loved hearing what they learned about every day and seeing the crafts they made. They’re still singing some of the songs, so it clearly made an impact. But I have to wonder if they’ll remember it over 20 years from now, like I do with the Jerusalem Marketplace, or if it will just become a vague mist in the back of their minds and hearts. I guess as long as we keep teaching them at home, it doesn’t really matter, but what about those children that aren’t getting that kind of reinforcement at home? I hope their VBS experiences are memorable enough that they’ll look back on them as adults, and remember something about Christ’s love for us, and His death and resurrection.

It’s making me absolutely crazy that I’m liking something Group has done for VBS. That’s the Vacation Bible School for lazy people! (I don’t care what anyone says–it’s true! Isn’t their whole selling point that the volunteers don’t have to put in a lot of effort? It’s really too bad that churches are so hard up for volunteers that we have to water down the program to make it easy enough to get people to commit to helping!) I’m going to have to work on coming to terms with this. Very weird.