Vacation Bible School: Uniting the community for children
Nestled in the hills and valleys of the Appalachian Mountains, the once vibrant town of Wallace, West Virginia, no longer has schools, a grocery store, or even a gas station.
Unemployment is high and public services are limited. Drug abusers hide in the deep woods in this intersection of five counties. But amidst the hardship, local churches forge a strong community to offer hope, especially for children.
During one week in June, Smith Baptist Church partnered with other churches in Wallace and World Vision’s Appalachia field site to host Vacation Bible School.
"It's not about the Smith Baptist Church—it's about the community" and its children, says Debbie Earnest, VBS co-coordinator and wife of Pastor Lowell Earnest. Although she says VBS is designed for children in kindergarten through fifth grade, "if anyone wants to learn about God, they are welcome to come."
Here, no one is turned away. The churches provide lunch for children because for some, this will be their only meal of the day. Debbie and co-coordinator Robin Norman want every child to know that "Jesus is always there for them, and loves them no matter what they do."
Nine years ago, the current Vacation Bible School started with only seven children. Since then, participating churches have prayed that attendance would double, Debbie says. Their faithfulness in God continued to grow as attendance rose to 10, then 14, and ultimately to 47 children last year.
Debbie marvels that she now gets "to see the kids grow up from year to year" as children return to VBS and learn about God.
In addition to deepening their faith and relationship with God, children practice their learning skills by reading books with volunteers. To further support their education, children receive these books along with backpacks filled with school supplies at the end of VBS week, helping to equip them with the necessary tools to be productive, engaged students.
World Vision provides the VBS curriculum, backpacks, and books, and sends about five volunteers per day to help run the activity.
As the size of Vacation Bible School has grown substantially, God continues to bless the churches and provide for the program. VBS offers a source of hope and comfort for children, while bringing the surrounding churches together to serve God and the community.