by Cori Hilsgen
Ninety-three St. Joseph area children, ages 4 through sixth grade, united to celebrate Vacation Bible School July 28-Aug. 1.
Held at the Resurrection Lutheran Church in St. Joseph, VBS is coordinated between three area churches: RLC, St. Joseph Catholic Church and Gateway Community Church. The coordinators of VBS were Rachel Kuebelbeck from Resurrection, Marian Bach from St. Joseph’s and Pastor Bruce Tessen from Gateway.
Kuebelbeck said this is the 30th year VBS has been coordinated between the churches, and so they wanted to recognize how special it’s been they have been working together for so long. They celebrated the anniversary by bringing in a bouncing inflatable for the children to play on the last evening of VBS.
Participants explored a “Kingdom Rock” theme. Activities included opening and closing prayers, Bible stories, games, snacks, music, an imagination station and others.
Participants received a compact disc of songs. Kuebelbeck said these songs included “upbeat” praise and worship songs that children learned to do hand actions with while listening to them. Many participants remember songs from past years and will sing them long after the year’s program has ended, she said.
Kuebelbeck said the use of the Kingdom Rock theme shows the children they are not alone and can stand strong with God. They talked about the resurrection story and how God’s strength can conquer even death.
Faith formation director Bach has been involved in some form of VBS since 1987. She said various studies have shown the participants will remember the experience for many years afterward.
“VBS is a wonderful time for children to grow in their faith,” Bach said. “It’s been a marvelous experience ecumenically for the three churches.”
Kuebelbeck said VBS is a very friendly atmosphere and a nice opportunity for the three churches to come together. It also offers a faith experience for people who don’t usually attend or belong to a congregation.
“It takes away the intimidation of not being connected with a church,” Kuebelbeck said.
Pastor Bruce Tessen of Gateway church enjoys how the churches work together for VBS.
“It’s very exciting to be a part of our community VBS again this year,” Tessen said. “I think it’s great the churches in St. Joseph work together to make this a successful event each year. A lot of planning goes into this, but it’s definitely worth it. Each year parents tell us how much it meant to their children to be able to attend and how it has really helped them in so many ways.”
A few changes to VBS this year included an imagination station instead of a crafts station. Children participated in an exploration activity, which they could bring home with them and continue to explore. Another change was a shortened end time. Each evening was shortened by 30 minutes to allow parents with younger children a chance to go home earlier.
Participants, parents and volunteers all worked together to create a fun, faith-based experience.
Parent Jo Schmit said her son J.P., 9, has been attending VBS for five years.
“When we pulled up in front of the building he said ‘sweet’ because he remembered it from past years and was excited,” Schmit said.
Amber and Allie Hilsgen, 8, have been attending VBS for four years. They said they especially enjoyed the imagination station this year.
“I can’t wait until next year to learn more about God,” Allie said.
“VBS was so much fun, I’m sad to see it end,” Amber said.
Violet Meyer, 5, enjoyed coming to VBS. As she was enjoying snack time with friends, she also learned how to encourage others and how to help support and build each other up.
“I like it,” Meyer said. “I like that my mom volunteers at it.”
More than 55 volunteers worked together to coordinate the fun-filled week for VBS participants.
Kuebelbeck said she is so grateful to the volunteers who create the chance for these kids to share God’s love with everyone around them.
Volunteer Kari Haynes, 18, has been helping with VBS for six years.
“It is a time when children can learn about God, but also have fun with friends,” Haynes said.
This was Melanie Mueffelmann’s first year of volunteering, but her three children, 10-year-old Grant and 7-year-old daughters Chloe and Paige, have been attending for three years.
“The kids love it and look forward to it,” Mueffelmann said.
This was also Sarah Hogan’s first year volunteering. Her daughter Kayla, 13, was also volunteering and her children Carter, 8, and Cora Lee, 8, were attending VBS.
“It encourages them to have a personal relationship with God,” Hogan said.
Jess Kompelien has been volunteering for three years. Her children, Avery, 11, and Olivia, 8, have also been attending VBS for three years.
“It’s a nice collaboration between the three congregations,” Kompelien said. “It helps the children develop a relationship with God and shows them how to share it with other people.”
Participants also donated to a Habitat for Humanity service project during the week. They discussed building a kingdom or home and each day added something such as a door, light or other piece of the house. Participants could also write prayers and sign their names on 2” x 4” boards to be used in the Habitat house. The building of the house is scheduled to begin sometime this August.
VBS participants could bring money to donate toward the Habitat house. Kuebelbeck said more than $250 was donated.
Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor's degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people's stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.