by Cori Hilsgen
At least 100 children from the St. Joseph area put their faith in action at Vacation Bible School July 26-30 at the Church of St. Joseph Heritage Hall.
Children, ages 4 years old through sixth grade, focused on this year’s theme of “G-Force – God’s Love in Action.”
Organizers Marian Bach from Church of St. Joseph, Rachel Kuebelbeck from Resurrection Lutheran Church and Pastor Bruce Tessen from Gateway Church coordinated with many area volunteers to help create faith-filled, fun activities.
Bach said the children learned we are called to live our faith and love for God and others and to truly make a difference in our churches and world.
She said activities centered around the idea of God’s infinite love for each person and the reason for living faith in strong and powerful ways. Scripture was a major part of the activities.
“This was a mission-focused VBS, where kids experienced God’s unstoppable love and discovered how to fuel up and move in and through life with God,” Tessen said. “Children and adults explored and experienced serving God and others with active love.”
Tessen said the VBS adventure included music that energized participants’ ears, interactive Bible fun, super science projects, cool crafts, hands-on-mission work, delicious snacks, great games and more.
“I really enjoy being a part of the community VBS,” Tessen said. “It seems to bring (people) together under one roof to worship, to learn, to have fun and to build fond memories that will be talked about for years to come.”
Each day, participants focused on the message of the day and explored how to move, act, care, follow and share as directed by God’s teachings.
Kuebelbeck said the volunteers are what make the program successful. About 60 volunteers helped with the program this year.
“I love VBS,” Kuebelbeck said. “For two weeks, it takes over my life. There is an excitement about it that is really cool. Not only is there camaraderie between the volunteers and students, but also between the churches and their resources.”
She estimated volunteers spend at least 850 hours with the program each year. Kuebelbeck begins planning in January for the following summer and spends many hours contacting volunteers to see where they might want to work.
“We have incredibly capable volunteers,” Kuebelbeck said. “We have a lot of the same people from year to year who volunteer.”
Students who volunteer need to have completed seventh grade.
“Many high school students return to be leaders,” she said. “I feel it’s important to nurture teenagers. Even though they are not yet adults, they still have a very important role in the community.”
Volunteers Joan Schleper and Laura Gorder worked the registration table. Gorder works with much of the graphics and scheduling of the program and has been volunteering for eight years. Her two children Gabby, 7, and Aiden, 5, participated in the program.
Schleper has been volunteering for three years. Her daughter, Taylor Johnson, participates in the program.
Gorder said because the program is an evening program, it draws people from St. Cloud and other areas.
“VBS is the most faith-filled week of my life every year,” Gorder said. “We prep for it, are so excited when it comes and we really enjoy it.”
She said it’s funny how the program brings people together and gave an example of another adult at VBS who used to ride the school bus with her.
Schleper said she and her daughter really look forward to it each year.
Kuebelbeck said the first 20 minutes on the first night of the program are very chaotic, but the rest of the week usually goes very smoothly.
Volunteer Angela Sieben’s four children Shelby, 11; Jasmine, 9; Deyja, 8; and Brody, 7, attended the VBS program.
“It’s an amazing community event for not only students, but volunteers as well,” Sieben said.
She said her children’s favorite activities are the snacks, games and singing.
“There are a bunch of stations,” Shelby Sieben said. “There are new things every year. New music, yummy snacks and new things in Imagination Station (craft and science).”
Other students commented about this year’s program.
“The volunteers are super awesome,” said fifth-grade student Taylor Thoma. “I like how much time we spend at each station and it’s fun.”
“It’s really fun,” said fifth-grade student Taylor Wald. “You get to do science, art, story and learn new songs. There are really good snacks and you get to play games.”
“It’s fun and there’s a lot to do,” said third-grade student Erin Wald.
Kuebelbeck said they appreciated all the donations and support from the area. Several families donated to help other families, and several businesses and organizations such as the St. Joseph Jaycees also offered generous help and support.
This is the 32nd year VBS has been coordinated between the area churches. The program has been held at RLC in the past but was moved to the Heritage Hall this year because of RLC construction.