I loved telling stories to wide-eyed chatty kids in the Family Tents. It was a job I didn’t think I wanted, but in the end I had an absolute blast! Monday night I told my husband about how great things had gone. Tuesday night I giddily told him all the funny things the kids had said during their lesson. On Wednesday night I told him I couldn’t wait until next year when I could hopefully have the Family Tent position again. It was Wednesday night, after he had fallen asleep, that the heaviness of what was to happen the next day set in. Thursday I was to present each group with the Gospel and offer the prayer of salvation with anyone interested… and I was terrified. I prayed that night. I wrote. Then I prayed some more. That night I had very little sleep. I woke up tired and had a slight headache all day.
Before I go on I must assure you I really did know that I could not say the right thing or act a certain way for these children to have a genuine change of heart. I really did know it was not about me. But I knew something great was going to happen, because God was involved.
That morning, as I sat in my tent with a headache and heavy eyelids, I watched the children sing and dance with the worship team. I knew the LORD would do a very great work here, but I knew the Enemy was close at hand, wanting to keep the army to himself. And I was very tired.
Enter group number one… Kindergarten. I had a cup of mud, a cup of red water, two hardback books, a wooden cross, and a Lego man. We’ll call him Jim for short. Jim was on one book while God was on the other. Jim does bad things. I pick up my cup of mud, which symbolizes sin, and I said that those bad things are called “sins”. We talked about sins and children volunteered some examples, like lying or disobeying parents or being mean to siblings, etc. Jim, the Sinner, gets dunked in the mud and rolled around. Out comes the messiest Lego man you’ve ever seen! Here the children always acted repulsed. They shuddered. They gagged. And I said, “This is how we look to God! We are sinful! We are yucky! How is Jim supposed to get to God when he’s so dirty and God is so clean? We’re sinful and God is holy.” Here I take out the plain wooden cross and I talk about Jesus taking our punishment on Himself. Jim decides to accept Jesus as his savior and is now washed in the red water, which is Jesus’ blood. (I learned from the Kindergarten class to explain upfront that this was red food coloring in water, not actual blood.) Now Jim is clean again and he walks from one book to the other by way of the cross.
Here was the pivotal moment. I explained the sinner’s prayer in more detail and why we all need to say that prayer to get to heaven.
I startled as the tent next to me erupted in cheers and clapping as some of the children had accepted the call of the Savior. In one area of the battle the Enemy had been brought down!
When I regained my composure I looked back at the children sitting in my tent. All little eyes were on me, but hands were resting firmly on laps. Finally one little boy slowly raised his hand. “Yes?” I said in my most I’m-ready-to-see-the-work-of-the-LORD voice. He asked, “Where is that bridge?” He was pointing to the wooden cross bridging Jim’s book to God’s book. Suddenly I was reminded of how darn literal kids are at that age! I tried answering his question as the other boys sitting at my feet began asking how God could really see inside your heart anyway. “No one can see your heart.” “Well, He can if He has an X-ray machine!” As the group left the tent several minutes later a woman waiting outside approached me with expectant eyes and said, “I’m here to take any names of children who prayed.” “Oh,” I said guiltily, “Um… no names.” She didn’t hear me, so she stepped closer with her hand outstretched waiting for the card of names. She smiled and said, “You’ve got names?” I had to stop myself from saying defensively, and a little loudly, “NO! No names!”
Enter group two. I take my seat and quickly read over the script just to make sure I didn’t miss a line somewhere. I cleaned the red water (not actual blood) and re-positioned all the necessary items into place as the children sat down. I went through the whole act as before. Children were listening and paying attention. Once Jim was safely in heaven with his Maker, I asked the children, “Is there anyone here who would like to pray that prayer with me right now?” And, of course, the next tent explodes in cheers over new converts. I was nearly positive a cricket chirped in my tent as my group keeps their large eyes locked on mine and not a hand went up.
When they had split into their small groups, which were led by their Oikos leaders, I sat on my chair and once again I found myself skimming my script. How could I have taken this day so seriously and nothing happened? Had I done something wrong? Was I not fit to be used in such a way? I had a feeling if the next group sat quietly as the neighbors loudly applauded again I might have to break down and cry. I even sniffled as my current group left. I forced a smile at the woman collecting cards approached. “No names!”
Enter group three. In this group five little girls raised their hands. At least two of them, I could tell by the look in their eyes, were sincere about their choice. There were at least two new births in that tent that day. The Enemy, in their lives, had been defeated!
Group four were the older kids who had mostly grown up hearing the Gospel over and over. Now as the tent next door clapped again I had peace.
Enter group five. Preschoolers. They were always the most challenging as they were so little and by the end of the day they were really quite squirmy. I was expecting a class of chaos what with a cup of “blood” and a Lego man and who knows what else they would have come up with. However, the most opposition I got was from a precious little girl who was always pristine in appearance and behavior, and always asking me if I remembered her name. When I showed them the messy Jim and said my usual, “And this is how we look to God!” The little girl, whose chubby pink face always seemed to glow with cleanliness and decorum, backed away from me and indignantly answer, “I do not look like that!”
Practically the whole class raised their hand at the end of the lesson.
Wednesday night I had seen me before the Philistines. I stood ready in my armor. Yes, it was heavy, but I knew my God was great, so I could carry any load. As the Philistines laughed and jeered I would swing the sword high, run in into the great throng, and the enemy would be brought to their knees! And I knew my God could! I knew it was for the LORD. I knew it was because of the LORD. But that morning, as the unseen battle raged God suited me in His grace, lead me through the crowd of fighting soldiers, and stewarded me with a small slingshot. He worked quietly that morning as I was looking around perplexed. He wasn’t in the storm, but in the still small voice. And the Giant came tumbling down.
I did no wielding that day. The approach was gentle. But it was fruitful in at least two girls that went through my tent. And who knows how God will use that day in the future to convict, to remind, to reproach, and to encourage.
It is the power of the Gospel.
At the end of the day I was exhausted. Thursday night I told my husband that I needed a year for the next VBS.
Or as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:10-11