A Mighty Fortress
Vacation Bible School, 2003 at Zion Lutheran Church. It’s 6:30 PM, Monday, June 9. The volunteers at the registration table just inside the main entrance frantically try to match 81 students with name tags and grade levels. The children gather on the narthex floor in front of a 35-foot tall Castle set. Benches keep them from the moat with a ferocious-looking alligator in it. The drawbridge door is in the upraised position, so that no one may enter or exit the “Mighty Fortress.”
Suddenly, from a parapet three stories above the floor, the “Mayor” appears and welcomes the students to the Mighty Fortress and introduces them to Martin Luther, who comes and speaks to them about how God has made them a part of His “Mighty Fortress” through Baptism, crossing the drowning waters into the shelter of His care. “Open this Castle!” Martin declares. “Open it so that these children may learn about their God!” Silently, the drawbridge door begins to lower. Soon it is in position so that the children may safely cross the moat into the Castle.
One young child gasps, “Magic!”
No, there was no magic here. Just scaffolding, some painted drop cloths, rigid foam insulation, shoeboxes, leftover lumber, a boat winch, and many, many volunteer hours from many very talented people.
That’s the story behind this year’s VBS. No magic, just lots of people giving freely of their time, talents, and treasures to get the Gospel message out to children in a manner in which they will long remember that “A Mighty Fortress is our God.”
A special thanks to Buck and Sandy Wehrbein, who came up with the theme over a year ago and brought it through to its conclusion this year. Another thanks to Sandy for sewing nearly all the costumes you'll see on the following pages, showing us how to paint the set, and for supplying more than we'll ever know to the functioning of this year's VBS. Thanks also to Bill Deardoff for his excellent portrayal of Martin Luther, opening and closing each night's session from the first parapet. (We never could get him to speak from the top level!) Our engineers, Dale Blackwell and Chris Wurtele, took our wildest dreams and made them work, even giving us a working drawbridge that held up to three week's worth of traffic in the middle of the entryway! Brian and Dawn Sharp coordinated the snacks for each night, and Brian even gave us a peek at his medieval sword collection. Over thirty adults taught classes, led crafts, games, and music times, and assisted in shepherding the children from one end of the Mighty Fortress to the other. Our thanks and deep appreciation to you all.
The real story of VBS this year was that the children and their families grew in their faith in God, their Mighty Fortress. We could not help but take note of how many mothers and fathers were helping with classes, sets, snacks, and so forth. Many families stayed for openings in the narthex and arrived early for dismissal to catch the closings, both done from the balcony walkway. On Saturday at the festival in the lower level, many families arrived to share together in the fun stuff going on.
During the week, the children learned Bible stories telling how God calls, protects, saves, and gives eternal life to His people. They also learned how a man named Martin Luther discovered all those things in the Bible and lived his life according to them. Along the way, they enjoyed crafts, games, snacks and music which reinforced each day’s lesson.
Some of those crafts are still on display at the church. The Castle set has been struck. But the message and the truth of the Gospel lives on in the hearts and minds of these children of the Mighty Fortress.
Here are a few pictures from the Renaissance fair we had on Saturday 6/14/03. It turned out really well. It was complete with dunking tank, trebuchet, ponies,quartet orchestra, and of course-Luther!
Our day started with a wedding processional with Martin Luther, his wife Katy, and representatives of the classes and their teachers, all in costume,bearing the boar's head to the wedding feast. Games were played, food was consumed, and different guilds taught their crafts to the crowds under the big tent as the musicians played away.
Here are the players in this year's Vacation Bible School. They are in no particular order.