Vacation Bible School in Bay draws hundreds from Westshore community

Sisters Cayla and Mia Bucci and Kate and Hope Crisafi with the St. Raphael Vacation Bible School's theme character PandaMania. Photo by Audrea Bucci.

They came by the hundreds: little children ages four through Grade 5 and teenagers who will be entering grades 6-12.  They were from Bay Village, Avon Lake, Avon, Westlake, North Ridgeville, Rocky River and Lakewood. Even former Bay Village residents, who had moved to China and were back in the States visiting for the summer, sent their children. The last week of July is Vacation Bible School time at Saint Raphael Parish – and this year it was PANDAMANIA!   

As you drive through area neighborhoods and travel around the country each summer, there is something common to all of America: Vacation Bible School. Churches of all sizes advertise VBS with cartoon characters, catchy slogans and the promise of holy fun for five days. 

This year, 450 people participated in VBS at Saint Raphael Parish in Bay Village. The message was simple, and a good one for all of us no matter how old or young you are: God made us. He listens to us. God watches over us. God loves us no matter what – on easy days and difficult days. And God gives good gifts!

In the middle of summer vacation – with school year routines put aside, parents are eager to send their children to VBS and the children are happy to come. And an added blessing is the participation of so many young people with special needs. Vacation Bible School offers them an equal playing field. It’s a place where children of ALL abilities can celebrate and learn about God without the limitations of a desk or a classroom where you have to be quiet. In looking at the faces of the 400-plus children at St. Raphael’s Pandamania, no one stood out. They were all God’s children and they were welcome. 

Vacation Bible School works. In best-practices studies across the nation, it is recognized as the model for learning about God that has the biggest impact and retention rate. Both children and teens enjoy it far more than sitting in a classroom or going to a Bible study. It gives young people an interactive, hands-on experience of scripture, music, games and art, all the while connecting them to a very special and important message: God is wild about them! Would you rather learn the story of Jonah from a book, or by walking into a 29-foot whale?  

There are thousands of memories and stories still being told, about the “real baby” that played the part of Samuel, the hundreds of cloth backpacks with “God Loves You” in five languages that were made and distributed to those in need throughout the Cleveland area, the awesome snacks, the parachute/stuffed animal games, and the bamboo challenge course made up of over 400 empty paper towel rolls. 

For the many churches and volunteers who provide Vacation Bible School each year, we know that it’s not easy.  But it’s so worth it!    

Terri Telepak

Terri Telepak is a Pastoral Associate at Saint Raphael Parish.

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Volume 3, Issue 16, Posted 2:58 PM, 08.09.2011