Winter in New England and Vacation Bible School are not usually two things that go together in the minds of most people. But this past February, a team of six churches from the Muskingum Valley Baptist Association traveled to Windsor, Maine, during a time of year known for harsh weather, and held VBS during winter break at Windsor Christian Fellowship.
The project was part of the new SCBO Three Strand Partnership between the Ohio, Tennessee, and New England Conventions which was approved last fall at the SCBO Annual Meeting. Chris Rhodes, pastor of Dover Baptist Temple, was part of the initial vision team that traveled to Maine last year and led the team to Windsor for the VBS project.
“God showed up and did incredible work,” said Rhodes. “He did more than we can imagine.”
The team of 20 spent nine days on mission, traveling to Maine and holding VBS. The churches involved were Dover Baptist Temple, Community Baptist in Dover, Pleasant Hill in Steubenville, Living Waters in Sardis, Faith Baptist in Belle Valley, and Trinity Baptist in Cambridge. In addition to Rhodes, four pastors were also a part of the mission team. They include: Andy McClung from Community Baptist; Jay Loucks from Pleasant Hill; James Ng from Living Waters; Brandon Dyer from Windsor Christian Fellowship in Maine.
The project was not without its challenges, according to Rhodes. The team left Ohio and on its first night’s stop in New York, the temperature was -13. When they awoke the next morning, the temperature had dropped to -18 and the starter in their van had frozen. “We used a blow torch to warm it up and get it started,” said Rhodes.
Weather, especially the temperature, was a big concern for the group. Last September they began to pray for the best weather Maine had ever seen in February. According to Rhodes, God answered those prayers. “It was 45 degrees Monday afternoon and in the 40s the entire week we were in Maine.” During the same week in 2015 it had been -20 all week. “It was 60 degrees warmer,” said Rhodes. “God does incredible things.”
Upon arriving in Windsor, Maine, the group transformed Windsor Christian Fellowship into Mt. Kilimanjaro for VBS. The group brought prizes including two Windows 10 tablets and an Android tablet to give away in addition to bags of candy for the children. “They had never seen VBS done like this,” said Rhodes.
The people of Windsor responded to the efforts of the team and 56 children attended VBS. “With workers, we had 86 people for the week,” said Rhodes. “We had four children get saved. They couldn’t remember when they had that many saved.”
However, more than children were impacted by the group’s presence. Rhodes said a parent of a child attending VBS pulled him aside one evening and asked, “What are they paying you to be here? What are you getting out of this?” He explained that their group had paid their own way to be in Windsor to do VBS. “They had never heard of adults paying to go on a mission trip,” said Rhodes.
Not only did the group impact the community, they also impacted Windsor Christian Fellowship. Toward the end of their stay, people from the church began talking about how they needed to hold VBS next year during winter break. Rhodes and the mission team made a decision. “We said, ‘how about we come back every February for the next five years?’” Windsor Christian Fellowship accepted the offer and the two groups plan to work together through 2021.
However, the Muskingum Valley group is going to do more than just provide VBS for the church. They are also going to mentor the people of Windsor Christian. For the first two years, the group will lead VBS. In the third and fourth years, the people of Windsor Christian will take more responsibility. By the time their five year partnership is over, the Windsor congregation will take full control of VBS.
This five-year partnership will require commitment from the Muskingum Valley team. While many of this year’s team are planning to return for next year’s VBS project, Rhodes says more team members are needed. “We are trying to raise a larger team for next year. We want to reach out to more church plants.”
In addition to having an impact on the town of Windsor and the members of Windsor Christian Fellowship, the mission team was impacted as well. “It has energized us,” said Rhodes. “They have caught the notion that mission work becomes the natural lifeblood of the Christian.
For more information about the Threee Strand Partnership and how to get involved, contact Duane Floro, Mission Support and Mobilization Resource Group Leader firstname.lastname@example.org or Three Strand Partnership Point Person Mark Jones at email@example.com.
-- Stephanie Heading
Becky Langsdorf (Living Water Baptist Church, Sardis, Ohio) teaching through puppets.
56 children and 30 adults impacted by the gospel of Christ through VBS
Learning scripture through the power of song.