It was that time of the year again, Vacation Bible School. As the director of children’s ministry for our district, I wanted to plan something that could be replicated using only items readily available here in Benin. I decided to focus on the story of Joseph using the stories Uli Baur already had in French.
Although I am not naturally an artist and not very good at drawing, God gave me inspiration and the ability to create the graphics needed to catch the children’s attention. Pinterest provided many ideas for teaching and for decorating. Using a printer and crayons, I created posters for different parts of the stories. Brown paper and cardboard were turned into free-standing camels, and more paper camels were glued to the walls. The scenery would not have been complete without palm trees made with wire, green fabric and cardboard tubes from the fabric store.
It was fun creating the image of Pharaoh sleeping with his eyes open. Using a printed-out picture of his head, and a bit of fancy fabric, I glued the items onto a piece of cardboard and incorporated a paper bubble above him to show his dream. The robes for Joseph, the baker, and the cupbearer were made from two meters (6.5 feet) of fabric, folded rather than cut, so we could reuse it. Dozen of stitches later, their cardboard hands, feet and drawn faces were attached.
A 50 kg (110-pound) sack was cut and sewn into four smaller sacks and filled with sand for the brothers. A cardboard cylinder and remnants of a fancy golden dress became Joseph’s stolen cup, which was hidden by the sacks for revealing when the time was right. A couple of 3D cardboard birds hovered over three baskets filled with leftover brown paper and a couple of rocks that looked like bread.
The guys constructed the prison using a metal door frame found in the church’s storage, and rolled-up paper became the bars. Joseph, the baker, and the cupbearer were then put into place.
The day before VBS started, our team met at the church. Helping put everything together were five of the youth who were with me when I was here in Natitingou. We certainly had fun.
Knowing the forecast called for rain the next day, I prayed that God would stop the precipitation at 3:00 p.m. It stopped on cue. In hindsight, I should have prayed for it to stop at 2:30 p.m., so the children would not get wet.
On day one of VBS, several young people helped. We donned our white Egyptian hats, and they started the song service, ending with a tune about Joseph that a lovely family had posted on YouTube. The younger children had fun gluing fabric pieces on an outline of Joseph’s coat, while the older youth got involved in a word search game I made. By then, it was raining again, so we passed the time in song until the program ended.
The next day was not so rainy. After the children’s activities, we played a game similar to blind man’s bluff. Older children played Jacob and Rachel while the little ones ran around, moving to the music until it stopped. On the third day, my storyteller got sick, so I told the story. On the fourth day, the rain did not let up all day, and the children arrived soaking wet. We did our best to help the children dry off and wrapped the coldest ones in our Egyptian fabric hats to try and warm them up. On Friday, the preacher for the day (the sick storyteller) was still under the weather, so I got the privilege of preaching. Thankfully, Pinterest once again saved the day, helping me pull together my sermon. On Sabbath, the children from VBS sang their theme song, and God blessed the program.
Throughout the week, everyone had a lot of fun and learned more about Jesus through the stories of Joseph. The youth who had outgrown being the “little ones” were happy to help put VBS together and conduct it each day. With the experience they now have, they can hold VBS themselves. And with the materials all packed up and set aside, we can hold the “Joseph” VBS next year in another church.
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