Tay Bee Heng
A New Platform
We praise and thank God for seeing us through the three days of Vacation Bible School (VBS) held from 2 to 4 June 2021 from 10am to 12 noon. Due to the COVID-19 situation, we had to suspend VBS last year. In view of the COVID-19 restrictions (not out of mere convenience), the VBS committee then decided to hold a virtual VBS this year. After much deliberation and weighing of the pros and cons, the Zoom platform was adopted based on the following advantages: (1) Closer resemblance to a physical VBS, (2) Better engagement of the children during lessons thus ensuring their active participation, (3) More interaction with the children during memory verse, quiz and craft activities.
The theme was “Knowing Jesus, the Great I AM”, and the theme verse was taken from John 14:6, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” There were a total of 6 lessons covering the 7 I AM statements of Jesus. At Pastor’s advice, the VBS Night, which was usually conducted on the last day of VBS, was cancelled to ensure full compliance with COVID-19 regulations.
We thank God for the good number of children who had registered, a total of 107. Our advisor to VBS, the late Elder Joseph had asked me earlier this year, “How many children do you think will sign up?” My reply to him was 80. God is good. He gave us more than what we expected. The average daily attendance was 89 with the following breakdown: Teens (14), Uppers (28), Lowers (28) and Preschoolers (19).
The virtual platform provides an unexpected advantage of allowing us to cross the border to reach out to 14 children overseas: 12 from Kemaman, 1 from the Philippines and 1 from Australia.
Though the VBS was only three short 2-hour sessions, they were packed with all the necessary activities to help the children to learn God’s Word. The children enjoyed the singspiration sessions, lessons, memory verse recitations, review questions, quizzes and theme-based crafts. There was a child who even asked why the VBS was not a longer session but only 2 hours each day.
Before the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the thought of conducting a VBS through a virtual platform had never crossed our minds. Being the first virtual VBS, none of us was experienced to organise it. There were quite a few unexpected technical issues met, for example, the singing and music accompaniment being not in sync, echoing during teaching, singing heard intermittently, lagging due to weak WIFI connection, children turning video off and unmuting themselves unnecessarily, etc. With some of these causes still unknown, the Lord led and gave wisdom to the HODs, hosts (and co-hosts), teachers and song leaders involved, to straighten those issues. There were things which we could not control and those that we could. What we could, we did our best. What we could not, we prayed and submitted to God. “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Prov 3:5–6)
Most of us were not IT trained and thus inexperienced in running a virtual VBS. It was the Lord who enabled, guided and paved the way for the committee to take the step of faith, with the little we know, to organize this virtual VBS.
“Self-help with God’s help is the best help.” (Rev Timothy Tow) In order to pre-empt any adverse situation, a set of troubleshooting document was prepared. Teachers in every department had to send the PowerPoint slides of their lessons to the respective HODs as a standby to counter any possible unforeseen technical glitch. The Lord is good and saw us through all 3 days smoothly.
Elder Joseph was called home to be with the Lord on 9 May 2021, about 3 weeks before VBS. We were saddened by his sudden departure, yet we knew it was God’s will and He knew what was best for Elder. We thank God for granting Mrs Joseph (HOD of Teens department), Samuel and Leanne Joseph (both teachers for VBS) the grace to continue God’s work during this difficult period of bereavement. The committee will surely miss Elder Joseph for his godly advice.
There were parents who had initially informed us that they would not be around to help their children to log on to Zoom due to their work, but thanks to COVID-19 Phase 2 Heightened Alert, parents had to work from home and so were able to oversee their children’s connection to the VBS via Zoom.
We are thankful to God for a united and committed committee, not forgetting a selfless and cohesive team of volunteers to support the Lord’s work. Other than the frontline volunteers, namely HODs, teachers and song leaders, who planned and worked hard to ensure things run smoothly, there were many who had worked selflessly behind the scenes too. The admin IC who had processed all the children’s registrations and churned out the class lists for each department; the craft ICs who had designed, digitised the crafts and prepared the templates so that they could be sent to participants from overseas; the pre-VBS craft helpers who had cut and packed the craft materials; the team of drivers who had delivered the packages of craft materials to each and every registered child locally, the IT support volunteers who had helped with the presentation materials and troubleshoot the technical issues, etc. Last but not least, we thank God for brother Christopher who had digitally recorded the music accompaniments for the children songs used during the VBS. God willing, we pray that the music accompaniments for the remaining children songs may be digitized too, in the hope that these PowerPoint slides can be used for future children ministries both local and overseas. May the words of the Apostle Paul encourage all volunteers, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Cor 15:58)
During the Church prayer meeting after the VBS, Pastor Jeffrey Khoo expounded on Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” He said, “Children education does not begin and end with Sunday School or VBS. These are just supplementary to the main daily Christian education at home.” We pray that the Word of God which had been taught will take root in the hearts of the children. Together with the daily nurture and spiritual guidance of parents at home, may many young souls come to the saving grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in His time.
We are grateful to God for paving the way to serve Him in this manner despite the ongoing covid uncertainties and restrictions. While the Lord tarries, we pray that nothing will hinder our service unto Him for it is our privilege and our duty to do so. “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.” (Luke 17:10) May all glory, honour and praise redound to our Almighty God! Amen.
OVERCOMING EVIL WITH GOOD
While a Sunday School teacher was trying to explain to some small children what the Bible means by “overcoming evil with good” a boy for some reason hit his little sister. She immediately clenched her fists to hit him back. The teacher, who had seen what had happened said, “Mary you had better kiss your brother George”.
Mary lowered her fists and looked puzzled at just what the teacher meant. She had never thought of returning good for evil. The teacher looked kindly at Mary and George and said, “Mary, George looks angry and sad, I think you had better give him a kiss.”
Mary looked at George and then put her arms around his neck and kissed him. George was so surprised and overcome, that he began to cry. Mary said to him gently, “Don’t cry George, it didn’t hurt too much.” Mary’s words and actions made George feel very ashamed and sorry for what he had done. The teacher was able to use this incident to explain love and forgiveness to the class. Afterwards he and Mary were better friends than ever they had been.
God requires us to show love and kindness even towards those who hate us and do wrong things towards us. By showing love we will find that we can overcome evil with good, as the Bible says in Romans 12:21.
[Source: R Cameron-Smith, Saved in the Icy Waters and Fifty Other Stories, Southern Presbyterian Press of Australia, p56.]
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