The Next Generation

5:22 PM

The Next Generation sporting their newly made shirts! (my week's project)
As soon as school lets out here in the South, all the local churches begin advertising for Vacation Bible Schools.  I don't know if this is strictly a Southern thing, but it seems like every time I pass a church, there's a banner in their lawn letting me know when their programs kick off.

As a kid, my brothers and I (I exclude my sister from this because I don't remember her being old enough to attend during the same years I did) would spend a few weeks each summer attending various VBS programs around the city.  Usually they were Baptist churches that we'd never set foot in prior to their VBS programs, but they all usually had about the same flavor. I'm sure this was a nice break for my mom during those summer days.

Dorien accessorizes to match his outfits.
I have one specific memory of attending VBS at Central Baptist Church.  For some reason, our class had a jar of tadpoles that I'm pretty sure was part of a Bible lesson. What I remember most about these tadpoles is not a deep spiritual truth, but the fact that we all arrived one morning to find the tadpoles missing from their jar. Their whereabouts remain a mystery to this day.  Years later, I still wonder if there are rogue frogs hopping around the hallways of Central Baptist Church when the doors are locked for the night.

When I was around 7 or 8, our Grandma Barbara (my mom's mom) gave my mom a break from her growing clan and took all of us grandkids (as many as were of age) down to Monticello to stay at the Farm for a week to attend Bible School at Enon Baptist Church.  

Stuffing their faces with popcorn while being mesmerized by Pocahontas.
Interesting side note - my Grandma STILL drives to Monticello twice a week to play the organ for Enon Baptist Church although she lives the rest of the week in her house in Pine Bluff.  She's dedicated. She also has a house full of 25 cats in Pine Bluff that heavily rely on her for food and litter box cleaning.

At the time we would come down to Bible School as kids, there was no fancy farmhouse like there is now. No bunk beds or fancy kitchen. No air conditioning, come to that. It was the old house, the one that has stood on the crest of the hill for over a hundred years and that is now falling apart.  No one lives there but the wasps and a few old pieces of furniture that somehow never moved out.  

The beginning steps of a sewing project.
My Grandma took responsibility for the bunch of us, cooked for us, watched us run around the Farm like a bunch of wild bohemians, and every morning, escorted us to her little country church's VBS. How well I remember her opening her bulging coin purse to fish out a quarter for each of her grandchildren.  She wanted to make sure we each had something to put in the offering. Funny how those little details linger in a memory.

Speaking of memories, I'll share another.  One summer while my brothers and I were there, Monticello experienced a bout of rain that was as close to Noah's days as anything I'd ever seen.  After weeks of steady rain, the woods which surround the farm, on a lower elevation than the Old Farmhouse, were flooded.  It helped that there is a nice little creek weaving its way back and forth through the woods. This creek flooded and when combined with all the rain and low meadows, it all added up to one extended, relatively shallow lake. My brothers and I seized on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and turned it into a Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn-esque adventure. We hauled an old canoe down to the edge of the woods, each grabbed a paddle and set forth to rowing through our new lake forest.  In hindsight, this was a pretty crazy venture. No telling what snakes we could have encountered or even how deep that water might have been. But we were fearless and adventurous and we made the absolute most out of every day that week. It was a child's dream. And to my knowledge, that level of flooding in the woods has never happened again.

Years have passed and now I have my own little brood, finally old enough to begin attending VBS at the little country church, just like their Momma. So, for the first time, this year, I took my kiddos down to the Farm (the new house this time) and enrolled them in the 5 day program. I didn't leave them with Grandma, however, but decided to stay and enjoy a little break myself.  Grandma needed to drive back and forth from Monticello to Pine Bluff, anyway. 

August's art - check out his amazing interpretation of ears!!!!
Dorien was too little to attend, so he stayed at the Farm with me and we rode 4 wheelers, played together and read books for the 2 hours Brooklyn and August were in class each evening.  And that's a change from my VBS days - classes are now held in the evenings instead of the mornings! I guess that's for all the working moms.  Other than that, very little has changed at Enon Baptist Church.  The playground equipment has been updated a bit. But from what I can tell, the snacks were pretty much the same and many of the teachers are the same as when I was a kid. They were so excited to see the first of the Next Generation of my family begin to attend.  Grandma was beside herself, she was so excited.

It was a wonderful week for us.  We left Kyle back on Goshen to keep bringing home the bacon and to man our little urban "Farm".  He was responsible for feeding the dog, the cat and chickens and he did a great job! I kept occupied at the country Farm with sewing projects - more on that later - books, slathering on sunscreen, watching the kids swim in the little pool, ride their mini-4 wheelers and just generally enjoy life in the quiet country for a few days.  It was lovely, and I was so proud to see my children enjoying something that I enjoyed with my own brothers for so many years.  It's nice to continue traditions like that. 

My sleeping boys.
It is precious to see how much my kids enjoyed their Bible School. They learned all about Moses (or, should I say, even more about Moses) and somehow this was all combined with a theme of knights and castles. Can't quite connect the dots on those two, but it didn't matter for the kids who thrilled at being in Bible School with Grandma Barbara.  They learned songs with hand motions, ate nachos and other junk they don't normally get, and made a few crafts.  They marveled at the silver teeth of some of their classmates while I marveled at the thick Southern twangs I heard emanating from those classmates. And I found out later that my Grandma made sure to give Brooklyn and August each a quarter for their offering.  It's all one big cycle, I guess. And what a joy to see this Next Generation experiencing such pure goodness.

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