Nothing screams excitement (or summer!) as loud as Vacation Bible School. At First Baptist Church of Norfolk, VBS is all about winning and leading all the people within their reach to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. It’s an all-hands-on-deck event, led by Pastor Eric Thomas, staff and an enormous number of volunteers, who not only serve at both church locations but also outside the walls of the church. They’ve led VBS in a shopping mall, in backyards, in different cities of our state and in several countries. Of all the locations for taking VBS outside the church walls, the one that has become consistent and dearest to the hearts of those who put VBS on at St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children.
Nine years ago, First Norfolk provided VBS at St. Mary’s, a specialized residential care facility for children and adults with severe disabilities. What started with a week of Bible stories, crafts and worship with more than 90 residents and their support staff have led to lasting relationships where hearts have been knitted together in a monthly LIFEgroup and worship at St. Mary’s. Some St. Mary staff members have become active members of First Norfolk.
The joy of going outside the walls of the church for VBS is seeing God change the lives of people who may not have the opportunity to come to the church. Some St. Mary’s staff and residents have come to a saving knowledge of Jesus, while other staff members have returned to the church and now serve in leadership roles within their church.
“VBS at St. Mary’s put me back on a path to Jesus and helped my wife, Jenn, begin her journey. We serve together ministering to the middle school students, and I am now on staff as LifePoint Christian Fellowship’s Student Director,” said Carlton Farmer, community liaison of St. Mary’s Home.
“I had the privilege to lead one resident in prayer, asking Jesus to be his Lord and Savior. My friend used a computer to talk. The process was slow and often laborious for him. But that day, when he prayed, he used his voice the best he could. It was beautiful. I continued to see the Holy Spirit change his heart in the decisions he made. He even became a leader in VBS. A year ago, the Lord took him home to heaven. I know he is whole and complete, walking and talking and praising God. And, I will see him again.” said Gretchen Gray, First Norfolk member.
“The children and staff look forward to VBS with First Norfolk all year long,” said Carlton Farmer. “Everyone is engaged, singing, dancing, laughing and learning all with the foundation of growing closer to God.”
“Our congregation went with the mission to serve during a week of VBS and in return had our hearts changed and eyes opened to a population within our community who are underserved and under reached for the Gospel of Christ,” said Sara Horning, First Norfolk member.