PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. Aca,!" Vacation Bible School was held at the Ord Military Chapel the week of July 20 through 24, with 141 children attendees assisted by more than 60 volunteers and staff. With a 2009 theme of "Rome: Paul and the Underground Church," planning began after Easter.

Preparations included training sessions with volunteers and staff beginning in June and continuing through July.

Arlena Strode, Vacation Bible School coordinator said, "We wanted to transport the children back into Paul's time. We felt that the decorations would set a realistic atmosphere for the children to learn in and it did accomplish that."

Strode and her staff decorated everything from the ceilings to the pews. They had a Roman temple beside a sandy shore with a water fountain and a river running on the stage. The halls were draped with period coverings and contained palm trees and Roman columns as well. The chapel library received attention also as it was divided and turned into "Paul's house" on one side and a cave of the "underground church" on the other side.

Sound effects of actual bat wings fluttering and water dripping added to the effort to establish realism. The other major element to the setting was the volunteers according to Strode. Each day started with the many volunteers gathering for a light breakfast and a devotional led by one of the Command Chaplains.

Volunteer assignments included the market place--which was a set of tents housing a food shop for snacks each day and a craft area where old world skills like pottery and leather and metal working were taught-the underground church, the morning singing session and activities like building aqueducts or learning to tie a toga and outside games.

The games included hauling the equivalent of a Roman soldier's pack (90 lbs) or putting out a fire the old fashioned way (a long line of bucket passing). Still more volunteers performed drama or songs each day for the children.

The largest group of volunteers worked as "Family Leaders" They rotated through all of the events with a group of 12 children to manage, encourage, and even at times teach. There were volunteers whose sole job was registering children on the first few days, or singing the fun songs with them, even volunteers who were considered "floaters" so as the director's race furiously through the halls all week they were available to help with all the extra needs.

"Without all of these willing and wonderful volunteers we would never have been able to pull off such a wonderful program for 141 children," said Strode.

At the conclusion of the week a small thank you token was given to the volunteers. Strode and her staff were then left to think about ways to improve next year's offering.

"I have been working at OMC chapel for three years now and every year it gets better. The great thing about military chapels is that they are here to serve the military community, regardless of what religion they are and this was a great example of children and adults with many different beliefs coming together in a safe and wholesome environment to have fun, " added Strode.