By Ms. Brittany Carlson (IMCOM)August 24, 2010
STUTTGART, Germany -- School wasn't in session, but 340 children flooded the halls of two Stuttgart military community schools this summer to learn - about the Bible.
The U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Vacation Bible School, sponsored by the USAG Stuttgart Religious Support Office, was held July 26-30 at Patch Elementary School and Aug. 2-6 at Robinson Barracks Elementary/Middle School.
VBS is an annual volunteer-run day camp for children in kindergarten through fifth grade (along with some preschool students), focused on Bible lessons. This summer's theme, "High Seas Expedition" by Group Publishing, focused on the life of the apostle Paul.
"We did a lot related to the sea, water, freedom, comfort and new adventures," said Jim Sciegel, USAG Stuttgart religious education director. "It's an opportunity for kids - in a localized, intense five days - to explore Scripture and have fun celebrating the word of God."
During VBS, children rotated between stations, including a DVD theater, snack, game and craft, all focused on a daily Bible point, such as "God's word is true" and "God's word is surprising."
Even the preschool children had their own craft that focused on a Bible verse.
"We are trying to incorporate the biblical texts into art," said Bibiana Adams, pre-school art teacher for RBEMS VBS. "This helps the children to remember the story and all the things they have learned."
The little "crew members" also had the opportunity to donate money to an orphanage in China through Portion for Orphans, an organization co-founded by USAG Stuttgart community member Sally Lockett. Children donated more than $5,902 between PES and RBEMS.
At the start and end of each day, the children gathered to sing and dance to VBS theme songs at the main stage, set up like a ship deck.
Meg Gilster, entertainment crew leader at the Patch VBS, led the opening and closing ceremonies.
"The energy is incredible," Gilster said. "It's such an awesome experience ... teaching about God's word."
For Brock Mott, 10, the experience made the sailing theme - and the Bible - come alive.
"I've never gotten to go on a cruise ship, and I actually feel like I'm really there," he said.
Mott also enjoyed the spiritual aspect of VBS. "I don't get to learn about the Bible as much because I don't go to church," he said. "It's a fun and entertaining way to learn about Jesus."
VBS also presents an opportunity for newcomers to the community to network, especially those who recently arrived in Stuttgart during the summer PCS season.
"It's an opportunity, especially for [children], to make connections with classmates they'll meet up with in September," Sciegel said.
It's also a chance for the volunteers, both adults and teens, to get involved in the community.
"It is very rewarding to help guide and educate the younger children and give back a little," said Howard Murray, crew leader at RBEMS VBS.
This year, 124 adults and teens volunteered at PES, 75 at RBEMS.
"The success [of VBS] is really in having volunteers," Sciegel said. "Without the strength of volunteers, this program would not happen."
And without the program, there would be at least one very disappointed child. "Everyone should come to this," said 10-year-old Mott. "If they don't, I feel sorry."
Editor's Note: Some information for this article was provided by Carola Meusel, USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs Office.