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I Owe My Life to VBS

By July 31, 2015 2 Comments
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Have you ever looked back on your life and connected the dots, only to discover one particular moment that set you on your current path? I’m talking about a moment that if it had gone a different way would have meant an entirely different life. I was thinking about one in my own life this past week while on a serve project in Sioux City. Our group led a VBS for Siouxland Unity Church, a Laotian community that meets downtown Sioux City. On the Sunday before it started the group spent the afternoon canvasing the neighborhood, inviting kids to come down the block to be part of the fun. Maybe you’re thinking this is a bad way to do church; maybe VBS or even the idea of going around the neighborhood inviting kids to come is passé, especially in a time of missional consciousness, organic community, and new ways of doing church. Or, maybe our postmodern sensibilities cause us to roll our eyes at yet another example of a bunch of white people trying to “save” the urban dwellers who are racially and culturally different. I get it. And yet, as the kids from the neighborhood walked into the church I couldn’t help but think that God can even use a bunch of under-prepared teens singing silly songs and playing silly games as they try to teach kids something about the love of God in Jesus.

Almost thirty years ago I was an eleven year old kid who had just moved into a new community. We moved from Minnesota to Iowa, a loosely Lutheran family trying to figure out where to go to church. We tried the Free Methodist church up the way, but when they started speaking in tongues we didn’t go back. We tried a few others, churches I don’t even remember, but nothing stuck. Then, one evening, I remember someone coming to the door. They were from Rolling Acres Christian Reformed Church and they were canvasing the neighborhood for VBS. They invited us to come so we went. The woman at the door would come back around to visit with my mom—becoming one of her closest friends to this very day. Impressed by the community, we started attending Sunday worship—my entry into all things Dutch Reformed. From there the rest is history. I can connect the dots to Northwestern College (this particular CRC was a bunch of RCA transplants) to Faith Christian High School in Bigelow, MN, to Pella Christian High School, to Dordt College. I can honestly say that I owe my life—my work, my marriage, my kids!—to a group of people out canvasing the neighborhood for VBS.

Was there another path to where I am today? Maybe—there’s no way to know for sure. What I do know is that an almost embarrassingly simple thing like canvasing for VBS radically changed my life, setting me on my way. Look, I understand there’s a need to strategize, to stop and question what we’re doing and why. Sure, the church needs to embrace change, recognizing that different historical and cultural moments call for something innovative and new. More and more, however, I’m convinced that what the church needs is not innovation or effectiveness; what is needed is a faithfulness in the small things. Increasingly we seem to put our trust in our own creativity, our own ingenuity. Maybe its time to truly believe in the mysterious moving of the Holy Spirit. That though we are called to do our best, it is often the small and insignificant moments that bring about lasting transformation. I can certainly testify to this in my own life, but then I’m just a Scandinavian transplant from Minnesota. In the words of a ninety year old Dutch guy I was talking to after leading a worship service: “Who let you in the back door, anyway?”

Jason Lief

Dr. Jason Lief teaches courses in Christian education and youth ministry. A Northwestern College graduate, he served as the chaplain for Pella (Iowa) Christian High School while earning a master’s degree in theology from Wheaton College Graduate School. He also completed a doctorate in practical theology from Luther Seminary. He previously taught theology and youth ministry at Dordt College for 10 years. Dr. Lief is the author of “Poetic Youth Ministry: Loving Young People by Learning to Let Them Go” and "Christianity and Heavy Metal as Impure Sacred Within the Secular West: Transgressing the Sacred.”

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