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Let the little children come

Three-year-old Emmalie leads me to a chair and takes her “stage” –– the bricked hearth in the family room. Facing her audience, she declares “I go to VBS!” and talks full out about her week at Vacation Bible School. I hear good words in her story –– “Jesus,” “friends,” “Bible.” I see the joy on her face. I watch her act out the songs with motions she has learned. Daughter Amie joins in. Obviously, this performance is not a first run, and Amie knows the stories and songs very well.

Like most children, Emmalie favors both her dad and mom in appearance and manner. As a newborn, she looked very much like her father. In her three-year-old version, I see so much of my own daughter in my granddaughter. Emmalie gives a glimpse into my past. Her bubbly storytelling, complete with hand gestures and facial contortions, is almost a carbon-copy of three-year-old Amie during summers at VBS.

Churches all across the state and nation, even the world, engage in the summer tradition of putting on up to a week-long emphasis for children complete with themes, songs, Bible stories, activities to reinforce those stories, and refreshments. VBS workers unite in a common mission of bringing the Word of God to children in their church and community. They serve tirelessly helping to build a sense of God’s love for each child who comes, ushering the little ones into the presence of the Savior, demonstrating the joy that comes from loving the Lord.

“I’m in the Lord’s army!” Emmalie belts out on her stage. “Yes sir!”

I react, opening my eyes wide, my smile reaching across my face. “I’m in the Lord’s army!” she sings again, and we all respond “Yes sir!” She laughs the next few words and before long her giggles take over and the song is lost.

Amie then prompts, “When I am scared?” and Emmalie calls out, “Jesus rescues!” Then Emmalie says, “When I am lonely?” and her mommy answers, “Jesus rescues!”

I am told, from the stage, that Jesus is with me everywhere, and whatever I am going through, Jesus rescues.

“Papa!” she says, “What a friend we have in Jesus.” The words become another song from her VBS repertoire. I settle back, swaying to the rhythm. The smile on my face comes straight from the heart.

As Emmalie sings on, the memories of my own VBS days are captured. I taste the cookies served by smiling men and women I recognize from Sundays in worship. I recall memorized Bible verses that tell of God’s great, unconditional love and acceptance: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Suddenly, my heart sings “Whosoever surely meaneth me.” I am overwhelmed by the love of Abba who suffers the little children to come unto Him –– me, my Amie, my Emmalie.

On the stage, Emmalie stands frozen in her big finale, one foot forward, knees slightly bent, arms outstretched, head tilted. Her mouth forms a silent “Ta-da!” and she awaits the applause she knows will come. Her Papa does not disappoint: “Yay! Hooray!”

We know as believers that the Father loves us with an everlasting love. We accept the forgiveness that comes upon our profession of faith in the Savior who takes away our sins. We feel the presence of the Spirit who comforts and assures us, interceding when our own words do not articulate the groanings of our heart. But it is a special blessing to be reminded of these things by the voice of a child fresh from the mountaintop experience of Vacation Bible School. May we all continue the work of those churches and individuals who give memories, songs, and verses to the children in our lives during VBS. May we all work together to suffer the little children to come unto the Lord God.

Emmalie, still full of energy, hugs me farewell and skips along with her mother to her car. Amie buckles her into the car seat in back. I blow kisses. Emmalie does the same. The car pulls away, and I wave. At the end of the street, Amie rolls down the window to reveal a little arm waving wildly. “Can you hear Em?” Amie exclaims. I listen closer. “Je-sus res-cues!”

I give a big thumbs-up.

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