A church caretaker on vacation, two little girls, brown paper lunch bags and food safe gloves, dead beetles… what can these possibly have in common? Joy in discovery, delivery, activity, teamwork. Vacation Bible School began last night, yesterday was a flurry of last minute decorations and table moving, name tag printing and lunch preparation. The children weren’t expected for hours but those whose parents were leaders began the day at church and didn’t expect to leave until after all the singing and playing and group activities had officially been completed. The older boys and girls were put to work, climbing ladders and carrying chairs. Two younger girls needed a task, something useful so as not to insult their intelligence, something that would keep them occupied for the stretch of hours aheadand out of trouble. . Beetle collecting was just the thing.
Our ever-present caretaker who cleans our church without anyone noticing has gone for a two week vacation and suddenly we all realize just how much he does. Where are the trash bags? I think we need more toilet paper. And the beetles, courtesy of the exterminator who sprayed two weeks ago are lying dead along the edges of every wall, an influx surely more robust than ever before. Maybe due to the heavy construction around our church, warning us of the hordes of friends to come, we suddenly see that we have much work in caring for our building and that it takes an army. Or two little girls when we are having a week long party and all the adults are busy making the food and setting the tables.
I first realized what they were up to when they came into the kitchen where my co-leader and I were finishing up the lunch prep and beginning the dinner. The pair offered to show us what was in their bags, offered a taste with their ornery grins. I peeked and didn’t shriek, offered a chocolate dipping sauce. They declined and instead told me they were collecting them for a nickel a bug, some smart parent had sent them off to this important task with this financial incentive to keep them focused. The bottoms of their little lunch sized bags were filling with brown beetle corpses, they were proud and determined.
Calls could be heard throughout the halls as another beetle body was discovered, the girls were called in. All afternoon they walked the halls carrying their bags, wearing their gloves, clearly important work at hand. I found myself calling them several times, adding to their piles of bugs and money. I am not sure which parent sent them on this adventure, I have no idea who paid them. What I do know is this is the clearest vision of what our church looks like to me that I can show. Our children matter, all the children.
This week we are opening our doors to the community for Vacation Bible School, welcoming in children to learn about Jesus and offering dinner to all the families who are dropping those children off and to all those who are giving up their week to make it happen. This event requires thousands of hours of preparation, planning, meetings, emails, and yes, dollars. Our congregation joins together every year to make this a priority and it is growing, in every way. Cookies are baked, wagons are donated, yearly vacations are taken just for this week. It would be easy for the adults to become so stressed by all of the details to forget the point, to push the children of the volunteers aside as those last second, “oh crap I forgot” items mount. Instead, the children are included and enlisted and even celebrated. Thus a bag of bugs.
This week will bring countless joys, more than enough stress and certainly many children into relationship with Jesus. Some details will slip through the cracks, the adults will be tired and cranky by the end, the church will be a mess. For now, though, we are rid of the dead beetles and I celebrate my church, where girls who bring bugs to show me are just as critical to the success as those adults who created awesome backdrops for songs and games. Vacation Bible School, truly where the gifts of all are necessary. My church, where folks get this all the other weeks as well. Hats off to whichever parent created a job for two ornery sweet little bug collectors, you made my day and theirs, I am sure.