PEACE WORKS Ecumenical VBS July 8 to 12

Courtesy Photo Children ages 5 to 12 are welcome to attend Alpena Community Ecumenical Vacation Bible School July 8 to 12. Pictured above are children enjoying outdoor activities at a prior year’s ACE VBS.

ALPENA — A rainbow of hope symbolizes God’s promise to Noah that He will never again flood the whole world.

Each representing a color of the rainbow, six area churches are gearing up for this year’s Alpena Community Ecumenical Vacation Bible School (ACE VBS), set for July 8 to 12 at First United Methodist Church. The other five Alpena churches are First Congregational United Church of Christ, First Presbyterian, Grace Lutheran, St. Paul Lutheran, and Trinity Episcopal.

“Since 2014, six churches have been participating,” said Elsa Phillips, one of the organizers, from Grace Lutheran.

She said years ago, St. Paul and Grace Lutheran had combined their VBS programs, but five years ago the other churches came on board so the entire group could offer the best activities and programs to children in the community for free.

The program developed out of conversations at the Celebrating and Sharing Community Dinner, said Janice Boboltz, of St. Paul Lutheran.

“Part of the proceeds went to getting this program kicked off,” Boboltz said of that dinner years ago.

“Prior to that, several churches had their own,” Carolyn Anderson said of VBS programs. Anderson is from First United Methodist Church.

“So we were all working, getting people in, spending money, trying to get the kids, doing it here and there, and that’s why when they said ‘Can we work together?’ We all went ‘Yes!’ What an advantage,” Anderson said. “So instead of eight or 10 kids at one church, we get 60 to 70-something from all of them.”

“We are shooting for 100 this year,” said Boboltz.

During VBS week, each day from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., children ages 5 to 12 are invited to participate in Bible adventures, arts and crafts, nature activities and games, all for no charge. Lunch and snacks will be provided.

This year’s VBS theme is “PEACE WORKS: Empowering the Next Generation of Peacemakers.”

The program is provided and presented by an organization called Living Waters, which consists of college-age students who are going into ministry work, Boboltz explained.

“There are a number of different activities,” Boboltz said. “There’s music in motion, science, arts and crafts, Bible studies, and games. So the children move through various stations in small groups, and get a little taste of what the Bible is all about, and how it relates to their world.”

“One of the crafts this year is a keychain, where they make the peace sign with beads,” Anderson noted, adding that a favorite craft will return this year as well — tie-dyeing T-shirts, which they can take home with them.

There will also be a water day one of the days, depending on the weather. Students will be asked to bring swimsuits, towels and sunscreen, and there will be water balloons and sprinklers on campus at First United Methodist.

“We’re very lucky to have David Delano from Thunder Bay Theatre, who comes in and does the music in motion things for us,” Boboltz said. “He is so talented and so giving to the community, that it’s just fabulous.”

“And he’s so good with kids,” Anderson added about Delano.

She said each year they do a community service project as well, and last year they made birdhouses that have been displayed at area churches.

Anderson said the pastors of these churches work together, and they are each invited to come to VBS and teach and interact with the children.

“So the kids get to know these pastors,” Anderson said. “Some of them would never see a minister or pastor.”

The ladies explained that all children in the community are invited, and you do not have to be a member of any church to attend this fun program.

“They have fun,” Anderson said of the kids who have participated in the past.

For many children, this may be the only opportunity they have to learn about Christianity and the Bible.

“Some of them have never seen the inside of a church,” Anderson said. “But when they come in, and they have fun, and they see kids they know, it’s just so fun to watch.”

“And it’s been great to see some of them come back every year after year after year, and they’re so excited about being there,” Boboltz added. “It’s just good self-esteem building too.”

Anderson added that those who have turned 13 qualify to be a junior counselor, and those who have aged out of coming to VBS can help out in that way.

“It’s a very well-run, structured program,” Boboltz added. “It’s free-moving, but it’s structured. It’s well-organized.”

She said this event is a testament to what can be accomplished when churches work together.

“It’s neat how the churches come together and work together,” Boboltz said. “Because it’s all about God. We’re under one umbrella.”

First United Methodist Church is located on the corner of First and Ripley, at 167 S. Ripley Blvd. That location has proven to be the best for this program, since it is highly visible, the large church is all on one level, and has a huge backyard.

“If you can’t come Monday, come Tuesday,” Anderson added. “If you can’t come Tuesday, come Wednesday.”

“All are welcome,” Boboltz added.

To register, go to www.alpenafumc.org, print and fill out the registration form, and bring it in or mail it to the church. Call the church with questions at 989-354-2490.

To reach Lifestyles Editor Darby Hinkley, call 989-358-5691 or email dhinkley@thealpenanews.com.