The week of Vacation Bible School always makes me nostalgic. The last couple of months has been a flurry of activity here at Grace Lutheran Church in preparation and transformation. Our building has been changed into a castle as we share the theme “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” This coincides with the 500th anniversary of the Reformation being celebrated this year.

But I mentioned being nostalgic about VBS. I spent many summer weeks in my youth attending Vacation Bible Schools. I can remember when they were two weeks long — ten glorious days of meeting at the church from 9 a.m. until noon. We each had a box of craft items that would be ours for the entire two-week period, working on projects over multiple days until we had glued and sanded and painted and glued some more and finally completed our precious and treasured items, sure to make every mom and dad “ooh” and “ahh.”

There was plenty of singing. We sang some songs we already knew, but there were lots of new songs every year, complete with lyrics to complement the stories we were learning and actions to keep us hopping up out of our seats and always ready for “one more time.”

I can remember snack time with gallons of Kool-Aid and a seemingly endless supply of homemade cookies. All the things that we loved but could never seem to get enough of and which now we think are bad for us so we stay away from them altogether.

There was a time for playing games outside, which I’m sure was designed to get rid of some of our energy and make us more manageable. We were oblivious to that motive and enjoyed running and playing until we almost dropped.

And, of course, there were all the teachers and helpers who so faithfully corralled the children into their classrooms in order to share with us the lessons for the day. I know they have to have been saints when I think back on the way my friends and I would cut up and carry on. They always managed to settle us down long enough to share the stories with us.

Over the years we heard tales of faithful Noah and mighty King David, The Exodus and Jonah, Adam and Eve and Jacob and Esau, Joshua and the Battle of Jericho. Of course, we also learned the stories of Jesus’ birth; his miracles, such as healing a paralytic and making a blind man see; and parables of a Good Samaritan and The Sower. I know I cannot remember all the things I learned and sang and did at Bible School, but I do know that every year when it was over, I had the absolute certainty that Jesus loved me, that he died to pay for my sins, and that he rose from the dead for me.

This week our building will echo with the squeals and screams and songs of children. There will be a band of saints faithfully serving meals and snacks, leading songs, teaching lessons, overseeing games and sharing God’s love. And I know that all this either has happened or will be happening at other churches in this community. My prayer is that the result of all this effort will be that every child attending Bible School will know without a doubt that Jesus loves them, that he died to pay for their sins, that he rose again for them, and that they will put their faith in him.

Michael Mattil is the pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Denison. He can be reached at