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From the Editor -
Patricia Sheets
We are the Church
Featured Article
ChurchVacation Bible School: A Ministry of the Past?
By Pat Sheets

I am writing this column as somewhat of a confession. This is the second year in a row that my church has not sponsored a Vacation Bible School program. The fading of VBS is not unique to my church. I have noticed fewer and fewer banners stretched across church lawns announcing what was once a yearly revival for kids.

In my defense, I did give some brief thought to overseeing a summer program for the kids, but flashbacks from my last VBS experience kept surfacing. The nightmare began during a church planning session. Someone mentioned Vacation Bible School just as I was leaving for the ladies’ room. I returned moments later to learn I had been elected Vacation Bible School Director by unanimous vote.

"My, that was quick!" I said to the group. It had taken two hours to decide between original recipe or extra crispy chicken for the upcoming picnic. God must have prompted my appointment as director. What an honor!

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That’s What We’re For
By Daniel Pann

He nervously cleared his throat before continuing. It was Wednesday night and we were taking prayer requests. "My wife and I are going to be separating for a time. We would like the church to pray for us."

I had been counseling them for several months and his comments came as no surprise. A hush fell over the small group gathered together for a season with God and each other. People looked at one another as if needing reassurance for what they weren‘t sure had been spoken. It was all right to remember the missionaries, elderly and shut-ins, but it wasn’t often to list something like that.

Privately, individuals wondered if the wife was too embarrassed since she’d immediately left the sanctuary. Others questioned his timing, motives or whether or not something like that should be public knowledge.

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ChurchThe Courage of Becky
By Patricia Coldiron

My life was falling apart when I met Becky and her husband, Jim. Reeling from the death of my husband, and facing eviction from my apartment, I was searching for a church home. When I walked into a small building with a sign that said KingdomBuilders, I knew I had found one.

As I opened the door, a tall, smiling woman greeted me. Her brown hair was short and her bangs almost covered her eyes. She walked with a cane and seemed unsteady on her feet. Before I could introduce myself, I was enveloped in a big hug. "Hi, I’m Becky and this is my husband, Jim. We’re just starting up this church. Please pardon my cane, I have multiple sclerosis and can’t walk without it."

"I’ve been looking for a church home, and this is only a few blocks from where I live," I said. Two men playing guitar stood in front of the assembled chairs, and ten other people stood waiting for the service to begin.

As Jim opened the service with prayer, I kept sneaking glances at Becky. Her eyes were closed and her hands were raised to the sky. Every time the name of Jesus was mentioned, her smile lit up her face. I couldn’t believe she was so happy. Her steps were slow and painful, and she seemed exhausted as she sat down for the service. As we sang from the hymnal, she sang and clapped her hands in time to the music. Over the next three months, the congregation grew so large that there were barely enough chairs for everyone.

Becky’s hugs were in a league of their own. It started with a happy shriek of, "I’m so glad to see you," and she threw her whole body into the hug. I was not the only one she hugged; each member received the same reaction. She wanted to know if you were happy, and if you had problems, what she could do to help. A promise to keep you in her prayers was always made.

My landlord sold my apartment, and since the building was not up to code, I received an eviction notice. Complicating the problem was the fact that I had six cats.

When Becky learned that I needed to find new housing, she and Jim prayed for me daily. She enlisted the congregation to pray for me too. I found a new apartment within a few months, and no one was more overjoyed than Becky. Enveloping me in a big hug, she reminded me that God had answered our prayers. Even the cats had a new home with my neighbor.

There were weeks when Becky’s health was stable, and she continued to use her cane. When the teacher of the children’s class was sick, Becky offered to fill in. Even though she was in pain, she sat on the floor of the classroom and strung beads along with the children. She held one sleeping three-year-old in her lap. A mile wide smile lit up her face. When the disease made it impossible to use a cane, she sat in a wheelchair.

My life was undergoing some changes as well. I met the man who would become my second husband through a Christian singles group. When I told him about Becky, he wanted to meet her. She wanted to meet him as well, and he would have to pass ‘the Becky test.’ As Mark and I walked in the door, Becky shrieked with joy, and of course, Mark got one of Becky’s famous hugs. She gave her hearty approval of our relationship, and declared that Mark was wonderful. Everyone made him feel welcome.

The service was wonderful as always, but we forgot to say goodbye to Becky before we left. We were halfway to our car, when she appeared at the church door. "Pat, you forgot to tell me goodbye," she called to us. "Mark, we were so glad you could come. You two seem perfect for each other. I love you both." She limped back inside and shut the door behind her before we could reply.

Becky’s health began to deteriorate shortly after Mark’s visit. She woke up dizzy and disorientated, not always remembering that she was at home. Her body swelled and steroid shots were needed to bring the swelling down. Jim began coming to church alone. Everyone missed Becky’s enthusiasm and hugs. It was a sad Sunday when Jim announced that we would no longer be meeting as a church. Dwindling finances and Becky’s deteriorating health were the main reasons.

I never saw Becky again. Mark and I were married, and I moved to his hometown one hundred miles away. Becky had every reason to feel sorry for herself, and no one would have blamed her. She chose instead to reach out to others and let God’s love shine through her. She’ll never know how many lives she changed. I know she changed mine.
Patricia Coldiron is a freelance writer from Roseville, California. With the support of her husband Mark, she is enjoying writing for God. You can write to Patricia through the Letters page of this magazine.