Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Vacation Bible School of Hard Knocks

picture from: greeksandromansnewtestament
This year, for kicks, my bff said, "Hey, let's do a Lego VBS!" followed by, "And let's write the whole curriculum ourselves!" followed by "Using the book of Nehemiah!"

I admit, the last time (Possibly the only time?) I had read Nehemiah was as a student at a Torchbearers Bible School in Sweden, when we were tasked with reading the whole Bible in nine months. Reading the whole Bible in one swoop, and having to summarize each book, was the best school/church thing I've ever done in my life.  But...no matter how good it was, it was still seventeen years ago.

I've been involved in a lot of VBS's. Sure, I missed the year I was in Sweden (though we did more than few camps that summer) and the one before, when I was overseas with Royal Servants. And I missed a few as a newly wed when I couldn't get work off. And the year that Norah was less than a week old during VBS. The year Lucy was three months old? I was all over that VBS.

So I am pretty sure I can count on one hand the VBS's I've missed since I was old enough to attend the first time as a kid.

But did that mean I was ready to adapt a book full of census lists and map descriptions into an action story with cliffhangers and a clear gospel message? (My best friend doesn't ask much, does she?) Suuuuure I was! After all, I write cozy mysteries...can't be that different right?

Well, different or not, God totally led the direction of the story, and it is awesome (not because of anything I did. Nehemiah, as it turns out, is just an awesome book!) I know things about Nehemiah right now I would have never known otherwise. (For example, did you know that most likely the king he was cup bearer to was the same king whose queen was Esther? And that when Nehemiah requested permission to go and rebuild the wall, the "Queen" was seated beside her king? For such a time as this indeed, Queen Esther!)

But more nerve wracking than making it into an action story, was trying to build a gospel message out of an old testament book dedicated to rebuilding a wall.

Or at least it was scary before I read the book again. See, in the book of Nehemiah, they celebrate the completion of the wall by standing around for several days listening to Ezra read Bible Stories. (Well, close enough.) And in addition to learning that they were totally missing out on ancient Israelite Family Camp (Feast of Booths) they also realized they were missing out on God, because they were sinners. And all of the Israelites confess their sins and make a new covenant with God. Right there. About four fifths of the way through the action...exactly where I needed it for a five day Vacation Bible School.

See, for three days we show the kids we love them and earn their trust by listening to them, and caring about them. For those same three days we teach them what a Bible is, how it works and who it is about (It's the book all about how much the great and awesome God loves you!) And then...on day four, we give them all the essential deets about how to have a relationship with this God.

Should we tell them the gospel every single day, you know, just in case?

In a way, we do give them the gospel every day. We tell them that God loves them and wants a relationship with them, and has provided a way for that. And we tell them a few more details about that each day. But we don't want parrots who repeat "Jesus loves me." We want children who have a foundation of who God is and why it matters that he loves them hearing the gospel.

Well, anyway, that's the way it seems most VBS curriculums are set up, and I like it that way. I like to prepare the soil for the seed. I like to build a foundation for their new faith.

And even though I *know* that everything in the Bible points to Jesus, until I had the big job of turning Nehemiah into a fun Lego themed VBS, I really didn't know if I could do it. I mean, sure, you could make comparisons and analogies for an adult audience, but could the story of a slave in Babylon who wanted to build a  wall really give me a way to teach the kids the gospel?

Yes, yes, and YES! And obviously, I am massively excited about that.

So, if you are waiting for Plain Jane's next adventure, or Mitzy's next mystery, or the further tales of Prof. Isaac Daniels, this is at least part of why you are still waiting. I think...it's not a bad reason!

When not writing I knit socks, and accompany my mandolin loving husband on the spoons.
I’m also the author of The Mitzy Neuhaus Mystery Series, and The Plain Jane Mystery Series. I was the Mystery/Suspense Category winner for the 2012 Christian Writers of the West Phoenix Rattler Contest, a finalist for Speculative Fiction in the same contest, and have a Drammy from the Portland Civic Theatre Guild. I currently serve as the Vice President of the Portland chapter of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association.

I have a degree in History from Portland State University and still live in the rainiest part of the Pacific Northwest with my goofy family and two small dogs.
Novels by Traci Tyne Hilton
The Mitzy Neuhaus Mysteries
Eminent Domain
Buyer’s Remorse
Frozen Assets
The Plain Jane Mysteries
Good, Clean Murder
Dirty Little Murder
Bright New Murder
Health, Wealth, and Murder
Other Titles
Hearts to God
Gone: The Tangle Saga


  1. Nothing could be more worthy of your time besides your day job of raising your girls and ministering to your husband. Thank you for contributing in such a creative way to the Kingdom, Traci -- Blessings!

    ~Nancy Jill

  2. Thanks Nancy! I think VBS is my favorite church activity of the year, but BOY! I'm getting old, so pray for energy. :) We've still got three days left. :D

  3. What a great theme, and it sounds like you did a wonderful job. I had an easy job in VBS this year - cook. Much easier to make biscuits and mac and cheese. I love the photo.

  4. It may seem easier, but I promise--every other team blesses the kitchen team! The kids NEED their food! :D