“All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children.” Isaiah 54:13

Have you ever taken part in a Vacation Bible Camp week?  I have had the blessing many times over the years, and what a joy filled week it can be. So many people offer their helping hands to look after the many children. The responsibility is great for their safety, and yet the volunteers willingly teach, prepare daily snacks, organize crafts and set up and take part in games, and so much more than I have space to tell about in this article.
It takes hours and months of skilled work to prepare the crafts needed, along with the painting and building and assembly of the scenery.  It shows the amount of willing hands that are required each year to bring about a successful and happy time for the children, along with the funds being raised for the missionaries which in turn, teach the children the blessing they give and receive back through their open hands.
Nancy Ortberg’s book – Looking for God, dedicates a chapter to hands. She states …
“Hands! Open or closed, what kind of hands do you have?  When it comes to our hands we have a choice.  We can either go through life with them closed: tightfisted, fearful, angry, reluctant, withholding, comparative, and empty.  Or, we can go through life with our hands open: generous, expressive, grateful, helping, and full.”
This brought to my mind one particular year when it was time for the Sunday service following a very active VBC week with many children attending.  The church was packed with excited children and adults.
It was a very different service than the usual VBC ones of the past: it included a Baby dedication; Teen missions report; update from the Building Committee; and a report from our Associate Pastor Shannon at the time, on Upwards Soccer.
A visiting mother and her small daughter sat next to me in the pew.  The little girl was obviously anxious for the program to begin.  When it did, she sang and clapped to the songs with great gusto and glee.  When it came time for VBC to do their songs and skits, the little girl happily ran to the front to join in with the other children.
Pastor Don gave a short, but very effective message about the ‘Easy wide road to Hell’ or the ‘Hard narrow path to Heaven’.
He used some of the children from VBC to hold his signs, and then had a small boy go through the narrow door.  Talk about ‘sign language’!
A person could be absolutely ignorant about the Bible and yet fully understand this simple message by the end of his short sermon to these children, let alone the adults hearing it for the first time.
Just before the last song, the young mother said to me, “Is your church always like this?” I was surprised and blubbered, “Oh no, we usually have two services but because of VBC we’re only having one today.”
She responded, “No, I mean is your church always so interested in families and children?”
“Ohhh yes,” I replied, “We are very family oriented.”
I chatted with her after the service, and she said she went to St. Mary’s Catholic Church two Sundays a month and tried other churches the other two Sundays.  So I mentioned that maybe she would like to come to Riverside for one of those Sundays.  She laughed and said she would like to give us a try.  I don’t recall if she came again or not.
It wasn’t until I was lying in bed that night when the light bulb went on in my head — fluorescent light that is, because with me it begins to flicker and then slowly gets brighter. “Christ’s Love” was the message.
The first time my husband Neil and I came to Riverside we walked into the Sanctuary and were struck by the love that permeated out from the congregation.  It seemed to enfold us like a healing balm.  It was a feeling of truly belonging to the family of God.  It was as if we personally knew the strangers sitting next to us that welcomed us.
This young mother was feeling this same thing when she asked me, “Is your church always like this?”  I should have shouted from the rooftops — “Yes, Yes it is! Isn’t it wonderful!”
Christ’s Church — His Body can work miracles when Saints reach out to others with loving and willing Open Hands!
P.S. This year at Riverside, after a two year absence from VBC because of Covid, we ran another VBC program where the atmosphere was once again of a welcoming love.  So many giving, open hands from volunteers, children, parents, our church members, that blew us away with God’s faithfulness.  His generous Spirit permeated all who took part as well as others who never attended VBC, but gave willingly and generously with their open hands and open hearts.
Thank you Lord Jesus for your loving hands which are always OPEN to everyone and anyone seeking your provisions, and healing balm. 

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