Fed by Faith was our Vacation Bible School (VBS) theme at Trinity this summer. I am thankful I was late, an unusual occurrence, to this year’s planning meeting. By the time I arrived our leaders had already decided they wanted to have food be a focus, ending each session with a family meal. This idea was inspired by the film A Place at the Table which many of us had seen at the Egyptian Theater in Boise last spring. One of the film’s theses is that hunger and obesity in the United States are two sides of the same coin. A great vignette in the documentary is a teacher in a Southeast inner-city grade school who brings a melon to her classroom and gives each student a bite. She then encourages her students to find the same kind of melon in the grocery store and ask their mom or dad to purchase one.
Our group decided to accompany the family meal with Biblical stories of food. Manna and Quail (Exodus 16) was an obvious choice. I suggested Elijah and the Widow (1 Kings 17), which was a favorite story of one leader. A veteran VBS planner said we must include Loaves and Fishes (Matthew 15:32-39). Somewhere in the conversation we had settled on a schedule—three Wednesday afternoons in a row. The meal pairings were: Elijah-sandwiches; Manna and Quail-chicken (close enough); Loaves and Fishes (fish sticks). The goal was to serve healthy and filling meals. Since we happen to have a huge community garden in front of our building, we decided we should also incorporate its produce into VBS.
It was fascinating to see the kids go through the buffet table each evening. I had been skeptical, even thinking that our leaders were a bit too idealistic. Serving fruit I understood, but how many veggies would kids eat? There were no parents filling their plates and encouraging them to just try that new food. Did we serve the absolute healthiest meals? No, and some of the moms and dads who shop at the co-op or Whole Foods or only serve what they grow in their gardens might have glared at us. But we weren’t serving pizza or fried chicken or burgers. To our pleasant surprise, the kids went back again and again for everything.
On the last afternoon I realized that we had yet to explore the garden, so as they arrived I took groups of three on tours. I am no garden expert, see my blog on being a forager, but I can identify a few things. Everyone wanted strawberries but we went to the raised beds on the other end of the garden first. I pointed to cabbage, beans, cauliflower, and zucchini. I had forgotten what a fun word zucchini is. The Univ. of ID’s Extension’s Junior Master Gardeners had been at Trinity earlier in the week and I knew that they had had their fill of strawberries but we still found a few for each VBS participants. When we shared supper that evening they found sliced zucchini and a few small strawberries on the table. Did they make the connection that we had looked at those same foods, coming out of the ground, only hours earlier? I hope so. Either way, they were fed with good food, fed by the love of adults who cared about them, and filled with stories of God’s compassion and abundance. Thanks to everyone who made this summer’s VBS a blessing.