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Children welcome at ‘Hometown Nazareth’

Colorado corps unites vacation Bible school and back to school.

The Salvation Army in Grand Junction, Colo., led by Captains Dan and Terrie Wilson, reinvented vacation Bible school (VBS) this summer, piggybacking it with their back-to-school program for phenomenal results—approximately 1,200 attended the week-long VBS compared to 12 in 2010.

Last year, back-to-school backpack distributions grew so big that the corps’ chapel could not accommodate the crowd. Something had to be done. Captain Terrie Wilson suggested combining the 2011 backpack event with VBS and revamping the entire program.

“Hometown Nazareth”—the grade school children’s program—was the brainchild of Corps Assistant Nathan Trujillo after asking himself, “What would Disney or Nickelodeon do?” The youth group helped build a stage for the hour-long program that included worship songs, puppets, drama and Native tribal competitions. The second hour offered thematic games, Bible memory activities, snacks and crafts.

Each day included a special event—a concert, Christian magician, local ministry “Defy Gravity,” bounce houses and “water wars.” Over 400 middle school/high schoolers attended “Defy Gravity” day, with BMX bike ramps, acrobatics and an 18-foot-high aerial act, and 300 receiving backpacks.

After lunch, a final tribal wrap-up concluded the day’s events.

The corps distributed backpacks on Monday-Wednesday of VBS week. Parents were invited to the sessions on those days. On Thursday, 60 children attended the morning session and 80 came on Friday, even though backpacks were not given out then.

The attendance total of 1,200 includes staff, volunteers, children and parents who participated. Sunday morning’s service featured VBS graduation with 101 in attendance and 55 visitors.

Many children and parents commented, “If this is what your children’s church and programs are like, we want to keep coming.” Even better news is that around 160 children and parents made decisions for the Lord.

This year, the corps distributed 720 backpacks, up from 504 in 2010.

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