For one day, several rooms at the Sampson County Department of Aging were filled with smiling children having fun while learning about the Holy Scriptures of the Bible.
Sports pennants were attached to the wall and, with the theme of “Game On,” a group of youths from Faith Builders Christian Center taught the importance of being on God’s team for the 2018 Vacation Bible School.
“It’s really making a difference,” said Lesia Henderson, a support specialist for the Department of Aging. “They’re planting seeds in these kids lives and making an impact.”
Members of Faith Builders Christian Center’s youth group spent their Friday evening at the building on Complex Road, setting up sports-themed decorations and activities for the VBS program. This summer was the group’s fourth year helping the department. More than 20 children being raised by grandparents participated on Saturday. Along with reading the Bible, children are engaged in devotion, music, friendly competitions between staff and participants and outdoor games.
Caleb Peterson, 18, is currently attending the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and enjoyed spending a few days of his summer break assisting the youth group. As a student, Peterson said he sees people who have gone their entire lives without knowing Jesus Christ or not having an interest in his teachings.
Peterson expressed how he likes teaching people at a early age.
“It helps them keep their lives on track and not go down the path like people I’ve known and went to school with,” Peterson said. “With these kids, I try to have an impact on their lives and minister to them so they’ll know Christ and so they’ll be strong in their faith.”
Alyssa Welker, 18, is one of several youths from the church organization. She enjoyed hosting craft activities.
“It’s very heartwarming knowing that you’re making an impact on these kids lives,” Welker said.
Twelve-year-old Abby Peterson said she feels happy that participants learn about Jesus. Caison Rivera, 12, felt the same way. It was his first time helping with VBS and he wanted to make an impact on the children’s lives.
“You can really connect with some of these kids,” Rivera said. “I’ve been through some of the stuff they’ve been through and it’s hard and it’s great to make an impact on their lives.”
Bryan Welker, 16, was in the first group of participants when the VBS started at Sampson’s Department of Aging.
“It’s good to get to know new people and it’s good knowing that we can help with what they’ve been through,” Welker said.
Helena Hicks, 12, is also excited about returning for another year.
“Every year they get more into it,” Hicks said. “It makes me feel good that I really touched them.”
Henderson showed appreciation for the partnership that started several years when the non-denominational church from Stedman adopted a family for Christmas. The generosity led to having a VBS, along with other work such as adopting families and raising money for meals. Before the event, the youth group hosted fundraisers to support the program.
“The first year they did it, those grandkids wanted to come back the next week,” Henderson said. “They ask their grandparents all year long, ‘when are we going to do Vacation Bible School?’”
Henderson said she’s touched how the small youth group puts a lot of effort into the program. She added that program gives children a chance to attend a VBS and learn more about the teachings of Jesus Christ.
“This small youth group has done amazing things with the leadership that they have,” she said about the one-day program.
Elizabeth Seufert, a church volunteer, wishes it was longer than one day.
“I would love for this to be a week long,” Seufert said.
Church members Becky Peterson and Beth Ray expressed how they are affected emotionally when they see the interactions of the youth group and participants.
“There’s not a year where I haven’t cried because they touched me,” Ray said.
Each year, Ray leads devotion time at VBS. Volunteers also provide emotional support for matters in their personal lives. Youth leaders are told not to pry, but a lot of children open up to them.
“A lot of these children have been for four years so they feel connected,” Henderson said. “They feel like they can open up. Some of these kids may not have the opportunity or their grandparents don’t have them in counseling — they’re going to get it from these youth leaders. They’re going to get that connection and they’re going to get those seeds planted.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-592-8137. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.