By Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message staff writer
PONCHATOULA, La. (LBM) – French Corner Baptist Church in Ponchatoula faced numerous novel coronavirus pandemic-related challenges for its recent Vacation Bible School, but the week ended on a high note with their largest VBS missions’ project donation ever.
By the conclusion of the summertime evangelistic event, July 20-24, 43 children and 26 adult volunteers brought in 2,883 canned goods and other non-perishable items that were packed by members of the church and delivered to Our Daily Bread food bank in Hammond the following week. Some of the items also were placed into gift boxes for delivery to homebound individuals in the community.
“This was a tremendous week of giving hearts,” Pastor Eric Hattaway told the Baptist Message. “I told the kids they were showing Jesus’ love by bringing these cans. They were able to see first-hand a great example of how a Christian is to live out his or her life in their community.”
Like many other Louisiana Baptist churches, French Corner Baptist did not know if VBS would be possible with the future uncertain. Still, they decided to go ahead and plan and make preparations for the yearly event.
With social distancing guidelines in place, attendance had to be limited to 60 participants, well below their normal average of 125. By July 1, Hattaway and church leaders made the call to continue with VBS as planned, and began pre-registering children.
The week began with adult leaders prompting their students to donate canned goods. The following day, a teacher secured gift certificates from a local restaurant to give to the winning class and another pledged to allow the winners to pour an ice-filled bucket on her head. Several businesses even donated funds for the cause.
When Hattaway announced on the final day nearly 3,000 canned goods, including 1,096 from the winning class, had been given, the children were astonished.
“We told them this will feed a lot of people in need because of what they did,” Hattaway said. “The kids took pride in gathering the canned goods because they saw what they could do. It was a teaching opportunity for the children to realize how to help others. I’m looking forward to what else is to come from them.”
Though no decisions for Christ were made at the VBS, parents of two participants informed Hattaway their children began asking questions about how to accept Christ. Hattaway plans to follow up with the children and share more about salvation.
“I told the church and our teachers we didn’t know what phase we would be in, but that this is our biggest Gospel presentation to kids at any other time of the year,” he said. “I would much rather have had a much smaller VBS than not do it at all. I thanked the church for doing this.
“VBS was worth it, if just for those two kids that are interested in learning more about how to accept Jesus,” he continued. “Not only did we plant seeds in our church, but we showed our community the love of Jesus.”