Bigger Than Huge

There are two huge events taking place this summer.  One is the World Cup.  This international soccer championship, which began on June 14 and concludes July 15, takes place every four years and is the most popular sporting event in the world.  I don’t want to bore you with too many statistics, but since 1 billion people watched the previous World Cup final in 2014, apparently there are a few soccer fans on the planet.

The first official World Cup in 1930 was won by Uruguay.  In total, 77 different nations have played in at least one World Cup, but only eight have won it.  Brazil has five titles, while Germany and Italy have four.  In 2014, teams from 207 nations participated in the qualification tournaments, seeking to be one of the 32 teams to play for the championship.  In 1950, when Uruguay beat Brazil for its second title, there were 171,772 people in attendance at the match in Rio de Janeiro, the most ever for a World Cup event.  Some studies have indicated that the World Cup has an increased effect on the number of heart attacks in nations whose teams are competing in the event.  Sadly, death threats and worse have been known to occur when one’s team gets eliminated from the tournament.

The other huge summer event going on is Vacation Bible School.  Driving around town, you would be hard-pressed not to see a banner on church grounds promoting that church’s VBS.  Though not as internationally recognized as soccer, VBS has been a part of our nation’s churches, especially Baptist churches, for over 100 years.  Ms. Walker Hawes, the wife of a doctor specializing in medical ministry to kids, noticed that the children of New York City who visited her husband’s clinic received injuries while playing in the streets of New York.  She determined they needed a safe place to play and occupy their time.  So in 1898, she rented a beer hall in New York’s East Side in which to conduct her Everyday Bible School.  In 1901, the New York City Baptist Mission Society took the lead role in the school, and by 1903 there were 17 different schools being conducted for the kids.

Eventually, in the 1920’s, VBS began to gain popularity in the South.  In 1926, approximately 300 vacation bible schools were conducted in Southern Baptist churches.  By 1950, the number had surpassed 20,000.  In 2009, the enrollment for Southern Baptist Vacation Bible School was around 3 million people.  And approximately 10 percent of those identified themselves as unchurched.

This week is our church’s VBS.  By God’s magnificent grace, we will host many more kids than the total attendance of our church on Sundays.  And just as VBS has always done, ours will reach dozens who do not attend church or follow Jesus.  I have a special memory of VBS from my childhood, and our hope is that these kids will have wonderful memories, too, that will lead them to worship the Savior who loves them so much.  So, thank you to Ms. Hawes, for reaching the kids on the streets of New York right where they were.  And thank you if you’ve served in or prayed for VBS.  The next generation needs King Jesus more than ever.

Rich Holt

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Puerto Rico

Jeremiah 33:2-6unnamed “Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the LORD who formed it to establish it, the Lord is His name,  Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know. For thus says the LORD God of Israel concerning the houses of this city, and concerning the houses of the kings of Judah which are broken down . . . Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them, and I will reveal to them an abundance of peace and truth.”

This morning I was reading this verse as part of our F260 Bible reading plan and thinking about my recent Puerto Rico trip.  The picture above is the home that an 89-year-old man put together from the remains of his home destroyed by hurricane Maria eleven months ago.  It is a home that one of the World Changers teams will be rebuilding in the next two weeks. It is just one home of many blue-tarped homes through the island that is lacking power and an adequate shelter.  The island still is struggling with power and numerous schools are closing because thousands are people leaving the territory.  This community feels neglected by the U. S. government to whom the island belongs as a territory.  There is a feeling of isolation and abandonment and impending fear as the hurricane season cranks up again.

These same feelings were being felt by the people of Judah as they were exiles in Babylon.  God gave the above passage to let the people know they were not forgotten or forsaken, but the broken state would be temporary.  Restoration would occur and the end result would be better than the original state, not just despite, but because of the current brokenness.  As Puerto Rico reminded me, we are still in a very broken world, but God still has His promises of redemption.  In fact, until the Lord returns, those with Christ in their lives, are to be vessels of His redemption.  In Puerto Rico, I didn’t see much activity of FEMA but I did see God’s people at work.  What is broken around you? Pray for God to lead us in ways to show and bring restoration.  Don’t be surprised when the path of restoration comes at a sacrifice to you, that is the way of Christ, it is the way of the cross.  Do you feel abandoned and forgotten?  You are not! Wait on the Lord who died and rose again for you.

Jarrod Scott