R.E. & ME
they received the word with great eagerness… (Acts 17:11) Andy Vosslamber
It's 8:30 on Friday morning, a time I look forward to all week. I pack my story cards into my saddle bags along with some songs written up on big sheets of paper, balance my guitar carefully on the handlebars, and pedal off. My destination is a local state primary school about one kilometre from our home. The school is set in a rougher part of town, and many of the children who greet me look a little unkempt. I park my bike in the bike stand and head off to a nearby classroom where I'm greeted by my standard three class.
"Hi Mrs Vosslamber!", a big Maori boy greets me. "Did you bring along that new song you promised us last week?" I assure him I did. He was in my Bible in Schools class last year too, but only made it to the first few lessons. His behaviour became so bad that the classroom teacher and I agreed that he should not attend for the rest of the year. This year I asked him whether he was going to stay in for the lessons. "Of course I am", he replied, "I want to get a Bible at the end of the year".
Ah yes, the Bibles. I plucked up courage in the middle of last year to ask the classroom teacher's permission to give each of the children a Bible at the end of the year. She said she thought that would be fine, and checked with the Principal, who concurred with the idea. I approached our church missions committee and asked if they would fund such a project, which they gladly agreed to do. I purchased 30 beautiful children's Bibles, which contained the major Bible stories written in a contemporary English translation. I promised the teacher and the missions committee that I would hand them out in my final lesson only to those children who wanted a copy. That way, from the school's point of view, there had been no religious coercion, and from the missions committee's point of view, there had been no money wasted on Bibles that would subsequently be thrown away.
My final Bible in Schools lesson dawned and I lugged the books (from the car this time) into the classroom in sealed boxes. Twenty-nine eager eyes stared questioningly at them, but I told them they needed to wait until the end of the lesson. When the time came, I explained that I had a gift for them from my church, which they did not have to accept - and then I showed them the Bibles, and the little note that I had glued into the front of each one, which gave the page numbers for the stories I had taught that year. Suddenly I was swamped with a tangle of faces and hands. Nobody was going to miss out. The books were hard-covered and beautifully illustrated, and the children handled them lovingly. They immediately began looking up their favourite stories and marvelling that they had their very own Bibles. I instructed them to go and write their names in them, which they did. Many of the children came to me to check that they had done it neatly enough and in the right place. No way were they going to carelessly mark this treasure!
I had one Bible left over. The teacher of the class that I taught was also the school librarian. She was quite happy to accept this spare copy for the library.
And now, at the beginning of the new year, the children are still conscious of those Bibles. It's enough of an incentive for a previously naughty boy to want to behave during Bible in Schools. It's also been a point of conversation with children I taught last year:
"Hi Mrs Vosslamber", says one boy, "I got bored in the holidays, so I read most of that
Bible you gave us".
"Mrs Vosslamber, we haven't got books like that at home", says another boy, "only
And so I look forward to another year of tremendous privilege. Often during my lessons, which are simply crafted around telling a Bible story with picture cards and singing some catchy songs, I look out at that sea of little faces and am greatly humbled. How incongruous to be sitting in a state school classroom teaching children about the Bible and the way of salvation. How incongruous that these children, some from very rough backgrounds, will sit spellbound through a simple Bible story. How true that line from the familiar hymn:
"I love to tell the story, for some have never heard
The message of salvation from God's own Holy Word."
Pray for your local Bible in Schools teachers, and, if you think classroom teaching may be your thing, consider doing the work yourself. If you don't think Bible in Schools is for you, maybe your church could ask local Bible in Schools teachers if they would like children's Bibles to hand out at the end of the year. Our church is so thrilled to think that twenty-nine homes in our neighbourhood now have a copy of the Scriptures in them! Maybe your neighbourhood could be similarly supplied.
(Andy Vosslamber, who lives in Havelock North, is a member of the Reformed Church of Hastings)