TRAVEL BUG TALES: HOW A CHILDHOOD AT CHURCH PUT ME ON A BUS TO RACINE WI
So, when I announced I would be sharing travel memories from my pre-blogging days I didn’t exactly have a plan. I knew I had plenty of material, but I didn’t hammer out a schedule as most sensible bloggers would. I sort of started at the beginning and followed my way through the pages of my scrapbooks. Then, last week I was reminded of my high school speech tournaments and took off on that tangent. That reminded me of the mission trip I took to Racine WI, so here we are.
A Life in Church
One of my personal jokes about myself is that I have been regularly attending church since 9 months before I was born. Both my parents were people of faith and they considered it the most important thing they could hand down to me. However, there wasn’t much handing to do. I loved it from the first moment and eagerly sought it on my own.
It started in Sunday School. I loved the Old Testament stories told with a felt board. I loved making stuff out of egg cartons and bottle tops. I loved singing songs. I didn’t have quite so much fun when they decided I could start attending the worship service, because I was required to sit still and not crunch my deliciously starched petticoat or click my patent shoes together, but in time, worship also became dear to me.
These days, as I fumble around the Bible during a church service, trying to find Philemon or Nahum, I wish adults still practiced Sword Drills in Sunday School. Sword Drills once taught me to locate the books of the Bible within moments. A line of kids would stand at the front of the Sunday School room with their Bibles by their side. A teacher would read out a verse’s address a couple of times, then say, “Ready, Salute, Charge.” We kids would whip our Bibles up into a formal salute with the Bible held at arm’s length and when the word “charge” was uttered, we started looking for the verse. I became a champion at it, but today, pretty much any 8 year old in one of those classes could beat me.
We were one of those families who appeared every time the church door opened. I sang in the children’s choirs. I was in Sunbeams, which taught missions and church doctrine in a children’s format, through tools like craft paper architecture and play dough dioramas. Later I was in GA’s which taught the same thing, but used a royal hierarchy to reward girls and young women for attaining goals of memorization and service. The annual coronation with duchesses, flower girls and formal gowns was a wonder to behold, but then they modernized the organization and called it ActTeens. Part of me resents the fact that I never got the opportunity to earn my earthly GA crown.
The best week of the summer was Vacation Bible School. Back in my day it was a lot simpler than the expensive curriculum packages of today’s VBS, but I was in no way deprived by the old format. We marched into the sanctuary behind bright banners and pledged allegiance to to our nation, the Christian faith and the Bible. There were many similarities to both Sunday School and Sunbeams, but instead of a hurried hour, we had all morning to enjoy crafts and snacks, as well as wonderful tales from the Bible and the lives of missionaries around the world. By the time I reached middle school, I was herding three-year-olds through the exercises of VBS which had so enchanted me.
Traveling with the Church Group
So what does all this have to do with Travel Bug Tales? Well, by the time I reached high school, much of my traveling was with my church group. Weekend retreats to Christian camps with the youth group dotted each year’s calendar. I made many choir trips to sing in choral competitions. We went to conferences all over the state. Some were general youth conferences and others were designed for the GA’s or Training Union groups. I’d have a hard time explaining to you why it was so much fun, but it was. Some of the best parts happened right on the bus as we’d sing through our repertoire of hymns, praise songs and some favorites from church musicals and Christmas programs. Other special times were spent around the campfire at retreats. I’m so thankful for all of it, especially the amazing adults who gave of themselves and their time to contribute so much to the person I am today.
All the choral competitions, conferences and retreats were just a warm up for the big show. The summer before my junior year, our youth group was going on a mission trip to Racine WI. “Racine WI?” you might ask. Yep. A church up there sponsored Backyard Bible Classes for under-privileged Inner City Youth and for some reason they tapped on our church here in Dallas to come help. It was with fear and trepidation that I asked my parents for permission to go. Amazingly they said yes, with the caveat that I’d have to earn my way through the work days my church had scheduled, but that was no burden. In fact, it was part of the fun – trimming bushes, washing window screens and weeding flower beds is a lot more fun when you aren’t doing it at home.
So, come along with me as I board the bus for Racine WI. I promise we’ll all have a good time and you don’t have to sing unless you want to.