By Derek Gean
LEBANON – Ever since David West became pastor of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church he knew God had laid a burden on his heart for the children of the community.
The nearly 100-year-old church, located in rural Laclede County, had seen its members dwindle and very few children were left in the congregation. Composed primarily of people from the Sleeper and Stoutland communities, the church had seen many of its members move from the rural area to more urban settings.
“It got to where people thought there were no children left in the community,” West said. Even though some in the church thought it was lost cause, West knew he had to step out on faith and lead the church to conduct their first Vacation Bible School (VBS) in several years. West has been pastor of the church for around four years, and the only reason he had not led the church to have a VBS before now is because the facilities were lacking. Campers on Mission helped the church complete a new fellowship hall and add a new roof. With the new facilities, West knew it was time to have the VBS.
With the help of Missouri Baptists from several other churches, Pleasant Grove stepped out on faith and God stepped up. Completely surpassing expectations, more than 40 children took part in the VBS, held July 11-15, and at least 12 of those accepted Christ as Savior.
“We were very pleased and shocked,” West said. “We figured we would not have more than 15, but we stepped out on faith and God blessed.”
West said the VBS was a big undertaking for the church, as many of the members had never been part of a VBS and didn’t have a clue how to put one on.
“That is why we were glad to have help from other churches,” he said.
Using LifeWay’s Route 254 VBS theme, it did not take long for the workers to make the old building look like a first-rate tourist stop, boasting scenes from Chicago, Lebanon, Kan., Knott’s Berry Farm and more.
Samantha Harr, a member of Faith Baptist Church in Lebanon, and her mother, Jo Burton, provided support to Pleasant Grove’s craft team. They saw the opportunity to help out as a chance to do mission work close to home.
“VBS helps teach the fundamentals of Christianity and often reaches children who otherwise would not be reached,” Harr said.
Her mother, who came from Lockwood and spent the week with Harr while she was helping, agreed.
“This is a good way to introduce children to Jesus, in a way they can understand and they can have fun,” Burton said. “I am amazed that a little church out in the middle of nowhere has this many kids; I am thrilled.”
Opal Newell has been connected to Pleasant Grove for more than 50 years, and the 85-year-old member was elated at the turnout and said she would have helped out if only one child had shown up.
“I figured we wouldn’t have more than half-a-dozen kids, but I think this is going to bring new life to church,” Newell said.