BRISTOL, Ind. – Five churches offered an ecumenical approach to the Bristol Community Vacation Bible School (VBS) this summer. The partnering churches provided an evening VBS for more than 380 children July 17-21. Participating churches included: Betania Iglesia Christiana Misionera, Bristol Missionary, Bristol United Methodist, St. John of the Cross Episcopal and Tri-Lakes Community churches.

The Rev. Fred Stayton, senior pastor of Bristol UMC said, “I think we are able to do more together as a combined (VBS) church group than what each individual church could do alone. This event brings enthusiasm to the other ministries that we do. Relationships are nurtured and built that help the churches work together throughout the year.”

The VBS program was called “PandaMania: Where God is Wild About You!” PandaMania was held at Bristol UMC. Kids explored a bamboo forest filled with crazy pandas, as they discovered that God loves them.

The children also participated in memorable Bible-learning activities, sang catchy songs, played teamwork-building games, experienced electrifying Bible adventures and collected Bible Memory Buddies to remind them of God’s wild love. They also created Bible Point crafts which they took home and played with all summer long. Plus, kids learned to look for evidence of God all around them through something called God Sightings.

Kids at PandaMania joined nearly a million children globally sharing God’s love with other children throughout Latin America. Through this mission project, called Operation Kid-to-Kid, kids in North America are creating special backpacks for needy children.

There also were volunteers from various churches throughout the area, who were a part of this tremendous outreach event in Bristol. More than 200 volunteers were involved.

Becky Goodman, director of the Bristol Community Vacation Bible School, said she feels that the focus on prayer has been instrumental to the success that they saw in terms of children being reached and hearing the message of God’s love.

There were a total of eight directors managing separate areas at the VBS. John Arvoy directed the middle school program, called Panda Wild! Marty Miller directed the elementary program, called Panda Paws. Amy Gardner and Gwen Stoll, a mother and daughter team, co-directed the preschool and kindergarten program, called Panda Pals. Amanda Miller directed the nursery program, called Panda Cubs. Darla Irick was the registration director, Jane Chupp was the food director and Jill Reese was the decorating director.

A meal was served each evening to all participants and volunteers. Pastor Jose Botello and Doreen Mast worked with families in the community in order to coordinate transportation for multiple groups of children. Numerous vendors also were partners.


Photos courtesy of Bristol UMC.

Two elementary-aged girls participated with more than 280 children in the Bristol Community’s VBS PandaMania.