Teachers travel for Bible school
College students help Western District congregationsBy Melanie Zuercher
NORTH NEWTON, Kan. — Take a newly retired pastor with a passion for Christian education, a geographically large area conference with many small congregations, and four college students eager to do a summer ministry project.
Mix with Mennonite Church USA’s Vacation Bible School curriculum, and what do you have?
A traveling Bible school troupe, perhaps the first one for MC USA.
The troupe — led by newly retired pastor Norma J. Johnson and going out under the auspices of Western District Conference — began its five-week odyssey with orientation at Faith Mennonite Church in Newton May 31-June 2.
The first VBS took place June 3-7 in Hillsboro, with three congregations — First Mennonite, Trinity Mennonite and Hillsboro United Methodist — joining together as they do each year.
The idea for a traveling VBS troupe developed as Marlene Bogard, Western District Conference librarian, and Johnson were “brainstorming about my volunteering post-retirement,” Johnson said.
On March 31, she concluded 10 years of pastoral ministry at Bethel College Mennonite Church in North Newton, a position she came to after serving for a decade with the Commission on Education of the former General Conference Mennonite Church.
At the same time, Dorothy Nickel Friesen, Western District Conference minister, was interested in writing a grant to the Schowalter Foundation for a Christian education project.
The foundation awarded enough money for a stipend for up to five students and one leader for five weeks, along with paying for transportation and materials.
Bogard began inviting churches to apply to have the troupe come to their VBS. Small churches had priority. She sent word out to U.S. Mennonite colleges and seminaries, looking for students interested in the opportunity.
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