by Dr. Wole Olarinde Editor-in-Chief
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DATELINE: As early as 8 am Wednesday August 30, 2023, an army of children/teenagers was seen trooping with bags into the worship centre of Redemption Truth Assembly, Ikorodu, Lagos.  Some of them strapped their bags on their backs while some trolled theirs into the centre. This troop of excited children/teenagers of about 100 in numbers were the early arrivals to the just concluded 2023 Vacation Bible School of Redemption Truth Assembly, where over 500 children/teenagers from all walks of life were discipled for Jesus Christ.

A week to this year’s Bible school for children/teenagers, Christian Benefits was taken on a facility visit to the sprawling Christian Retreats Centre (CRC), Ikorodu, that would house the children/teenagers from different locations, churches and homes, including Muslim homes for this year’s holiday Bible School on discipleship.

Pastor Kayode Ibrahim, the Lead Pastor of the church, explained to Christian Benefits that the Bible school for children/teenagers was part of the church’s vision of  “raising role-model of the Redeemed-Christ like.” He added that it was also aimed at carving eternity in the hearts of children as well as raising servants of God from childhood,positing that more than 80% of standing Christians gave their lives to Christ at childhood.

“Our vacation Bible School is for children/teenagers aged 6-19 years. Here we teach the children/teenagers the word of God, prayer, quite time and how to live a complete Christian life. The parents bring their children to the camp and return home till the end of the programme to take their children back home. During this period we also teach the children/teenagers the time to go to bed and the time to wake up to have their quite time, pray, read and study the Bible. We also have recreational schedule for physical exercises that are also helpful to the spiritual growth of the children/teenagers,” the lead pastor explained to Christian Benefits.Pastor Ibrahim disclosed that the vacation Bible school is organized with free accommodation and feeding for about 500 children and teenagers every year. “Our yearly vacation Bible School for children/teenagers is free of charges and with free accommodation and feeding for the entire days. We have security personal guiding our facilities 24 hours. So, the safety of the children/teenagers in our care during this period is guaranteed. Once the children/teenagers registered and entered into our premises, they can’t go out till the end of the programme to return home with their parents. The impact of the vacation Bible school for children/teenagers has been very tremendous since we started the programme in 2015 for purposely for children/teenagers.

“We have power time for prayer, impart and encounter for the children/teenagers. We have the time for the Word time where we take the children/teenagers through the Bible. We have well trained children evangelism teachers. Statistics shows that over 80% of standing Christians gave their lives to Christ at childhood. Children evangelism is very important because it is one way of carving eternity in the hearts of children. When a child is thoroughly impacted, it is the Lord’s doing. We have Godly Seeds Good News club through which we follow up, monitor and build on the spiritual growth of the children/teenagers after passing out from the vacation Bible School, ” Ibrahim disclosed to Christian Benefits.

Speaking in the same veins, Sister Modupeola Ibrahim; the wife of the lead pastor, stressed that the annual Vacation Bible School (VBS)for children/teenagers is aimed at raising an army of children with eternity in their hearts as part of the mandate of Redemption Truth Assembly of “bringing and raising lives, conforming them to the image of Christ through living, preaching and teaching of the Message of the Cross.” Modupeola shares with Christian Benefits the process and details of how the Vacation Bible School (VBS) for children/teenagers was envisioned in 2008 from the church’s yearly national convention.

“We have been holding the convention as a general meeting every year until the Lord gave us the vision of the vacation Bible school to separate the church’s children from the convention meeting which mostly focuses on the adults. The vacation Bible School (VBS) actually started in 2008, after the Lord laid it in our hearts that every soul belongs to him. The teachers were teaching every year even though they were not yet trained by Children Evangelism Fellowship (CEF). But when God raised the issue of carving eternity in the hearts of children in 2013, we took it more seriously and decided to train children teachers. Prior 2015, we didn’t camp the children during the VBS. They came in the morning  and returned home in the evening for the 5-day VBS programme.  It was in 2015 that God laid it in our hearts to begin to camp them. So, we contacted CEF to assist us handle the children during our conventions. We also bought some relevant children books for this purpose.She continues: In 2013, we had a new burden of carving eternity in the hearts of children. The Lord impressed it upon our hearts that He wants to raise an army of children that will have eternity in their hearts. I shared the burden with one of the church members. I was encouraged to keep praying to receive further direction. I met another sister, Sister Nnene Alex-Emordi, who was also into children’s ministry. She directed me back to CEF. When we contacted the leader of CEF in Lagos, Sister Mary Kalu, she said they didn’t have enough teachers to take the children; that we have to train our own teachers and have at least 15 teachers before they can send their trainers to teach them. While I was brooding over that, I shared this with some other sisters in our fellowship. We started praying daily concerning the assignment. We started telling people about it. I went to many schools and churches to seek teachers that will be interested in the training. The Lord said he has called me to equip the teachers who will in turn teach the children. So, we had a training called Teaching Children Effectively (TCE). The training for the teachers started in 2013 with about 50 participants for TCE 1. In 2014, we again had TCE 1 for about 40 other teachers.  In 2015, we did TCE1 for more teachers and TCE 2 for those who had done TCE 1; both running concurrently. That was how our passion and fervency for the children/teenagers Vacation Bible school ages 6-19 increased in 2013. I conceived the vision and my husband embraced it and became very passionate about it. Both of us were part of the children’s teachers that were trained in 2013.” God is carving Sister Modupeola shared.

She further said right from inception in 2008 the focus of the Bible school changes yearly.  “The focus for this year’s convention is discipleship while that of last year 2022 was Holy Spirit, the Christian soldiers compassion God is carving eternity in the hearts of children through the Vacation Bible School (VBS). It has been amazing! Parents who are not even members of the assembly or part of our convention bring their children to the programme. About 500 children/teenagers from different locations, churches and homes, including Muslim homes participate in the programme annually.

“There is a particular family from another church that always comes with their children. At first, they brought their daughter because of her way of life. After the programme they gave a testimony that she has changed. The Bible school is in tandem with the vision of Redemption Truth Assembly of “raising role-model of the Redeemed-Christ like.” I believe God wants us to catch the children young to act like him. As adults undergo training, children also undergo training because God said all souls are his. Whatever is inculcated into the lives of the children when they are young will not depart from them. Children who get born gain when they are young stand firm as they grow older,” Sister Modupeola Ibrahim finally remarked.

Some of the teachers and workers at this year’s meeting also spoke with Christian Benefits magazine on the vacation Bible School, particularly about this year’s edition that recorded over 500 participants for the for 4-day programme held at Christian Retreat Centre. Sister Faith Itelor, the programme coordinator, also linked the vision of the vacation Bible school to the mandate of Redemption Truth Assembly. In her words: “The mandate of the church is to raise disciples; Christ-like people; and that is what the vision of the vacation Bible school all about; to raise Christ-like children/teenagers, and with eternity in their hearts.” Sister Faith  described the impact on the programme as a huge testimony; citing the testimonies of some teenagers that she said have been delivered from drugs addiction as one notable impact of the yearly event. She disclosed that the organizers of the programme do a follow up on the participants through the Godly Seeds Good News club and have recorded a lot of good results in their academics and discipleship sessions.

“We are making a huge impact. It is an all-round package. We organize seminars for all the participants on various topics that directly influence their lives such as music, dressings, relationship, and the LGBT etc, and we have been seeing positive changes in their lives. The impact of the Bible school on the participants over the years has been a huge testimony. We have seen some teenagers delivered from drugs addiction. We do a follow up on them through the Godly Seeds Good News club and we have recorded a lot of good results in their academics and discipleship sessions,” she shared

She also disclosed the organizers’ plans of  launching a forum with the parents at the end of the programme every year to engage the parents on raising their children/teenagers in a godly way at home. “We are planning to launch a forum whereby at the end of every camp we invite the parents to a two-hour talk on raising their children in a godly way so that they can continue the job at home. The parents too need to be equipped in the knowledge of Christ. When the parents are equipped they will be able to help the children at home,” she said.

Sister Faith traced her strength in coordinating the children/teenagers effectively all through the four-day programme to the grace of God and her background. “I have an inner strength to handle the young ones. Some of them are adventurous and restless, which was quite challenging. They asked lots of questions. Some of them came from homes where they don’t know Jesus. The grace of God and my background helped me to handle all these because I did most of what those young ones are doing when I was their age and wasn’t born again. Coming from a background of parents who were just churchgoers without knowing Christ, helped me to relate well with the children that came from homes without Christ. I love naturally children,” she expressed.

However, the coordinator charged all the over 500 children/teenagers that participated at this year’s vacation Bible school to be better children/teenagers when they return to their various homes. “We are expecting to have more children/teenagers that need help spiritually. We are trusting God will help us as a team to put our heads together and block every loophole through prayers and strategy for the subsequent vacation Bible School for children/teenagers,” she finally disclosed.

Bro. Damilola Adesanya, the camp commandant also shares with Christian Benefits his thoughts on the vacation Bible school for children/teenagers. He talked about the Godly Seeds Good new Club as having its convention as part of the package of the annual convention of Redemption Truth Assembly. “The vision is to catch the children young for Christ. It is not to get the children busy, but to impart them to the glory of God. Some of the children that passed through the programme are now in the university, and not a few of them got born again at this programme before they entered into the university. Now in the university they still attend the vacation Bible school now as teenagers,” the camp commandant testified

Adesanya explained that the theme of this year’s programme, Discipleship, was aimed at making the participants at the programme understand that they are not just nominal Christians and need to enroll as apprentices to learn and emulate the life of Christ. “We made them realize that what makes people wonder at the kind of life they live is the life they have received that the world cannot understand. We can’t just leave the children to themselves. We need to impart them. The theme also covered the Holy Ghost baptism session. We usually hold the Holy Ghost baptism every Saturday at the Godly Seeds Good News club. At different age groups they have lots of activities that they do, even from the age bracket 0-5,” Adesanya disclosed

He further disclosed that most of the children/teenagers that participate yearly at the vacation Bible School are non-members of Redemption Truth Assembly. He said many of the child/teen participants come from different backgrounds, churches and religions. “Regardless the backgrounds or religions of the participants, the fact remains that through the programme a seed is sown into their lives. And since a seed is already sown into their lives, it is God Himself that will draw them unto Himself,” he said.

Adesanya said his role as the camp commandant was to ensure smooth running of the camp activities, the welfare of the participants and the maintenance of the camp facilities. “I have assistants. The halls were separated and quite distant from one another. All the camp teachers were well trained by Children Evangelism Fellowship (CEF). Most of them have Good News club in their various churches where they tutor the kids weekly or at their individual schedules. They know the limit at which to scold a child, but ensure the child sees love while being scolded as Jesus did to us. It is a call to replicate Christ in every child. The Holy Spirit has been faithful. I am trusting God that the seed that has been sown in the lives of the children/teenagers at this year’s programme will be followed up. The Holy Spirit will hand the children/teenagers over to the people that will continue the follow them up,” the camp commandant enthused.

Sister Esther, a regular volunteer at the VBS expressed her passion for taking of children. “I have been working with the VBS as a volunteer for quite some time, since I was 14 years old.  My parents are pastors. While they take on the adults, I take us the children. It is a passion the Lord has put in my heart,” she said.

Esther pointed that it takes specific people to manage children well, saying it is not everyone that knows and understands how to handle children very well. She added that serving children is a calling from God.  “If you are called by God to the ministry of children, the Lord will give you the patience and the enablement to do it well. We do it both in churches and schools. I can’t pin point the exact year but I did my teacher training together with some the colleagues here around 2013-14 and we have been working together. My husband is a pastor,”she explains to Christian Benefits:

The volunteer worker highlighted the importance of the word of God in proper training of children, which she said cannot be overemphasized in the lives of children. “With the word of God the lives of many children have been touched. I have seen children that participated in the programme in the past, and I was overwhelmed by the positive transformation in their lives. Most of them from Islamic background have grown to know God. This is encouraging for me.”

On how the coordinator and workers control the usual youthful exuberance during the four-day camping exercise every year Esther said every children teacher needs love and a large heart to be able control the excesses of children “because these children come from different backgrounds with different training. So, you must know how to condone and overlook some of their unwholesome behaviours. It is a disciple and training that God has put into you, and He will expose you to those children’s unruly behaviours and see how you react without discrimination.”

She also shared with Christian Benefits the activities that the children/teenagers were engaged in at the programme such Bible reading, learning new songs and crafts, watching Christians that tell missionary stories, recreational activities, health talk and more importantly they were encouraged to appreciate God’s word.

“They found all these activities very interesting and put all their energy into them. During the impartation one could see the Holy Spirit resting upon the little children as they speak in tongue. Parents have a major role to play not to water down what the children/teenagers have learnt or have been imparted. For parents who are not Christians it takes the grace of God to help their children. Such children will need someone to encourage them. This we do at Good news club twice a month, I’m a volunteer; not a member of Redemption Truth Assembly. I attend at a parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) at Abule-Egba, Lagos.

In her own comment on this year’s vacation Bible school, Sister Bola Ayoola, another volunteer at the programme, appreciated God for the wonder time at the meeting. She said the theme of this year’s meeting, Discipleship, made the children/teenagers understand the importance of a relationship with God for their growth. She also observed that the participants asked lots of questions based on the fact that the theme was strange to many of them. “So, we ensured we explained it to them for their understanding,” she said.

 “We had children from different churches. Where I worship we hold parents forum after our vacation Bible school at which we inform the parents about the teachings that their children have received, and then encourage the parents to bring up their children with those teachings irrespective of their religions. We don’t discriminate because Jesus Christ needs their hearts and they will see the need to follow up their children.”

Sister Ayoola advised the children/teenagers that participated at this year’s programme to put into practice all they were taught at the meeting and should not be intimidated by whatever people are saying to them for standing for Christ. “They should be conversant with God’s word and the materials that we gave to them. We gave them our telephone nos in case they need to speak to someone concerning their issues,” she revealed.

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