By Floyd Ingram
HOUSTON – It is a 15-hour trip from Savage, Minn., to Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Houston. But Kate Ruth, 15, said she missed it last year and was not going to miss a chance to meet with her Houston friends again this summer – even if it is 997-mile from the front steps of St. John The Baptist Catholic Church in Minnesota to the parking lot of Immaculate Heart of Mary.
“I came two years ago and had to miss last year because I had something else planned,” said Ruth, who made the trip with 24 youth and 13 adults this year. “I want to help these kids have a meaningful vacation Bible school. I missed that last year. I didn’t want to miss it this year.”Ruth and the 37 other members of St. John The Baptist Catholic Church in Savage, Minn., will host VBS where they will tell children Bible stories, sing, do crafts, have lunch and then hold a one-on-one reading program. The week-long series of events is open to the public.
This marks the 11th year for St. John to make the trek to Houston.
“We have made plans for 100 kids and hope for 75,” said Andi Little, director of Faith Formation for St. John. “We have made a lot of friends in this community over the years. We love coming to Houston and we are blessed every year.” Little said the theme for this year’s vacation Bible school is “Holy Land Caravan,” and will teach kids about Moses and the Book of Exodus.
“We also hold up five holy people who we can look to as examples,” said Little. “Teaching children about these holy heroes or five saints is part of our faith.” And in addition to fun and games, several adults on this year’s mission team will do several small construction projects in the community. Last year’s VBS saw about 100 kids take part in VBS “Wet Wednesday” with 40 doing the reading program.
St. John is a church of over 900 and Heart of Mary – well, it is much smaller. “When this got started in 2003 we saw this as something special,” said Little. “We are not out to change the world, just the life of one person at a time.” Little said they try to keep their agenda simple.
“We just tell them about God’s love, do some crafts and eat a hot dog,” said Little. “The afternoon is when we do our reading program and when we really start building relationships.” Lay Ecclesiastical Minister, Lorenzo Aju, said St. John’s work in Houston is a boon to the church. “For them to support us like this means so much to our church, our parish and our community,” said Aju. “This helps our children so much.”
Aju said building relationships has been the key to the success of this mission each year. “Our children and our community look forward to this year,” he explained. “It encourages our parishioners and our kids to have so much fun.” Little said they will soon start making plans for next year’s trip. Sharing faith, having fun.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is reprinted with permission from the Chickasaw Journal in Houston.)
By Floyd Ingram