Children in Bentley Given a New Start to Healthful Living

Children in Bentley Given a New Start to Healthful Living

Kim Billie, Panashe Muringani & Mandela Thyoka

From the 22nd to 26th August, 30 children from the Bently local community attended Doncaster Seventh-day Adventist Church's week-long Vacation Bible School (VBS). It was the first to be organised after the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns and was aptly themed "Newstart." The program was developed to empower children to commit to healthful living under the eight principles of the Newstart program. These principles, which form the acronym Newstart, are Nutrition, Exercise, Water, Sunshine, Temperance, Air, Rest and Trust in God.

It was a lovely and wonderful time for parents, kids, and volunteers. They spent time worshipping God and enjoying each other's company through songs, crafts, Bible stories and group work. It was exciting to see many of the church's families bringing their friends to experience the VBS program, some for the very first time!

The event was only made possible because of the army of volunteers who sacrificed their time and precious summer holiday. The volunteers who helped to decorate the entire church youth hall with the Newstart banners also led children in creative crafts, stories, singing, and games.

VBS is always a huge undertaking, so nothing is more gratifying than seeing the kids' excited faces each morning as they walk through the doors. Perhaps the greatest reward is that long after the final day of the VBS, parents are saying that their children are still singing VBS songs and talking about what they learned. We cannot help but get excited seeing the children learn about God's Word, and we're already looking forward to next year's VBS!

Daily Diary

The VBS participants were treated to an intensive five-day activity-filled Newstart program, coupled with practical insights into the eight laws of health. Older children led the daily devotions based on Biblical verses that touched on various aspects of the Newstart principles. At the same time, each day's refreshments and lunch menu were carefully planned to bring to life the Newstart principles.

Day 1

The VBS program began with dedicatory prayer for the participants, followed by a summary of the eight principles that underpin the Newstart program that Mofeng Thakanyane shared, Children Ministries Leader and VBS Director. The main focus of the first day was introducing the Newstart acronym as the theme for the VBS. 

These principles can be found in the official videos here. The first two pillars of nutrition and water were discussed on the first day as children thoroughly explored the food chain, paying particular attention to the five types of foods that make a balanced diet. Various activities complemented their learning, including making rainbow fruit skewers and colouring food plates. Other activities included a walk-around game and themed songs.

Day 2 

The day started by revisiting the children's learning from the previous day to consolidate their knowledge. Further exploration of nutrition included vitamins, one of which was Vitamin C and D. The children made their own salad from a choice of different types of tasty vegetables. The children also learned the benefits of exercise to prepare them for the community summer fair, which was to be held the next day at the local park. 

Day 3

The day started early with the VBS team meeting at the local park two hours before the start time so that the team could set up the bouncy castle and slide. Additionally, we had a table with various Adventist resources for members of the public to collect during the community summer faith.

After a short devotion led by Panashe, children were encouraged to be Christ's Ambassadors on this special day. The weather started unpromisingly for us as it was partly cloudy. Still, bursts of sunshine broke through within the first hour of setting up in the park allowing for a fun day. 

A group exercise involving all the children kickstarted the proceedings. The day's particular emphasis was on Exercise, Sunshine and Air. The bouncy castle and slide were open to the public and free of charge. However, most of the community members chose to make a monetary donation. The children had a variety of activities taking place concurrently, including five-a-side football, bulldog and walk around, to name a few. It was a great day, with the children enjoying themselves and helping clear the park at the end of it. 

VBS team with local community leaders - Councillor James Church (back row, far right) and Julia Marshall, North Doncaster Community Connector (front row, far right)

Day 4

The day was devoted to a planned trip to Hornsea Beach for fun at the beach. However, the rainy weather made it necessary to change to indoor activity centres. The main site was the jump-around inflata-park and the East Riding Leisure Centre swimming pool. The group had a fantastic time, trotting between the venues, with a communal sit-down lunch organised at the famous local chippie "Sullivans".

Day 5

The last day of VBS was about learning how to place our Trust in God and was shorter than the preceding days, with children going home immediately after lunch. Each child chose a part of the Newstart acronym to share what they learned with the church on graduation day.

Sabbath Day  

Graduation day was as exciting as the first day, with the VBS attendees inviting their parents/guardians and family members to the day's ceremony. Each child gave a synopsis of one of the eight principles of healthful living. The visiting speaker for the day, Elder Richard Likupe from York Church, presided over the handing out of the certificate of attendance and completion of VBS. All the registered children attended the VBS program free of charge, and each received a free Newstart embroidered t-shirt as a souvenir.

One of the highlights of this year's VBS was seeing two young girls attend with their mum, who subsequently came to church for the first time. She was excited to see how much her daughters learned from this experience. The story of how the girls' participation in the VBS was a witness to their mother means the hard work behind the VBS program was worth it. We aim to plant the seed of God's Word and show God's love. We are His vessels here on earth to bring light into the darkness and glorify His name.

Why Vacation Bible School? 

VBS is such a very worthwhile evangelistic vehicle that should be embraced wholeheartedly. The potential of VBS to reach children and families with the Gospel is enormous.

In our case, the community event on day 3 was the climax of our outreach, as the local councillors attended the event. Julia Marshall, champion of the Bentley Toll Bar Community Connect Group, loved the outdoor summer fair that was held at the local park. "As a Community Connector for the local area, I am passionate about making sure people are more active through community events like these", commented Julia, who joined the children in the fun games.

A full VBS photo album can be found here.