The Apostle Paul and Chocolate Syrup

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed throughout the world. For God, whom I serve with my spirit by announcing the gospel of his Son, is my witness that without ceasing I remember you always in my prayers, asking that by God’s will I may somehow at last succeed in coming to you. For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by faith.”

-Romans 1:8-12, 16-17 (NRSV)

As I write this article I can still smell the chocolate syrup in my nose. Yes, you read that correctly. Inside my nose. How did it get there? Well, it’s probably no surprise that there is a story to tell.

We just concluded our week of community Vacation Bible School, and it was a wonderful time! Once again we partnered with Heartland Community Church and Sacred Heart Catholic Church to provide a fun and meaningful week of children’s ministry. Meals were served by many different hands, volunteers from each congregation faithfully cared for and led groups of students, junior helpers joyfully served along adults, games were played, crafts were made, snacks were had, songs were sung, and signs and symbols of God’s love were shown throughout it all. I have no doubt that everyone, children and adults, will sleep very well tonight after a busy week. I am incredibly thankful for and proud of the many members of ALC who volunteered in an array of ways this week.

As for me, I was asked to be the Bible study instructor for the week, which meant play acting as the Apostle Paul. And yes, it was very fun! I bought a costume and a pair of sandals to complete the look. When kids asked me in the supper line, “Hey, aren’t you Paul?,” I would say, “No, but I hear he looks just like me.” In three 25-minute sessions each night, we talked about Paul’s love for Christ and dedication to sharing the Gospel to the ends of the earth. We talked about Paul’s troubled past as a persecutor of the Church, and God’s call to broken people who could still accomplish great things in Jesus’ name. We talked about the weight of sin that has been lifted by Jesus’ own hands and crucified so that we may be freed to serve others. It was a beautiful thing to hear what the students had remembered by the end of the week. I’d like to especially thank Jen Bistline for her leadership of the VBS planning committee, and Gabe Hanson for serving as my sidekick (Dionysus, a somewhat antagonistic Greek official but friend to Paul) for their great work this week.

So, how does chocolate syrup enter the equation? Each year we support a ministry organization by receiving a free-will offering from the families participating in VBS. This year we supported Operation Kid-to-Kid by raising over $500. This organization helps support mothers and children in Zambia, Africa to provide a healthy first 1,000 days of childhood. As a friendly challenge, the students were told that some of the VBS volunteers would be pied in the face according to the dollar amount raised. Well, as it turns out, Paul himself was one of those volunteers, along with Jen Bistline and Ben Lindley, Jen’s co-leader for the opening and closing sessions. Lo and behold, yours truly (in full costume), Jen, and Ben received the reward of a tin full of whipped cream and chocolate syrup in the face. I can still see the kids jumping and cheering for the fact that they raised over $500, and for the fact that not one but three people would be smelling chocolate in their nostrils all night long. It was 100% worth it. Any time that our children, youth, and adults can share in the joy of loving God and serving our neighbors is 100% worth it.

Thank you again to the many volunteers who helped make this year’s Vacation Bible School a success. Next year we are hosting VBS again, and there will be many ways to pitch in. This is such an important ministry in our community, and all are encouraged to support it as you are able through your time, talents, or donations.

God bless,

Pastor Nathan