I went to Tulsa, OK for the third straight year last week, and though this time I at least did not go to Brooklyn and Tulsa in back-to-back weeks like I did two years ago (there was one week in between), the fact that it was the second trip made me pretty tired. Throw in the fact that stuff happened at home that I needed to deal with, and I found myself often worn out even though the schedule was less packed than the one in New York. Nonetheless, it was still a blessing to go again, and I’m always impressed by the hospitality of the host church, Tulsa Chinese Christian Church. It was good time of trying to teach kids basic Bible truths while teaching heftier matters to the youth and college students.
Two years ago, our team was filled with all guys. This year, it was me and another guy with five girls. It’d have been nice if there was more balance, but we rolled with the team God put together, and the team was pretty unified and mostly knew each other well.
We stayed at an Airbnb house that was owned by a former TCCC church member, and it was a pretty nice place (obviously separating the guys and girls). In many ways it made things easy and convenient; in other ways it did not because the house didn’t have Wi-Fi, which admittedly made it difficult to get other work done that I wanted to. At least we had our phones and some people had hotspots.
The people at the church were incredibly hospitable and charitable again to us, especially the woman who led VBS and her husband. Sometimes it felt like they served us way more than we served their church, and it was very humbling to see how selfless and giving they were.
VBS ran from Monday to Friday. Breakfast was at 7:45, devotionals were to start at 8:15 (though we always started a bit later), and VBS ran from about 8:45 to noon. The kids were split up this year by gender unlike in past years, and there were 12 crews of kids that were watched over by one or two crew leaders. The middle schoolers and preschoolers had their own thing.
The crews would meet in the sanctuary for some preliminary talks and songs, and then they rotated between four stations: Bible Adventure (Bible storytelling), Imagination Station (crafts), games, and KidVid (video station), all geared to teach the same message for the day. All crews had snacks at the same time in the middle. The theme this year was Maker Fun Factory, emphasizing God’s creation, his purpose, his love, and his plan.
I was a crew leader and had a pretty chill group of kids, though it was sometimes difficult to get them to participate. There wasn’t as many opportunities to get into deeper conversations with them as I would have liked because the VBS moved so quickly from station to station, but they still received a good gospel presentation on Thursday and we were able to talk with the kids a bit about that. The songs and hand motions were… sometimes corny, as usual, but they’re for kids, and they kind of grew on us too as the week wore on.
Friday night was parents’ night, and many of the parents came to see what they’re kids had been up to all week. I was tasked with speaking to them again this year, and I taught on Paul’s speech in the Areopagus in Acts 17 because Paul spoke on things that coincided with our VBS theme. I kept it under twenty minutes, but it was a more difficult speaking environment than last year; there were two interruptions early due to a mic issue and then someone wanted to give me a stand, so after that the kids checked out and were pretty disruptive. As amusing as that was, I knew that they were not my target audience, so I preached the gospel from that passage and simply moved on (though I did sneak in an Oklahoma joke in there because… well, I’m morally obligated to). Afterward, it was good talking with a few people at the church and seeing the parents explore the different stations.
After VBS, we would have a debrief session with all the workers and then have lunch. After that, we would have our youth/college teaching sessions from 2-5pm, where we played games, taught, shared testimonies, and had small group. The theme was apologetics because several of the youth had graduated and were moving on to college, and our three sessions were from Tuesday to Thursday and the subjects were the Incarnational Narrative, the Problem of Evil, and Ethics. I taught on the first one, and it was pretty hard to condense the apologetic issues on the life of Jesus into a 40 minute session, but I put my focus on the atonement and then on the minimal facts argument for the resurrection. There was a lot more to cover, but in the interest of time, that’s all that was possible. The other sessions were also dense too, but the speakers did a good job hitting on the highlights. We also held a Q&A session at the end and let people ask questions about theology and college life.
Three of our team members shared their testimony, and I thought they were all effective and relevant for the students to hear. We had some small group time and also got to play “scatter ball” on Thursday, a game that’s kind of like a mix between dodgeball and tag. I can neither confirm nor deny that I enjoyed pelting some students with a ball.
In any case, the youth there has many bright students who ask good questions and are willing to think. Even the ones who go to OU or are going to OU aren’t too bad ;). Though I do feel bad for them that they will soon suffer under the reign of Tom Herman (oh wait, I don’t feel bad at all). Even Bob Stoops saw the writing on the wall and bailed.
We had a bunch of people over for dinner at the house on Saturday, and I prepared bibimbap and a soup with the help of some of the team. A lot more people showed up than we thought, but we still had enough food (though we ran out of rice), and it was a lot of fun talking with them and playing games. There were also opportunities for deeper conversations on relationships and discipleship as well.
On Sunday, I taught a laid back lesson in Sunday School and my roommate and coworker preached on Hebrews 1. We then headed home in our creepy looking white van.
This is the last planned trip to Tulsa for the moment, and it was sad in a way because we have been able to see how many of the youth have grown up. Still, it is encouraging to see how the church continues to reach the local community for VBS and build up the next generation of youth, and it is a privilege to come for one week again to help out in a small way. I can seem pretty withdrawn, but I do observe things and I see a lot of potential in many of the youth that are graduating as well as those growing up still in the church. I pray that they all grow spiritually in college and serve in various ministries there.
Oh, it’s 8:01 pm… and OU still sucks. But TCCC is pretty awesome ;).