By Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message staff writer
ALEXANDRIA, La. (LBM) – A frequently asked back-to-school question is “how did you spend your summer vacation?” Thirty students from the state’s Baptist Collegiate Ministries can answer, “I helped lead Vacation Bible schools (VBS) in Louisiana and Wyoming.” Celebrating a 14th year of summer service, GOLA (Go Louisiana) VBS is an emphasis by Louisiana Baptists’ collegiate ministry that allows college students to serve on teams who share God’s love through what is the largest evangelistic outreach (VBS) of the year for many congregations. The teams typically conduct VBS for churches with low baptisms and who could not hold such an outreach without the help of the GOLA volunteers.
Five teams of five to eight students each served at churches around the state, June 1-July 15, while another team of six students conducted VBS in Wyoming, June 7-July 30.
Louisiana Baptist Collegiate Ministry Team Director Mark Robinson said the experience allowed the students to gain experience working with children and churches to advance the Gospel.
“They saw faith in action through practical, everyday ministry with children,” Robinson told the Baptist Message. “From a church’s perspective, they were encouraged by the young, energetic students who served in their churches.
“Recently, I was able to talk to members of some of the churches in which the students served and they mentioned what a great thing this has been for the students,” he continued. “We are helping to train future church leaders who one day will join churches after graduation and be leaders in them.”
All the students were commissioned to share the Gospel either in the highways and hedges of Louisiana or in the mountaintops and valleys of Wyoming, and each had a unique experience to live and the powerful, life-changing message of the Gospel to give, Robinson said.
Caleb Twatchman, a member of the McNeese State University BCM, said God equipped him with strength and boldness to preach, and provide him with compassion to bond with people in Wyoming who needed to know about Jesus.
“It’s so key to make connections and be relational, because we are in this together to go and share the Gospel,” he said. “This has been very heart warming and eye opening.”
Elora Browning, a member of the Louisiana Tech BCM, added: “God used my serving with GOLA to show me that when you are obedient to the call to go, He will use you for his purposes, even when you feel unready, and even when you feel unworthy.”
Amber Monroe, a member of the University of New Orleans BCM, enjoyed building relationships.
“One thing I loved about GOLA was that it’s about building possibly life-long relationships, with team members, churches and the kids,” she said. “Another is helping the churches and the kids, experiencing their gratitude daily with hugs and smiles.”
GOLA VBS is partially funded by the Georgia Barnette Louisiana Missions Offering. Named for the first executive director of the Woman’s Missionary Union, the Georgia Barnette Offering’s annual Week of Prayer is set for Sept. 10-17. This year’s offering goal is $1.75 million.