‘Backyard outreach’ keeps Frederick, Maryland, Corps in touch with youngsters

By: David Ibata

What started out as off-the-shelf curriculum for a vacation Bible school is now a weekly, outdoor outreach to the community surrounding the Frederick County, Maryland, Corps.

The corps officers, Lieutenants Chris and Carla Raymer, began with the “Concrete & Cranes” VBS material published by LifeWay Christian Resources, based on Philippians 1:6 (“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus,” TNIV).

“Typically, our VBS programs would be done indoors, but because we have a small building and due to COVID-19 requirements, we’re not able to do that,” said Lieutenant Carla. “So, we moved across the street to a place we call our backyard, a visible place for people to see us outside while neighbors walk by.”

Starting July 20 and meeting from 5:15 to 6:30 p.m. for five consecutive Mondays, the Raymers and their crew of volunteers have been leading the kids’ gatherings.

Parents are invited to drop off their youngsters for a time of fun and Bible learning in a safe setting. Everyone wears face masks and social distances. About a dozen adults assist with cooking, serving, leading lessons and being small group leaders.

“Someone makes a Bible presentation each week, and they have small group discussions about it,” Lieutenant Carla said. “The children are able to learn actions to songs that relay the Scripture of the day. We provide games they each can do individually but in competition with each other.

“We also try to make sure they eat Popsicles and drink plenty of water throughout the evening, because even though we’re under tents, we’re outside and it’s quite hot.”

At the end of the evening, each child is given a “To Go” bag containing snacks for the week, a Bible lesson to share with their family, a craft to go with it, a game for the family and a recipe for a dish they can make together.

The bag also contains dinner for the child’s family. “The first week was hot dogs and chips; last week was pasta salad. Next week will be chicken nuggets, fries and corn – very simple, but just a nice meal for home,” Lieutenant Carla said.

So far, attendance has averaged 17 children ages 4 to 14 on site, and 10 or 11 distance-learning youngsters who couldn’t make it or whose parents were uncomfortable having them in a group setting. Those kids get activity bags of things to do at home.

“We’ve had four new kids come that we’d never met before,” Lieutenant Carla said. “And some of the mothers are staying to watch, so we’re able to interact with them, too.”

“For all practical purposes, this is our vacation Bible school. We’re just calling it our Backyard Summer Program. It’s a way for us to continue sharing the gospel to our young people while encouraging them to take what they’ve learned and share it with their families at home.

“It’s discipleship. We hope to reach at least 40 kids by the end of this five-week series so that potentially, 40 other people would have heard the gospel through these children.”