Day 1. For the 4th year in a row the children of Assumption parish are enjoying Vacation Bible Discovery Camp with this year’s theme: Adventure in the Bible. Fr. Ivan Turyk, the parish Pastor started the first day’s activities with an experiment using rice, a tennis ball, a lime, and an egg. His demonstration inspired the children to place God first in their daily lives. After Father’s experiment, the children went downstairs to the church hall to enjoy the first snack of the day while art supplies were distributed and upcoming activities were announced. The campers learned from Mrs. Melanie Fedynychyn, the instructor of the camp that they would be painting and coloring as in the past, but this year they would be using modeling clay to design their own individual jugs and jars like Jesus and Mary might have used in their daily lives. They would be letting their pottery air dry overnight and painting it the next day.
The group gathered for story time as a few of the boys took turns at the microphone reading as Jesus’ voice in the book Notes from Jesus: What Your New Best Friend Wants You to Know. The children heard how Jesus wants everyone to have faith that is “rock solid”. To reinforce that idea, the campers each chose a river rock that they painted in a background color of their choosing, knowing that the real design would be completed the next day. While the rocks dried, it became time for a walk around the block, stopping by the sunflowers in front of the church. Fr Ivan cut open the flower heads and showed the children how sunflower seeds are harvested.
Upcoming activities include the art of decoupage where each child selects a small picture of Jesus, Mary, or one of the saints, and then places it on a wooden plaque, seals it, colors the sides, and creates their own “icon” to be taken home. Outdoor fun time will allow for the blowing of “the world’s largest bubbles” that can float up in the air, reminding the children of how their prayers go up to heaven.
Day 2. The second day of Assumption Parish Bible Camp saw the second and third steps of the decoupage icons, and while the children were waiting for their artistic endeavors to dry, they were treated to an up close examination of the iconography in the parish church. The campers admitted that they had never realized the richness of the colors and the textures in the depictions of Jesus, Mary, and the saints on the iconostasis. They also learned how iconographers prayed and fasted before they began their work. No doubt the future will find them looking around the church with the beginnings of a new appreciation of Ukrainian Catholic traditions. In keeping with the camp theme of action and adventure in the Bible, each child became familiar with one of “God’s Heroes” as each painted and colored the image of one of God’s special friends. The older campers came up to the microphone to tell the story of that person, while the younger ones got ready for their upcoming special presentation, David and Goliath which will show the bravery of a young boy not much older than they themselves. Day 2 ended with some of the campers lamenting that their own adventures at Assumption Parish Bible Camp would be coming to an end the next day.
Day 3. The day began with the arrival of eager children anxious to check on the drying status of their pottery projects and decoupage icons. Once they saw that their junior masterpieces were intact it was time to make a church visit to have their icons blessed by Fr. Ivan and to listen to him speak about “the Light of the World.” Campers helped Father to tie a new set of white ornamental ribbons on each of the candles that stand before the iconostasis. They felt honored to help with decorating the church.
Next it was time for Fr. Ivan to bless the icons which the children decoupaged. He placed them on the tetrapod and explained to the children that once he recited the prayers of the blessing and sprinkled the holy water on the icons, what was once just artwork would then become a sacramental. At the conclusion of this special little service, the campers processed out of church, reverently carrying their newly blessed icons.
The moment then arrived for the painting of the pottery. Campers selected their colors, brushes, and other decorating tools and enthusiastically dove right in to the much awaited activity. Soon silence fell in the church hall as twenty young artists showed their talent and creativity. While the paint dried and older children listened, the younger group offered their final rendition of David and Goliath. They were very proud of their oral presentation and showed off their artwork as well. After all the discoveries of “God’s Special Friends in the Bible”, it was time for the children to return to church to see where these biblical heroes of both Old and New Testament were depicted in the nave and sanctuary. Campers were also shown the three flags that are always displayed in their church— The Ukrainian flag, the Papal flag, and the Stars and Stripes. The conclusion was easy: “We are 1)Ukrainian 2) Catholics who are in 3) America!” With all that the campers had been shown, parents should not be surprised to see their children looking up and around at all the visual richness of the traditions of their faith the next time their little Bible scholars go to church.
After a full morning of faith, facts, and creativity, the children were ready for lunch with Fr. Ivan— which has become somewhat of a final day of Bible Camp tradition. This year’s treat included lunch inside the rectory itself. The children were amazed that their pastor might even have a kitchen in his house! They divided themselves, sitting around the dining room table, the kitchen table, and the living room coffee table to have an “indoor picnic”, complete with hot dogs, fries, chicken nuggets, chips, watermelon, and ice cream. At the conclusion, Fr. Ivan distributed gifts to the campers from Metropolitan Borys Gudziak and Bishop Andriy Rabiy. Each camper got an earth-friendly and ecologically sound reusable water bottle with the unique “Heart to Heart” logo revealed at His Grace’s Enthronement in Philadelphia.
Lunch was followed by everyone’s favorite: ” The Bouncer”. A new activity was introduced this year: Monster Bubbles. A record bubble of 7 feet long and flotation of 47 seconds will be the records to beat next year! It was heart warming to see so many children play so well together with such cooperation, sharing, and understanding of each other. A group of twenty two children in grades 1 thru 6 who could play and work together for hours without bickering, teasing or drama of any kind is not easy to come by. As the campers learned last year, “With God, all things are possible.”