VBS helps Waco churches bridge racial barrier

The same week a gunman killed nine people at an African-American church in South Carolina, two congregations in Waco—one white, one black—united for Vacation Bible School, offering the community a reminder that the bond between Christians transcends race. PHOTO/ Ashley Dawn Photography

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WACO— Two Waco Baptist churches united for Vacation Bible School to share the gospel with children, breaking down barriers between their culturally and racially separated congregations.

Last year after VBS, Park Lake Drive Baptist Church’s Senior Pastor Amos Humphries challenged his staff to think outside the box for ways to minister to the community and to promote unity between churches in Waco. The congregation decided to partner with a black church for this year’s VBS.

Partners on board

While searching for a partner church, Children’s Minister Lori Moore met Lynell Snow, the wife of Pastor James Snow at Greater Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church.

“They immediately saw the bigger picture and were on board,” Humphries said.

vbs waco 300African-American and Anglo children enjoy Vacation Bible School together at Greater Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Waco, offered with the help of volunteers from Park Lake Drive Baptist Church. PHOTO / Ashley Dawn PhotographyThe VBS, themed “Safari Adventure,” took place at the Greater Shiloh campus, and members of both churches volunteered to lead children in activities.

“It was amazing. We shared Bible stories and through stories, music, crafts, games and prayer, we had a huge success in outpouring of love,” Moore said. “Their church is small, but it was filled to capacity with believers and love.”

Shared commitment

“Sunday is the most segregated day in America,” Humphries said, echoing Martin Luther King Jr. Too often, cultural preferences separate churches and ministry efforts, he added.

“We are so concerned with promoting our own agendas, we forget that we work for the same Guy,” Humphries said. But a shared commitment to ministering to other people can bring churches together, he added.

Because barriers between churches of different ethnicities still exist, it’s important to keep an open mind regarding unfamiliar worship and preaching styles, said Robert Johnson, associate pastor of Greater Shiloh.

“It’s not just white or black. When we get to heaven, we’re all going to be there,” Johnson said. “If churches come together, it challenges the both of us. I believe in different, and I serve a living God who doesn’t do things the same every time. We decided for the greater good to come together.”

Reminder to the community

The timing couldn’t be more fitting. During the week of VBS, tragedy struck the nation when a gunman opened fire at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina, killing the pastor and eight church members.

The partnership between Park Lake Drive and Greater Shiloh not only benefitted the children who attended VBS, but also reminded the community the bond between Christians transcends race and is crucial to maintaining harmony between cultures.

“In light of Charleston and the racial unrest this past year has revealed, I feel an urgency to get on board with this ancient concept of unity and love,” Humphries said.

Planning for the future

The fellowship between the two churches did not end at VBS. Both congregations met together at Cameron Park in Waco for a July 4 celebration.

“I love those people as if they were life-long members of my own church,” Humphries said. “We have a common experience of living in the same community, and the love that is shared because of our faith creates a brotherhood that is easy to embrace.”

To further embrace the sense of community and fellowship of churches, both Park Lake and Greater Shiloh plan to connect with a Hispanic church as well.

And even though it may be challenging, the prospect of a growing partnership is exciting, Johnson said.

“I think it was a success,” Johnson said. “All parties were active and accountable, and everybody did their part. I was impressed with the effort, the love and the commitment. God was in it.”

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