Bible camp reports some very old news

Newspaper: Columbia church program focuses on reporting the good news, of millennia past.

July 26, 2002|By Donna W. Payne | Donna W. Payne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Flash. This just in from the Vacation Bible School circuit: Local church is reporting on old news - very old news.

"Sea splits in two!" "Snake bites healed!" These headlines highlight the exploits of Moses and the exodus from Egypt thousands of years ago.

Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church of Columbia sponsored a children's Bible camp this week at River Hill Meeting Room in Clarksville.

The camp's "newspaper" is the Good News Daily, a denominational publication that uses a journalistic theme and newspaper-related activities to teach campers about God and the Bible.

"Man goes through roof!" and "Fishermen net big catch!" headline stories about the miracles of Jesus.

"We always talk about the Gospel as being the good news. That's what Gospel means," said the Rev. Jeff Samelson, the church's pastor.

"And this gives a chance to really bring home to the children the news aspect of it. This is something that we don't just hear ... but that we also then report it, that we share it with people."

The daily program for the 30 or so kindergarten through fifth-grade children included story and song times, games and crafts, most with a newspaper angle.

The kids sang songs with lyrics such as: "Now here's the scoop, God made us all."

They ran relay races with newspapers, and made hats, snakes and craft storage bags out of newspapers. The crafts were a "fun way to remind them of the story," said teacher Julie Maine of Columbia.

Each day, the children received a take-home copy of the Good News Daily.

The paper had story-related activities that mirrored what one might find in a real newspaper: a weather report to be drawn by the reader, a food review game, a travel report on travel by chariot, and a daily comic strip with the characters Scoop and Snapshot.

Esther Stellwagen is the unofficial camp grandmother. The 87-year-old Columbia resident identified herself as the "cookie lady." Stellwagen baked 180 cookies, brownies and cupcakes to supply the daily snack.

"I love children," she said. "That's why I'm here."

The homemade goodies apparently impressed at least one child who told her, "My mother never makes these."

Most of the children at the camp do not attend Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, said Arnold Felix, chairman of the outreach committee.

He said the church publicized the camp through a business advertising mailer and that parents of some children were surprised that the church offered the camp for free.

"We're happy to do that service" for the community, Felix said. "And if it gives [the children] a chance to just spend a little bit of time with the Gospel, that's the main thing."

Clarksville resident Stacey Brown said she does not "belong to a specific church right now" and was especially glad that the camp was available for her daughter Katelynn Altadonna, 5.

"My daughter's just at an age where she's prone to ask questions about God, and where she came from and this kind of thing, and I thought it would be a really enriching thing for her to do," Brown said.

"She had an absolute blast the first day and has not stopped talking about it. It's been the conversation of our house ever since," Brown added.

"Every day we tell the good news," said Katelynn's teacher, Claudia Carne.

"We have good news and we don't want to keep it to ourselves. We want to share that with our community," Samelson said.

Regular worship services for Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church are at 10 a.m. Sundays at Owen Brown Community Center in Columbia. Information: 410-715-0610.

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