Most kids raised in a church situation have from time to time been faced with DVBS—Daily Vacation Bible School. It usually comes for at least two weeks in the summer and came for me practically every year. However there was one year that would impact me deeply for the next 20 or so years. My mother had once again volunteered to help. I, of course, was enrolled. I never did understand why my brother never once, that I recall, attended one single summer session. Being four years older he seemed, from my point of view, to be exempt from many things. (I would find out much later at a Thanksgiving dinner that he had some pretty strong remembrances of me. Lets see he was 71 and I was 67 when he told me—but that’s another story)
Anyhow this DVBS must have been in 1944 or 45. In those days they consisted of all sorts of crafts, coloring, pasting, box lunches, and singing, which was my favorite part. This particular summer my daily teacher was a kind, sweet, white-haired lady, which I, as well as all the kids liked. She had a soft voice and seemed quite patient and respectful of us as children. About halfway through the second week we were coloring pictures which, for me, was a struggle to just stay within the lines, but I did reasonably well. I really enjoyed the Bible stories that were the basis of the coloring projects.
On this particular morning we had just heard the story of Jesus and the healing of the blind man Bartimeaus. As we were all coloring our pictures of the healing scene, our teacher would talk a little more about the story. As she talked I remember having a question, so I raised my hand, quite innocently. She recognized me and asked what my question was; I then excitedly asked where Jesus might still be doing that. I thought I would really like to see that, and I hadn’t seen that happen at our church. I quickly continued asking and saying at the same time if we all couldn’t go this week and see it. The rest of the kids in the class picked up on it to and all chimed in agreeing that that would be a great field trip. As we all began to talk and speculate, our teacher tried to get some order back in the class. When she finally regained some semblance of order she said, primarily to me, but also to the rest of the class; she said it in the kindest “gray-haired” way, “Tommy, Jesus doesn’t do things like that anymore, and we now have doctors!” In that moment sadness bordering on instant tears overwhelmed me. I felt so sorry for Jesus and His father, God. Did she mean that doctors replaced God and Jesus? I was too sad to ask any more questions. I couldn’t speak. I was so sorry that God and Jesus didn’t do things like that anymore.
I don’t think that my teacher had any idea how her answer had effected me and, perhaps, others. I only know that it would be another 20 or so years before I would ever believe in God again. I would continue to attend church with my family, be involved in youth group, sing in the choirs, etc. But my belief that there was “really a God of power, miracles, and love, who could be known and with whom you could have a relationship” died that day. It would take some very cataclysmic events to open the door to once again hoping there really was a God and that He was like Jesus and could be known.
In retrospect I am now fairly sure that that sweet woman had no idea the impact her words were to have on me. I have long since forgiven her and any collateral damage that may have taken place that sunny, morning on a day of Daily Vacation Bible School.