Garrett Hinson has been part of Vacation Bible School (VBS) at Salem Baptist Church in Apex for as long as he can remember. His elementary school days were spent singing the VBS songs and participating in the skits. As he grew, Hinson’s involvement in the program grew too.
“I love VBS! My experience didn’t affect me right away. Later on, the silly songs, Bible stories and presentation of the Gospel message went from head knowledge to heart knowledge,” said Hinson.
Salem Baptist Church began offering VBS in the 1940s as an outreach summer program for elementary students. Although the program costs approximately $7,000 to run, the church doesn’t charge participants a fee. The program now includes morning and evening sessions as well as Vacation Bible Awesomeness (VBA) for students in grades six through 12.
The evening VBA program had the most impact on Hinson because it helped him prepare for the Youth Group summer camp experience at Fort Caswell on Oak Island, N.C. “VBA helped me get things right with God, and then I could focus on the camp program,” said Hinson, now 19 years old and assistant to the Pastor of Music and Worship.
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Justin Carmona, Pastor of Student Ministries at Salem Baptist, began the VBA program in 2007 to give older students something meaningful to do. The first year, VBA drew about 35 participants. Last year, more than 130 middle- and high-school students attended.
A typical night of VBA includes large group games. Some are high energy, and others are calmer team-building activities. Small groups led by members of the senior class follow the large group activities. Hinson helped lead the group activities when he was a senior in high school.
“It is always great to have Christian examples for our students to look up to and Garrett provided that throughout his time in our student ministry,” said Carmona, who created the “Walk Boldly” VBA curriculum with his wife.
This year the Justin Teseniar Band will perform praise and worship for VBA. “Justin is a great worship leader and he and his band are great friends of the student ministry here at Salem and we are so excited to have them come and be a part of VBA this summer,” said Carmona.
The Durham-based band was recently on tour with MercyMe and has an EP, “Departing from Normal,” available on iTunes.