My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings.Proverbs 4:20
What is it that shapes a child’s future and prepares him for a life of service to God? In the book of first Samuel, there is the story of a woman who when she finally was able to conceive brought her son to the priest at the temple and left him in God’s service. Today, in our western society, we do not have such a system where a mother can dedicate her child to the care of a priest. However, we employ various methods by which we seek to inculcate Christian values into our children.
Human experience has proven that exposing children to wholesome examples in life is the best teacher, so some parents and caregivers of young children are cautious to live a godly life with the expectation that living such an experience will influence their wards to live similarly. Parents are also encouraged to read Bible stories to their young children as a way of explaining right as opposed to wrong, thus reinforcing godly values in the maturing mind.
In the past churches and schools have sought to complement the moral and spiritual efforts of the parents by having Sunday school, vacation Bible School and religious and moral training. When I was a youth, my father took my siblings and Ito Church with him. We were all at one time or another involved in Sunday school and vacation Bible School.
What was it that influenced me in my childhood and propelled me on the road to be a Christian? My mother told me stories from the Bible. She repeated stories her mother had told her about heaven, good angels and evil angels. On the wall in our house hung religious pictures of Jesus, the crucifixion, Satan’s Rebellion, Jesus calming the sea, and many more. My mother took the time to explain these pictures when she had time away from her work; these stories appeal to me from an early age.
Besides, I have vivid memories of one teacher in particular who, during religious knowledge sessions, would take the whole class outside under a sizable sea grape tree. The afternoons were usually hot so the teacher would carry the entire class outside under the shade of the massive sea grape tree. There it was pleasant, breezy and at the same time a fitting atmosphere to read Bible stories. I loved this more than any other thing done in school at this tender age. Under that sea grape tree, I heard the stories of Moses, Samuel, Samson, Jesus, his miracles, his crucifixion and resurrection. Let me not neglect to mention how we memorized Psalm 23, Psalm 100, the Beatitudes, the ten commandments and other Bible verses. There is no doubt in my mind that this early exposure to the Bible helped to shape my life and my decision to be a Christian.
How much did Sunday school contribute to my spiritual and moral development? It must have helped beyond measure, although I cannot recall much of what transpired there, except for having to learn a memory verse every Sunday. There are very few verses that I learned in Sunday school that I can recite today. This impaired ability to recall maybe a feature of age rather than any fault of the lessons or the teacher. Although I can remember so little from Sunday school, I still believe that the seed planted through Sunday School have resulted in much of the spiritual fruit present in my life today.
By the time I was about seven years old, I loved colouring and reading the handouts we received at Vacation Bible School. Some of the printed material contained stories of unfamiliar persons from the Old Testament – names that were long and difficult to pronounce so I would leave out the name and try to assimilate the story. Soon after that, I started to read the Bible itself, although I did not have one of my own. My father’s Bible was always on the dressing table in his bedroom so I would peek at it from time to time until I received a copy of the New Testament from someone who came to the school and gave the students new testaments. This copy of the New Testament became my Bible at church until I bought one when I started working.
Most of my early years revolve around church and its activities. That does not mean that I never did anything sinful or foolish. All I am saying is that things of the world never had a strong pull on me. The simple way we then lived, kept me away from the glitz and glamour of this world and instead focused me on the things of God.
My father and mother worked hard to give us (the children) a modest home and lifestyle. Nine children and parents were living in a small house, but I do not remember a night we went to bed hungry or came home from school or church and did not have food on the table. My father gave to others who had a little or nothing. At his funeral, my youngest sister introduced me to a man who came to the funeral out of gratitude for what my father did for his family. The man explained to me how my father provided potatoes and other provisions for his family because they were destitute. I knew that my father was generous to others, but I had not heard of this man before then.
My mother was a diligent homemaker, catering to the needs of her husband and children. She was the peacemaker in the family, providing a godly balance to the manly nature of her husband. She loved every one of her children to whom she extended her kindness, service and much of her older years to see that her grandchildren mature into responsible young adults.
My parents were not perfect; in fact, they lacked much in terms of, knowledge of the modern world. My parents did not have the more beautiful things that money can buy, but they did the best with what they had, including the provision of good role models for their children. In their weakness, God’s strength was made perfect; he more than made up for what they lacked.
The storytelling, the teaching, the preaching, the visual presentations in vacation Bible school all had a profound impact on my life, even though they were not executed using savvy, modern technology.
If you have young children whom you want to live their lives for Christ when they reach an age of accountability, expose them to Biblical teachings and a biblical lifestyle. Keep them far from hypocrisy, weird, abusive religion and let the Holy Spirit do the remainder. ��