Vacation Bible School
What exactly is VBS at Whirlwind Mission in Watonga, OK?
Cemetery north of Whirlwind Mission
& school – Faye, OK
The youth group of All Saints’ – Duncan (including myself) began a relationship with Whirlwind Mission in the summer of 1995 to establish a Vacation Bible School (for toddlers in diapers to 8th graders) at the mission. It has grown and changed over the years since, but the basic offering has remained the same. The best I can succinctly describe it is part St Crispin’s summer camp and part cross-cultural exchange with the Holy Spirit infused throughout it all.
This summer (May 28 - May 31) members of the Saint Andrew's community have the opportunity to partner with Whirlwind Mission of the Holy Family - Watonga and Saint Paul's - Clinton (go southwest convocation!). I can't wait for the opportunity to share this experience with youth and adults alike here at St. Andrew's.
In hopeful anticipation,
Oakerhater Center in Watonga, OK -
gathering place for Whirlwind Mission of the Holy Family
Below is an article and pictures from St John’s Evangel (Norman) who previously partnered in recent years. It shares a little about the experience of gathering at the Oakerhater Episcopal Center, located on 12 acres at the eastern edge of Watonga, OK. This center is also home to Whirlwind Mission of the Holy Family, a Cheyenne and Arapaho mission congregation.
A Youth reflecting on time at Whirlwind Mission VBS 2019 in Saint John’s Evangel Newsletter
Last month, youth members, fledglings, and adult volunteers from St. John’s hosted a Vacation Bible School at the Whirlwind Mission in Watonga, OK. This tradition, which is more than two decades old, offers an opportunity to be in community with both familiar and unfamiliar faces near the location of the original Whirlwind Mission, where Saint David Pendleton Oakerhater served as a deacon. Excited volunteers headed west on I-40 to Watonga in cars packed with crafts, snacks, guitars, and enthusiasm for the week ahead.
Upon arrival, we waited and watched from the front porch of the Whirlwind Mission in Watonga as storm clouds swelled and swirled just to the east. Blaine county warnings pinged in rapid succession on our phones as we watched the sky from the safe side of
the dry line. Ironically, this year’s VBS had a weather theme of rain, wind, and sun. The rest of the evening was spent in preparation for the coming days. Each volunteer, no matter how young or old, filled an important role in the culmination of VBS.
Each morning began with the church van cruising around town picking up excited children. Some children directed us to additional apartments and homes to retrieve friends and cousins. As the crowd gathered at the mission, kids engaged in outdoor playtime with volunteers. The grounds were a flurry of activity with the younger kids gleefully swinging and the older kids playing kickball. The morning program offered stories, crafts, music and singing, and celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Kitchen volunteers prepared nourishing lunches for all. Each day ended with another round of outdoor playtime, goodbyes, and the church van returning kids to their loved ones. On Friday, the campers got the special treat of having afternoon waterplay complete with inflatable waterslides.
During the evenings, volunteers enjoyed both rest time and excursions.
One annual tradition includes visiting Saint David Pendleton Oakerhater’s grave on the edge of town while recounting the story of his life and ministry. This year, we were fortunate to have helpers join us from Clinton, OK, Duncan, OK, and Lawrence, KS to round out our team of volunteers. Many volunteers have been able to watch
children from Watonga grow up over the years. Some from St. John’s have
watched their own children mature in Whirlwind the context of Watonga over the years,
shifting from toddling participants into helpers. It is always joyous to rekindle friendships and catch up with little ones as they gradually become not-so-little anymore. We look forward to continuing this tradition in the future.
Campers enjoy making crafts at the church.
The Rev'd Stephanie Jenkins of Lawrence, KS leads Eucharist as Emma Brown places guitar.
Campers line up for a turn on the water slide.
Fr Dwight recounts the story of Saint David Pendleton Oakerhater's life and ministry as volunteers gather around his resting place.