A Biblical experience for the summer

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 15, 2005

For about nine months of every year, Suffolk’s schoolkids learn all about history, math, science, English and other subjects. When they head to the city’s many vacation Bible school classes during the summer, however, they learn about something – and Someone – a little different.

&uot;It’s hard to think about not coming,&uot; says Rebecca Warren, 13, during a break in the learning at Holland Baptist Church on Holland Road, which started its camp Sunday. &uot;I love it so much. I feel like it’s something I’m supposed to do. I’ve learned that you can always come to God. If I need Him, He’ll always be there to watch over me.&uot;

Across Suffolk, hundreds of local youths take time out of their busy summers to explore their own spirituality. Every morning, the Tabernacle Life Center becomes a hub of religious activity.

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&uot;The kids are here from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.,&uot; said the Rev. Sarah Williams, preparing to battle a charge in a game of ping-pong. &uot;They study English, math and the Bible in the morning, and have recreation in the afternoon. They do art, play video games and read. They have lunch, and then they have a praise and worship session. They watch Christian videos, and we play a game of Bingo that helps them identify the books of the Bible.&uot;

Nearby, counseling supervisor Latoya Whitaker and her assistants help campers with their lessons, whizzing through math flashcards.

&uot;(Counseling) is like being a parent,&uot; says Whitaker, a graduate of Nansemond River High School and future enrollee at Norfolk State University. &uot;It’s showing me responsibility, like how to act and what to do and not to do in front of certain people.&uot;

After a tough mental workout, Victoria Peterson takes a break to work with Play-Doh.

&uot;It’s very fun and active,&uot; says the nine-year-old. &uot;I like doing math, because I like to answer questions. I think this will keep me good for school.&uot;

Watching his friends play a video game, Jordan Sykes seemed to feel better already.

&uot;I’ve learned about different part of the Lord’s life,&uot; he says, spying a Bible on a nearby table. &uot;I learned that he died on the cross to remove our sins.&uot;

Over at Holland, roughly 75 children have been learning the same lessons all week.

&uot;I’ve been coming ever since I was three,&uot; says Karly Barnes, putting together a small craft. &uot;I’ve learned to believe in Jesus, and to thank the people who have given me things, like my pool and my big bed and my house to live in.&uot;

Three hours a night, the kids filter through the church in cycles of action. While some are outside at recreation, others put together arts and crafts. While one group sits in the pews, practicing the singing performance they’ll show their parents and friends tonight, others head upstairs to watch some adults portray stories from the Book.

&uot;I like singing,&uot; says Chelsea Wilson, 9. &uot;It’s fun, but I think it’s going to be embarrassing, because it’s going to be my first time singing in front of people.&uot;

On Wednesday evening, a few counselors acted out the story in the Bible when Jesus healed lepers outside Jerusalem.

&uot;I’ve heard stories from the Bible that I never knew before,&uot; says Megan Dunn, 14. &uot;It helps us all learn more about God.&uot;