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What Is "Flash" VBS?


A phenomenon of our digital age is the “flash mob”.  You’ve probably already witnessed one. Your friend emails you a link to a video.  You open it, and you see a neighborhood square, a train station, a shopping mall, or even a subway car, with folks just going about their business. Then slowly, some of the people reveal themselves to be singers, dancers, and/or musicians. One by one, they join together and start a performance, seemingly spontaneously. The non-performers in the area (and you, as a video viewer) are suddenly treated to the “Hallelujah Chorus” sung by an opera company, a fully staged version of “Do-Re-Mi” from the Sound of Music, or a complete orchestra playing “Ode to Joy.”  The performance ends with thunderous applause by delighted onlookers, and you find yourself blessed.  The performers disappear into the crowd.  You’ve witnessed a flash mob, defined by Webster as “a group of people summoned to a designated location at a specified time to perform an indicated action before dispersing.”


A few years ago, the TPC Christian Education Committee was challenged by the New Beginnings’ missional emphasis on getting out into the community and meeting folks where they live.  We wondered what would happen if we presented Vacation Bible School “flash mob style.”  What if we summoned a team to show up in a local park and offer a two hour VBS to whomever was there to be blessed?  Quick set-up, quick take‑down, minimal registration, no fees, but lots of fun and fellowship, presented in the course of people’s everyday lives.  “Flash” VBS was born.


2015 was our third summer offering “Flash” VBS. Our team gathered at Prentice Park on July 24 and July 31. Those Fridays, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., we were ready to provide a VBS experience for children in preschool through 5th Grade.  This year, each week we were joined by 12-18 kids, many with their parents. Some families were on the way to visit the zoo but stopped when they saw our activities.  Many came due to TPC Evangelists Alleejah Ching-Lalande, Sheryl Ocampo and Patty Sanchez who played Pied Piper and knocked on doors in the local apartments to let kids know “VBS is starting!”  We welcomed folks whenever they arrived.


Adult and youth volunteers shared the stories of “Jesus Forgives Peter” and “The Healing of Naaman” through recreation, crafts, and marvelous puppet shows and songs presented by the TPC Puppeteers.  In addition to Alleejah, Sheryl and Patty helping to make “Flash” VBS happen, were Adrian Alcala, Jan Bauman, Antonella Cardenas, Mark Geary, Nancy Gerhard, Ryan Jeltema, and Russ Schmalenberger.  Together they furthered TPC’s missional ministry, by answering the summons to go out and bless people in the community in the midst of their everyday lives.



Puppet Ministry Is Alive and Well at Tustin Presbyterian Church

By Rachel Christopher



When I packed my puppets in a suitcase to leave Marianna, Florida, in July 2012, I never anticipated the use they would get in the next two and a half years.  None of this, of course, would have happened if Lori Ruff-Schmalenberger, the Director of Children’s Ministries, had not picked up on my casual comment that I had puppets.  The impact of her action was most evident at the Advent Celebration on Sunday, November 30, 2014.


As Lori and I began to explore the possibility of a puppet ministry at Tustin Presbyterian Church we could not find a puppet stage.  Lori, her husband, Russ, and daughter, Ruth, answered this need by making a portable puppet stage based on the plans developed by an engineer in the church we served at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.  Lori and I developed some scripts and she and Ashley Riopka recruited four young people, Kailynn Dunn, Sheryl Ocampo, Elise Webb and Jolie Webb to become our first puppeteers.  With everyone’s help we were ready by the summer of 2013 for our first presentations at the Flash Vacation Bible School at Peppertree Park.  Thus the ministry began as an outreach to the community.  Subsequently the ministry has participated in the Advent Celebration in 2013 and the Deacons’ Brunch in 2014, and we were back on the road for the Flash Vacation Bible School at Prentice Park in the summer of 2014.  During the summer of 2014 Antonella Cardenas, Alleejah Ching-Lalande and Ryan Jeltema joined the ranks of our puppeteers and, as we saw at the Advent Celebration in 2014, this gives quite a “houseful” behind our puppet stage! 


As we became aware in the late summer that we would be moving to Monte Vista Grove in Pasadena I reminded people that all of the puppets belonged to me and would be moving with me.  Subsequently Helen Boggs stepped forward and has made four people puppets for the church, Patty Sanchez has agreed to help with costumes, and Loretta Herter has already written a puppet script based on a Bible story used in Vacation Bible School this year.  Helen Boggs’ puppets made their premiere performance at the Advent Celebration on November 30.  Also included in that program were several animal puppets which Huw and I have purchased as our gift to the Tustin Presbyterian Church Puppet Ministry.


My puppets are now back in their suitcase in their new home at Monte Vista Grove Homes awaiting the next surprise that God may have for them.  While they and I will miss being part of the puppet ministry at Tustin Presbyterian Church the success of the program at the Advent Celebration, which was the most elaborate puppet program in which I have ever been involved, assures me that this puppet ministry is alive and well.  As I enjoy the puppet stage which the church so graciously presented to me, I look forward to hearing reports of great things from the puppet ministry at Tustin Presbyterian Church.  Maybe a visit to Monte Vista Grove Homes to present a program would be an appropriate way to show Tom and Carol Erickson’s friends there one of the many accomplishments of his interim work here at Tustin Presbyterian Church.  I am happy to see that this puppet ministry is alive and well and appreciate the opportunity to have been a part of it while we were in Tustin.






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