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For Jennifer Morris, coordinator of the 3rd Annual Praisin' in the Park community Bible school, it's about bringing churches together, watching kids make friends and seeing them get to know Jesus.
Praisin' in the Park, a free event for rising kindergartners through rising sixth graders, will be held July 25-29 in Felts Park in Galax. The community celebration will begin on Sunday, from 4-7 p.m., with a night of family activities featuring food, games, inflatables and live Christian music from local bands.
And on Monday through Thursday, from 6-8:30 p.m. each evening, the park will be filled with children laughing, playing and praising in the park.
“At the end of the event, kids leave saying they had so much fun,” said Morris, wife of pastor Mike Morris of Cornerstone Community Church in Galax. “Children have so much fun they don't even realize they're learning. It's not just sitting and listening.”
Every day, students have free dinner, participate in praise and worship time and learn lessons from the Bible.
But this year will be a little more interactive. Past events had “American Idol” and circus themes.
Children were so excited about the past Olympics that organizers have decided to tie in an Olympic theme to teach children about the armor of Jesus. Children will be divided into tribes and will compete on obstacle courses, a rock climbing wall and the bungee run and participate in opening and closing ceremonies — all while learning.
“Praisin' in the Park gives the kids something to look forward to, allows them to see their friends from school during the summer and see that people of churches love them and want them to learn, and parents see that, too,” Morris said.
Morris said Praisin' in the Park takes Bible school beyond the walls of a church and into the community. “When all these churches come together, we can do something bigger and reach out to more children. It puts all of our resources into one pot.”
Morris said organizers are hoping the event this year brings in more children. Nearly 300 registered for last year's event, and 250 the year before.
“We would love to get kids that haven't been before,” said Morris. “We just hope to grow every year.”
So many come together for this event, said Morris, noting the 100 volunteers of all ages it takes to put on Praisin' in the Park.
“People clean up, set up, teach, register. The fire department allows us to use their parking signs, local businesses make donations. It takes a lot of planning, prayer and people working together.”
Churches participating in and sponsoring the event include Cornerstone Community, Mount Vale United Methodist, Galax Pentecostal Holiness, Cliffview Church of God, First Baptist Church of Galax, First United Methodist Church of Galax and Skyview Baptist.
Parents can contact First Baptist Church of Galax at 236-5185 if children are in need of a ride to Praisin' in the Park. A bus will be picking up the children.
• For more information, to volunteer for the event or to register your child for Praisin' in the Park community Bible school, call Morris at 233-2567 or Robin Pack at 233-9277, or visit praisinpark.com. Donations to fund the event can be made payable to Mount Vale United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 625, Galax, Va.