By Julie M. Lucas
NAS Jacksonville Public Affairs

Youths aboard Naval Air Station Jacksonville learned that Jesus is the light of the world during a cave-themed vacation bible school at the NAS Jax chapel July 18-22. Around 60 youths ages 5-12 participated in the activities.

"We are all so happy you came to join in the fun with us this week," said Lt. Kyron Bell, Navy chaplain, who greeted the attendees and lead them in singing "Father Abraham" during the opening of the first day.

Every day attendees began the day and ended the day singing songs, with American Sign Language choreographed to them. Vanessa Pence learned all the songs before the week and designed the signs to correlate to them. Pence has helped out with vacation bible school for the past 14 years aboard NAS Jacksonville.

"I originally learned sign language to help communicate with a teammate I played sports with in high school," Pence said. "I like to teach the kids to use sign language because I think it helps them engage with the music and it is something they could maybe use later."

The children were split into groups by age and had activities from crafts to music at different times during the day. Around 30 volunteers assisted during the week from helping to get the lunches together to teaching the classes. 

This year's theme of the week was "Cave Quest: Following Jesus the Light of the World." Songs, crafts and other activities focused on a cave theme with various creatures found in a cave. The first day attendees were given light-up headlamps. The crafts ranged from lizards with biblical verses and daily journals. The first day's verse was "Prophets foretell the light of the world," John 1:1-13. Discussion in the 11-12 years classroom was centered around John the Baptist. 

"Who in here would like locust and honey for lunch?" asked class leader Fred Cole. 

Hope, courage, direction, love and power were daily themes for discussion. The second day of lessons was about Peter walking on water. Attendees were kept busy but still have time to play games and make friends.

"My favorite part of this week was doing the projects within my classroom," said Corwin Mires, age 10.

A special program was held at the end of the week with songs that were learned at the bible school and parents were invited to attend.