It was 1996 when I met the legend Rebekah "Becky" Martin. I say legend because during my seminary days it was well known that Becky Martin had written the book on how to lead junior high ministry. Although I'm not sure she actually authored a book on the subject, it was accepted among youth ministry students that if Becky Martin did not know it, it didn't need to be known. She was considered THE expert!
It was also 1996 when Becky was asked to be LifeWay's VBS Ministry Specialist. It was also the year I first heard about training for Vacation Bible School workers. I had been volunteering and leading Bible schools for years but didn't know training was available.
At the time, I was serving as Minister of Education at Park Place Baptist Church in Houston, Texas. After hearing about VBS training I called the Union Baptist Association office in Houston to ask when and where training would be available. To my surprise the person on the other end of the phone - Sally Hinze - said, "I'm so glad you called. It was decided this morning you are going to be our new associational VBS Director."
Come to find out the previous director had moved out of the area and Sally had decided the first person to call and express interest in VBS training would be the new director. Probably not the best way to fill the position, but I didn't know how to say no, and the next thing I knew I was responsible for planning and conducting training for the largest association of churches in the Southern Baptist Convention.
I asked Sally what I was suppose to do and she said, "Conduct an Early Bird training event in February and age group training in April." Since I had no clue what was suppose to happen at an Early Bird clinic I called LifeWay with a plea for help. On the other end of the line was none other than Becky Martin.
Becky's response to my request for help was to travel to Houston and lead that first Early Bird. As we were setting up for the evening Becky said to me, "Now you watch everything I do because I will not be back." It was her way of saying she would lead the event that night, but it would be my responsibility from then on. It was mentoring at its best.
Not only did she show me how to lead an Early Bird that night, her words lit in me a flame that continues to burn today for the importance of VBS training.
Over the next 10 years Becky was my teacher, mentor, and friend - and she continues to be so today. She taught me and then gave me the opportunity to teach others. She modeled how to train, then pushed me out front to multiple that training to even more VBS leaders.
Becky enlisted me as a writer and then turned the pages red with her editorial pen. For every red mark she explained why, and in doing so transferred her passion for the church and VBS leaders - especially those from smaller membership churches.
Becky taught me, and so many others, that VBS was (and is) at it's core evangelistic. That every aspect of a VBS day should point people to Jesus Christ.
Becky taught me that relationships and helping church leaders successfully lead VBS is more important than a clean office or a 40 hour work week.
Becky taught me how to plan and lead events such as VBS Institute and VBS Preview. And then one day back in 1995, Becky called me to say she was retiring and it was time for me to take over the responsibilities of LifeWay's VBS Ministry Specialist.
While Becky had taught me much, I quickly realized there was much more about the job I did not know. Thankfully Becky continued to teach and mentor. When I would call with a question that started with "who," "when," "where," "why," or "how," Becky was quick to answer - even driving to the office a few times to walk me through a process. But when the question began with "what do you think," she would either change the subject or tell me it didn't matter what she thought, it was my ministry and my responsibility to take it in a new direction.
Becky has small feet, but her shoes are extremely big when trying to fill them. Doing so is something I have never been able to accomplish. Like Dr. Homer Grice, Rebecca Martin made a great impact on VBS - especially VBS training - and in doing so became a VBS Legend.
Thank you Becky. You are a mentor and friend extraordinaire!