KEY WEST (FBW)—For most of Bim Boza’s life, June and July have revolved around Vacation Bible Schools. In July, she will head up a team from Key West’s Fifth Street Baptist Church on its 23rd annual VBS mission trip.
On June 16—a date between Fifth Street Baptist’s VBS in Key West and its mission VBS in Clermont—the church honored Boza for her leadership in missions. She was presented a quilt, fashioned by her pastor’s wife, Nancy Vater, from VBS logo t-shirts through the years.
“That was such a surprise,” Boza exclaimed in a lilting voice. “All of those shirts we’ve worn on trips. Of course, some trips we made were before LifeWay sold shirts.”
Vater, who said she quilts “when I have time,” backed the t-shirts with white cotton, added batting and sewed each one to the quilt back. The logo shirt pieces didn’t work out evenly, so she used both the front of the Big Apple Adventure shirt and the back that reads “I love VBS.”
The quilt became the centerpiece of the service dedicating Fifth Street Baptist’s VBS mission team to the Lord. It also honored 74-year-old Boza for her dedication to VBS.
By the time high school friends shortened Belinda Sims’ name to “Bim,” she was already a veteran VBS teacher at First Baptist Church in New Port Richey. She was part of a “mission-loving family,” that was always busy in church, she said. Bim and her sister, Lauzanne Casson, with their husbands Ed and Walt, have continued the pattern by taking international missions trips together.
Bim and Ed Boza, a “fourth generation Conch,” according to his wife, have been married and have served in Fifth Street Baptist Church for 50 years. They are “backbones” at Fifth Street Baptist, according to Pastor Ozzie Vater.
“They have served this church extremely well and sacrificially for most if not all of its existence. Our church would not be what it is without their love and dedication that spontaneously flows out of their personal love and commitment to Jesus Christ,” he said.
Bim Boza, a retired teacher and counselor in Key West public schools, has worked in VBS every summer of their marriage, and she carefully instilled in her daughter, Vista Stewart, the importance of missions. Now the Bozas drive to Baton Rouge, La., every May to get their granddaughters Brie, 14, and Lea, 10, to spend the summers in Key West. The girls have been going on mission trips since each turned four.
The Bozas are not alone in adding generations to Fifth Street Baptist’s mission teams. Extended families, with an age range of 2-97, have participated in Vacation Bible Schools in Florida and in faraway places like Montana, Maine and Utah. The church mission committee, which Bim Boza chairs, chooses mission destinations on a long-established pattern of alternating staying in Florida and going to another state.
“We bring in more young people every year, but we have to have the ‘oldie-goldies,’ too. It takes both,” Boza said. “Our children go to VBS classes here, but on mission they teach with adults.”
Every February, during the banquet honoring mission organizations in the “fully missionized church,” Boza announces the location of the summer mission VBS. The entire church launches into preparations, she said. Pastor Vater begins research into the location’s needs. Prayers for the destination church and the upcoming VBS begin, and team members are paired with prayer partners in the church where they will work. Fifth Street Baptist members who cannot go on mission plan to help pay the way for those who can go. VBS materials—enough for both Vacation Bible Schools—are ordered, and a scouting trip in June finalizes details of the trip.
“We don’t just jump into anything. It takes a lot of prayer—that’s why the preparations take so long. God leads us where He wants us to go,” Boza said. “We always plan on doing VBS, but God has other things for us to do, too. Sometimes it’s construction or canvassing. Sometimes it’s mostly encouragement.”
On Fifth Street Baptist’s first VBS mission trip to Billings, Montana, in 1990, the group arrived to work in a new church, but found that its building was not yet completed. The group slept and ate in another church and led VBS on the new church site while construction continued.
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