ANDOVER — Youngsters attending the Faith Lutheran Church Vacation Bible School this week are playing on some new playground equipment.

The theme of this year’s weeklong Bible school is “All Aboard the Gospel Express” and the children participating have a large wooden train and matching train depot to play in. The train was constructed by Bob Jargo in memory of his wife, Lucella, his son, Kenneth, and church member Rae Ann Naeve, all of whom died within the last couple of years.

Members of the church donated memorial funds and Jargo used the funds to purchase lumber to build the train. Jargo did all of the construction himself. The train took 350 hours to complete.

“I wanted to have it done by our fall church supper last year,” Jargo said. “I think the kids really enjoy it.”

Jargo built the train depot in memory of Dwight Johnson, who was killed last spring in a farm accident. Johnson’s wife, Sherril, said it warms her heart to see Jargo’s handiwork.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to do something for kids because he always enjoyed our kids and their friends coming over,” Johnson said. “Bob came over and suggested a depot to go with the train and I said that would be just perfect.”

Jargo and Jack Smith constructed the depot last fall and Jargo installed it at the church in October. Jargo is happy the kids have found so much enjoyment playing on the train and in the depot.

“I was just so glad I could do it,” Jargo said. He added that it means a lot to him to see the children having so much fun playing on the equipment.

Johnson said kids from all over the area come to play at the church and that some people simply driving through see the playground and stop so their children can play on the train.

“It’s not just for the church kids, it’s for all the kids in the community,” Johnson said. “It will be here for many years to come so many, many kids will get to play on it.”

Dozens of area children from age 4 to fifth grade are participating in activities this week at Bible school including crafts, games, music and classroom lessons. Program Directors Keri Holdgrafer and Kelli Parker organized activities that tie in with the theme.

Holdgrafer said the kids really enjoy the program and learn valuable lessons. She said the highlight of the program for many is to see the children carry the messages with them in the future.

“One of the best parts is watching the kids take the message to heart because you know it’s making a difference in their lives forever,” Holdgrafer said. She noted that the program would not be possible without the help of volunteers who donate their time.

“It takes a lot of people to make it all successful,” Holdgrafer said. “The credit really belongs to the people who help out with the program.”

Pastor Judy Heinrich noted the children are collecting funds to send to a housing project in Nicaragua, an area hard hit by recent hurricanes. Daily, the children bring offerings that are added to the collection. The church is accepting donations for the project in partnership with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, with 100 percent of the donations going to the project. Anyone who would like to donate to the project may send donations to the church at Box 57, Andover, IA 52701.

A closing program will be held Saturday night beginning at 6 p.m. The program will feature songs performed by the children. The kids will be showing off the crafts they make this week and a meal and fellowship will follow in the church basement.

The Vacation Bible School takes place every year during the first full week of June. The program is open to area children of any faith. There is no limit on the number of participants and there is no cost to attend.

Anyone interested in signing up for next year may contact the church anytime or watch for registration information published in local newspapers in May.

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