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Hilmar Covenant Church sets the scene for Vacation Bible School
Vacation Bible School pic1
Hilmar Covenant Church member Mike Schulze stands next to the 17-foot Madagascar barrel tree he built for the church's Amazon-themed Vacation Bible School.



Monte Vista Chapel

When: June 16-20

Where: Dale Pinkey Park, Cherry Blossom Lane and Arthur Mace Drive

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.


Sunnyview Park, 500 South Berkeley

6:30 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.

Families can register the day of or call Pam Warda at 634-4935 for more information.



Turlock Seventh Day Adventist Church

When: July 28 - Aug. 1

Where: Seventh Day Adventist Church, 2400 North Olive Avenue

Times: 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Who: Ages 4 and older

Those interested can attend the first day to register. There is no cost.


The Rock Church of Turlock

When: June 17 -21

Where: Walnut Elementary School Cafeteria, 4219 N. Walnut Rd.

Times: 6 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.

Who: Children 4 years old through 6th grade

Cost: $10 per child. Families with more than three children only pay $30.

Call 620-6145 for more information and registration details.


Our Lady of the Assumption

When: June 23-27

Where: 2602 N. Walnut Rd., Turlock

Times: 5:30 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.

Register by June 23 by calling 277-5239.


Anyone who steps inside the gym at Hilmar Covenant Church this week will likely think that they have left California farmland for the Amazon. There is a 17-foot tree located on the stage, which is just one fixture of the makeover that the church has undergone for its Vacation Bible School.

While school is out and summer break has begun, June marks the beginning of Vacation Bible School season where local churches provide children a weeklong course on Bible basics. This week Vacation Bible School students at Hilmar Covenant Church are being treated to a unique experience through their Weird Animals curriculum. The curriculum is utilized by many churches to teach students about the nonjudgmental nature of Christ’s love and provides many ready-made decorations, as well as suggests churches to provide a basic set for a Madagascar barrel tree. However, this year church member and local artist Mike Schulze has taken the simple set instructions to a new level.

“Simple is not Mike Schulze’s style,” said Children's Ministry Director Sarah Barton.

Schulze gathered repurposed material to create the Madagascar tree, such as an abandoned 11-foot water tank he and his son Luke spotted and hauled in from Claus Dairy for the tree trunk. With the base in place, Schulze got creative with repurposed material such as chicken wire, paper mache and paint to create the 16-foot branches and leaves, which are strong enough for the children to swing from. The back of the trunk also boasts a door within which children can enter and climb up the trunk to perform a puppet show. Between the tree and the hand painted mural that serves as a backdrop across the 32-foot stage, Schulze was able to create the set with the help of his son in just about three weeks.

 “I’ve always enjoyed doing things like this. I’ve done summer camp painting backdrops; I’ve done murals and walls for people. It’s just interesting to see what comes out of the head,” said Schulze. “My favorite part is getting my creative juices flowing. The job I have I’ve been doing for 24 years, so when I can do something like this it’s really exciting for me.”

While many locals have been impressed with the set they are not surprised with Schulze’s ability as many are accustomed to his outlandish Christmas decorations which draw spectators from all over to his yard each year. While Schulze has enjoyed “monkeying around” to create the set for the children, Barton and the church community are appreciative of not only his ability but his willingness to share his craft, a testament to the church’s vision.

“We believe in passing down faith from generation to generation and we want to do that in a way that is as exciting, wonderful, and colorful as the faith itself. We have a group of fantastic people that share this vision and are willing to pour their passion into this one week, for the children in our community,” said Barton.