By Dan Carpenter
Wylie Growl Contributor
When the Wylie Baptist Church Vacation Bible School kicked off June 6, a familiar face was back to volunteer.
90-year-old Marcus Fenner, a member of the church, has volunteered to help with VBS for several years, most often as a “shopkeeper” in the marketplace.
Marilyn Swilling, children’s director at Wylie and “chief” of the VBS, said Fenner’s presence is very special.
“Mr. Fenner is so loving with the kids, and they love coming by his shop, sitting in his lap, and giving – and getting hugs,” said Swilling, who noted she appreciates his willingness to be part of the activities each year. “His willingness to help out adds something unique, because, even at his age, he reinforces what we’re doing at VBS, and encourages the kids to learn about – and tell others about – Jesus.”
Fenner, a World War II veteran who served in Guam with the Navy Seabees, said he always enjoys his time at the Wylie Baptist VBS and looks forward to it each year.
“I love coming here and being a part of VBS,” said Fenner, who calls the kids “little dears.” “I get just as much from them as they get from me, and in fact, I often get more from them. They are so sweet and they know how to give love unconditionally.”
Fenner said the kids always seek him out and love coming by his shop.
“It doesn’t seem to matter what we’re making,” he said. “They always come over and drop their coins in my basket, give me a hug or sit on my lap, and let me love on them for a minute.”
Donny Harbers, Wylie’s senior pastor, said Fenner – and a host of other senior adults from the church – make a huge difference every year by volunteering to help with VBS.
“Marcus and our other senior adults fill vital roles in VBS each year,” Harbers said. “From shopkeepers to family leaders and food preparers, we could not do what we do each year; we are very thankful for Marcus and everyone else who digs in and makes our VBS successful.”
This year’s VBS at Wylie Baptist saw more than 150 kids spend four days learning about Joseph from the Old Testament and the story of his time in prison, time in Pharaoh’s palace and reconciliation with brothers who sold him into slavery.
“The Bible stories are timeless,” Fenner said. “Each year, Marilyn and her team do a great job of putting together a VBS that not only teaches the kids an important lesson, but also teaches them the importance of having a relationship with Jesus and telling others about His love.”
Fenner’s daughter, Kristie Knight Carpenter, said that even though her dad is battling Alzheimer’s disease, he is very present with the children and loves seeing them each year at VBS.
“Dad always tells me how much he loves being a part of VBS,” she said. “He may have trouble remembering things now and again, but he is very much in the moment with the kids, has a great time loving on them and encouraging them in their walk with the Lord.”
In addition to serving in World War II, Fenner also worked for more than 35 years with the El Paso Natural Gas Company, retiring in 1983.
“I’ve outlived all of my kin, and I’m thankful for each day,” he said. “I’m shooting for 100 (years old), and live each day the best I can.”
Fenner told Rick Grant, associate pastor at Wylie, that he looked forward to being around next year for VBS.
“We’ll save a spot for you,” Grant told Fenner. “We love having you here.”