Phill Kliewer spent the summer giving impoverished kids what he called vacation Bible school on steroids.


Phill Kliewer spent the summer giving impoverished kids what he called vacation Bible school on steroids.

Kliewer, 20, of Newton was one of 45 young men involved in the Neighborhood Bible Time project.

Kliewer, a member of Meridian Baptist Church in Newton, traveled across the United States using high-spirited songs, storytelling and magic tricks to help teach the children about the value of parents, patriotism and God.

“It was amazing to be with a kid from a rough background and knowing you are going to leave him with the Gospel and teaching him to trust (the Lord) as their personal savior.”

The project was started 56 years ago by Charles B. Homsher in the slums of Denver, Colo., to bring the Gospel to children living in poverty.

Kliewer, a student at Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C., said he wanted to spend his summer with a ministerial assignment that would give him experience as an evangelist.

He hopes to earn his degree in Bible evangelism with a minor in music and then seek a master’s degree in Bible theology.

“I feel called to the ministry. I want to be an evangelist and travel,” he said. “I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to develop the skills and talents God has given me.”

The young men served a tough schedule, spending eight weeks on the road. They spent six days at each location and traveled on Saturdays.

In that eight weeks, Kliewer spent time in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Colorado, Illinois and South Dakota.

Kliewer was often up at 6 a.m., and his head didn’t hit the pillow until 11 p.m.

About 90 children enrolled in each week-long session, which was broken into first- through sixth- graders, which Kliewer worked with, and teens.

But Kliewer said as he settled in, each stop on his journey was important. Each group of children showed him some kind of hope for the future.

“Each place was special,” he said. ... “Each week it kept getting better. You poured your whole life into that week.”

Kliewer is taking time off to work and earn money for college before returning to Bob Jones to finish his degree, but he said he learned from his summer experience and is passionate about pursuing the ministry.

“I learned a lot about the practice and in and outs of daily ministry as a pastor or evangelist and dealing with people and trying to help them,” he said.