I’m so glad to have the honor of writing about my good friend, Jeff Slaughter. As many of you have heard, or perhaps you read the blog post here on December 1, VBS 2012 will be the last VBS with Jeff as our songwriter. Jeff and I began working together when LifeWay’s VBS was redesigned in 1996. Our first project was VBS 1997: The Wild and Wonderful Good News Stampede™. It was Jeff who suggested that we provide choreography videos for our customers. So, we began to produce those with VBS 1999: Mt. Extreme™. We’ve come a long way since then! When our budget would allow, we were able to shoot the choreography segments on location along with the video dramas. My favorite on-location shoot was in Israel in 2008. We shot the songs for Club VBS: Truth Trek™ and the ballad for VBS 2012: Boomerang Express™ (“Because”).
We also had the great fortune of shooting the ABCs of Becoming a Christian segment at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem. Very, very special.
Since the December 1 blog post shared about Jeff's great work with our team, I thought it would be fun to let Jeff do the talking this time. So, we sat down for lunch and I asked him the following questions.
Me: What was your favorite VBS theme?
Jeff: Boomerang Express™. First of all, I got to travel to Australia! And we shot the ballad in Israel . . . in front of the Garden Tomb. I loved that the biblical content was about a relationship with Jesus and about Peter’s relationship with Him. I think it’s great that LifeWay’s VBS is all about helping kids know how to become Christians, but I especially liked that this one focused on showing kids how to go beyond that and build a friendship with Jesus.
Me: What was the most challenging song to write?
Jeff: “We Believe” (VBS 2005: Ramblin’ Road Trip™). My daddy passed away in March of '03 and later that same year we began working on Ramblin' Road. I couldn’t write though. Since he'd passed away, I hadn't written anything and I just felt stifled. I couldn't find that creative place anymore. I didn’t know how to begin. Then, I heard the Lord say to me, “Go back to the basics. What do you believe about me? If you could put the most important things you believe about me in a song, what would you write?" As I began to focus on the truths about Him that I had learned throughout my life I could feel Him gently leading me back to that sweet place of creativity. I went to the piano and began to play for the Lord . . . pouring out my sadness as I pressed into the keys. Memories of His faithfulness and love flooded my mind . . . along with memories of things my daddy had taught me about the Lord. All of a sudden I began playing the opening melody of "We Believe." As soon as I heard it, I began to cry. I wrote the rest of the song in about 30 minutes . . . crying the whole time. "We Believe" went on to become the first VBS song to cross over into the church as an adult choir anthem. It was one of the most challenging to write, but it will always be one of my favorites!
Me: What’s a favorite video shoot memory?
Jeff: The trip to Israel. Habakkuk 2:2-3 was Scripture that meant so much to me as a child and as a teenager. I know some people have heard me tell the story about being an outcast at school because I was overweight, I wore funny glasses, and I was in the band. But, that Scripture helped me know that God had a plan for me, and it would be revealed to me in His time. When we were in Israel, some of the crew and I got to visit The Shrine of the Book. [That’s where the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed.] We all were walking around on our own, looking at everything. I stopped to read an ancient manuscript that was on display. I couldn’t believe it! It was an original handwritten manuscript of Habakkuk chapter 2! When I shared it with you, you told me that this particular exhibit was on display only that year in celebration of Israel’s 60th anniversary! It was amazing.
Me: I remember that. It was amazing. That was a great experience.
Me: Is the rumor true that you’re a good cook?
Jeff: Yes! I am a good cook!
Me: Any dishes you’re known for?
Jeff: One time I fixed this dish called “Pistachio Crusted Chicken with Coconut Ginger Chili Sauce.” It was awesome!
Me: Tell us where kids can connect with you at CentriKid camps this summer.
Jeff: I’ll be at Lee University and at Ridgecrest Conference Center. You can find the dates on my web page: http://www.jeffslaughter.com/. Camp has been such a vital part of my life for 26 years and I still love it! I'm looking forward to seeing everybody and seeing what the Lord has in store for us!