I have just spent two days at the International Mission Centre, part of BMS world mission, a fantastic resource in Birmingham.
Both days had different emphasises. One with the Action Teams who are preparing to serve short term overseas and the other day with those preparing to serve overseas long term. I enjoyed giving the teaching but it was the application of the teaching that seemed to bring out the greatest enthusiasm in those I taught. Its not that I think my teaching lacked any pazzazz and fun; it’s just that in the going and doing I saw something connect in them to the reality of how good the good news actually is!
After an hour or so teaching I set the challenges to five different teams to connect their faith with those around them in ways that people could understand. The first task was to choose signs, such as ‘free hug’ or ‘I will listen.’ The second task was to take a tray and buy something that they could then give away! This ranged from ice creams to sweets to lollies to cold drinks. Some people who they offered free things to asked why. The teams gently gave some reasons:
“we want you to know you are loved.”
” we want to share our faith about a free gift.” etc etc
The third task for the younger action teams was to go and place a bet in a betting shop. We then reflected upon their experience back at base and began to think of how their bewildering experience may be similar to how some people must think and feel when attending a Church service for the first time.
For those preparing for long term oversees work I gave them the task of treasure hunting; asking God for clues and them they searched for the people in their clues. The only downfall was not having enough time to have a proper go at Treasure hunting. It became slightly rushed!
The feedback afterwards showed that while most of the people I taught thought that they couldn’t show their faith on the streets they all managed to quite easily. One lady shared her experience of praying with a complete stranger, the first time it had happened. Others spoke aboit how surprised they were when people came up to them to ask what they were doing. They gave the reason for their wacky signs and gifts.
But above all the challenges there was one experience that showed me how important it is that Christians are prepared to share their faith. A lady was wondering around the city and noticed two of the students with a free hug sign. She asked them if it was ‘for real.’ They hugged her and the woman began to pour out her painful story. An hour later without any of the challenges done they were still sitting on the pavement together talking and praying. This lady was desperate to talk and in her despair had cried out to God to do something- and she found two nervous students offering free hugs and willing to bring life giving good news to any who were willing to receive it.