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!

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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.

2 thoughts on “Learning through doing

  1. I went on a different kind of treasure hunt yesterday. i was thinking though how to express certain concepts on a video. I thought that I needed to gather a variety of different types of balls. I came back with a collection of strange items that were a very similar shade of yellow. I have 2 circular tea light holders. They were on the reduced shelf but even the checkout operator could not believe the reduction i.e once £2 now 10p. I have spherical pet toy with lumps on the outside that has lost its sqeak. I had the nerve tto ask for a deal at the till and the assistant knocked 25% off because no one else would want a sqeakless pet toy. I also have a bouncy ball. All of them are similar sizes and if I hunted around for weeks I could not make them match better. It took me little more than an hour to find these treasures together with doing other shopping in a small sad town few people have heard. of called Newton Aycliffe Sad town because it was struggling with some shops closing 6 years ago long before other shopping centres statred felt the pinch When you walk past 6 empty shops in a row it is a sad town. It does not help that the unemployment rate for men is over 8% in that area. Any wonder my heart is to point people to the economic plans of God rather than just loving them to him. Enable enough people to follow God’s plans for their finances it will change the area.

  2. Here is the link from BMS world mission about the experience:

    The text of the article is here:

    Evangelism challenge

    BMS World Mission sends mission workers in training out onto Birmingham’s streets.

    Free hugs, prayer for strangers and time in a betting shop were all part of two days’ of evangelism training undertaken by mission trainees in Birmingham.

    The day of training was led by Chris Duffett, founder of the Light Project and President Elect of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, and attempted by BMS long-term and mid-term mission trainees and gap year students who are part of the BMS Action Team programme.
    The two groups were given slightly different training on separate days, but the overarching purpose, according to Team Leader at the BMS training centre in Birmingham, Mat Wilson, was “to begin to experience what it is like to be proactive, courageous and creative” in reaching out to people.
    Both groups were instructed to stand in small groups in a busy shopping area holding up signs saying ‘free hugs’, ‘looking for a miracle?’ or ‘do you need peace?’ They were also instructed to spend £3 on items they could give away for free to passers-by.
    Conversations developed when people were hugged, when jelly-babies, flowers and chocolates were handed out and when some people asked for prayer or shared burdens with the trainees. “The aim of the day had been to help people become more confident in sharing their faith,” says Mat. “It was incredible to witness and be a part of a day when sharing Jesus became real and not just a theory to talk about in a lecture room or church hall. I think it achieved its aim.”
    The third task, for both groups, was more challenging. Trainees for long-term mission were asked to spend time praying for someone they were to meet later, writing down who they thought the person would be and what God would have the trainees say to them. Action Teamers were asked to step out of their comfort zones and place a £2 bet in a betting shop so as to give them an experience that was utterly new and to give them an insight into how strange a church environment might be to someone who had never experienced it before.

    “I felt really uncomfortable,” says Becca, one of the young people given the task. “The woman just laughed at me, because I didn’t know what I was doing. It helped me to understand how people might feel about going into church for the first time.”

    Dexter, another Action Teamer who had been sceptical about the tasks at first, said the day had been both “fun” and “a strange experience” in the end. “It made me feel a bit more open to new ideas and up for the challenge of sharing my faith in an overseas context.”

    “It helped them think outside the box a little bit,” says Ben Drabble, BMS Mission Teams Organiser who works closely with Action Teams. “I think it changed the way many of the Action Teamers thought about evangelism and it gave them an increased confidence in being able to talk to strangers about their faith.”
    All of the trainees were surprised by how much of a positive response they received. “We all realised that people are more open to hearing the message of Jesus that we think,” says Mat Wilson. “People are thirsty for the love of God and maybe it is we, as Christians, who build up the walls and barriers to sharing faith rather than those on our streets.”

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