Go On a “Missionary Retreat”
WHAT?? Isn't an annual Missionary Conference enough?
Could it even be done with adults?
WOW! What a fantastic idea! But could it be done with adults if it could be done with a group of lively 5th and 6th graders? I'm still asking that question. Taking these kids on a 24 hour Missions retreat where they will get acquainted with what foreign missionary endeavor is all about by experiencing a simulated mission field and travel hardly sounds easy.
My excitement started (and has continued) when Jeanie Osterberg came to the Children's Missions Resource Center, asking for additional materials for the Junior Missionary Retreat she was planning. Her excitement started when she attended a Children's Pastors Conference in Denver, Colorado, sponsored by One Way Street, Inc. There she learned about the Junior Missionary Retreat Packet, published by One Way Street.
Jeanie is the Director of Children's Ministries at the Trinity Evangelical Free Church in Redlands, California. At my request she gave me a report of the Retreat plus a video. The following is a summary of her fine letter to me.
"Since the retreat gives children a chance to experience the joys and frustrations of foreign travel, we decided to go "all out" by creating an airplane! A clever fellow in our church created a "fuselage" out of PVC pipe and covered it with plastic. He even added wings and a tail, turbo-engines (standing air fans), running lights inside the aircraft and a sound system...! The kids loved it! We used chairs and TV trays for each passenger, served one of our meals 'inflight', and had a couple of college kids to act as hilarious flight attendants.
"Before each of the four 'flights', our candidates had to go through customs inspection, including a security check that actually BUZZED occasionally!
"In order to illustrate to the children God's love for them, and for the whole world, we asked members of our congregation to agree to pray for our retreat, taking 1/2 hour shifts, (this, I feel was the key to the success of the retreat/ GD) We made a display of our prayer team for the kids to see by writing each 1/2 hour prayer slot and the name of the person who was praying on a large construction paper cross. The crosses were joined together by round world maps, and the entire 24-hour-per-day prayer chain was hung on the walls of our meeting room for everyone to see. It was a joy to notice how many times the kids would grab a friend and survey the prayer chain to find out who was praying for them at the moment.
Our visiting missionaries were really the ones who made our retreat special. We 'traveled' to Russia on Friday night, where we were introduced to Russian culture, language, art and food by three men from our church who had been to Russia. On Saturday morning we boarded our plane again and flew to Kinshasa, Zaire for breakfast and a talk by a man from Mission Aviation Fellowship. Later that day we flew to Beijing, China and then Tokyo, Japan. We learned songs from different lands, and ate foods from these countries.
The Hunger Banquet, Quiet Time and final missions presentation from a woman who works with the Karen people near Burma, were deeply moving. We piled heaps of fresh and canned foods on our long banquet table, and then served the children only a small portion of rice and 1/4 cup of chicken broth. After a challenge to think about those in the world who have so much less than we do, the children were asked to go home and fast until the following morning.
Jeanie concluded, "I know the lives of the 16 boys and girls from Trinity Church who attended will never be the same. (Nor will the adults who worked on the retreat! We experienced tremendous blessing!) I wonder if there are others, all over the world, whose lives will be redeemed because of what the Lord spoke to some 5th and 6th grade younsters on that remarkable week-end. Eternity will tell.
WHAT IS A JUNIOR MISSIONARY RETREAT?
It involves taking the children away (suggestions: a church fellowship hall, a large home) for a 24 hour time of exposure to what foreign missionary endeavor is all about. Some additional objectives would be: to expose the children (preferably fifth and sixth graders) to the frustrations of living in a foreign country with a strange language, to expose them to the possible call of God on their lives in the area of missions, to help them be willing to respond to missionary work if the Lord should speak to them concerning this, and to expose them to the worldwide task of taking the gospel of Jesus to those that have never heard.
Other aspects of the "retreat" are passport applications, long walks carrying luggage, personal prayer and Bible study times, and small groups each lead by an adult doing skits, memory work, language skills, and mission study sheets.