I was asked to teach a series of lessons on missions and missionaries to 3rd and 4th Graders. To introduce the series, I wanted to do a mini-version of a mission's experience that I participated in during my time of working in the Missions Department in college.
The purpose of the experience was to show a little of what goes into being a foreign missionary (on a very, very simple scale). I wanted to show them that it wasn't as easy as it sounded.
I divided the children into two groups. Group 1 was the missionaries from America sent to reach the native people of Waggly. Group 2 was the Wagglies.
I separated the two groups and secretly gave each a set of instructions that the other group could not know about until the experience was over. The missionaries were instructed to learn about the culture and teach the Wagglies the entire story of the Good Samaritan. (Fortunately for them, English is the national language in Waggly.)
The Wagglies were given instructions on how to behave which included some odd customs. These natives would only listen to people who followed all their customs.
For instructions to both groups, click here.
The evening went very well. Some "missionaries" picked up on some of the Waggly customs very quickly while others never figured out any of the strange customs. Some missionaries learned enough of the customs and befriended some Wagglies to the point of beginning to tell the story of the Good Samaritan but none were able to make it all the way through the story as instructed.
We brought the two groups back together and discussed the instructions that each group was given. Then we discussed what it was like to be the missionary. All of them said it was much harder than they thought it would be. Learning the odd customs was their first challenge. Then when they thought they had learned the customs, they began telling the Bible story and the Wagglies ran off. The missionaries never could figure out why that happened. (See instructions for the Wagglies for details.)
They also said that when they were trying to reach the Wagglies on their own, they became discouraged quickly. But when some friends were able to come alongside them after learning some of the customs, they felt like they could work together to reach these people.
Though this is an extremely simplified version of what it can be like to be a missionary, the children were more sympathetic and more mindful of the current missionaries we are supporting. They were even more anxious to hear from many of the people in our congregation who are or have been missionaries and who would be presenting real life missions experiences in Bible class over the next few weeks.
In the end, several decided they would like to be foreign missionaries when they grow up and others said it changed the way they pray for the missionaries we have and will have in the future.
All in all, it served as a great opening lesson to our series on missions!