When I think of picnics, I think of sunny summer days, warm grassy fields and plaid blankets spread with delicious food. The picnickers are playing games, swimming and soaking up each other’s company. This was just about the plan for our year-opening picnic, but the weather had other ideas. Sunday dawned cloudy and chilly, and announcements were quickly made that the ‘picnic’ would be held indoors. But even the rain found it impossible to dampen our spirits and enthusiasm.
The excited student body, their deans, and other staff members gathered in our auditorium to play ‘lawn games’ and ‘get-to-know-you’ games until the call went out that it was supper time. The decorating team had made the dining room so beautiful that we hardly recognized it as the room where we eat every day. Vases of bright flowers stood in rows all along the tables and more flowers cascaded over the walls making the room look like a florist’s shop. The big centre table was piled high with delicious food, and the dessert table was covered in pies and other goodies nestled in more flowers.
After supper, Bailey gathered everyone back into the auditorium to explain the evening’s activity to us. I knew it was going to be extraordinary, so I was excited to get our assignments. Bailey explained that she had made each staff home a ‘country’ and we were ‘missionaries to the world. She divided us into teams and gave us a bag with resources to help us complete our mission. There were clues to guide us to the different ‘countries’ and challenges that we had to do at each location. Before we ran out to “reach the world”, Bailey warned us that Christians and missionaries in the countries she had chosen experience persecution at some level, and we could expect to be questioned by authorities and even captured for our beliefs. She advised us to be as “wise as serpents and as harmless as doves”.
My team’s first clue led us to “Sudan”. The staff home that represented this country was quite a distance away from our starting location, and it took us some time to climb the hill to reach it. When we arrived, we took a moment to stop and pray for the people in Sudan who are experiencing persecution, but then we had to scatter and hide because one of the “policemen” drove up looking as though he would very much like to arrest one of our number. One of my teammates didn’t hide in time and received a very uncomfortable interrogation, but, thankfully, was allowed to go free. After completing our challenge in Sudan and taping a Bible verse to the door of the house to represent “reaching” that country, we read our next clue.
Back down the hill we trudged to “Australia”. On our way, the same policeman accosted us again and this time we lost one of our teammates. It was strange to actually lose someone in the team, and it helped me to realize how difficult and scary it must be for those serving in countries with such intense persecution. When you could be questioned or arrested at any moment, you would have to rely completely on Christ for protection and also the strength to keep going.
When we arrived at Australia, we were perplexed to find that there was no instruction sheet with our team’s number on it. We radioed Bailey asking her to come and help us figure out where we had gone wrong, but she was busy helping someone else on the other side of the campus, so we searched high and low for our paper again and then waited, talking amongst ourselves.
Finally, Bailey drove up and asked what had gone wrong. At the same time, we were approached by the ‘local’ police and questioned seriously. The discussion ended in one of our team leaders and another friend being ‘deported’ and taken to ‘jail’. Not even Bailey could stand up and save them. They took the hidden Bible verses out of their shoes and handed them to us as a parting gift. We quickly hid them to avoid them being taken by the police as well.
Bailey looked in her files and quickly discovered that we had read the clue wrong and traveled to the wrong country. We were supposed to have gone directly from “Sudan” to “Somalia”. Since that was so far away, Bailey graciously offered us a ride, so the remainder of our group piled in the back of her van and she drove us to the Somalian “border”. We got out to read the sign. It read: “In Somalia, Christians’ families can and do kill them on sight. Your challenge is to reach the door of the house without getting ‘shot’.”
We looked at each other with wide eyes. We knew this was not going to be an easy task. I looked across the border. Everything seemed peaceful. There were no people in sight and everything was quiet. I noticed a dark rain cloud coming up the valley towards us, but I was so concentrated on the task at hand that I hardly noticed the drops that started to fall as we were praying. By the time we stormed across the border, the drops had become a heavy downpour and between this, and the water balloons that were pelted at us by the staff hidden all around the house yard, we were soon soaked. We finally made it to the front door, most of us saturated, and then we jumped back into the waiting van. We had wasted so much time on the wrong clue that the allowed time for the game was almost up, and we still had many countries to visit.
Our next stop was the “USA”. Here we decorated a cake to give to one of the new staff families as a welcoming present, and then we hurried on to India and a few more countries until the police all sounded their vehicle horns simultaneously, signalling the conclusion of the activity, and we returned, dripping and cold, to the school building.
As everyone arrived back, there was so much talking and laughing happening that I could hardly hear myself. Everyone had a story they wanted to tell, an encounter with the authorities or an extra hard challenge they had had to complete. Bailey debriefed on the experience with us, and the people that had gone to ‘jail’ shared scripture songs that they had written while ‘incarcerated’. Then Mr. Dunbar gave a worship thought on our mission to reach the world, and we all went to bed tired but happy.
I enjoyed the picnic and activity because it was tons of fun as well as illustrated an important point, and in some small way I could put myself in a missionary’s shoes and understand a tiny part of what they experience. I also realized that each Christian is part of a huge team whose goal is to tell the world about Jesus and His love for us. How blessed I am to be part of that team, doing my own small bit to further the cause of Jesus!