Missionaries Share Real-Life Stories with ChildrenThe Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists begins educating children about missionary work at an early age.
If a dog helps a missionary will she be a “missionary dog”? Can a child help homeless people? How can children pray for missionaries? Are missionaries ever afraid?
Mary Bryant introduces Cookie the “missionary dog.”
Children who attended the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists’ (CCSB) convention meetings in Prince Edward Island this past summer (2008) learned the answers to these questions.
Each year when families attend the annual convention the adults are in meetings while their children connect with others in the kids’ program. They enjoy crafts, Bible stories, snacks and outdoor play times. A special feature of these classes is when guest missionaries arrive to share their stories.
Mary Bryant shared her story. She and her husband Stafford drove their RV (their “home on wheels” for six to eight months each year) across Canada this past summer.
Dwight Huffman, the CCSB Start Team leader, and the Bryants explore and prayerwalk towns and cities from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland. A special “member” of the Bryant family sometimes takes part in the prayer-walks – Cookie Ann is her name. Mary calls Cookie the “missionary dog” because everywhere they go, when they walk her, people are drawn to them. “The unusual outfits that Cookie wears are a good conversation starter,” said Mary.
“People usually ask what we are doing and we have a chance to share.” She showed pictures of other Canadian Mission Service Corps (MSC) missionaries like Donny Coulter, missionary to the First Nations people in Canada.
“When one little girl, Amy Porter, saw her family’s picture she said excitedly ‘That’s me … and my family!’ She was delighted to see herself in the picture,” Mary said, “and to know that she was counted as a missionary too, along with her mom and dad Brett and Kathryn Porter from Oakville, Ontario.”
Marybelle Cruikshank ministers to homeless people in Edmonton, Alberta, through Hope Mission, which provides food, clothing, and shelter to more than 700 people every day and night.
One child raises a hand to ask a question of Marybelle Cruikshank.
“My friends who live in the shelter are grateful to Christians for providing a place to sleep that is much safer and more comfortable than sleeping on the sidewalk, especially in winter,” Marybelle told the children. “Many of them have become Christians, because they hear a sermon every night.”
She shared that homelessness is generally an adult problem in Edmonton. “Children of the homeless are in foster homes so they can go to school, and not have to stand in line to get their food,” Marybelle explained. The class joined her in praying that God will help these parents have the courage to trust Him, make better choices and work towards getting their families a home.
One girl agreed to wear a backpack for the class to pack with practical gifts for homeless people: toothpaste and a toothbrush, a bar of soap, deodorant, a comb, a small Bible, a water bottle and socks.
Marybelle explained to the children that it is not safe to give gifts to strangers. They should be given to a shelter worker who knows the people by name and will know what they need. The needs of the homeless are “everybody’s concern,” she said, “because Jesus told us we should care for the poor.”
Bud and Norma Taylor are North American regional prayer enlistment coordinators. Wherever they go they tell others about Canadian churches and people. When they receive prayer requests they pass them on to their prayer team of almost 1200 people.
Norma Taylor shows children where she and her husband, Bud, live.
Norma used an inflated globe to show the children how they come from their home in Florida to Canada each year.
“I distributed the MSC prayer reminder cards [to the children] to remind them that we can pray for people all cross Canada,” said Norma.
She told the children about some of the missionaries: John Martens’ family in Vancouver, Ben Yablonski, a chaplain to police officers on Vancouver Island, and the Porters serving in Toronto. “As I showed them where each family was from,” Norma said, “it reinforced how our prayers to God cover all of Canada as well as the world.”
Jason and Carrie Byers are missionaries and church starters at Celebration! Church in Ottawa, Ontario. They shared the Bible story of the 12 spies who were sent into the Promised Land.
Jason and Carrie Byers
They led some children to act out the story while others were the audience. “We had a group of spies, Joshua, Caleb, Moses, giants, ninjas (even though there weren’t ninjas in the Promised Land), a cow (for milk), and a bee (for honey),” said Carrie.
The Byers closed by relating the story to their experience as missionaries.
“When we knew God wanted us to come to Canada, there were a few things that we were afraid of, like the spies were,” they told the children: “lots of cold weather and snow, being away from family and friends and raising support for our salary.”
“But we knew we could claim the promises that God would be with us—like the Israelites—so we trusted that He would provide and meet our needs,” they said.
“God’s encouragement to Joshua was our encouragement, too.”
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
As the Byers finished, one of the children whose missionary family had just moved to Montreal from Arkansas, shared that moving was scary for her because of many of the same things; she was also learning a new language!
Missionaries impacted the lives of children at this year’s CCBS convention. The experience taught these children to pray for missionaries. Perhaps it will also begin to open their hearts to being missionaries themselves, even while they are still young.
Originally published in Horizon, August 2008.
Used with permission. Copyright © 2008 Christianity.ca.