So I've been meaning to tell you about the international dinner we, the prayer and world vision team, put together a couple weeks ago, and the impact it had on me.
Our plan was to have several stations, one for each of our international partnerships; Australia, France, Latin America, East Asia, 4J (code name, to protect the believers there), Ghana, as well as one station for America, and then the Hidden People. Students were designated to each station , and each station was decorated along the theme of the country, with some glaring differences.
Latin America only had chips and soda to eat, which symbolized their empty, unsatisfying religion.
Ghana was given baby food, representing that there were numerous believers there who lacked spiritual maturity.
4J was given a box of stale popcorn, tightly taped shut, to symbolize the difficulty for them to access religion, and even then, it's old and dead.
Australia and France were given real food; chicken, baked potatoes, etc, but it was all cold.
In East Asia, the students were crammed into a small place enclosed by roped off chairs, with barely enough room to sit down, and they weren't allowed to talk except in whispers, with only rice to eat.
America, on the other hand, had a lavishly decorated table, with more food than they could possibly ever eat, with staff to wait on them hand and foot.
The hidden people were put upstairs in the church, in a small attic, with only water.
The goal was for the Americans to realize that they had the good food, and they could share it with people in the other countries. After a person was given solid food to eat, they could then leave their country and share solid food with others. Hopefully, someone would notice that people were missing, and go looking for the Hidden people. When they were found, they'd have to get past the guards, and teach the people how to eat before giving them solid food.
All of us who were on the prayer and world vision team had to be Hidden People because we knew what was going on. Several random people were also designated as Hidden People with us. We were led to the attic, and told that we could not talk at all. About 30 of us were crammed into the tiny attic. We were so tightly packed in that we had to take turns stretching out our legs. It had been 105 degrees the last two days, and the air conditioner was un-plugged. When someone was about to plug it in, our staff guard told her, "Don't even think about it."
I was aware of what the conditions were going to be, but I was really unprepared for how miserable it actually was. All of the students were simply told that it was an international dinner, which conjured up images of a buffet of concoctions from around the world which could be sampled at ones discretion. This was not at all what they were expecting. Water, crammed conditions, and intolerable heat. The staff told them that everyone else was in the gym eating, and probably didn't even notice we were gone. We decided to try to make as much noise as possible in case they were looking for us. We clapped, we stomped, we pounded on the walls, we drummed on water bottles, and we whistled.
I started whistling "Amazing Grace." It's classic, familiar strains brought a sense of peace and hope into the desperation of the situation. We'd been waiting for almost two hours, and no one had found us yet. The tune caught on, and soon almost all of us were whistling "Amazing Grace." That's when it struck me: yes, we are trapped in a very hot, uncomfortable room for a few hours. But we have hope! We know eventually we'll be found or they'll let us out. We can pray, we can sing hymns, and we have something bigger than ourselves to draw strength from. But what about real Hidden People groups? They're trapped for a lifetime, actually, an eternity, without hope! They don't have the grace that we're singing about. Is anyone even looking for them?
After two hours, some people found us, but only one girl could get past the guards, and she didn't bring any food. At that point, the staff called the rapture, so the game was over. We all went to the gym, where we were given pizza. Then began the debriefing time, where the game was fully explained, and one staff and one student from each station could share their experience.
It was so interesting to hear how different people responded. Of the Americans, one guy realized immediately what was going on. He's a quiet, shy person, but he wouldn't sit down and eat until he found out how he could get to the other countries, and he didn't stop sharing the entire game. Another guy who was an American ate an entire chicken by himself. The Latin Americans were overlooked, just because it looked like they were having a good time, and because they were so close to America, which is exactly what happens in reality in missions. The French were offered warm food, but they rejected it. They were distracted by the activities at their own table and never noticed what was going on in the rest of the gym. The Australians were much the same way, but a few of them caught on to what was happening and shared food. Very few people noticed that others were missing, but didn't take initiative to look for them.
One by one, students stood up and shared how they never even thought of Hidden People groups before, or missions, and especially not going themselves, but after their experience, they were going to start prayerfully considering it. When a few nights later we had an information session for each of our partnerships, almost the whole project came.
I personally had forgotten my plan of going on a stateside missions trip this year, and going overseas next year. I'd gotten too caught up in school, Brian, and my plans. Through this experience, God reminded me of how much I had desired to go to France or Africa next summer. I've started researching summer projects, and there are two 6 week long ones to France, and several 1 week long trips. In Africa, there's a project in Ghana for two weeks, and one in Kenya for three. Right now, I'm just praying about all of them. I know that if it is God's will for me to go, He'll allow for all the scheduling around summer classes, having a job, and other events to work out. I just need to trust him and be willing to make sacrifices if that's what it takes.