Summer 2017 is history – for a long time already. However, children in East Central Europe still remember this time – and at various places, they are already looking forward to summer 2018. The reason is the «United Methodist Play-Mobil». Klaus Gottschalk, a co-worker at the Tent Mission, looks back to blessed days.
The first kids showed up around 4pm. Full of joy, they tried out the bouncy castle and the trampoline. But just for a while, because there was then a Bible story for them in the church. Through videos and songs, the kids were introduced to key figures in the Bible - strong characters, but only strong because they had the strength of the Lord. I was amazed at how well the kids behaved: they sat and listened attentively for over one hour, even though there were the excellent fun things on offer outside the church doors. After about an hour, the church doors were opened and the kids were allowed to play in the church grounds. Over 80 kids flooded out into the play area. Most of the kids came from United Methodist congregations from the region around Monospitovo. The special toys provided by the Tent Mission were a great hit. There are some fun parks in Macedonia, but with an average monthly income of 375 €, very few children have the chance to make avail of them. This made the activities offered by the Tent Mission extremely special. And even here, the kids’ discipline and good behavior, standing waiting in line to get their turn, was exemplary.
People flooded into the park to enjoy the wonderful summer weather. Many families and children also came over to us and our activities at the park. An employee of the city council hooked us up with electricity. He was so impressed by our activities that he actually drove home after work to get his kids and brought them to the park to join us. He himself sat chatting with our team, or helped out manning the various stations where the kids were playing. As the sun set, our time was up, but the council worker encouraged us to stay longer. He set up a floodlight and before we knew it, over 100 kids came running from all corners of the park, to take part. One child ripped its trousers whilst jumping on the trampoline. This was the only pair of trousers the child had. We were able to take the child to the church, which had a store full of clothes for distribution to needy people.
The Play-Mobil week run by the Tent Mission has been a part of village life for the past seven years. It is also a tradition that a team of volunteers from the partner church in Switzerland joins the Tent Mission for this mission. Once again, this year we had lots of games and creative handcraft ideas. Each day had a different theme. For the theme «God as Creator» the kids were able to make figures out of pastry. «God as Gardener» was the theme of day two. The kids planted flowers in pots and were allowed to take them home. For the final day with the theme «God as Light of the World» the kids made lanterns, which allowed them to take a light back home. These lanterns reminded the children of God’s light that shines into their lives – a light that remains even after the Play-Mobil has left in order to serve other communities.
Source: Klaus Gottschalk, Tent Mission of The United Methodist Church / Urs Schweizer, Fund for Mission in Europe