experiencing the Jesus story

September 14, 2007

Right before the camp with my class we had a camp with the youth from our church. When camping we generally use a process of experiential learning, rather than lectures, sermons or talks. This involves playing games, sometimes high adventure stuff, and sometimes really simple stuff, like having a group formulate three wishes which they would ask a genie. After, and sometimes during, games, we talk about what happened, what we experiences, why this happened and what we learned, and how this applies in life. The most amazing experiences are when these games become metaphors for the lives of those who play them, and they find new ways to approach there own lives through their own discoveries.

But I was reading Mark Miller’s “Experiential Storytelling” in the two weeks prior to the camp, and decided to try our some of his ideas. It’s all about telling stories, sharing the story of Jesus, our lives and God, but doing it by multi-sensory storytelling, and especially by making people part of this story. We used one idea from the book, actually just as an experiment.

On Saturday afternoon we took the whole camp about 700m from the campsite. Before we went we told that they should leave their cellphones, and that they will be doing some role playing, so they should be prepared. When we got to a nice spot, we sent around a hat, and everyone drew a paper. On the paper was some form of sickness. “Blind”, “Paralyzed”, “Deaf”, “Numb”, “Lost one arm” or “Unclean”. We then used blindfolds, rope etc to sicken the people. Those paralyzed were tied down completely, for example. And the unclean couldn’t come near others, and if anyone got near them, they had to shout “Unclean!”. We told them that rumor has it that there is a person with a blanket that can heal them.

The game started, and two of us walked back to get the fire going. After a while we realized we didn’t have a lighter, and walked back to the group. The unclean turned out to be mainly girls, and they were running around in the field. Those with one arm turned out to be mainly 14/15 year old boys, and they were chasing the unclean (kind of missed the idea). The paralyzed and blind were sitting, waiting for the person with the blanket, thinking that it won’t be long. They were in for a surprise.

We got the lighter, and starter walking back. At this stage most of the people were getting quite fed-up with the idea. They ran to us, asking if we have seen the person with the blanket. A numb was leading a blind, searching for the person with the blanket. And they started to carry the paralyzed around. After about 25 minutes (we could have left is longer, but it was getting dark), one of the leaders took a blanket (the Jesus figure), and went to the field. She started healing those who she found, just touching them, and telling them not to tell anyone. But at some point one of them told that he got healed, and next moment twenty kids came running to her, to be healed. The paralyzed were sitting close by where I was at that stage, and got picked up, and carried to the person with the blanket.

When everyone got healed we came back to the fire, and shared some of our experiences. Kids started sharing how this were like certain narratives from the Jesus story, and also like some people who have helped them in the past. One girl got an asthma attack just after the game, and didn’t have her medication, and another helped her by lending her some of hers. Later the girl who got the attack shared how her friend was like this Jesus figure to her.

Never will those of us who participated read the parts where masses of people came running to Jesus in the same way. Never will we be able to read about the Messianic secret (Jesus telling people not to tell others about what he did for them), and those who never listened to what Jesus asked, and told everyone, and read it in the same way. Somehow what we’ve experienced has said more than any sermon could have said.

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