My husband got a very worried expression on his face. “What is that little girl going to do with that hammer and giant nail in our house?”

“I don’t know,” I said with great concern. “What would Martin Luther be doing with a hammer near our front door?”

The little girl in the robes of a sixteenth-century monk wasn’t the only oddity roaming around my house that day. Another young man had on an aviator’s jacket and goggles. Yet another child wore a massive ragged-looking fur coat and carried a bundle of mysterious possessions. What was going on here?

Turns out, it was the presentation portion of our “Heroes of the Faith Day,” a day set aside to learn about and celebrate some of the amazing people who had gone before us in our faith community. Many of the kids in my acquaintance (my own included) knew far more about the Founding Fathers of the country than they did the founding fathers (and mothers) of the faith. They even carried the sad and mistaken belief that missionaries and well-known people of Christian history had led boring lives. That, of course, couldn’t have been further from the truth, but these kids had heard of missionaries only in hushed and reverent tones, if at all.

This had to change. So I created an event that would provide a bunch of fun and kid-friendly activities that would teach about the adventure in the lives of these amazing people. Here’s how to host one of your own.

The Presentation Activity

Get a couple of families to agree to participate in the event. Then you’ll have many children for the dramatic presentations portion, which is when students give short in-character presentations of a hero of choice. Weeks before, the students select someone to read about—Charles Wesley, Gladys Aylward, Peter the Apostle, George Muller, Perpetua, Nate Saint . . . there are tons of options. Then the students read about their hero, write a 2- to 3-minute presentation, and when they present it, they do it in costume. In other words, if your student chooses Mary Slessor, she speaks as Mary Slessor.

At your event, Nate Saint might talk about going into the dense jungle to check on tribes that were famous for killing anyone who wasn’t known to them. Gladys Aylward might tell about the time she—a tiny woman, alone, had to walk into a rioting prison in China to take charge and restore order. Bruchko may tell of the time he helped a medicine woman “cure” pink eye to develop a relationship that eventually allowed him to share the gospel. Your student will have no problem finding fascinating and adventurous details to share.

Underground Chinese Church

To give students a sense of the difficulty of worshiping in countries where the Church is oppressed, create a mini-underground service. This requires letting kids know of a meeting place and a specific time. Instruct them to arrive in ones and twos, scattered out randomly over the course of a prearranged period of time. After all, if a group of people arrives as a unit, the neighbors know something’s going on and you risk being reported. (How different from our experiences in the USA, where we roll in, 500 cars at a time, in a massive, easily observable parking lot.)

In our underground church, students were instructed to be very quiet as they entered, again, lest the neighbors hear. Dark curtains hung over the windows to soften the sounds and limit prying eyes. Hymns were sung, but almost in a whisper. The risk of being found with Bibles was too great; no one dared carry one. So some scraps of paper with copied verses were smuggled in and hidden till they could be safely retrieved and read. We made every effort to make the risks taken by people all over the world seem real and palpable, attempting to do in secret what these kids themselves do openly and freely each Sunday. When we were done, we prayed together for those who worshiped in just such dangerous and restrictive churches today.

Reenacting Hiding Place Scene

For your older students, watch the movie The Hiding Place to learn about the Ten Boom family’s efforts to hide Jews in their home during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Prepare them with a bit of a drama exercise. I had our older kids reenact a particular scene—an interrupted dinner. During a typical evening meal, the three Ten Boom family members might be joined by as many as eight Jews they were protecting from the Germans. At one point during a meal there came a booming knock at the door. Everyone flew into practiced motion.

While one family member went to answer the door, all the Jews would gather their dining plates, glasses, utensils, napkins, anything that would indicate that they had been there, and head upstairs to the hiding place behind the wall. It was vital that they do all this in absolute silence. In the meantime, the two Ten Booms remaining in the dining room would get rid of any large serving dishes and replace them with small ones, creating portions and a table setting that would make sense for a dining party of three—rather than eleven. This was the scene we reenacted.

I set a table with actual plates and silverware, glasses, napkins, and serving dishes. When the knock came at the door, they went into motion. On their first attempt, they were too noisy. I made clear to them that the Nazis, right outside the door, were listening carefully for any such sounds. They must move silently. We reset the table and tried again. We played through the scene several more times until I could tell that they got some clear sense of the tension and fear the real family must have felt. It was a good exercise to better grasp the gravity of living in a police state. And later, when that particular scene rolled around in the movie, they were far more invested.

A Quiet Moment

While the other events of the day were more intense and sometimes even fun, we included a quieter and more introspective activity. Off by itself stood a solitary empty chair, with a man’s hat, a pair of gloves, and a Bible resting on it. This represented the missing, those who are taken off, sometimes in the middle of the night, or right off the street, and their families don’t even know where they are. There are many believers today who take great risks by claiming a faith in Christ, and for some, the result is that they simply go missing. So we asked each child to take a moment at some point in the day to go over to the chair, touch the things on it, think about what they represented, and pray for those who even today are among the missing.

Include this faith appreciation day in your school schedule. It’s an easy-to-plan, one-day event through which your kids will absorb more details about history, gain an understanding of the risk and price that many must pay for the freedom to simply worship, and learn about the many great people of the faith who went before them.

Tips for Success

  • Keep the presentations under 3 minutes. Let parents know ahead of time to be strict about this, otherwise 30 minutes becomes 90.
  • Minimize wasted time in between presenters. Have the next presenter waiting in the wings.
  • Ask for handouts. Each presenter could print up a few questions about his or her presentation, one copy per family. Then take home, make copies, and use for review.
  • Serve regional foods that showcase some of the countries represented.
  • Be age conscious. Have some video options for younger kids in other rooms if the activities are too intense for them.
  • Where to find biographies? Check out YWAM Publishing for lots of options from their Christian Heroes Biographies.

Carol Barnier, author of three books, is a popular conference speaker who is known for mixing serious topics with equally serious humor. Learn more at  www.CarolBarnier.com or www.sizzlebop.com.

Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the November 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.

Publication date: November 15, 2013