Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Candy Riot

We left early for the children’s festival in order to get everything set up. When we arrived, over 1,000 children had already gathered. The only available sound system was being used by the pastor’s conference so we were forced to entertain the kids for an hour without sound.

More and more children poured in from every direction until there were almost 5,000 kids. When the sound finally arrived, we kicked off the service by singing an Ethiopian song. All the kids were dancing and jumping up and down.

Then we introduced Pastor Eric Hamp. He is a children’s pastor from Denver, CO and the mission’s director for the International Network of Children’s Ministry. Pastor Eric played some games with the children and taught them a new song, “Allelu, allelu, allelu, halleluiah, Jesu get tano. (Praise Jesus)”.

I did not have any room to bring juggling props in my suitcase but I managed to find some local equivalents. For juggling balls, I used five potatoes and for juggling clubs I found three toilet plungers (new, never used). The kid’s laughed and clapped as I tossed the objects in the air.

Then Pastor Eric began to preach to the children. They listened intently as he shared the gospel message using simple props. All the children prayed to receive salvation.

When the service was over, I stationed ushers at each of the gates with boxes of candy. We tried to form an orderly line of children but passing out the candy quickly descended into a riot. All the children pushed and shoved to get the sweets. They tried to climb through a barbed wire fence in order to get in line again. They grabbed handfuls of candy and ran away. Even one of the ushers picked up an entire box of candy and tried to run away with it. Within minutes 36,000 pieces of candy had completely disappeared. Afterwards, we were just thankful that none of the children were seriously injured.