Ten excited pairs of feet hurried down the sidewalk along the busy road leading from a small Austrian Adventist school to a big supermarket. Their teacher carried a large shopping bag full of homemade Advent calendars with inspiring Bible verses and proverbs. They wanted to give them to all the people as they entered and left the store.
With mixed feelings, I joined them. I was doing a two-week placement as a student teacher at the school and when I heard about the idea, I loved it. However, I also had some doubts. How would the people react? What if the children, who were so excited about their project, were put off by the unapproachability of the cold city people and never tried it again?
The teacher was very confident and gave the children some short instructions and ideas ofr what to say when offering the people an Advent calendar. As we reached our destination, each child was given several envelopes. I took a handful as well but as I saw how some of the children approached the strangers—so happily, so innocently, so boldly—I realized that I would just be assisting them.
Soon we were working as a team. I looked for people who had not received a calendar yet, then the children offered their gift, and when the strangers wanted to know more about our project or the school, I was there to answer questions. I could see growing excitement in the children’s faces. Even though many people said no and passed by ignoring the children, the happy surprise of others outweighed these disappointments. Some children were too shy to approach a stranger, but other schoolmates went with them and helped them to give away at least one or two Advent calendars so they could also experience how much fun it was.
Soon the shopping bag was empty. The afternoon had resulted in good talks, many smiling faces, and an excited group of children. One man was so delighted with seeing children doing such a project that he decided to buy a Bavarian doughnut for each one of us. Oh, how happy our little missionaries were!
As we walked back, I was inspired. Not only inspired to be a blessing to others, but also to be courageous enough to do such projects with children and help them learn to be a blessing and to be a missionary. I had wondered so often about practical ways to train children to be missionaries. The aim of true education, as Ellen G. White points out, is to prepare students for the “joy of service in this world and for the higher joy of wider service in the world to come.” What a high aim we have as Adventist educators! Let’s continue to look for good ideas for teaching that spirit of selfless service, and to share those ideas with each other.