On Wednesday night, March 12, Timberline Church looked, smelled, and sounded different. At the door, Missions Celebration ticket holders received passports and boarding passes before gathering in the terminal (main sanctuary). After instructions from a flight attendant, they proceeded to their first gate … and stepped into five other cultures.
In El Salvador, with the delicious taste of papusas in their mouths, visitors saw re-creations of primitive latrines, smoke-stained walls beside cooking fires, an eco-stove, a church gathering, and many pictures of our missions teams in action. The journey in Guatemala held a series of medical, dental, and optical clinic complete with a candy prescription for each visitor followed by a glimpse inside a loving children’s home and a feeding center with tortillas, rice, and beans. Mexico was filled with the sounds of mariachi bands and tastes of tamales as visitors wandered behind the tourist-magnet scenery to see pictures of those living in extreme poverty and discover how balloon animals for children and the construction of a woman’s shelter can change lives.
Across the virtual ocean in Uganda, visitors nibbling on tortillas and pineapple were able to write notes to the missionaries inside a school, hear the sounds of happy tribal music, and wander a path past colorful pictures of children, garden beds, and a chicken coop. Back in Dearborn, Michigan in the United States, visitors were surrounded by the scent of fragrant oils while visiting a mosque, stopping by an internet café under construction, trying to read an Arabic newspaper, and sampling sweet baba ganoush and baklava.
In order to get their passports stamped in each country, travelers had to know how many eco-stoves Timberline built in El Salvador (20), how many children are fed each day at Jesucristo es mi Casa in Guatemala (25-30), what percentage of women suffer from domestic violence in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (50 to 70%), how many eggs 1000 chickens will provide for Cherish Uganda in one year (292,000!) and what percentage of the population in Dearborn, Michigan is of the Islamic faith (50%). Completed passports were entered into a drawing and one lucky winner received a full scholarship to go on a missions trip in 2014!
After completing their travels, the virtual tourists returned to the terminal to pray for the visiting missionaries from our church-to-church partnerships and to commission two Timberline Ambassadors who are leaving this year for Uganda and Zimbabwe. The evening was a multi-sensory multi-cultural experience that made missions as real as it could get without actually boarding a plane or risking the local drinking water.