Who knew that an afternoon with 40 Muslim girls, 8 Mennonite girls, and a set of giant Dutch Blitz cards could be so absolutely wonderful?
A group of Muslim girls, ages 12-15, and their leaders were meeting during March break at Hidden Acres, a local Mennonite camp. They asked the camp director if he could refer them to someone that could talk to them about Mennonites, and possibly bring some girls along who are their ages. That's where I came in. So a friend and I rounded up a small group of girls from two local congregations and agreed to meet at the camp.
As the girls entered the room, they introduced themselves to each other, sitting down on couches and sharing some small interactions. For one Muslim girl, there was no need for small talk. Her first request to 2 of the Mennonite girls was this: "Can you teach me a new prayer?"
What if all of our interactions with people of other faiths began like that: can you teach me a new prayer?
I tried to explain Mennonites in 5 minutes or less, then opened it up for questions. The question-answer time - where questions were coming from both Muslims and Mennonites, and answers too - lasted 1.5 hours! I couldn't believe how engaged the girls were. Their engagement, ability to articulate, desire to learn, and commitment to faith was truly inspiring. The girls, Muslim and Mennonite, responded to questions about their faith and faith communities. Even my young daughters were spellbound.
The Mennonite girls spoke about what it means for them to be part of the church. The Muslim girls spoke eloquently about their beliefs and the challenges of living out faith in their everyday lives. They told us of groups that they meet with once a week for teaching and encouragement. They can bring questions and problems they're having to discuss with adults in their group.
At bedtime last night, our daughters asked about those support groups. Why can't we have a group like that, Mom? So that got my wheels turning.
We introduced the Muslim group to the game Dutch Blitz, a Mennonite card game that has been morphed into a large group activity with huge cardboard cards. This was a pile of fun to watch as the girls jumped and dove over each other to put their cards on the centre piles.
Then we ate a snack together with more interacting around the tables.
An afternoon to remember - time very well spent. And we hope it's just the beginning.