How Do We Teach about Places So Far Away?

As we talked about the ministries of Ryan and Seané Rice in New Orleans this month, my little Kathryn said, “I went to New Orleans.” I could tell a spark of recognition in her expression. Then I was able to ask her what she saw there and what she did in New Orleans. This was unusual because my Mission Friends have usually never been to the missions areas we learn about in Mission Friends. How do we teach preschoolers about a place they have never been before?

Preschoolers are limited in their understanding of time and distance. To them, and hour’s drive to their grandmother’s house seems like a long distance. They do not fully understand a map because on the map another state or country is only a few inches away, and that doesn’t seem like very far. They cannot yet translate in their minds how many miles those few inches on the map represent. How do we teach about places so far away?

As you teach preschoolers about the missions areas featured in Mission Friends, place your emphasis on the people. Use activities related to the missions areas in order to focus on the people in those areas. Some activities relate to the culture and customs of people. These activities will open doors for you to talk about people in the missions areas. Though people may be different in some ways, we are all alike in that God loves us and sent His Son for us.

Focus on the missionaries and their work rather than focusing on the map. Missionaries in New Orleans work in different ways than missionaries in the Amazon. Focus on the ways missionaries tell others about Jesus in the different places we learn about in Mission Friends. Use the pictures in the Mission Friends Leader Picture Set as visuals for preschoolers to see where the missionaries serve. The questions included on each picture in the Picture Set are great ways of helping preschoolers to think about what they see in the picture. Use these as resources to help you talk with preschoolers about the missionaries.

When talking about distances, use terms that will be easier for the preschooler to understand. For example, in talking about New Orleans, I would not say that we would drive 343 miles from Birmingham, Alabama. I told my Mission Friends that we would have to drive all day to get to New Orleans. When talking about international missions, you might say that the missionaries had to fly in an airplane across the ocean and a long way.

Concentrate on teaching your Mission Friends about people rather than the map. In John 3:16 where we read that God so loved the world, it is not referring to the map of the world, but all people of the world. Let’s convey this truth to our preschoolers as we teach them about the people who need to hear of God’s love.

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