ST. LOUIS – The real treasure at the “Journey of Hope” geocaching event was walking the last week of Jesus. The Easter weekend event at Fellowship of Wildwood, St. Louis, offered a safe, social distancing opportunity to share the gospel.
Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS (Global Positioning System)-enabled devices. Participants navigated to a specific set of GPS coordinates to experience a portion of the gospel.
“We started planning early in the year,” Kara Crisp, communications director, said. “I belong to a Facebook group that has 28,600 church communicators from around the globe. A pastor from Denmark did a similar event last year to worship during COVID. We used a German app, Actionbound, that was set-up for nonprofits and education.”
“This event was multisensory,” Ryan Bowman, lead pastor, added. “Families were immersed in the story. Stops were set up approximately 100 plus yards from each other and that provided a time for reflection, discussion and anticipation.”
Six stops were set up along the journey. “Each stop was a new way to experience the last week of Jesus,” Crisp explained. “Staff members were assigned to each of the stops; however, we checked back with each other to make sure each stop was unique. One stop asked questions on the app to gain numbers for a code to open a trunk; at the Lord’s Supper, there was a hidden QR code; and at the Garden, participants were able to worship with the music of a hymn.”
When the participants arrived, they took a carabiner from the board. Cards could be picked up at each stop to tell the story to others.
Janet Roark, church member and Bible study leader, thought the event was well executed. “Each stop was creative and appealing,” she said. “It was designed for us to do it on own and at our leisure. I loved the message. It was the perfect message to encourage the church body and it shared the message with the community to help them understand what the life of a Christ follower is.”
More than 200 people participated in the event and several from the community attended. “The staff took shifts during the four days,” Bowman said. “We made sure each group had downloaded the app and started off right. Then, we were there at the end to talk with the families. We had a good attendance on Sunday with several guests. I’m sure in the coming months, we’ll hear more about the impact.”
Bowman also thought the event was great for all ages. “I went on the journey with my wife and two teen sons,” he said. “It provided an opportunity for good conversation. The takeaway is a really great opportunity to experience the story. One of the first groups through was a couple of our senior ladies going together.”
Roark agreed with that assessment. She went through with her children and grandchildren. “The oldest grand is 8 almost 9,” she said. “She read a lot of text on the phone and followed the compass. The 7-year-old was glad to be out enjoying the day and the 4-year-old collected the cards for our carabiner.”
Crisp advertised the event primarily through Facebook. She also tied the promotion with info about the Easter services.
“One mother attending from the community,” Bowman said, “told me that she was going to go home and share it on her Facebook page. ‘This was so great,’ she said, ‘that I want my friends to come.’”