“Where in the World Is Carmen San Diego?” was a television show my daughter enjoyed when she was little. It was fun trying to use geography clues to determine where Carmen San Diego was hiding. Often in our Bible classes, we talk about places our students have little or no knowledge of – especially at the elementary level. Many of the countries in the Bible are known by totally different names today. When we talk about a person in the Bible traveling from one town to another, our kids and teens (and often we) have no idea if the towns are two or two hundred miles apart.
We don’t think about it, but having some of that information can make the Bible stories more meaningful. Knowing the wilderness was a dry, hot desert place with lots of cliff type formations gives a totally different picture of the story to a child growing up in a major city who thinks the suburbs are the wilderness. Realizing it took several days to walk from Jerusalem to Bethlehem helps them understand why Mary and Joseph may have been more than a little concerned about what had happened to Jesus. Seeing on a map how far a mission field is from your church building can help your students understand why the missionaries may get homesick.
You don’t have to be a geography expert to add it to your classes. I found a world map on fabric and had someone make it into a simple quilt. It is great for showing students countries and pointing out name changes – like Persia and Iran or Babylon and Iraq. There are plenty of Bible maps in some print Bibles, online or even in special books that give you permission to copy them for students. Encourage students to read the maps and help you find the places you are discussing instead of you always pointing out important places. Google can provide you information on topography and climate. Some of that has changed over the centuries, but it is close enough to give your students a general idea.
Taking a few extra minutes to explain the geography behind your Bible lessons can help your students understand them a little more and begin to picture where they were and what the climate was like. It provides them with the information they may need to help them understand the stories in the Bible just a little better.