Thursday, July 25, 2013

Learning to Read

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

~Frederick Buechner

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

~Mother Teresa

For those of you who know me well, I'm a quote girl. I LOVE quotes. And, yesterday, those are the quotes that were running through my head as I taught 6 Yao adults a simple reading lesson.

Many people here have never been to school. Girls are needed at home to cook, clean, and take care of children. Most boys attend school - at least more than girls - but when they are needed in the machamba (field, or farm), attending school becomes a distant second. Even if they attend primary school - which the government provides for free - the school conditions are so horrible, that little, if any learning is taking place. Imagine a classroom with 50 or 100 kids. They're aren't enough desks, so kids sit on wooden benches or on the concrete floor. They're aren't enough books, so one book is shared between 3 or 4 children. They're are no teaching aids, no games to play......nothing. Their is only a teacher standing up front reciting a sentence and little voices repeating what has been said. No learning modalities. No learning styles or levels of learning. No explanation. Just repeating....for three hours a day - and then you go home.

If you are lucky enough to finish the fifth grade - which even if you do you may not know your alphabet or how to spell your name - you are promoted to sixth grade. But, at sixth grade you must pay tuition and buy your books. Most families do not have the money for this. If they do, their is all so usually a bribe of some sort to pay the teacher so that you can be promoted. If you cannot afford the bribe then you probably will not be promoted.

This sounds crazy.....but it is a reality. It's not just a reality here. It's a reality for most of the world. We, in the first world, are more blessed than we can begin to imagine. Until you have been to a third world and seen the reality of someone else, you just can't imagine. Seriously, Wal-Mart would overwhelm most of my friends. Our buildings, our churches, our restaurants......everything about our lives is excessive and completely outside the imagination of the rest of the world. We are blessed. Never once, until I moved to Africa, did I think about education, a bed to sleep in, clean drinking water, bathing water, cooking with a stove, food to eat, transportation......nothing like that. In our world, those are accepted realities. In this world, they are luxuries. 

Oh, how very blessed we are. And we don't even know it. When you turn on your tap today, when you pop your food in the microwave, when you take your shower, go to sleep in your comfy bed, please thank God for what you have. Say a prayer for those who do not have what you have.

Yesterday, our letter was "S." We talked about the sound that the letter "S" made. We then combined that sound with the vowels to make new sounds. We then added other consonants to make words like "soda" "dora" "Sara" and "soro." (Okay, so I was teaching in Portuguese - the first three words just happened to be the same ;0) As we talked about the sounds, I asked Mariana to sound out the word "soda." Ever so slowly she did "Sss," "Ohh", "Dhh" "Ahh." She looked at me shyly and then said, "Soda." YES! 

"Muito bom, Mariana. E isso!" (Very good, Mariana. That's it!")

She had read a word - probably for the first time in her life. I have never seen such pride in anyone's eyes. And, I realized, that's the look that God sent his son Jesus for. That's the abundant life Jesus came to give us. That moment when we are who he created us to be. That moment when we realize we have talent and worth beyond what the world has told us we have. That moment when we realize we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.

It was a powerful, wonderful moment. For that look, I'd give up Wal-Mart and stoves and every other form of modern technology. That moment was why God created me! I don't have a lot of talent to offer this world or the King. But, what I have, I give Him with all my heart and soul!

Later on, I asked them to copy their newly learned words off the board. I then told them to write their name on their paper. None of them knew how to write their names. So, I wrote their names on their papers and then asked them to copy their names. For most of them, it was the first time they had ever written their names. Wow.......just wow. I have been writing my name since I was about 4 years old. Never before have I thought that I was blessed because I had learned to do that. But, as I watched these precious men and women write their own name for the first time in their lives, I was just lost in the wonder of the moment. They were so proud of themselves - and well they should be! 

I applaud them for their bravery, their eagerness to learn, and their desire to build better lives for themselves and their children. They are my heroes.

Today, I am armed with 3 cakes. I will take them out to the center and we will celebrate a birthday. As each person's birthday rolls around we celebrate with cake and singing. For some of them, we have made up a birthday because they don't know what month - or what year sometimes - they were born. For all of them, it is the first time that anyone has celebrated their birthday. Never before has someone taken the time to celebrate and thank God for their lives. 

These may not be earth shattering things - learning to read and celebrating birthdays. But, to these people, it is the proof that they are loved and valued. And, that after all, is why Jesus came.

1 comment:

Agnes said...

I love your article, Jenni, but your last paragraph brought tears: You are right! That IS why Jesus came: to bring love into the world and into our lives and to show us how to love each other. That is the gospel in a nutshell for me!

I love you,