Stories from Kenya, Part 2: Lessons Learned

Hi friends!

I hope everyone had a great weekend! Mine was extremely lazy (and awesome as a result). I finally got more than 5-6 hours of sleep AND saw Breaking Dawn, Part One. It was predictably campy, but overall the best of the bunch and my favorite, hands down. It's my guilty pleasure (although now I've moved on to the Hunger Games...WOW!).

I'm comtinuing my series on Stories from Kenya today with an excerpt about our time teaching in the Marwa Primary School. It was challenging, to say the least, but a whole lot of fun. Initially, we were prepared to simply help the teachers in the classroom...but they had something different in mind.

Each day in the village, our team would split up into 3 or 4 groups. Some of us would go the primary school to help out while others would go about 200 yards away to the brand new secondary school to help with construction. I never got the opportunity to work at the secondary school, but I wouldn't change my experience for a moment.

On Monday, my roommate, Kristie, and I were assigned to one of the first grade classrooms. Our teacher, whose name I fear I cannot remember, was quiet and friendly. She had worksheets she wanted us to read aloud to the children. They were to raise their hands and answer the questions. Simple enough.

But after we ran out of worksheets, Kristie and I found ourselves presented with this question:

"So what are you going to teach the children now?"

For probably the tenth time during our first three days in Kenya, we stood like deer in headlights. We hadn't expected to create a lesson plan. Thank God for Emily and our other team members, who brought books and markers and craft items. We worked a little with those, but once the children were finished we were at a loss. We took a break while the children played in the schoolyard, and I wondered, "How long do we have to keep this up? I'm out of ideas."

I kept forgetting how much of a treat our presence was for these children. To the faculty, as well. It wasn't until much later in the week when I really saw for myself how much the Kenyan people believe we know and have in America...and they're right. Unfortunately, we don't always see ourselves the same way.

After break we returned to the classroom. Kristie is a math whiz, so she got a little competition going with the children. We came up with simple problems, wrote them on the chalkboard, and selected two or three students to come up and solve them. They loved it! They were very excited to show off their skills. I have to admit I wasn't sure what to expect. This village had such a high dropout rate before the 410 Bridge came in to support their community, and many of the students quit long before they reached high school. The closest secondary school at the time was a ten mile walk from the village...but now, as I mentioned before, it's a stone's throw and the graduation rate has improved dramatically.

My favorite moments were seeing the excitement on the children's faces. They raised their little hands and snapped repeatedly, shouting, "Teacher! Teacher!" as we selected students to come up to the board. Their enthusiasm was contagious and I couldn't help but giggle at both our attempts to teach these wonderful little people and their desire to prove how much they knew. It was a lovely respite from the ever-increasing challenges of the American school system and our debates over everything from "Is pizza a vegetable?" to standardized testing and retention rates. We have so much here. We're light years away from many others. Most of the children in Marwa go to school so they can have at least one full meal a day, and I bet they'd gladly take on some of our challenges.

I love being from this country. I'm proud of what we've accomplished. But I wish we would recognize how incredibly blessed we are. It's only possible when we step out of our suburban bubble and take a look at what happens around us. And we should, especially if we call ourselves Christians. Jesus didn't just ask us to do it...He commanded it of us.

Among other things, Kristie and I taught the children "Jesus Loves Me" and showed them how to do the signs that go along with it. My mother would have been proud! It was wonderful to watch them communicate with sign language, stumbling over some of the finger positions but understanding exactly what I was doing when I signed "Jesus." They know about the nails. They've felt His sacrifice. They love him, too.

On Tuesday, Kristie went with her friend, Kendra, to another classroom, while Jessica and I went to the second grade class. But this time, we were fully prepared! We taught the story of Jonah and the whale, read the Bernstein Bears and A Silly Snow Day (which they loved!), and taught them parts of a sentence (like verbs and nouns). This was totally up my alley! Jessica was a complete natural in the classroom, and we had a blast together!

We acted out parts of the stories, and one of the best moments of the day was walking around the classroom, holding up the book so the children could get a good look at the illustrations. It was amazing seeing how eager they were to gather around and listen. I was reminded of my elementary school days...of Mrs. Hurston and Mrs. Patterson...and how the former once let me read the book I'd written (and illustrated!) aloud during story time. I prayed that these children would grow to love books the way I do...I hope my enthusiasm was something of a mustard seed for their desire to learn...maybe one day I'll return to Marwa and find out.

Until next time,



C.Curley said...

Sounds wonderful! I would love to go on a mission trip one day! :)

Writer. Wife. Wanderer. said...

I highly recommend it! The Lord will work on your heart in totally new ways! I encourage you to pray about an opportunity...He will open it up for you!