Thursday, February 9, 2012

Training to teach

The “back story”: This story actually begins many years ago in Vila. Kaela (our teammate’s daughter who was just under a year at the time) and her mommy, Cindy, were at the market. A lady approached her and asked all about Kaela, what they were doing in Vanuatu, etc. When Cindy told her that we were here to teach the Bible, she was overjoyed. She said, “Oh, we’ve been wanting to study the Bible more. Would you come teach my family?” Of course Cindy said she and Aaron would be thrilled. So, after several months of weekly Bible studies with this woman’s family, they were baptized into Christ and the church began in Etas village. The family was Sam Tebawa and his wife, Leimawa. Eric, Mike and I have all worked with the congregation in Etas at various times and in various way through years. We truly love the brethren there. Aaron and Cindy have worked tirelessly with them throughout the last 6 years. They have poured their heart and soul into them. And because of the teaching and training that has taken place throughout the years, there have been many, many souls added to the Lord’s body in that village. While some have fallen away, there are many who are faithful and maturing in the Lord. We are encouraged by the growth we’ve seen in their lives.

Two of these Christians, Leimawa and Salome, are precious. Cindy and I have been close to both of these ladies through the years. They are true friends and sisters in Christ. We have spent countless hours together in conversations, Bible studies, outreach, teaching, and working side by side for the kingdom.  They are true servants of God who love and care about the future of the church in Vanuatu. This is why they have taken on the task of teaching the kids in Etas every Sunday morning. In Etas, there have been times when just 3 or 4 women and 2-3 men are present on a Sunday morning...but the kids are ALWAYS there. They come with or without their parents. Leimawa and Salome (along with two men who teach the teenagers) see the large number of children as a huge blessing. They see them as the future of the church in Vanuatu. They are diligently teaching and training them now so that when they get older they will be the leaders, the evangelists, the preachers, the teachers, the servants in the church in Etas. They can look at themselves and see how much the gospel has changed their lives - and they just learned it as an adult! So, think how much these children who are taught the gospel from childhood will be able to do in the Lord’s kingdom. There’s no telling what the future holds for the church in Vanuatu!

Now on to the present story:  So this year in Malekula we have not pressed doing a children’s Bible class on Sunday mornings. We knew the idea would be overwhelming because it would be something new and different. So, we didn’t rush it. We focused on teaching and training the adults & youth. We did start a Bible club for the kids on Sunday morning after worship where they learned some basics (books of the Bible, overview of the Bible, where to find key stories, etc). I think Eric has talked about this in previous blogs...

Anyway, so we thought that as the new year approached, the adults might just be ready to begin working toward a Bible class for the kids (Sunday School type program). We wanted to make it as simple as possible, but still special and still “do-able” by the Christians here. So, after lots of brainstorming on Eric’s and my part, we decided to ask Leimawa and Salome to come to Malekula and do a “teacher’s workshop.” I knew I could teach the women here how to teach the kids...but it would mean so much more coming from another ni-Vanuatu woman than from me. As much as I love these women and as much as they love me, there will always be a “barrier.” I am not a ni-Vanuatu woman. I live here. I love it here. I have adjusted in the best way I know how. But no matter what, I will never be “one of them.” It’s just a fact of life and something you really have to come to terms with if you ever want to be effective on the mission field. I just knew that whatever I taught them, they’d look at me and think, “Yeah, but you’re a white woman, you’ve been to Bible college. It’s all fine and good for you....but I’m not capable of what you’re asking me to do.” BUT, I knew that if Leimawa and Salome taught them, there would be no excuses. The women here would see that if other women, just like them, who have just been Christians for a short time, have little education, and little experience can do it, so can they! And you know what? It worked!

Leimawa and Salome followed us back to Malekula (from Vila) on Friday, Jan 6th and stayed through Monday, Jan 16th. In just 10 days, these two ladies were able to teach, train, and encourage the local women here to have the confidence to teach the children’s Bible class. I was amazed as I watched it all play out. I was so proud to see these two women, whom Cindy and I had spent many, many hours teaching and training through the years, turn around and teach others! It was true discipleship in action. What a blessing to be able to see it with my own eyes!

Before we left Vila, Leimawa, Salome and I planned out three training sessions for the week. That first Sunday Salome and Leimawa taught the Bible class. Then on Monday, the teacher’s workshop began. The first was merely an introduction of Salome and Leimawa, what they do in Etas (have a story, a memory verse, some songs, and prayer), and why it’s important to teach the kids in preparation for the future. They also introduced a few songs. We didn’t want the first session to overwhelm them.

Second session, Salome and Leimawa dove right in and volunteered the ladies to “practice” various parts of the class for the coming Sunday. Asking for volunteers does NOT have to “assign” jobs. :o) Salome took one aside and worked with her on teaching the lesson (story), Leimawa took a few aside and worked with them on leading the songs, I took another aside and worked with her on teaching a memory verse. The ones who didn’t lead one of those three parts either did the welcome or said a prayer. After about 15-20 minutes of practicing, we came back together and did a “practice class” - each leading their respective part and the rest of us acting like we were the students.

Third session, they “dropped the bomb” - Salome said, “Okay, now that you’ve practiced, I want you to teach this exact lesson on Sunday. Let’s practice one more time so we’ll be ready. Then we’ll move on to the next lesson and practice it.” They all shyly  agreed. And to my amazement...that’s exactly what happened. Those beautiful, timid ladies of Tulwei village on Malekula island in Vanuatu boldly taught their kids the following Sunday morning. What a joy! And I’ll tell you what...the next Sunday after Leimawa and Salome left, they did it all on their own again. It’s going to “stick!” :o)

Now to most who read this, you might be thinking, “What’s the big deal? It’s just teaching kids. What’s so scary about that?! ” Well, I’ll tell you, it is a big deal! One of the ladies who taught the lesson last Sunday was so nervous that her hand was shaking as she held up the picture for the kids to see...but she just braved on through it. She did a fantastic job, nerves and all, and you know what? Next time she does it, it won’t be so hard. Even though they might be nervous, even though they might not be comfortable, they do it because they know it is right. They just make me so proud. They all have a genuine desire to be all that they can be for Christ. Please pray for these ladies as they strive to teach and train the next generation.