Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sledding in a Jerry Can

Sledding in a jerry can is so much fun

When you sit down in it, good times have just begun

Slide down a tiny hill and squeal as you do

Race your little friends and giggle some too.

Teaching Joy

We are in full swing here at Upendo Christian School. In fact, our students are approaching the middle of the first of three terms for this school year. The education system of Uganda is much different than it is in the States. The teacher is the main source of information and starting from Nursery school, children are taught in a lecture style setting. The teacher first explains the topic, gives an example, and then gives the students an exercise to copy and do on paper. It seems the best way to get answers right in Uganda is to memorize everything.

They are graded by examinations that require short answers. There are no essays, no projects, no hands-on, and no critical thinking. The thinking is done for them. And because of that, it is often difficult for them to actually understand what they are learning. But as long as they can memorize then they have a chance to do well. The problem comes with application of the information.

I’ve been working with Joy since November of last year. Her teachers would like for me to drill her on more and more questions for these tests. After all, she is in Primary 7 and they do have the all-important Primary Leaving Exam coming up in November. If she sees the questions over and over, maybe she can remember them and get the answers right.

But the truth is, I’m not ok with Joy just getting the answers right. I want her to understand what she’s learning. I want her to know what she’s reading. I want her to write what’s on her mind. I want her to go beyond the requirements of a “good student” who memorizes everything and come to know what her world is really like.

So my approach is a bit different. It’s not keeping with the status quo of Ugandan education, though I must say due to lack of resources it isn’t quite to the level of American education. But we’re doing our best.

I meet with Joy around 4 times a week for about one hour at a time.  Each day, she knows to come in and she has to write for 5 minutes. At first she started by just writing lists of words she knows how to spell. Since then, she has started writing sentences, and sometimes she even writes little notes to me. I don’t critique her spelling or her grammar. She just writes what she can, and then she reads it to me.

Lately we have been reading a book. Her reading level is low, so we are starting slow. We are reading the Magic Schoolbus, Inside Ralphie. So we’re hitting up science and English all in one. Joy would like to become a nurse when she grows up, so this book has been a great way to pique her interest. We read a few pages and then I ask her to summarize what she read to me orally. Since her writing is very poor, I write what she says, and she copies. In the future we will move her toward writing it herself. But for now, we’re working slowly.

Her teachers have said they are noticing a difference in Joy. Not just in academics, but in her attitude toward school. She now not only has someone who cares how she does, but cares enough to help her attain success.

I don’t know what the future holds for Joy, but I do know that God has a perfect plan for her life. And I have to say that I’m excited to be part of her story.

A Cup of Cold Water

We have been experiencing the dry season here in Uganda where the temperatures have been hovering in the 90s during the day and the 80s at night. We haven’t felt the refreshment of rain in weeks which has caused the dirt roads to turn into complete dust, aggravating even the strongest of lungs. The sun is so hot we could fry an egg on our main gate (if that was sanitary), and we often lose power so sitting in front of the fan isn’t always an option. Even the air-conditioning in my Land Cruiser is no better than if I blew air on myself with my mouth. Day after day, it’s enough to drain the life out of you, especially when it seems as if there isn’t enough water in the world to quench your thirst and keep you hydrated.

Because of the water situation, we have to filter all of the water that we drink. I have 3 containers to keep drinking water in. Two containers sit on a table in my kitchen, ready to use to fill a water bottle when you head out the door. Afterall, if the temperature is up then even cold water won’t stay cold for long. The third container is kept in my small refrigerator and is typically reserved for meals or evenings when we just need something to help cool us down.

Cold water is amazing. You know the feeling right? After a long, hot day just holding a glass of cold water is refreshing. It’s dripping with sweat, much like me, but this sweat is much cooler. So when it drips on my skirt I don’t mind so much. And there is nothing like taking that first sip, feeling the cold water as it slides down my throat, cooling me from the inside out.

 Cold water during the dry season in Uganda has given me a new perspective on what Jesus said, “If anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” (Matthew 10:42). Before now, I had never really paid much attention to the fact that Jesus said a cup of cold water.

Water is essential to life, but cold water is refreshing to the soul. There are times when we feel dry. It may be because we have poured everything we have out into the lives of others, or maybe because life’s circumstances have left us dried up with nothing left to give. And while regular water will keep us alive, it’s the cold water that brings refreshment. Regular water gives us life, but cold water gives us new strength that we didn’t think we had.

So don’t forget that while we all need water, it’s the cold water that refreshes. It’s a lot easier for me to just filter water and leave it on the kitchen table. It’s warm but it’s easy. For it to get cold it takes time to sit in the fridge. If I can compare it to our spiritual lives, regular water is going to church, praying before meals, and telling people you’ll pray for them. But cold water, the water that refreshes, that gives new strength and new life is remaining in fellowship with God throughout the week, remembering him throughout the whole day, and actually praying with the people who need it.  It’s a whole lot easier to just show up Sunday morning, but it will never truly satisfy you. The cold water of daily fellowship with God takes more time and energy, but in the end it brings refreshment like nothing else in this world.