I learned a new way to eat marshmallows my last day at the Tembisa Baptist Church. Put it in your mouth; chew it; spit it back in your hand; stir to a paste with your finger and lick. Fully half the children ate their marshmallows this way. To make it last? my daughter suggests. Maybe. But I think next time I bring sweets it will be hard candy. (You will appreciate that this blog does not include a photograph for your edification.)
The kids loved the game that was part of the Today for Tomorrow lesson on differences. It was a kind of fruit basket upset. The person in the middle named something they liked—favorite color, favorite fruit, favorite sport—and everyone who liked the same thing had to switch seats while the person in the middle tried to grab one.
To introduce the lesson, we talked about ways in which we are all alike. When I asked for some ways in which we are different, the first answer I got was, “private parts.” Not exactly what I was expecting. I think these kids are getting a lot of sex education and resist-abuse instruction. (Witness the dreams-for-the-future essay that began, “I want to be a pilot. Please do not abuse me.”) Not surprising when the dangers are all around them, even from those closest to them. But I don’t think they are getting much of the spiritual foundation for self-respect and personal discipline that can turn classroom instruction into positive lifestyle.
I remember my seminary students long ago in Mozambique telling me they knew the correct answer to the sanitation question I had asked in health class, but it didn’t have anything to do with the reality of chickens coming through the hole in the wall to roost in the ‘lounge’ of their small dormitory, leaving their droppings on the table. Classroom answers and changing your whole way of thinking about your self and your relationship to your world are totally different things. (We spent the rest of that class plugging the hole and cleaning the table.)
I hope that some of the ideas we have talked about these last four weeks have gotten through to some young minds. Or at least, that the memory of the lady who brought them marshmallows and read from the Bible will encourage them to look to that Guidebook for their life journeys.
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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