“In a galaxy far, far away…” I taught five and six year old children how to read. In our classroom we had smoothly polished tables and desks, nice, lightweight chairs with silent gliders on the legs, and lighting overhead to meet the minimum standard for lumens per square foot. The walls held many brightly colored, laminated posters of the alphabet, letter sounds, color words, and common sight words. Our classroom library had a minimum of 200 different titles, all leveled to insure early readers success. And most children had their own books at home.
Today we launched our annual reading camp, “Read and Grow,” in the village of Akramaman. The walls of the schoolrooms were freshly painted a bright yellow. There were no colorful posters hanging or waiting to be hung. There was an inch of dust on the floors, rubble that had blown in, and in one room, two mice that had to be chased out. The chairs are rough wood, and the tables, though brightly painted, are equally rough. There is no library at all in the rooms, just a school library furnished with our donations, most of them now sad and dusty and worn. And there are no books waiting at home for the children to read.
The entire team got up before sunrise and skipped a hot breakfast so we could arrive early to school, giving us time to prepare a welcoming environment. Why would 6 teens and 8 adults do that? It is only for the children.
You see, when we arrive their smiles and eyes shine from shy little faces. They come running. When the bus comes to get them, they are waiting. When it is time for assembly, they assemble. These children want our love, our attention, our teaching. They want a chance to learn, a chance at life. They will steal your heart away.
So today, on a cloudy day in the 80’s, in a little African village, Americans ages 13 to 60+ joined with Ghanaian teachers and had assembly (prayer, songs, national anthem, and pledge), and after “assessment,” we read, and worked, and created friendship crowns, and read some more. And so it will go all week long. Smile upon smile, success upon success, as we work together to create a thirst and excitement for learning, as we “read and grow.”
Jesus loves these children; God is in this work. How do I know? I know because he filled this team with every gift needed to do this work, and because he has filled our hearts to overflowing with love for these beautiful children. I know because he took a rusty teacher brain and drew out techniques and expertise from fifteen years ago so this camp could make a difference. I know because the scriptures teach that each person is created in God’s image. I know because I see Jesus in the team and in the children.
Jesus loves these children, and we do, too. Please pray for us, that we might teach, and touch hearts, and change lives, one child at a time. And please listen carefully, for the same Jesus who called us to come might just be calling you.
The Rev. Becki Neumann is the pastor at South Riding Anglican Church. She is a former teacher, a member of our Board of Directors and the Leader and designer of the 2012 Reading Camp. More photos:
In the meantime, Jason, Bruce and Ron are busy putting the swing set back together again. Much harder than it sounds.