Saturday, March 17, 2012

Saturday Post -- 17/03/12

Rebecca Chee: teaching some of Trinidad's educational
workers a few lessons
This will be the last post for a while as we have something of a break coming up. On Friday evening, all being well, we will take the overnight bus to Santa Cruz. We’ll be spending a few days there touching base with one or two friends and then, in the early hours of Tuesday morning, we board our flight to Costa Rica, where we are due to attend LAM Canada’s 50th anniversary conference, which all LAM Canada’s missionaries are expected. We’re excited about what will be our first opportunity to spend time with our fellow workers from the LAM family. The conference takes place from the 31st till the 4th, so our early arrival in Costa Rica will allow us to get in a few days of relaxation. I’ll be keeping an eye out for the Andy Roxburgh statue in the main plaza.

We fly back on the 4th but with two weeks’ leave from ministry, we’ll not be rushing back to Trinidad by any means. Anyway, I will hopefully be able to share plenty of stories and pictures when I next post, probably on Easter weekend. In the meantime, I’ll aim to keep the Facebook page updated.

It’ll be our first time away from Trinidad for nearly six months and we’re really feeling the need of a break. We’re pretty exhausted right now as we prepare for another Saturday afternoon and evening dedicated to church work.

So as we crawl towards the finish line, it’s been terrific to have some energy about the place in the shape of Amanda’s cousin Rebecca, who you’ll remember was due to land in Trinidad last Saturday. Rebecca is expected to report back to her university in early April with 90 hours of educational work under her belt, and she’s so far acquitted herself with aplomb. In the mornings, she’s mostly prepared lessons while accompanying me to my R.E. classes. But the afternoons are where she’s really proving her mettle.

Through one of the FT workers, who teaches afternoon school (schools have two separate sessions here for two different groups of students), we had arranged for Rebecca to teach a 6th grade class. I accompanied Rebecca on Tuesday, her first day, where, lo and behold, the class teacher, unbeknownst to us, had disappeared to attend a training session. Rebecca was very much in at the end marked ‘deep’. I daren’t even think of how I would cope in such a farcical situation. Alarmed but unfazed, Rebecca simply reached for the chalk and started teaching a maths lesson. Immediately, her positive attitude shone through and the kids, though largely clueless as to what she was teaching them (a reflection on the poor standards of maths teaching here) were very quickly eating out of her hand. With my own classes to teach back at the Foundation, I left Rebecca to it, but she stopped by in the evening to tell us all about her day, which later included taking an impromptu basketball lesson when the P.E. teacher didn’t show up.

She got through the week in much the same vein and today she’ll be taking her educational skills to church, where she’s helping out with a Sunday School class, and leading one of the segments at the youth group tonight (where Amanda is chairing and I’m doing the teaching). Due to our upcoming excursion, we won’t be here to see Rebecca finish her three-week stint, but I have no doubt she’ll do herself proud. We’ve really enjoyed having her around this week in the evenings, Amanda particularly relishing in the chance to catch up on the family gossip. All is well. 

  •  For safety, rest and encouragement on our upcoming travels.
  • For Rebecca’s final two weeks here.

  • For the positive attitude which Rebecca has demonstrated since arriving.

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Saturday Post -- 10/03/12

Rebecca flies to Trinidad in one of these bad boys. Aerocon's order of
Airbus A380s is evidently taking its time to arrive.
Will be keeping things fairly short and sweet today as we're getting ready for the arrival, at lunchtime, of Amanda's cousin, Rebecca. Rebecca is coming to Trinidad on a placement from her university with a remit of working with children at risk. Sad to say, there is certainly no shortage of such children who are involved in several of the ministries of FT and the church, and so that, combined with the opportunity to visit family, made Trinidad a logical choice for Rebecca. I'm particularly looking forward to having another educational worker around for a while and gaining some key First World insights on FT's education programme. We'll post as to Rebecca's progress in the next couple of weeks.

Since I last wrote, Amanda had her first Esther study with young women from church. Here she is now with a few words on what went down...

OK, so my first Esther study went really well. You know when you put a lot of work into something and then when you have to actually show it to people, you get really nervous because you're scared of how other people will react? Ya, that's how I kind of felt. I have led Bible Studies before, I have prepped study material before, and I am a lot more comfortable with my Spanish now than before, but somehow this was different. I have put so much work into preparing this study, and I think more than that, I have enjoyed it so much. I was scared that other people wouldn't. But, after all that, apparently they did. 

I am using Beth Moore's study on Esther. I only have one copy of one of the workbooks that a friend gave me and it is obviously in English, so I do quite a lot of tweaking culturally and linguistically. We are meeting every other Sunday and we're aiming to cover one chapter every meeting. We almost finished chapter 1 this past Sunday. I had loads of notes and was wondering how I was going to get through it all, but I discovered that I could read and discuss them faster than it took me to write them. I have made it very discussion-based which is quite tricky here because participation can sometimes be like pulling teeth, but the study is with the older girls in the church, 18-23 years old, and these girls are a bit more accustomed to having to think for themselves. There were five of us in total, with two girls not being able to attend last Sunday, and they all really did participate and I think they all left having learnt or thought about something new. I think when you work with young people or new Christians all the time, you forget how deep a study can be because you have to give those people what they can handle. This study has allowed me, and the other young ladies, to really go deep, to read it really slowly and and really think about it. And it has been refreshing.

Let me just briefly mention a little about the very first women's meeting at the church, which took place on Tuesday evening. Claudia Holt has felt led to start and lead this ministry for women above 23 years old (I was the youngest person in attendance... before they announced the age limit, I was worried if I would make the cut. There are not so many people my age here). There were 10 of us in total, from missionaries, to church members, even to the mother of one of the youth group participants, which was really encouraging to see. We're going to be looking at a book called "How to Be a Woman of Excellence" by Cynthia Heard. But we also have the goals of supporting the church as a body of women in practical ways, and getting to know each other and, in the process, become a united group of women. It was really exciting and very encouraging. I have to remember to do my homework over the next week!

  • For Rebecca's safe arrival here in Trinidad. As I type, she's on the last leg of her international flight from Miami, having just left La Paz for Santa Cruz, from where she'll switch airports and catch a flight to Trinidad (the journey is almost as exhausting as writing about it).
  • For a productive time for Rebecca professionally, relationally and spiritually. 
  • For a great first session of Amanda's study in Esther and a great start to the church's women's group.
  • For the new English and R.E. classes, where we're already sensing a deepening of relationships. Having the English class twice a week is already making a big difference in that sense, while in the R.E. classes this week, I was able to clearly communicate the essence of the gospel message and its implications in the day-to-day lives of the students.
¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Saturday Post -- 03/03/12

That's us in Trinidad's zoo with a family of kids who attend FT's Community classes and various church activities. In December of 2011, they found out they wouldn't be seeing their mother again for many years to come, for reasons best unmentioned in the blogosphere. Anyway, on Monday, which is our day off, we took them out for ice cream and a visit to the local animal hangout. With alligators aplenty (literally crawling around in a marshy area in the middle of the park, cage optional), there was certainly reason for mild trepidation for certain visitors. As it happened, the snappers kept themselves to themselves, leaving Bambi to wreak havoc instead. That's right folks, Amanda was frantically pursued by a deer. I wonder if it was the odour from the dogs.

Methinks all this japery calls for a classic Simpsons moment.

Anyway, we certainly made the most of Monday's break, with a busy working week ahead, featuring the launch of this year's R.E. and English classes. I introduced myself to my three new classes and we had an introductory discussion on religion, evangelical Christianity and the Bible. Here, there is relative freedom to teach what you like, so long as you frame it as your own personal belief. It proved to be a lively discussion and it turned out there were a few believers in there too. We'll continue on the same theme this coming week before launching into our study of John's gospel. My classes were just three of 8 in total which took place through FT educational workers this week, meaning over 250 kids in the neighbourhood will be getting a weekly diet of sound Bible teaching in 2012.

As for the English classes, things started a little slowly with just 8 in attendance at Tuesday's launch class. But it turned out one of them is a lawyer and local TV presenter, with a show here every weeknight from 9pm till midnight. So I inquired as to the prospect of a free plug that very evening. Sure enough, on Wednesday morning, I spoke to around a dozen people about signing up (seemingly he'd been going on about it the whole show), and by the time Thursday's class came round, numbers had more than doubled. Most importantly, though, 18 people got the chance to read and translate a simple English passage about God and his granting of freewill to us. 

Another new facet of our day-to-day work this year is also well underway, with Amanda and I holding several one-on-one sessions with FT staff members, whom we meet and pray with. This week I met with Wilson, who works in administration at FT but is also a fellow church band member. Wilson is a couple of years younger than me, but already has two school-aged kids with his wife, and they live with his parents and other family members in a fairly diminutive property. Such living arrangements are not uncommon here, but his extended family are not believers, and so encouragement can be hard to come by once church is over for another week. 

Amanda, meanwhile, met with a fellow nurse and an administrator, neither of whom are believers, but who are both really open to sharing with her. As Amanda dug a little deeper, it turned out that both are by no means uninterested (indeed, we see the administrator at church now and again) but they have some challenging obstacles to overcome to get there -- unsurprisingly, in a church culture where accountability can be sorely lacking, the behaviour of other Christians has proven to be a big stumbling block. An important reminder to us both of the fact that, as missionaries, we are constantly under scrutiny -- a heavy burden to bear, yes, but at the same time, what an opportunity!

  • For the various staff members mentioned above. Pray too that we would be good listeners and would steer clear of glib, easy answers.
  • For Craig as he preaches on John 18:28-40 this weekend.
  • For the church's children's ministry which launches this afternoon, with the Sunday School having shifted to Saturdays.
  • For Amanda's study in Esther for young women in the 18-25 bracket, which begins tomorrow evening.
  • For safe travels for Amanda's cousin, Rebecca Chee, who will be making her way down to Trinidad from Toronto on Friday and Saturday, and who will be joining FT as a volunteer in the educational ministry for a few weeks.
  • For a wealth of encouragements this week as the English and R.E. classes began.
  • For the opportunity to minister to our fellow workers and church family this week.

¡Que Dios les bendiga!

Craig & Amanda