Sunday, February 1, 2015

Behold your little ones - Carole's Post

Alma 32:23
"And now, he imparteth his word by angels unto men, yea not only men but women also.  Now this is not all;  little children do have words given unto them many times, which confound the wise and the learned."

For the last  2 1/2 months,  I have spent two hours every Sunday working in the Primary.  When I arrived, the Primary president and her one counselor were no longer attending church regularly.  And Sister Thoko was handling the entire time by herself, teaching the children and rehearsing with them the annual Primary sacrament meeting program.  The branch had obtained a copy of a written program off the internet and were determined that this year they would present a program for the first time.

I was surprised by three things:
  1. The number of scriptures that the children had memorized and could recite as a group.
  2. The volume and enthusiasm with which the children could sing.
  3. How all the children would applaud when one child came forward and said his part correctly.

Here we are practicing on a Saturday, the day before the program.
Sister Thoko is directing them and after our rehearsal, she fixed them a big lunch so the kids were happy!  Sister Thoko has been a member since July.

"Give it all you've got!"  I taught them two new songs in the month before the program and they were showing me how well they knew them!

 This was a new concept -following my arm gestures, how to stand up all together and then sit down after a song at the same time.  They were terrific. 

I shared earlier how so many of them participated in reenacting the Nativity at the branch Christmas party.

Here is a typical Primary day.
Sister Thoko translates into Chichewa for the younger children.
And sometimes Sister Thoko has to translate MY English into THEIR English!

Also, the new teachers try to learn some of the Primary songs.  After all, none of them went to Primary themselves.  

Sister Thoko told me she couldn't get the "frowny" song out of her mind!

We don't have too many resources, but I brought my zebra with me and he is now a Primary favorite every week.   

Sarah and Tomicah gave this to me when I was patiently waiting for our mission call. Now he is the "Reverence Zebra".  I find it amusing that he was made in Kenya, traveled to Washington DC, then to Seattle, and we brought him back to the continent!

Brother Banda painted a boy and a girl on wooden spoons that I bought to help me with singing time.  Nothing like a little competition between the sexes to enliven the singing!

One of the difficulties of Primary is that we have no nursery.
Children under three still come and as you can see, they have a good time in their own way!                                                                               

This was the first Sunday after Sister Nthenda was called to teach a class in Primary and I was helping her to get her class set up.

Sister Nthenda was called to teach the CTR class in early December.  She was baptized in October and was happy, but nervous to teach a class.  

I went over to her home three weeks in a row so we could read over the lesson and see how she could best teach it.   

This is an excerpt from a letter to my family that I wrote after helping her with the Christmas lesson.
" It had rained hard last night and the slope to their house was very muddy.  George and I slipped several times on the way down and our shoes were covered with red mud.  We sat outside again and this time the air was fresh and cool except that then a neighbor made a fire to burn tires .  The black smoke and rubber ash kept settling on us.  Not only did the lesson book get covered but I began to get black streaks all over me.  I couldn't even flick them off because it was like melted rubber pieces.  So we moved into the house and sat on a mat (no furniture).  Her husband sat with us because he was interested and his English is better.  I didn't mention that she had been Muslim before conversion so even Christianity is new to her.

I told her that she would teach the Christmas lesson, but I hadn't read it myself beforehand.  So she started reading very slowly.  First of all, all of the preparations that the lesson suggested were impossible for her - like take the picture of Christ's birth and wrap it up like a present, make a star out of paper or cardstock, bring folded paper (and perhaps envelopes) and pencils so the children can make a Christmas card and bring some clothes so children can dress up and act out the Nativity.  THERE WAS NOT ONE THING SHE COULD DO.  I just tried to explain how these things were not necessary and how we could adapt them.  When we talked about the star, her husband went into the back and brought out an old receipt that didn't have anything on the back and I said they could draw a star on the back and use that.  I cannot tell you how humbling this all is.

Then, she read aloud the story about S. Dilworth Young when he was a young boy of five and how much he wanted a jigsaw puzzle he saw in a store window.  He did get it for Christmas, all wrapped up, but then his father suggested they carry their Christmas dinner (turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, cranberries, dessert)  and the most loved gift selected by each child to the Jensen family down the street who had just emigrated from Denmark, who had no money and whose father did not have a job.  Can you imagine trying to explain this to someone who has never had such an extravagant meal or who has never purchased anything like a toy in a shop window?  It is so far beyond anything they can picture so I can't imagine it seemed like much of a sacrifice to Sister Ntenda.  For instance, when they delivered this meal to the poor family, they carried it into their house, to a "small bare table in the corner of the room".  The Ntendas do not even own a table!  And in the story, the Young family still came home and had a simple meal of canned beans, bread, butter, and canned fruit, which is a meal far beyond anything they would ever have."

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog and documented how we helped the Nthendas move because their house had been destroyed in the terrible storm. Unfortunately they now live so far away that I do not get to see Sister Nthenda, but I miss her and look forward to the day when they will rebuild and she can return to Church and Primary.
A few weeks ago, Sister Mkandawire was called as first counselor in the presidency.  Sister Mhango was called to be president but within two weeks, they knew they would be moving out of the branch. It has been such a joy working with Sister Mkandawire, who is so responsible and willing to do sharing time and take over the younger class for Sister Nthenda.
I have visited Sister Mkandawire several times in her home.  We have worked on lessons and sharing time.  She is busy running a household of three children and newly adopted nephew, plus she is hoping to go back to school to become a nurse.
Sister Mkandawire is in red, Sister Thoko in light blue.

In the last two months, attendance at Primary has dropped off considerably.  Of course I was a little worried...was it a related to the fact that I started helping about that time or was it strictly a coincidence?  President Chikapa assured me that attendance ALWAYS drops off during the wet season because it is too difficult for families to walk a long way in the pouring rain.   And it is definitely the wet season!

Because of the weather, it is frequently impossible to have the older children go outside where they have their class (we only have one classroom in the building we can use).  For that reason, along with numbers, we sometimes combine the two classes.

Our church has been so wonderful with all they have done to make it a worldwide church.  The Book of Mormon has been translated in its entirety into 85 languages with selections of the Book in 25 others. I am hoping to share some of my experiences and thoughts with the General Primary Board about how we can best adapt some of our lesson manuals to those in Third World countries. Obviously, children love to learn, they love to sing, and they love to play games all over the world but it is often difficult for teachers, especially new teachers, to take the material and adapt it to what is meaningful in their culture.  Many of the women (meaning prospective teachers), only speak Chichewa so there is no real solution for reading the manual.   But for those who do speak and read English,  they need to understand the gospel concepts that are universal, and then have resources, activity suggestions, and modern application stories and examples that apply to the children in Malawi and so many other places.

3 Nephi 17:23

"And he spake unto the multitude, and said unto them:  Behold your little ones." 

This is the future of Africa.   I can't think of a better places to serve than in Primary because I love these little ones!