Our training here in Missouri is all about us getting involved and engaged with the world around us. They figure if we’re not doing it now, why would we assume it’s going to happen instantly when we cross over an ocean or a continent! Our training is comprehensive in that it is designed to force us to wrestle with things like teamwork, which is one reason why we have work detail, ministry teams, and group projects! Our small group got to work with the Helping Hands Thrift Store, which is linked to their Homeless Shelter. Almost all 18 of us packed into the store and did a variety of projects. One great thing about our small group leader, Jim, is that he loves to teach practical skills! The guys were kind enough to let Rachel (left) and I work on plumbing! And Josiah helped to drill through the walls (lower left). It’s been so long since I did any projects with my Dad, so this brought back fond memories of our copper plumbing fiasco back in my early teens and then doing a few PVC projects with Dad when I was in college. Jim was really good at giving instructions and then letting us work things out by ourselves.
Sadly, there aren’t any pictures of those mowing in the intense humidity and heat outside. But it was a good effort on all of our parts. Later, when the manager wanted to add a sink and a shelf, more of the guys pitched in to help get it done in time. There was a lot of scurrying around, that’s for sure! I decided that I don’t like PVC glue or the cleaner–the smell was nasty and gave me a headache. The one thing I do regret is watching them set the toilet. I’d never done it before, but there were far too many people in the tiny bathroom to even see!Reading was next topic up on the docket for our third semester classes. It wasn’t us reading, but us teaching others to read! We got to use a modified version of English to develop a Primer (apparently, the proper way to pronounce this is to rhyme it with dimmer…not timer. I think we sound British when we say it). Literacy was a fascinating class. I wonder how I even learned how to read! English is a messy language, so it doesn’t really make reading easy, especially as a second language. But, that’s the point–that’s why our first class, Phonemics, matters so much. If you don’t give someone the proper letters, not to many, not to few, then you set their language up to be hard to read! So, this was our chance to develop a Primer to see how you start with 3 syllables and then begin to build on the sounds until you have every letter included. It’s hard to be creative with words and story pages when your only sounds are “nuh” and “tee”! Our reading pages later developed into a story about Tut the Mummy. I’ll tell ya, trying to stay simple was so hard! We were told to remember that the Primers aren’t for us, they’re for those we’re teaching!
But, all of this design work reinforced the reasons for actually creating an indigenous reading program. I’ve heard many arguments for not interrupting the oral culture, but the benefits of reading far outweigh the cultural impact, even just from a secular standpoint. Indigenous peoples are always becoming more and more influenced by the outside world, which also leaves room for exploitation whether it’s from the mining companies or the influx of trade. The ability to read contracts can really help to ensure that they’re not getting ripped off. But also, they can read pamphlets on medicine, hygiene, and preventing disease among their peoples. We spent an hour or two discussing methods and reasons, so it’s impossible for me to put that all here, but it is really neat how they described how you train the indigenous peoples to take over their own literacy program after the first few classes. This makes it sustainable! For us, the primary motivation for literacy, even though it’s intermingled with the other reasons, is that they would one day be able to read the Word for themselves, whether they accept or reject the message within. It’s such a powerful thing to be able to read! Consider the blessings of reading in your own life!