Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The Kingdom of God and the Letter "B"

We've been in Cambodia for just over two weeks now, and ten of those fourteen days have been spent in the bustling city of Phnom Penh. The city is busy like you can't imagine, and more chaotic than anything I've ever experienced. The lines on the roads are more like suggestions than they are rules, as are the traffic lights. Here, business governs the work day. The shops seem to close when the sun goes down, when the people go home, when the mozzies and the dogs come to find dinner.

The people, however, live just on the brink of the business that is created by the need to earn money and the eagerness to meet demands. Depsite the daily challenge of earning enough to feed themselves and their families, the people in the city are so vibrant. they are so....genuine. Everything they do is saturated in this keen attitude, this servant- heartedness.

When a Cambodian smiles, they smile with their entire body. When they're upset, you know it because it's written all over their face. And when they trust, they do so with reckless abandon.

In the evenings of our week in Phnom Penh, we taught english at a Christian School called Lighthouse. The building was actually a church, where one of the few english services in Phnom Penh is held. The teachers in this school are, to our understanding, volunteers. They come every night and work with their students, teaching them english and building relationships.

The teacher that I got to work with is named Saray. She is this young, beautiful Cambodian woman who is studying biochemistry at the local university. She also works a lot to be able to scrape together her monthly rent of 100 USD, and she still makes time to teach. Her dream is to teach biochemistry - a dream that isn't so far-fetched if you ask me.My favorite thing about Saray is her relationship with her students. It's so much fun to watch. Saray teaches with a grace that reflects God's own, and a heart for her students that reflects His as well. She is so humble and yet commands respect, she wants her students to learn and to grow not so they'll pass but so they'll excel; in school, in life and in all things they put their mind to. She's a strong woman of God, a beautiful sister of mine, and a great role model to her students.

If there is one thing we can learn from the Cambodian people, it's trust. On monday morning, we walked into this school in downtown Phnom Penh, with nothing but our knowledge of the english language, our nerves and our eagerness to serve. We were met with the voices of dozens and dozens of children chanting "TEACHER, TEACHER!" all of them keen to learn our names and hold our hands as we walked to class. For one week, we became their teachers. We all taught different age groups, and with them faced different challenges and had different victories.

I got to teach kindergarden. It never occurred to me how terrifying thirty little tiny faces can be when they're all peering at you from just over the edge of their classroom tables, expecting you to communicate with them. I knew very well that nothing I said would be understood, and when the actual teacher left the room, I was left floundering around, trying to think up ways to communicate with my toddler-aged students. Early on, I figured out that they liked it when I made funny gestures and sounds - so that's what I went with. The next thing I knew, I had a swarm of tiny asian children following me around the classroom, giggling while we learned and acted out the word "plane." I also had the privilege of teaching my class how to write the letter "B". This particular class was made up of students who had only just begun school, so when they all ran up to me, showing me the fruit of our combined efforts, I was quite pleased. Then, a little boy came up to me, looking really upset, and uttered something in his mother tongue. It quickly became clear that he was still having trouble shaping his B's. So we sat down together, and I carefully showed him. We practiced , his hand in mine, a dozen times. Then, he tentatively drew something that looked rather convincingly like a "B", and looked up at me and grinned. I smiled at him, and we high-fived.

I struggled a lot during the week, feeling sometimes like I was getting nowhere for all the effort I was putting in. Teaching english is a slow process, demanding of both the teacher and the students. But this one little boy's success was enough for me. He might not remember me in a week's time, but I'll never forget how much joy there was in that one smille.

This week, I learned a little more about what love in the kingdom of God is like. I learned that love doesn't require a common language, nor does it require much communication at all. Love teaches with both grace and humility. Love makes a fool of itself if it makes a child laugh. Love does not demand to see the fruit of it's labour, but rejoices in the small things - like the letter "B".

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