It’s Wednesday, and the Jackson girls and I are frantically cleaning up our house, moving chairs around, and laying mats on the floor. As soon as we give the word, about thirty neighborhood kids stream in our front yard, then immediately commence playing with the scooters, balls, sidewalk chalk, and swinging from our guava tree. We then let them in to pick what books they want to borrow from our “library” for the week.
After everyone is glowing with excitement about their new books, we start Bible Club with singing, much to the delight of the little kids, who start jumping all around, screaming out the words. My favorite is “Jesus is Our Winner-man,” because it sounds like they’re saying, “Jesus is our wiener-man!” Apparently, Jesus is not only our Savior, but also the hot-dog hero. J After praising Jesus, I tell them a Bible story, usually accompanied by a pantomime skit performed by the older kids, we talk about what the story means, and then they get a page to color. They love showing off their coloring page to anyone who will look and praise their decorative and delightful scribbles. I often hear a chorus of “Auntie Catherine [pronounced “Catreen”]! Look!” echoing throughout the room.
I love Bible Club, because I love seeing the excitement these kids have about everything, especially Jesus. It has been such a wonderful experience to share Jesus with these kids, because as I teach them about what Jesus has done for them, I get to see their acceptance of it, as well as develop a deeper understanding for myself of just how wonderful God is. I think that is one of the main things God has been teaching me since being here: After filling my head with theology and philosophy at college, then filling my life with new experiences, I am better equipped to go back to the basics of who God is and what He has done for me. I have developed a greater appreciation for the Gospel and a deeper love for God. It helps that since most of the kids speak Pidgin, which is a simplified dialect of English, I must really focus on making the lessons simple and direct, so they can understand.
Bible Club is not the only children’s ministry in which I am involved. A few weeks ago, one of our Bible Club kids looked up at me and declared, “Auntie, I want you to teach me to read. And my small brother wants you to teach him too.” Another older kid overheard this statement, and echoed his request. Thus began Thursday reading classes. Every Thursday at 3:00, about seven neighborhood kids come over to hear a story, learn a letter of the alphabet, and play some letter and sound games. It astounds me that I kids as old as nine-years-old need instruction in basic phonics. But they are eager to learn, and they are committed to coming every week and doing the homework I give them.
At 4:00, I send the small kids home and my second group of kids comes over for more advanced word-decoding skill instruction. These kids range from ten to fourteen. I read them part of a chapter book and give them some comprehension instruction, then teach them about word parts so they can figure out how to read long, difficult words. I also just started teaching them some spelling rules, at their insistent request. They love working on the worksheet pages I give them, and these kids are just as committed to coming and working hard as my younger kids. I am really enjoying getting to know these kids in a small-group context.
It has been an interesting challenge to balance the different skill levels of all my students, since I’m only teaching two classes. Sometimes I get discouraged at seeing how much help they need in order to be reading at their grade level. But then I remember that any instruction I give helps them immensely, and I get excited thinking about how specifically God has prepared me to serve these kids in this way. Not only do I have a teaching credential, but I also taught reading classes all summer, right before I came here! Wow, God certainly knows what he is doing. I am excited to watch how God uses these classes to help improve their skills as well as build up the relationships I have with them.
*God has led me to some wonderful ministries here in Bamenda. I get to be a part of God’s kingdom work, and do what I love to do!
*Even when the needs of these kids discourage me, I know that God has equipped me for what he has called me to do.
*We are really seeing God working on the hearts of the kids who come to our house regularly.
*That God would continue to provide me with the stamina and creativity to continue giving my all to everything He has called me to do here, even when I am tired or discouraged.
*That God would continue to keep our whole household unified and focused on God, so as to be the best witness to all the people who come into our home.
*That God would continue to bless the families of the Cameroonian girls who live with us.