Every Sunday at 10:15 am, I walk over to the room with a purple door to see my Sunday school class of 4th graders. For the next hour and a half, we talk, tell stories, make crafts, play games. We talk about the Bible, about Jesus, and about what it means to follow God in their own lives today.
When I started teaching Sunday school for the first time, almost two years ago; it took a bit of time for me to figure out how to best relate to the 4th graders. How smart they are!
I’m still learning. And a handful of nine and ten-year old kids sure can teach you many things. They continue to surprise me with their thoughts, their imagination, and the way the world looks in their eyes. (Their world is, in many ways, profoundly different from the world I grew up in. Sometimes I am astounded. Read: One of the most important things you need to take on a camping trip to survive is your iPad!??)
Still each week, I am often left fascinated by the wonderful ways these little humans are just themselves.
“Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong.” Exodus 23:2
Yesterday, after storytelling and discussion about a Bible story, we did a craft that the kids got to do in pairs. They were to come up with slogans that would encourage them to do do what is right, especially when the wrong choice is the easy choice. The example we gave them was straight out of our curriculum, ” Be wise about what you see with their eyes.” We encouraged them to rhyme, but more importantly to make their work applicable in their own lives.
After much thought and animated, even heated, discussions, each pair of students came up with some fantastic nuggets of wisdom. Catchier and spunkier than I could’ve ever come up with at their age.
Meet my fourth graders!
1. If you litter, your Future will be bitter.
2. Don’t be a fool and don’t cheat in school.
3. Fear isn’t evil, it tells you what your Weakness is.
4. Loyalty makes your friends HAPPY. (And makes them trust you and God will be proud of you.)
For many days over the past few weeks, I would fall asleep or wake up with the Buhay Makulay song playing in my head. I would think of our children and the joy in their faces as they sang. I would look ahead toward the big surprise we had for them – our special culminating activity! But the day before yesterday, I woke up with children and the song in my mind, this time harmonized with sadness. The Buhay Makulay’s first Likha season had come to an end.
On Saturday, December 7th, Buhay Makulay had it’s first Likha Showcase! The showcase was a celebration of children and the arts! The showcase consisted of an art exhibit and a short program, all featuring the work of the 31 children we had been blessed to work with throughout this season. It was a private event, really more for the children than for anyone else. Each child invited one guest from their family, while we invited a few of Buhay Makulay’s and Precious Jewels Ministry’s closest friends and supporters. We gathered to honor the children and praise God!
This was the most ambitious program I’ve launched for Buhay Makulay so far. In my mind and heart it has been years in the making. The vision for the showcase I have held so long, I cannot believe it has already come true, almost exactly how I had pictured it! This was the first art exhibit I’ve ever really curated and installed, and I certainly hope it is only the first of many. It was small in scale, but gigantic in story.
The activity was not just an event, but part of a larger narrative. Though us volunteers and partner staff could see the growth in the children during our time together, we were not sure that the children could yet grasp the weight of their discoveries and accomplishments. The activity was meant to help see how far they had come!
This was a special day for them. These children live in cramped quarters, some under a bridge and some in relocated communities, all from the poor corners of the city. They do not have room in their homes to dance, or large spaces on their walls on which their artwork can be displayed and appreciated.
This was a special day for them. All the fun and learning they had with us could finally be shared with the people that raise and care for them on a daily basis. Most brought their mothers, others their fathers, and a few their older sisters or brothers. We were sharing with family. We were making known to them their own incredible value that so often gets lost behind poverty line.
This was a special day for them. The kids walked around the exhibit, pointing out to their mothers which drawings or crafts they had made. Mothers watched on bright-eyed, as their kids danced onstage. Little kids came up to our volunteers, with a wealth of smiles that many weeks ago were so hard to wedge out of them. And I watched, in disbelief and wonder, at the sweet celebration taking place around me. As we knew from the beginning, all our hard work is worth it.
I’m not huge on television series’, but thanks to online streaming I have become dedicated to a few. I can get through a whole season of a show with much excitement, watching episode right after episode. But I have a tendency to hold off watching the season enders. Nearing a season’s conclusion, I slow down. Sometimes I put it off for longer, until the following season already starts so I won’t have to wait in agony between stories. (At this moment, I have yet to watch three season enders of three different shows whose seasons ended months ago!)
I’d rather wait in willing suspense, than just have things be plain over.
Perhaps this is the feeling that I woke up with the other day – wishing we were still looking ahead to the big surprise for the kids, rather than knowing that the celebrations had been celebrated.
In the weeks to follow, I hope to continue to process the experience and share incredible stories of learning and blessing. Thankfully, there is much to share!