April 8, 2008

One of my favorite things

Teaching Christine to read has been one of my favorite things. It doesn’t fit on any agenda and it may not have the ‘widest’ impact- but it’s still one of my favorite things. I was blessed that a previous woman here spent a lot of time with Christine, improving her English as well as teaching her the difficult building blocks of reading (thanks Elaine!). So when we began working together I was able to see immediate results. My ultimate goal was that maybe, by the time we ended, Christine would be able to read and write basic letters, and would have the tools to be able to read her own Bible. I have never had a more motivated and excited student.
I found the “Key Words with Ladybird” series almost by accident. We started book one back in July with basics such as 11 key words: Jane, Peter, and, here, is, etc. Now we are already finishing book 9 which has new key words like: photograph, collects, balloons, climb etc. I can’t recommend this series enough. It’s been wonderful.
As my last week in Karamoja is coming too swiftly upon me (long story- but I’m unexpectedly leaving earlier), I’ve begun to count each encounter, hoping the minutes may stretch out before me. As we’ve prepared to go we’ve been practicing writing letters. I help Christine to write a small letter to us, and then while she’s away I, or Jacob, respond to her letter. Then we sit together with Christine and piece together the letter.

Today she sat and worked out for herself a small letter Jacob had written to her. One sentence said, “I am happy you came today. We are always glad to see you.” As she formed each word, sounding out each consonant and vowel- I watched her, and felt so fully how each completed word was growth in her self confidence and independence; each completed word was a beautifully perfectly formed bouquet springing from her. And as she read that sentence, that we are ‘always glad to see her’ I could see that first the words came out, then the understanding, and along with the confidence each new word brings, there was also sheer pleasure at being encouraged and loved. Watching her read each word was like watching her unwrap special little gifts that are worth more than I can imagine.

Immediately after today’s lesson I took this picture. I think her smile says it all.
At home we say lightly “knowledge is power”. I shy away from the word ‘power’ currently, but seeing how much this knowledge has empowered my wonderful friend, I’m touched and amazed. Like those moments when you see a truth so clearly that you almost fear to voice it or share what you’ve seen, in the fear that it may magically disappear while you momentarily tear your eyes and mind away from it. I see her new hunger for more, her hope and realization that she can express herself and be in contact with the outside world. Using bits of charcoal to etch on her skin new words she doesn’t want to forget, and shyly soaking in the praise we give her. If ever I needed to be encouraged that you get ‘out’ what you put ‘into’ life- this was a great time and a great way to be reminded. I only wish I had started sooner, stayed longer and worked harder with her. They are regrets, but the regrets of a pleased and proud heart that is at the same time thankful for starting, staying and working as we did.

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