Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Change in Direction - Our Last English Class

After all the intensity of our island travels where we work directly with people, it is sometimes difficult to adjust back to our role as office support missionaries working on reports and staring at a computer much of the day from  8:00 AM to 4:30 PM.    We know the office work matters too, but it is a big switch I sometimes struggle with.

One of the things that has continued to keep us feeling excited and engaged has been our Tuesday night English class with Chinese immigrants.   Oh how we have loved those times!

However, things had changed recently. The core group of people who used to come have moved on.  Some had left the area. Others simply found other things to do.  As they develop more proficiency with the language, our advanced students no longer need to rely on our class.  So attendance had dwindled quite a bit in recent weeks.  Also, as the young missionaries from the Chinese Branch who we partner with to run this class go through transfers, different new people coming in have varying degrees of interest in keeping it going.  

Besides the change in dynamic of how the class was going, our biggest issue was the fact that our travel schedule is really ramping up.  With no reliable substitutes to fall back on when we are in the islands, it just didn't make sense to continue to juggle this class with everything else we needed to be doing.
Teaching this class was never a part of our assignment.   It was something we had volunteered for as extra service.   We are very thankful for the chance we had to be involved with it for the months we have been going. But after some careful reflection and prayer about it,  we came to the decision it was time for us to move on.

Then, when we showed up this week for our very last class, we had a whole new group of students to teach.  This came after weeks of only two or three people being there.  Our last session was actually one of our best ever. It almost made us want to reconsider our decision to back out. 

 We had fun teaching them names of various body parts (eyes/ears/nose/mouth, hand, foot, arm, leg).   Then we went on to reviewing names for containers one would find in a grocery store.   We differentiated between  a Carton (eggs, milk, yogurt),   a Box (cereal, macaroni, tea, dry soups),  a Can (vegetables, soups, beans, soda or beer),  a Bottle  (juice, soda, oil, wine)  a Jar (pickles, peanut butter, jam) a Package  (noodles, or biscuits - the name here for cookies) or a Sack (flour, sugar, rice).   

 Sister Lee would draw each item on the white board as we described it.  She turned out to be a terrific artist!   Then we would have each student in the circle practice saying a sentence using the word.  "I bought a jar of _____"  or "I bought a box of _____".    If they needed help we would tell them something that would be a match for the container we were talking about in that round of the exercise.  About half of them were able to come up with their own ideas.   There was much laughter and praise throughout the exercise and a good time was had by all.  I am grateful we got to end our service with that class on a high point.

Some of the Sister Missionaries who worked with the English class for Chinese speakers:
Sister Skankey, Sister Lee, Sister Henderson, Sister Howell, Sister Yang
Sister Lee was our artist who made our last class so much fun.

We will miss the good times we had working with the English Language classes.  Even with the occasional frustrations and disappointments,  teaching these dear people from China has been a true high point of our mission experience.  

As we transition away from this weekly teaching language classes, I can't help but wonder what other opportunities for community service we might find next. We were told in the MTC that as Senior Missionaries we would have quite a bit of flexibility in how we used our time.  To a large extent, it really is up to us what sort of mission experiences we want to have.   While it IS appropriate to take some days to rest and to explore this beautiful country we are serving in, we do want to be actively engaged in doing good without having to wait for an assignment to fill all our time.  Some of that will be helping people with family history, but we look forward to finding other things to do too.

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