June already! I know, what an original way to start a post. But seriously, I was just thinking about the fact that it's really easy to get out of touch with what's going on in the world. Part of the problem is the fact that I don't read newspapers, I don't watch TV, I don't listen to the radio, and since my internet's so slow right now, I don't keep up with news that way either. (By the way, none of the above is because of conviction or anything like that -- I guess it's just that I'm lazy and my head just naturally buries itself in the sand unless I make a supreme effort to dig it out.) Anyway, at home (in NI), I couldn't help but hear the news from my large and talkative family (some of whom are pretty clued in to current events). Here . . . well, it's easy to be out of touch. And hence the fact that it's June is rather surprising to me -- my head seems to have stopped somewhere around March 21st!
Only in that one sense, though. In many other ways, I'm extremely conscious of the passing of time -- because it's going so fast! And there's so much to do . . .
I'm thinking and praying about holding Holiday Bible Clubs during the kids' summer vacation (which is starting in the next week or two). Pray with me about this, please. It would be a good way to kickstart a children's work in the Balla Creek and Gardinersville churches -- I haven't done any work in either of them yet since I came. BUT there would be no point in holding a Bible Club and contacting children if the folks in the churches don't then put their shoulders to the plow and continue the work the rest of the year. In Paynesville (where I've been working the most), the church people have really gotten behind the work with the children. I would like to see that happening in the other churches too. The way I see it, the missionary can help with teaching, and especially with training the teachers, but the people in the local church need to dedicate themselves to the work, week in and week out -- getting to the church early to set up, going out into the community to round the kids up, etc. So pray that the church folks will be burdened for their own children.
The Paynesville work has been encouraging. Nathan Barco (the committee member in Paynesville who is heading up the Sunday School work) and I went out on "visitation" round the community a couple of weeks ago. We had made up a leaflet to remind the children about Sunday School, and we made a point of speaking to the parents directly to encourage them to send their children. We stressed the importance of keeping the Sabbath Day, and of teaching their children to do the same. We challenged them not to send their kids to wash clothes or sell in the market on Sunday, but rather to get them up early and send them to Sunday School on time. Of course, most parents agreed with everything we said (only one Jehovah's Witness lady said point-blank that she wouldn't be coming or sending her children). I wasn't sure how many of them actually meant what they said, but we've definitely had some new kids in the last couple of weeks, and last Sunday some parents actually brought their kids right to the church (and one lady stayed for church). So pray that these children will remain. We've been encouraging the children to come on time and we're going to give little prizes each month to those who come on time every Sunday in the month. Only 4 children got the prize for the month of May! But the prize-giving certainly raised some interest among the others. It's really distracting (both for the kids and the teachers) when children are wandering in any time from 9:30 (when Sunday School starts) right up until 10:45 (when it ends). And then obviously the kids who come late are missing a lot of the teaching.
Last weekend Rev. DiCanio, Pastor Andrew Joe, and I travelled down to RiverCess -- it's about 120 miles away. It took about 5 hours to drive -- the road was paved for the first 2 hours (actually a really good road!). We were on dirt roads after that, but it wasn't too bad, and it didn't rain so that made the travelling a lot easier. RiverCess is the fourth Free Presbyterian Mission Church here in Liberia -- I had only been there once before (I think in 2009). It was nice to visit again and meet the people. Rev. DiCanio had a committee meeting on Saturday evening when we arrived, so I met with the children informally and taught them some choruses (they were all waiting for us at the church!) Then on Sunday morning, I taught Sunday School -- they do have a good group of children there. Most of the people in RiverCess speak Bassa and I had thought that I'd have to be interpreted, but it turned out that the kids all learn English in school and they assured me that they understood me. I don't know about the little ones, but it was definitely easier to teach in English without having to be translated. There's a lot of work to be done in RiverCess -- the church people seem to be putting effort into the children's work, and I'd like to help in some way. Obviously, the logistics of getting there are more difficult than for the places close to Monrovia, but pray that the Lord will make the way -- perhaps to go down and stay for a few days and hold a Bible Club.