24 January 2017

Last time for THAT moment with the last one of my gang

I love teaching. 

I'm passionate about teaching middle school. Fourth through seventh or eighth grade - some days you get the elementary school student, some days you get the high school student but on most days you get the student who's wandering back and forth between those two and totally clueless.

And I love it.

I do enjoy teaching younger children, but not with the same passion... unless you want to talk about teaching little ones to read. 

Or, teaching anyone of any age to read. 

One of the most memorable moments of my life was when, after working with a 60+ year old Zarma woman in Niger for over two years, she haltingly read a primer version of the story of Ruth from the Bible. As she struggled through the words, all of sudden all of the syllables and sounds came together and made sense. She looked at me, her eyes filled with tears of wonder and she emotionally said, "I know this story. It's from the Bible. It is the story of Ruth and Boaz. I'm finally, for the first time ever, reading God's Word for myself. It isn't a pastor or teacher or man reading it to me." I cried, too.

I've been so privileged to work with each one of my children as they've learned to read - either teaching them before they started day school or working with them in the language  they weren't using at school. For most of them, that has been reading in English. For a few, it has been reading in French.

There are so many moments. 

That moment when the code is finally deciphered and the learner realizes that those scribbles on the paper actually translate to sounds they use all of the time when speaking - and mean something.

That moment when reading transitions from struggling and halting and hesitant to fluent.

That moment when the words turn to real colors and smells and tastes and sounds and sensations, both palpable and emotional.

That moment when it is no longer simply reading aloud someone else's words, but interpreting them -and making it personal - to develop them into the story the reader wants his or her listener/s to hear.

That moment when God's story, as revealed in His Word, suddenly transforms from two dimensional to three and finally four or more dimensions, whe the reader is able to have his or her mind blown by His incredible-ness, His so-different-from-mere-man-ness, His powerful-ness, His bigness, His loveliness...

Mary Michelle experienced that last moment, for the first time, tonight. 

She was reading from the Jesus Storybook Bible. I just love its subtitle - every story whispers His name - but I digress. 

She read the following words: 
In the beginning, there was nothing. 
Nothing to hear. Nothing to feel. Nothing to see. 
Only emptiness. And darkness. And... nothing but nothing. 
But God was there. And God had a wonderful Plan.  
"I'll take this emptiness," God said, "and I'll fill it up! Out of the darkness, I'm going to make light! And out of nothing, I'm going to make...EVERYTHING!"  
Like a mommy bird flutters her wings over her eggs to help her babies hatch, God hovered over the deep, silent darkness. He was making life happen.  
God spoke. That's all. And whatever He said, it happened." (p. 18)
As she was reading aloud to me, I noticed that somewhere along the line, she's picked up a tiny touch of a southern accent (like me) - the only one of my gang, apparently, who has. Every single time she read the word "nothing," it sounded more like "nuthin' " This tiny twang showed up in every single -ing word. This fact makes me smile!

But back to the point. She read the above words, gradually slowing, and finally she paused. I thought it was because she was looking at the illustration or waiting for me to turn the page. Maybe. 

I was wrong she turned to me, and in that moment, the total awe on her face was priceless.  

She said softly, her voice trembling a little bit, "Mama, if God didn't have the idea to make people, you wouldn't be here. I wouldn't have you. That would be really sad," as her little hand reached up to cup my face and pull me closer to nuzzle.

I responded, "Hey, if He hadn't made people, you wouldn't be here either."

She startled, then giggled, "I guess that's right...." and her voice trailed off. I stayed silent because it was obvious she was thinking.

"I guess that means He didn't just make the world and the universe and all that stuff out there. He also made words and ideas so that could tell us about Him. Oh Mama! I'm so glad God made words and that He put the words in a book so I could learn about Him. And tell you I love you. And it's even okay that He made French words, too."

That moment! Witnessing His Spirit work in the lives of one of my children? It ranks right up there with the very best of all experiences, ever!

Will she remember the details of this conversation in a few days? I don't know, but I'm pretty sure that, in that moment, God just became exponentially "amaizin'-er," in her eyes. In my eyes, too. At the same time, her view of Mama decreased. I'm so glad that process is starting to happen.

In any case, there's no doubt whether or not I'll remember these details of that moment. I want to. I need to. 

That's part of the reason I put them down here. 

For posterity.

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