Sauve Ngwadi and Paul Makolokoto, two young men from Lusekele, have their own Sunday school class here. Sauve has been teaching Sunday school for a couple of years. Paul is just starting.
Bible memory verses are an important part of learning God’s truths. Children here learn by reciting together.
Games are a fun way to learn about God’s ways. The goal in a hide-and-seek game is that all the kids hiding will be found. Everyone claps when the hold-outs finally make it back into the circle.
Last week I attended a Sunday school teacher training seminar led by some local folk – “Leaguers”. The Bible Study League (Scripture Union in English-speaking countries) has been the most active organization for the promotion of Bible reading, serious discipleship and developing Christian leadership among young Congolese Christians since it first started in Congo in the mid-70s. Not surprising that it is a natural source for volunteer Sunday school teachers.
All the trainers and participants were avid Leaguers -- some high-school girls from Vanga and Lusekele, and some teenage boys from Bilili and Lusekele, with a sprinkling of older folk from other places. All in all we were about 20 taking a training that had been developed in France for Africa.
With at least 7 schools, Vanga, the historic mission station and burgeoning town just down the road is a magnet for students from all around the region. Naturally, more than a few want to settle there when they get done with their studies. So if any place needs special programs for kids of all ages, it is Vanga.
The training was a formula-approach to teaching Bible truths. You might think this too rigid to allow the Holy Spirit to direct the process. But when you’re quite young or a villager far from any advice, the formulas help to keep the essentials in mind as you design your Sunday school program. That is a good thing. The trainers were enthusiastic and the program good.
The Lusekele volunteer teachers who participated are raring to go. This week they will work on honing their skills together with our more experienced teacher before starting teaching.
So, how do you teach Sunday school without all the aids that we Americans think necessary? Well, you sing some choruses together. of course. The songs tell of God’s searching love, our sin, forgiveness and renewal. They tell of new life inspired by the Spirit. (I swear, Congolese kids know all the choruses by heart.) You pray with the children. There’s always Bible verse memorization. There are many games that don’t require much equipment: Simon Says, for example. Or Net the Fish. They taught us a number of these.
Then you have the Bible story. Everyone loves a story, especially kids, particularly when they’re told with lots of dramatics. Acting stories out is an option that doesn’t necessarily require many props, if any. We were taught never to read the Bible stories to the children. Rather you boil them down to the essentials, identifying the opportunities they offer to tell the kids more about God, sin, Jesus and following him. You weave the stories around these themes and teach from there. (This program is big on bringing kids to a personal commitment to Jesus.) And, of course, a big dose of love and individual attention is essential, no matter what side of the world you’re on.
My participation caused some strain in our household, as we’re just back and have had quite a lot of house-cleaning, maintenance and repair work to do, besides the usual unpacking and ordering one’s stuff, not to mention garden-clearing and rebuilding of outbuildings, to prepare for this next four years of service here. Every couple of days we were moving everything to a different room as we painted, and I had to be home to help as much as possible, so wasn’t with the seminar fulltime. Frankly, I was glad not to be a full participant. I have never been a fan of being woken at 4:30 for simultaneous group prayers at the top of one’s voice, even when it is alternated with singing.
But this seminar is one of the signs that God gives us of the Spirit’s movement in the church, the signs of life. These young people have a heart for sharing life in Jesus with children and other young people. I wanted to encourage their commitment and budding vision. Maybe you will want to remember them too as you pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send more workers and to give them the tools they need to be effective.