Thursday, December 24, 2009

Blessed Christmas Eve

A Christmas Carol
G.K. Chesterton

The Christ-child lay on Mary's lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's breast,
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary's heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world's desire.)

The Christ-child stood at Mary's knee,
His hair was like a crown.
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down.

I love this poem for many reasons.  This year, it captures beautifully the reality of my Advent and Christmas season.  I love this poem because of the dichotomy within it.  There is the dichotomy between the infant babe and the Almighty Savior; the weary world and cunning kings and the truth and beauty of Christ.

Dichotomy suits me well this year.  I can live with it.  Well, let's say I have no choice but to live with it.  My Christmas celebration is dichotomous:  on the one hand, I am joyful to celebrate Advent, to prepare my heart and spirit for the coming of Christ, and to participate in the traditions of the season.  

On the other hand, we have our first Christmas without the entire family. Furball just returned from taking gifts and dinner to JSB.  He wasn't received well, but was greeted with rage.  Mental illness has its grip and we have learned to mitigate its impact on us all.  So, we try to remain patient with this harsh reality, and continue to pray for his deliverance.

Pony Girl probably won't be with us tonight either.  She is 18-years-old and not so sure about this Jesus thing.   I told her I would love her to come to church with us tonight, but don't want her to if it's because she thinks I want her to be there.  I mean it, too.  It sucks the joy right out of you to watch someone in church who is there because you made them come.  I also think it "bruises the fruit" in an evangelical sense of the word. I've learned not to provide fodder for rebellion when it's not necessary to do so.

The "Scary Midwestern Lutheran Sect" bruised this fruit when I was her age.  The fundamental, closed-minded, right-wing synod sent me into the desert for a very long time.  I see she is on a similar path.  She is dear, but she is highly doubtful.  God was patient with me and I have learned from my own experience to be patient with the spiritual journey of another.   I believe that doubt - and even denial - is a sound response to faith.  Read the Bible and you'll find it there in abundance.  Christ knows how to respond to doubt and denial in more powerful ways than I.  So, I will be patient with her.

So much in my world is weary today.  There is cunning and sternness all around me.  So much is harsh.  But, a long time ago, a woman in my prayer group told me during the roughest times to "Keep looking for Christ in the midst of it all."  I didn't realize it at the time, but it was one of the most helpful exhortations I have received.

So, I am watching for Christ:  A few moments ago, I received a phone call from Sweet Miss P, a dear friend with a 60-year-old son with schizophrenia.  She called to check on us all, sympathized with the situation with JSB, and agreed with me that it "is what it is."  We wished each other a Merry Christmas and expressed love for each other.

I am going to fix Furball and myself a lovely supper of bouillabaisse this evening and celebrate the coming of Christ.  I am going to light all of the candles in my Advent wreath, listen to my favorite sacred music, and worship the savior.  And as we walk home from church on this beautiful December night, I will imagine the Infant Christ on his sweet mother's lap and think of Chesterton's beautiful words: all the flowers looked up at him, and all the stars looked down.


 Merry Christmas everyone.  Remember to look for Christ in the midst of it all...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Have Mercy On Me

As I was in the midst of attacking the laundry mountain, the phone rang.  Caller ID named a little convenience store in a tiny hamlet ten miles or so away.  

I knew it had to be JSB.  How did he get from his town 40 miles away to this town 10 miles away.  With no car.  With 20 inches or so of snow on the ground.  And why?

It had already been a long day, mostly spent "doing" for one child or the other.  I was looking forward to leveling the mountain of laundry and enjoying a warm soak and some hot tea.  But, not to be.

I don't like to bring him into my home when he's unmedicated.  I never know what state of mind he is in, nor what the voices in his head are telling him.  Especially what they are telling him about me.

He was very subdued when I picked him up and expressed concern about his health.  He's lost a lot of weight.  He's lonely and wants a relationship.  He claims no memories of his childhood and wants to know why his birth certificate is false. (It isn't).

I tried to validate as much as I could without upsetting him.  Because I always want to deliver him to the hospital and have learned the hard way that I can't force him to treat his illness.  It only makes things worse. 


He's in a calm frame of mind, so I bring him home and fix him hamburgers.  JSB is more interested in getting on the computer and "networking."   He's not interested in food or conversation anymore - just the internet.  When he tells me he's going to an inappropriate site, I tell him no and that it's time for me to take him home before the roads freeze.

Then, the voices.  I can tell when he's talking to them, because at first it seems like he is speaking to me.  But he is speaking so quietly, that I can't hear.  When I ask him to repeat, he gets very, very agitated.  So, I have learned to try to ignore.  It's unnerving to overhear the "conversations" he has about me.  Sometimes very unnerving.

The car ride to his apartment was unsettling.  He was now back to his stance of me as enemy, speaking softly to the voices about how I have ruined his life.  He yells at me to shut up and calls me some name which makes no sense to me.  So, I have a silent conversation with Christ.  "Lord, Jesus Christ,  Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."  The Jesus Prayer.  I repeat it over and over and over.  Without ceasing.

It's the only thing I can think to do.  It's an ancient prayer called the "prayer of the heart."  A way to pray without ceasing, to go into the heart where you encounter Divine Reality.  On the 25-minute drive, JSB carries on with voices outside of reality, while I descend into the reality of Christ, and silently pray for the both of us.

By the time we reach his apartment, he is angry.  The car door slams shut.  I am in prayerful silence, knowing that the Divine is at work.  Somehow.

Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

I watch through the window to make sure he is not locked out of his apartment.  Then, I head home in silence.  Praying without ceasing.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Gaudete in Domino semper - Rejoice in the Lord Always!

On this third Sunday in Advent, Gaudete Sunday, we "lighten up" during this penitential season, and Rejoice in the Coming of the Lord.  What an appropriate day for a little miracle!

Okay, so maybe this year's Christmas miracle is as unlikely as the King of Creation coming to earth as a poverty-stricken infant born in a manger. 

I wrote of my miracle last year and my son's experience in church on Christmas Eve here.  

This year, JSB desperately needs to go back on medication to treat his schizophrenia-induced psychosis.  This holiday season has been a challenge because we have not been able to celebrate with him due to his illness.

Here's where this year's miracle comes in.  I have been praying - intentionally and unceasingly - for JSB to be delivered from this nightmare.  It's funny when you pray for something like this, you think you know what God needs to do.  "Just get him to snap out of it, okay God?"

Sorry for the hubris, Almighty Creator.  I am grateful for your mercy and forgiveness, not to mention your patience.

Remember, I have to tell myself, He sent a baby more than two thousand years ago to redeem humanity struggling in the darkness.  The King of Kings was babe in an animal trough.  

Why do I look to the heavens for transcendent miracles, when God has demonstrated over and over again that He is willing to condescend and come to us as one of us?  Mind you, I love the transcendent.  But, I am reminded to look for God and His miracles in unlikely places.

So, today, he sends me hope in the form of a man who survives schizophrenia, has been down JSB's road, and wants to help.  The first gift is to us, JSB's parents.  To see this man stable, articulate, and living a good life makes my heart leap with joy.  It reminds me of John the Baptist leaping in Elizabeth's womb when he heard Mary's voice.

This new friend was able to give us insight into what JSB is experiencing right now.  That's something that only one who has experienced the negative and positive symptoms of schizophrenia can come close to comprehending.  

Another gift to us is the hope we feel when we look into the eyes of this man who is living proof that a good life is possible with severe mental illness.  His parents are blessings to us as well.  Few people "get it."  Many friends are wonderful and I am blessed over and over by their presence and I would be lost without them.  

But we are members of an exclusive club.  To be able to talk with someone about the things we experience and have experienced without worrying about judgment, stigma, and people drawing back in ..... (fill in the blank), is something we cherish.  Wow, parallel Mary and Elizabeth again.  What a blessing their friendship must have been.  How wonderful that God gave them their Sacred missions and blessed friendship. 

This calls for another Visitation piece.....

The other gift is the hope and relationship this man can potentially offer to JSB.  He is going to write to him, introduce himself and share his story.  And open the door to relationship. Of course there is no guarantee that JSB will immediately grasp this opportunity.  I know that full well.  But, the situation is ripe with potential.

And if things don't work out the way I want them to, it doesn't diminish the miracle.  It's God's miracle, not mine. So, look for them in unexpected places, in unexpected people.  And then Rejoice in the Lord!  Always!

Amen.  Alleluia!

Saturday, December 12, 2009


You hollow us out, God,
so that we may carry you,
and you endlessly fill us
only to be emptied again.

Make smooth our inward spaces
and sturdy,
that we may hold you
with less resistance
and bear you
with deeper grace. 

Jan L. Richardson; Night Visions: Searching the Shadows of Advent and Christmas

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

God Breaks Through

As part of my Advent discipline, my dear Arty Friend and I planned a contemplative retreat for Advent.  We've worked together on many such ventures over the years and it has always been a joy.

Planning times set apart for spiritual reflection are like a prayer to me; a spiritual discipline.  I am always reminded of how much I love deep contemplation of the mystery that is God.

We winnow writings by powerfully thoughtful and brilliant theologians; pore over sacred art, and prayerfully weave together great works of art, literature, theological reflection and music.  We hope to put together an afternoon of prayerful reflection and renewal for those who bless us with their fellowship.  My goal is to be a vessel of the Holy Spirit for those who will join us in our time set apart with God.

This year, we considered the angelic revelations to Zechariah, Mary.....

..and Joseph..

I love the idea that an Angel who has stood before God now stands before us, heralding God's desire for us.  In the cold darkness of this worldly life, God sends an emissary to compel us to fear not, to listen, and follow this heavenly direction.  "This is what I want you to do..." He says through the Angel.

 Of course, the message is never simple.  Don't be are going to do something impossible.......

Uh, okay?  But there is something so powerful, so compelling, so Holy.....

...that the faithful recipient of Angelic news can only surrender, obey, and submit to the Word of God.....

...and even though you are too old to bear children, you bear the one who will Prepare the Way.... risk your honor and future to be the Christ Bearer....... believe the unbelievable and stand in as an earthly father....
The story still gives me chills.  
I yearn for those encounters and glimpses of heavenly direction, especially when life is cold and dark like winter.  The Angels still come. God still breaks through and reveals what He desires of us.
But, am I listening?  Do I have the faith and courage to boldly submit to something so alarmingly unconventional, radical, and earth shattering?  

I pray I follow the example of Mary with my response:  "Be it unto me according to thy word."

Blessed is she who believed.

I wish you a Blessed Advent.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Revelations and Reflections - Lukewarm

The ruins of Laodicea
(something I am trying to avoid)  

The "lukewarm" label has seized my attention more than a few times in the Book of Revelation.  John writes to the churches delivering a spiritual "report card," if you will.  His words resonate still and serve as a "gentle" reminder (ahem).

In my heart, I don't think I am so lukewarm.  Yet I realize if I truly responded to God's gentle and not-so-gentle upside slaps to my head, I would be much more disciplined and focused in my response.

I know my call.  At least part of it.  It's been coming at me in forty million different ways since about 1991.

It all started with a class on Lectio Divina at a former church.  (Actually, it started way before that, but that's another post).

Lectio Divina is a way of "praying" scripture.  You can find out more about it here: 

Learning to pray the scriptures in this ancient manner transformed the way I approached my faith and the role of prayer in my life.  When I set down to allow scripture to speak to me in this way, I felt like this:

Then will the lame leap like a deer,
       and the mute tongue shout for joy.
       Water will gush forth in the wilderness
       and streams in the desert. 

                    --Isaiah 35:6 

This was something that never occurred to me  as I was coming of age in the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church.  My guess is that it never occurred to the leaders of that sect as well.  (but, that' is a totally different story).....
At any rate, a charism was introduced to me that day.  It took root in my heart, became the means through which I could rest in God's presence.   This practice, this divine reading became a well spring to me, an  entry way into a more mature faith, and later the rock to which I clung during difficult days.  
I learned that I "fit" with other faithful men and women in the church's past and  present.  My way is the way of the mystic.
In the past twenty years, I have been drawn more deeply to Christ through prayer ... lectio divina, contemplative prayer, the Daily Office, praying with Icons, and (trying to follow) a Rule of Life.  

I was generously and gracefully reminded of this charism while I was in Africa.  Most importantly, I was reminded that I had been neglecting it, and therefore, neglecting God.  Mercifully, God reminded me of how much I need it.  

Well, God reminded me how much I need God.  How much I really need God...

I also realized that in addition to the need for me to turn up the "heat," I am expected to do something with this prayer life.  (That's the part I've been avoiding).

But, I've been too distracted.  

I'm reading Huston Smith's Religions of the World.  A section resonated with me regarding distractions which keep us from God.  In the chapter on Buddhism, he writes that "life as typically lived is unfulfilling and filled with insecurity." 

"Earth's sweetest joy is but disguised pain,' William Drummond wrote, while Shelley speaks of that 'unrest which men miscall delight.'  Beneath the neon dazzle is darkness; at the core--not of reality but of unregenerated human life-- is the "quiet desperation Thoreau saw in most peoples' lives." 

"That is why we seek distractions, for distractions divert us from what lies beneath the surface.     Some may be able to distract themselves for long periods, but the darkness is unrelieved."

Lo! as the wind is, so is mortal life,
A moan, a sigh, a sob, a storm, a strife.

More later...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Post-Liberia Reflections and Revelations

God never ceases to amaze me.  I guess that's why God is God...and I am not.

I am still in the head-scratching phase of my mission trip to Liberia, trying to figure it all out. What was God's message for me in it all?

Let's start with what it wasn't.  I do not feel called to do more mission work in Africa; at least at this point.

I do not feel called to become an advocate for the Bromley School.

I do feel called to support the education efforts of the Episcopal Diocese of Liberia.  Probably from the good ole USA.

A friend who knows several of my mission colleagues remarked that each of us, when recounting our experience, came from a completely different perspective.  It's almost like we were telling different stories.  That shouldn't surprise me.  True to promise, God met us as we were.

I am surprised that my emerging sense of what was revealed to me has nothing to do with Africa or education.  It has to do with God's persistent and consistent call to me.  One which, if I am truly honest with myself, I have been at best misunderstanding - and at worst, ignoring. 

Maybe I've been "lukewarm" in my response to that call.

To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

Uh, yikes.

More to come..... 

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Exposed On the Cliffs of the Heart

One of my favorite poets.  I'm putting this book on my Christmas list.

Exposed on the cliffs of the heart. Look, how tiny down
look: the last village of words and, higher,
(but how tiny) still one last
farmhouse of feeling. Can you see it?
Exposed on the cliffs of the heart. Stoneground
under your hands. Even here, though,
something can bloom; on a silent cliff-edge
an unknowing plant blooms, singing, into the air.
But the one who knows? Ah, he began to know
and is quiet now, exposed on the cliffs of the heart.
While, with their full awareness,
many sure-footed mountain animals pass
or linger. And the great sheltered birds flies, slowly
circling, around the peak's pure denial.- But
without a shelter, here on the cliffs of the heart...

From 'Ahead of All Parting:
The Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke'
Edited and Translated by Stephen Mitchell

Saturday, November 21, 2009


I find myself in the mood for a little Wisdom these days.  Above is an icon of the Spirit of Wisdom (Sophia).  Below a poem by Joyce Rupp...

Radiant and Unfading Wisdom,
your deep love calls to me.
I seek you with all my heart.
Hasten to make yourself known to me.

Sit at the gate of my heart.
Teach me your ways.
Meet me in my every thought.
Attune my mind to your perceptions.
Open all that is closed within me.
I desire your instruction.
I long to receive and to share your love.

Dance on the path of my life.
Free me from all that hinders.
Deepen all that attracts me to you.
As the mystery of my life unfolds
through the quickly passing years,
draw my love ever nearer to you.

I promise to be awake and vigilant,
attentive to your voice,
receptive to your guidance.
I will hide no secrets from you.
Come, reveal yourself to me.  
Joyce Rupp, Prayers to Sophia

...and here's a little Hildegard von Bingen on Sophia.....

I am Wisdom. Mine is the blast of the resounding Word through which all creation came to be, and I quickened all things with my breath so that not one of them is mortal in its kind; for I am Life. Indeed I am Life, whole and undivided -- not hewn from any stone, or budded from branches, or rooted in virile strength; but all that lives has its root in Me. For Wisdom is the root whose blossom is the resounding Word....
I flame above the beauty of the fields to signify the earth -- the matter from which humanity was made. I shine in the waters to indicate the soul, for, as water suffuses the whole earth, the soul pervades the whole body. I burn in the sun and the moon to denote Wisdom, and the stars are the innumerable words of Wisdom.

The Holy Spirit as Caritas (Grace/World Soul & Wisdom/Creatrix) 
St. Hildegard von Bingen 

...ahhhh.... I feel better now... 

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Give Thanks

I approach this Thanksgiving holiday with a heavy heart.

A year ago, I witnessed a miracle with JSB in church on Christmas Eve.  I'm choosing to hold the miracle close to my heart, but am prepared to deal with the heart-wrenching reality that is the lot of a mother of a child with schizophrenia.

By the way, I speak it......and am not ashamed....

Last year, in August, we had JSB committed for psychiatric care, and for a brief and shining period, life was good.  He came to Christmas Eve service with us, covered his tattoos, cleaned himself up, and stayed with us in the standing-room-only-church.  If you know people who struggle with schizophrenia, you know that is difficult.  All of the stimulation is more than they can take, and JSB was itching to leave and smoke a cigarette.

But, he listened to the service and heard what the Priest was saying.  It was an inclusive, radical love message, and JSB appreciated that, and told me, "I like this church."  We were jammed in the back pew, and JSB had given his seat up to a woman.  I pulled a kneeler down and he sat on it, facing me.  The music was beautiful, and he looked up at me and said, "I love you, Mom."  I hugged him and told him that I loved him as well. 

That was the last moment of sanity that I witnessed in my child.

Today, his delusions have taken hold, and lead him to despise his family.  He especially despises me.  If his delusions were reality, he would have good reason. 

So, despite my best efforts, I can't force my child to treat his illness.  This year, he will likely spend Thanksgiving and Christmas without his family.  Without anyone.  That breaks my heart.

So, I'm trying to think of what I can do to make Thanksgiving and Christmas meaningful for my child whose illness causes him to seclude himself.

Any ideas?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Reverend Father Part II

Note the dog in the last picture above.  Even the mutt wanted to be a part of the blessing.

It was this little girl's birthday and Father blessed her.  It's difficult to explain, but when he cradled her little head in his hands and blessed her, I was profoundly moved.  I remember musing, "Wow, this is a Priest." 

I loved the choir - it was powerful to hear popular Episcopal hymns sung with their wonderful Liberian accents and the African flavor of their voices.

My Wonderful Priest preached a sermon on how the acolytes vested her.  She noted that before the service, they surrounded her and vested her as though they were dressing a bride.  They made sure her cincture was properly tied, her cross was straight, and handed her her prayer book.  Father told her that is because they don't have a mirror and the acolytes serve as the mirror.  In her sermon, she made the point that depending on your outlook (scarcity or abundance) one might think the church needs a mirror; another might see the grace in having these young acolytes touch you, vest you, and show you abundant love. 
The acolytes were amazing during the liturgy.  Their precision in censing and genuflecting was astonishing.

 After the service, we chatted with the parishioners.

The vestry invited us to the Palava to have refreshments.

Liberian women are extremely beautiful.  The hospitality extended to us was most gracious.

They told us about the school they are building on the property.  They are providing free education to the children in the surrounding area.  They started with kindergarten-2nd grade (I believe) and hope to add grades as the years go on.  They started with 30 children on the first day and are up to 90 or more now.

The building is not yet finished.  We were able to donate $800 toward the school as an offering during the service.  It felt wonderful to be able to make a significant contribution to this little school.  I would like to find more ways to help St. Peter's School.

Beautiful student.

Beautiful flora.
I was so grateful for this day in  Caldwell with the priest and parishioners of St. Peter's.  It was a blessing beyond my imagination.  I didn't realize how in need I was of  the balm of good liturgy and powerful worship until I was in its midst.  It was a very healing day.

Of course, that wasn't the last we saw of this dear Priest.  He spent the entire day with us on our last day in Liberia.  And, of course, rode with us to the airport. 

So, dear friends, if you are in Liberia, be sure to look up the Reverend Father.  Actually, you won't have to look him up, he'll most likely know you are coming, meet you, watch over you, bless you, befriend you, and be a manifestation of the Christ within.  God continue to bless you Reverend Father. 

Oh, and one more thing.  Buy him a Guinness for me.

Reverend Father, Coincidence? Or Not. - Part 1

Sometimes a coincidence is simply a coincidence.   But sometimes the coincidences are so intense and compelling, you can't help but believe that None Other Than The Holy Spirit is at the helm.  Meeting the Reverend Father in Liberia was one of those experiences.

On the eve of my departure, a priestly friend suggested I look up her friend from seminary while I was in Liberia.  Okay, I thought, wouldn't that be nice.  But, what are the odds of running into this priest while I am in Liberia -- especially one whose ministry is to sea farers far from home in Liberia.  I was traveling by air, after all ;)

Well.  Let me tell you.

We arrived in Liberia late at night.  Travel weary and overburdened with two fifty-pound suitcases each, we made our way through the airport.  We were met by our driver and another gentleman and proceeded  toward the truck and van to load bags and make our way to the compound.  Somehow, we got separated, and found ourselves in the midst of several young men who were vying for our bags.  If they touch them, they want a tip.  I mean, they REALLY want a tip.   I remember trying to figure out what happened to our driver, when a gentle man with a calming presence told me that it was okay.  He pointed to the van and told me to get in.  I was most happy to oblige.

Well, this was the first of many encounters with my friend's friend (and-now-my-friend), The Reverend Father.  He had come to the airport to meet us and to safely escort us from the airport to the compound in which we were staying.  He then invited My Wonderful Priest to preach at his church on Sunday.

There's more.  One evening, a few of us were sitting around the compound enjoying a cold Liberian beer, when some visitors arrived.

Three "collars" including The Reverend Father came to call.  We learned that Reverend Father is in charge of Christian Education and Mission with the Episcopal Diocese of Liberia.  He brought with him the Priest of St. Thomas Episcopal Church and the principal of the Episcopal School at St. Thomas.  Coincidentally (ahem) we were planning a seminar for teachers the next day at The Bromley School

So, guess who came to our seminar on Saturday?  The Rev. Father, his friends, and a few of the teachers from the St. Thomas School.  I believe one  message for us was that there's more than one Episcopal School in Liberia in need of support.  It was a pleasure to be able to offer something to another school in addition to Bromley.  I had to laugh, those of you who are teachers know, staff development isn't always something we joyfully anticipate.  Yet these educators sought it out.  It was yet another reminder of the abundance in my life on so many levels - personal and professional.

On Sunday, we trekked quite a distance to worship at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Caldwell. It was a long trip through crowded, pot-hole-filled streets, and we weren't sure if the driver knew where he was going.  We arrived just minutes before the service was to begin.  It was such a relief to see this sweet little Episcopal Church waiting for us.

I was about to experience the most profound Holy Encounter of my Liberian experience. 

Much of my energy - emotional and spiritual - was spent simply processing the multi-sensory over stimulation and sense of being off-kilter that I was experiencing in Liberia.  This was the first moment that felt familiar to me.  Anglo-Catholic liturgy. Incense and altar bells.  I knew exactly what to do.   I didn't expect to have such a profound encounter with the divine.  But, now that I know the Reverend Father, I should not have been surprised.

When communion ended, the children entered and were blessed by My Wonderful Priest.  There were more children than adults, and it was a beautiful sight to see. 

More beautiful children.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Kindergarten in Liberia

During my visit to The Bromley School in Liberia, I paid a visit to the kindergarten class.  Quite a difference from our kindergarten classes in LoCo, to be sure.  The room is small -- about 10'x20' (?)  There is no electricity or running water.  No brightly colored displays of student work, no manipulatives for hands-on learning, no books.....  Just sweet, smiling children and their teachers.

They practiced their letters on the ancient chalkboard in the room...... kindergartners do everywhere.....

...they also practiced forming letters in composition notebooks with their teacher working with them.....


They taught me some of their favorite songs and games.......

Many of the games were similar to Duck, Duck, Goose; the hokie pokey; and London Bridge.......

And then, I taught a little math lesson on collecting and analyzing data.  In case you can't tell by my artistic representations, we are determining favorite fruit: mango (called plum in Liberia), pineapple and banana......

We also did some story problems on the chalk board.  I wanted to engage them in conversation about their thinking process as they approached a math problem.  This was new for them.  Much of the instruction is more teacher directed with less "wait time" than what we are used to in the States.  The teachers were very gracious and anxious to see what I would do with their students.....

As I worked in this classroom, I noted that these children were born after the wars in Liberia had ended.  They have not experienced the war witnessed by their older peers.  We were told that some families were able to keep their children pretty sheltered from the war by keeping them hidden at home. For others, that was not the case.

At any rate.... the joyful smiles of the children were a very, very good thing.
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