Monday, September 26, 2016

Reaching the '3'

The '3' in our name TEN3 stands for "Discipling to the third generation." It's a reference to 2 Timothy 2:22, "The things that you heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." We don't just want to teach a new generation, but to teach in such a way that they pass on wisdom to the generation after them, and so on. We're getting the opportunity to live that out now in our two newest partner countries.

Pastor Tukiko learned about us through a tweet, and called us, "chomping at the bit," as Ray put it, to start a computer school to disciple the young people in his community. Ray spent about 11 weeks consulting him over distance, and then Anthony went over to Tanzania to work with Tukiko, Jackson, who was to be the school administrator, and Jacob, Abigail, and Mary, the teachers-to-be. Their school is running, and we thank God that things are going well. Now, in another city in Tanzania, a lady named Miriam, who started an NGO to serve the needs of women and children, wants to start a computer school as part of her outreach. So we are doing the same consulting, but this time, we are having Tukiko participate. The goal is that the next time someone in Tanzania wants a computer school, Tukiko will do the bulk of the consulting with Ray and Anthony observing to chip in when needed, and from then out, he will be the official TEN3 consultant in Tanzania. He will carry on the ministry in his country: though he'll be able to call on us as necessary, he will be the one in charge.

We're getting to do the same thing in Zambia. Collins Sakalunda contacted us about starting a computer school, and again Ray consulted him, Anthony traveled there and did further instruction, and now he is running it as a ministry of his church. Another Zambian, Mr. Chiti, wants to start a computer school, so we are consulting him with Collins' participation, with the view that next time, he will be in charge and we will watch and help, and from then on, we hope he'll be ready to do it on his own.

That's what we also want to see in my department, curriculum. For a couple of reasons, I have not yet been able to get teachers available and dedicated to long-term participation yet, but my job is not just to write curriculum. It's to train African educators in the transformational principles and effective tactics so that they can start writing the kinds of materials their students need--material that is practical, affordable, culturally relevant, and Christ-centered. As they spread this teaching, students and fellow teachers will build their reasoning on a Christian worldview and sound educational principles, and be able to in turn make more and even better education.

That's been our hope and prayer since the beginning of TEN3. It's exciting to see the first steps from the second generation to the third, making the '3' a reality. May the Lord grant us the grace to finish what we've started.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Needing an off-the-grid enthusiast to appear out of the blue

Oh for an expert in living off the grid who is good at teaching and called to be a missionary!

We've been spinning wheels evaluating how to help partner schools in Nigeria. The power grid in Nigeria is extremely unreliable, probably off more than on. So computer schools have to rely on generators to make up the difference. Well, an economic crisis in Nigeria this year cause fuel to become widely unavailable, and very expensive when it is available.

My colleague Nathan has researched and experimented with ways to help with this, including solar panels and wind turbines made out of drills. We've also thought about waterwheels for rainy season and collecting the cooking oil from street vendors to use in generators. The trouble with the first three options is that to really work well in a computer school, they require a massive battery bank, which can be either a) easy to maintain but thousands of dollars, or b) not so expensive (using things like old car batteries), but requiring somebody who really knows what they're doing to maintain. The cooking oil option also requires an expert to keep it from ruining the generator.

We could try raising money for the high-end battery banks, but our team has never been good at fundraising. Also, that's not really what our organization is called to do. We're about local sustainability and reproducibility. What good would it do students to get a computer education at a school that has a great power solution, if they then go to a workplace that needs power and doesn't have it? The solution we want to see is a way we can make "how to make and maintain your own battery bank and power sources" a course in these schools, so the schools can not only supply their own power needs, but also be teaching students how to do it, and then they can take that knowledge wherever they go, helping with this problem throughout their country. None of us, unfortunately, has expertise in this. George might have been able to pull it off, but he and Kathy been called away from TEN3 to missionary care in Burkina Faso for this phase of their life. So, my prayer now is that the Lord may send someone who can go over and share Jesus' love by teaching power solutions that will work in Nigeria.

Lord, You know the suffering of Your people in Nigeria. Persecution and terrorism, economic crises, educational needs, greed squashing good ideas, and so much more. Won't You show the world that You are sufficient to overcome all these distresses by giving Your people the wisdom and ability to bless their communities in lasting ways?

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Praying for new, strong beginnings in our oldest partner country

A rather unfortunate principle that I've heard fellow missionaries express, and have found very true for me, is that whenever we have the most exciting things going on to write about, is the time we write the least, because we're too busy! So, what tied me up last month? Deciding I'm going back to Africa, and getting things ready for that! Those of you who get my newsletter know that already (and by the way, you can subscribe by clicking this link), but it's time to update here, too.

I've shared here and here about the curriculum I've been developing for primary school kids in Africa. The official name is "Learning with Computers for Primary Students" because it's not just learning about computers or in general how to use them, but using them to improve their learning in multiple areas. I saw an article recently on how adding computers and now tablets to schools has been a $60 billion hoax, and I agree with its thesis--screens in a classroom where there is already a poor educational approach only makes things worse. But with the right teaching principles, they can be used as successfully as the first computer school Anthony started years ago, because they provide fresh opportunity to use the principles that make for great education. It's the teaching, not the tech, but our ministry has over and over been able to use tech as the opportunity to get to the teaching. I've now been requested to come to Nigeria to present this educational program at two symposiums, helping school staff understand how to use it to disciple their kids and improve their education overall.

My travel dates are October 27-November 17. I sent in my paperwork for the visa a few weeks ago, but it can take up to two months for it to be issued, so please pray that the visa comes in time. In the meantime, we also need discernment about what I should take with me (more about that and our equipment quandaries later), and for how I should spend my time. I had a lady helping me develop the next phase of "Learning with Computers," (I have it ready for grades 3-4; this would be for grade 5), but she is no longer available. I also had been working on a desktop publishing course as an elective for the CTO. And I have a couple of more recently developed programming courses to edit and update. So, figuring out which should be my priority right now is my challenge. I'm leaning toward the grade 5 one, but hesitate a little because I'd like to see what I've already developed in action and get feedback from teachers first.

There's a lot to wonder about. Christie told me that the success of the program will likely depend on whether the schools send to the symposium head teachers who have the pull to implement it, or lower-status teachers who may love the program but not be able to get it going. Also, there's still the concern about the economic crisis in Nigeria. The computer centers are struggling to get a consistent supply of electricity. And so often when we go over, things seem to go well, but then misunderstandings or the communication barriers kill what we started. We have learned a lot from these experiences that has helped us strengthen and refine our training (which is a major reason we are seeing such good progress in Tanzania and Zambia), but dead-ends from the past are still enough to make me wonder, will it work this time? Still, I think the only way it can work is for us to keep our connection alive, which includes time on the ground, to talk and pray in person, to see their work and their struggles and actually stand in the classrooms where they teach to understand what we're dealing with. We're praying this may also be a time of real discipleship, especially with Emmanuel, who is teaching the CTO in Kwoi, with Ruth, who teaches programming and who Christie thinks will be valuable in developing TEN3 education, and with Gideon, who has begun to teach the CTO in Gombe. I really want to connect with these people and let them know that we're here for them, want to help them succeed in what God has laid on their hearts.

One other note: I'd like prayer for my health. I got sick about a week ago, and even though I only felt really bad one day, and all the other symptoms are gone, fatigue has lingered. I can sleep for 8 hours and feel like I only got 4, take a nap in the day to try to perk me up, and then still be worn out by 6pm. So I'm falling behind in a lot of things, and it's likely to get worse as my husband is being asked to work extra days, so house work that he would normally take care of might have to fall to me.