MNYS Journey with the GLOBAL CHURCH
Apr 19, 2018
By Melanie Nelson
Melanie Nelson is an English Teacher sent by our synod to our Companionship Diocese's English Medium School called KIbeta English Medium School (KEMPS.)
Reaching out and finding an opportunity to become a part of a culture, and a community, other than my own, has always been on my bucket list. Along with that comes one of my faults—a failure to reach out and act on my desires, wants, and wishes. So, without doing much of anything, I left that bucket list item for God, that God to whom “all desires are known and from whom no secrets are hid.”
That wasn’t enough, because I am quite stubborn, so over the past years, God has taught me to allow myself quiet moments for listening to those ‘still small voices’ sent my way, and also to be open to where they may lead—and that is definitely what happened!
I am here in Bukoba, Tanzania, as a volunteer teaching at Kibeta English Medium Primary School, a.k.a. KEMPS. It’s a school filled with life, learning, happiness, and God’s love. I am here because I was open to the possibility and also because MNYS chose to send me. I am thankful for this school community that has embraced me, and also for the opportunity to continue to experience those crazy, unforgettable teaching moments that give flavour to my days. And let me tell you that yesterday was full of flavour. It was no salt and pepper day.
One of my assignments is teaching Healthcare & Environment to Standard I, which in America is our First Grade. This particular class has 43 students. Yes, that’s right, 43. My husband, David, is here with me, and because he is available, I enlisted him as my teaching assistant. He knows not to plan anything on Tuesdays because he’s mine on that day. This past Tuesday was no exception. The two morning periods went well. They most always do because the children are fresh and ready for the day, and so are we. The end-of-the-day afternoon triple has been the challenge and this week I had a plan: divide the students into three groups for three different activities related to what we were studying. David would take one group outside while I worked with groups inside, and then we would rotate. I was feelin’ good about this Tuesday’s afternoon triple!
Had we been in America, David would have received an exceptionally good rating for his teaching on Tuesday afternoon, and this veteran teacher would have been placed on a growth plan. The kids were lost. The lesson I had planned was so out-of-the-box for them that we barely got started before it was time to end. The room was noisy and chaotic, and as the minutes ticked by on what I first perceived to be a thoughtful plan, my thoughts also became noisy and chaotic. Simply stated, I forgot to find a balance between what I know about good teaching practices in America and what KEMPS knows about good teaching practices in Tanzania. I plowed ahead with what I thought was best. I forgot about “pole, pole” or “slowly, slowly.” My lesson didn’t work. Thank goodness for next week and a second chance. I am learning.
The Metro New York Synod has been “pole, pole” here, building a relationship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania and KEMPS, over time. Your solid and constant steps in this community are visible: the building of a dining hall, water tanks, student scholarships, school supplies, the salary for an English teacher, library donations, pen pals, and much more. Through your support, diligent learning takes place here. I am thankful—thankful for your work, and now my work. We continue to learn together and are unified in this mission because we know that we are all God’s people. God is the glue that binds us together, and we all know that a school staple is glue. How fortunate we are here at KEMPS to have our glue supplied by God!