Friday, November 6, 2009

Education, the Chin Women’s Organization, and Pastoral Care

Today we focused on the informal education system that the Chin refugees have put in place for the children from their community living in the KL area. Because of their status in the country, the children are not allowed to attend the Malaysia schools so the Chin community has constructed their own based on some initial direction and funding from the UN High Commission on Refugees. The UN funding has run its cycle and now the Chin are completely on their own. The Chin Student Organization carries primary responsibility for the schools. We have visited four of the eight schools. The selfless investment of the teachers and the limited resources for the students is the clear pattern. With the close of the small UN grant earlier this year, the teachers now receive no stipends/salary but continue to teach because the kids need them. Almost all of the teachers have university degrees and are teaching in their general areas of study, but few have ever hand any substantive training on how to teach children. Almost every teacher we heard from was excited about the prospect of teacher training from those who have taught in the US system, a place where most of the children will land in the days ahead. The “schools” are typically converted third floor flats in the midst of slum like housing complexes. The classrooms are very basic and the educational supplies remarkably limited, but the energy from the kids was palpable. As we approached one of the schools we heard the kids singing at the top of their voices. Despite the rather difficult school settings and the cross-cultural world in which the kids find themselves, in the end the kids acted just like the kids you call your own.

Today we also saw the school and small handicraft training center run by the Chin Women’s Organization. It is led primarily by a group of women in their twenties or early thirties. Their school has a few more resources because of a connection with a handful of expatriate women living in the area. One of the biggest smiles of the day came when the kids at the CWO run school told us that two of their classmate left yesterday for Oklahoma City. We got their names and carry “hellos” from their friends. It is great to know that we will be the community that will receive these two children and their parents in the days soon ahead. I chuckled when I realized that it is likely that they will land in OKC and be at church at FBC OKC before we get on an airplane to head home.

Outside to the educational issues, another reoccurring theme for our day was pastoral care/counseling. The difficulty of the refugee way of life creates great stress on people’s lives. The community leaders are anxious for the opportunity to provide some pastoral care/counseling opportunities for the folks they lead. We look forward to exploring the depth of these needs with a couple of the February mission team. More to come on this particular issue…..

While we have been gathering essential data to make future short term teams effective in the labors here, we have also been able to give some attention to team logistic details. We found the hotel that will serve as the team’s home base. It is within minutes of the heart of the Chin community and in the center of a district rich with food, sites, and sounds (and even a bit of shopping). It will be a good place of recovery each evening. We also ate at a restaurant that Beth cannot wait to share with the team.

OK, that is more than enough for one day. Please keep praying for us. God is at work and seems to be opening a number of doors for the Chin church and the US church to partner together in meaningful ministry.

Grace and Peace, Tom and Beth

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