2017 July South Africa Team, Day 6

Today was all about the teachers. We had all of the teachers at both Ditshego and Elim gathered in one place to exclusively focus on them. Our goal today was primarily to help build up and encourage the teachers, and simply validate and show love to them. We also wanted to help them with practical methods to better equip them, both individually and as a team, to be even more effective in the classroom. Today was also about showing them that as a team they can soar to new heights. Jana said it best today, “These teachers are each others’ foundation.”

Forming a strong foundation is the key to success. Without the support system of the people around us, we all can feel alone and discouraged.

To start the day, the teachers stood and sang a medley of beautiful harmonized African songs. They were so grateful that we were there to focus on them and and appreciate their hard work and sacrifice.

Shari lead us in prayer to open our session, and then talked about how challenging and important the teachers’ work is. Shari then contrasted the devil’s ways of doubt and deceit with suiting up for battle each day with the full armor of God–boots of peace, belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, helmet of salvation, and sword of the spirit. You could really sense the personal connection and empathy in Shari’s message. Shari stressed the true power of reliance on God and the courage to follow His ways. To reinforce her message, each teacher and all others who care for the children–cooks, caregivers, property managers, etc.–were each given an Armor of God courage coin.

From this session, Becky took the helm, as she did such a great job in leading the preparation of a series of interactive lessons and projects, most of which the teachers could replicate with their students. First, we did a wonderful self-esteem exercise (…a great idea by Libby!) to affirm each participant. Each person had a blank sheet of paper taped on their backs, and we had 10 minutes to write encouraging comments for as many others as possible during that time. Each person then read what others had written–it was very powerful, touching and affirming.

Libby then had a wonderful lesson plan based of the story of the three little pigs. The teachers as teams got to build houses–out of straws, toothpicks and craft sticks–to see which ones would best withstand the “big bad wolf”–a balloon blower masked up as a wolf. It was so fun, as the teachers loved working together and seeing their houses in action–lots of laughs and cheers. We did a series of other skits, games and projects, including the courage skit with Super Girl and Superman. It was a huge success that really showed the teachers that it’s okay to be different and doing the right thing is what’s important.

But of all the things they did that day, the teachers’ favorite activity may have been personalizing (with fabric paints) their very own drawstring backpack bags. Having something where they can show their individuality and faith messaging meant more to them than we can comprehend.

Our day also included being treated with a wonderful lunch followed by delicious desserts. As our day came to an end, the sadness of leaving sank in for all of us. We had built such a wonderful bond during the week, as the true unifying power of Jesus love shone brightly. We had all learned so much from each other–especially our team, as we were humbled by the deep reliance on God and true faith that has enabled Ditshego to make such progress since its beginning 10 years ago. It’s amazing to see Christ at work and the healing, joining and encouraging power of His love. We all look forward to build on this week, as so many challenges remain at Ditshego. But we know that all things are possible with God’s love who strengthens us all.