In an attempt to ooh and ahh my readership, I took to the Internet in search of some phrase or anecdote that would clench my introduction to this post. Something that would usher the reader into a state of query; something that is thought-provoking, with a dash of intrigue.
Instead, like so many people preparing a last minute speech for their public speaking class, my adventure spiraled down into the quagmire of looking at famous quotes on the subject of learning. I waded through pithy statements made by the great figures of learning throughout history. Statements by men such as the revered poet, W.B. Yeats, who said, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” Or the ancient Greek playwright, Euripides, who stated that, “Whoso neglects learning in his youth, loses the past and is dead for the future.”
As noble as these one-liners sound, I truly doubt they do little more than provoke a thought. And when a thought is merely provoked but not acted upon, it is indeed a useless thought.
Therefore, I have settled with the eloquent words of that great bulwark of education, renowned the world over for his mastery of the written word, Dr. Seuss. “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose,” states the man who is partially responsible for my ability to read.
Indeed, potential will always be simply that… potential. Unless it is acted upon.
The name of our little library means “house of knowledge” in the local language. It is a small building with two or three classrooms, and a couple of bookshelves about halfway full of books. While you may not think it sounds like much, over the years, the center has been used as an adult literacy center, a tutoring center for students and a ministry center. In the past year, it has received a facelift, as our board has re-approved it as a strategy for outreach.
I mentioned earlier that this town has many students. Being a “state capital,” it is the primary educational center for the whole region. It is one of only a few towns in the region with schools that go all the way through high school. Therefore, thousands of students come live in this town from all the surrounding villages during the school year. They will stay with family that lives here so that they can get an education, yet another reason this town is such a strategic location.
In this part of West Africa, students are not able to have text books. They copy all of the information off of the board everyday and create their own book throughout the year. If they miss information, they have no way of reviewing it. That is one key reason this library is so important. It provides students with the option of actually seeing the textbook for their class. As we have worked on preparations at the library, many students have begun using the center. Day after day, the center is full of students reading materials they have no access to otherwise.
While it is important that these students can get access to learning material, a far more important goal is being accomplished. We are using this as an opportunity to develop relationships with these students, so that we can share with them about the things that really matter. In the past year, we have been able to start studies with several of these students who are interested in more than our textbooks. We also have a regular audience for films, which spawn excellent discussion with the students. In just a couple of weeks, we will be starting English classes with high school students that will use scripture stories as our text.
One of our partnering churches from the States sends college students to work with this center. The results have been promising, as they have built quick relationships with students, several of which of now studying scripture and seeking understanding as a result. This year, we have plans for several volunteer college students to spend an extended time working at the center as semester missionaries.
The exciting reality about our library is that it has a reach far outside of the city. When these students return home to their villages, we will have an impact over the entire region and countless open doors into villages everywhere.
Please pray for the work that God is doing with this tiny little center. Pray that God will continue to provide options for support of this center, and volunteers to meet the spiritual needs of the students here.
Content Copyright © 2010-2011, C. Keelan Cook. All rights reserved.