Saturday, April 24, 2010


So, let's talk ratios. We got the special treat of visiting the teachers and the primary school while in the village of Dzuwa (pronounced zoo-wah). I have an incredible respect for teachers in the first place... in my mind they're movie stars, (and really deserve movie-star incomes), but my admiration went to another level as I asked questions and listened to these teachers share their everyday stories. They gave us a full tour, taking us to each class, welcoming us with songs -- acapella that rival the Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir.

9 Teachers. Nine. (For eight grades.)

829 Students. Eight-hundred-and-twenty-nine.

183 First and Second Graders in a combined classroom. One Teacher. 183 : 1

Third Grade was a little better: 108 : 1

The class sizes got smaller as the grade level went up... by the time we got to the Eighth Grade, the class was quite small, only about 45 students and one teacher.

In the first/second grade class the seating was no problem at all... one large room with corrugated metal roof over concrete walls and floor, rectangle cutouts for windows -- for letting in light -- children clad in tattered, dirty blue uniforms, simply sitting on the floor facing a large blackboard on the front wall. Simple. No chairs. No desks. No art hanging on the walls. No ABC's, each letter neatly touching the top line and the bottom line along the top of the blackboard. Just a barely lit, concrete room filled with beautiful, happy, smiling children... with the most lovely voices this side of heaven. And my heart swelling. Overcome. By the mere enormity of... everything. amazingness.

One heart. And all these Promises. Possibilities. "Bundles of Potentiality". 1 : ?

The third grade class had students scrunched three and four into desks built for two. This way they are able to share the scant amount of notebooks and books available. And no one will be left standing. Yet, still, it is a simple room filled with students who mostly learn from the teacher and what he writes on the blackboard up front. No experimental plants growing in styrofoam cups along the windowsill. No "class pet" lizards or snakes or bunny rabbits. A simple room bursting with dreams and Potential.

Yet, most of these students drop out along the way. While Primary School is free, Secondary School (starting in 9th Grade), is paid for by the parents... and most parents cannot afford school fees. The children are bright. I asked them their favorite subjects and in almost every class they unanimously said Math. Ah! I instantly pictured future scientists, engineers, biologists, doctors... It was the adults who later explained Malawi's reality to me. A reality far different than where I come from -- the Land of Opportunity.

It's not overwhelming. Or hopeless. At least, not once I looked into one child's precious eyes. Just one at a time. And then I saw what Compassion International and World Vision and so many others see. Priceless treasures, one at a time.

These teachers, giving hope. Teaching knowledge. Who knows what the return on their investment will be? That is a possibility that overwhelms me. One World Vision sponsor investing in a child, a well for a village, a clinic. Overwhelming. One person -- or a family -- coming to teach at African Bible College, work in a clinic, love on orphans, help in a village. Completely overwhelming.

One person loving the next person who crosses their path. Going out of my way to love my neighbor across the street. Taking dinner to a sick acquaintance. Cleaning the bathroom (my least favorite chore in all the world). Listening -- really listening -- to the ideas, inspirations, everyday la-la-la's of my children. Living, serving, all out, right where I'm at.

Eternal investments : Kingdom treasures

That is an overwhelming ratio.


  1. "No experimental plants growing in styrofoam cups along the windowsill. No "class pet" lizards or snakes or bunny rabbits. A simple room bursting with dreams and Potential."

    AMEN sista! Sometimes I think all the props actually keep us from learning the important things. Smart heads, empty hearts. Perhaps we are poor in all the wrong ways.

  2. Okay, so I just made myself clean a bathroom and the reward for (finally) getting it done was sitting for a minute to read your blog!

    Here is the wrap-up from yesterday's sermon on servanthood(Mark 10: 17-45):

    -being a servant is a choice
    -it's hard
    -doing God's work requires God's power
    -children have a special place in God's plan
    -you get more than you give

    1. Love deeply
    2. Grow up (I swear the pastor looked right at me when he said this!)
    3. Let go (again, quit looking at me!)
    4. Start NOW
    5. Some things can't wait (children)