Breakfast and English

Two important ministry beginnings at the Colegio Técnico Aguapecuario – a government technical college/high school, conveniently located around the corner from where I live.

Club de desayuno (breakfast club)

This idea is totally a rip-off from the wonderful people at Fusion, with whom I’ve been privileged to work over the last 5-6 years! But everyone thinks it’s fabulous, so I have a good feeling that this is one example of how our experiences fit together in unexpected but divine ways, and that God will use this to open doors here.

I will be coordinating the club with P, the lady I’m living with, who is a believer, as well as being a teacher at the Colegio. She is excited about this initiative because the Colegio has identified students coming to school without breakfast as an issue; many of them are poor and/or live far away and have to commute hours to get here. I’m excited because P is excited. (My mind has already jumped to when I’m not around anymore, it would be so fantastic if this was sustainable enough for P and other believers, or just other teachers at the school, to keep running without SIM input and funding).

We’ve already spoken to the vice principal, and she’s supportive. So we’re submitting an official proposal tomorrow (A tells me the pretty, professional formatting will go down well!), with hopes to start next week.

It will be for a small group of 12 poorer students initially, as chosen by home group teachers, on Tuesdays and Fridays before school. Note that “before school” in Gonzanamá means 6.45-7.15am in the morning. It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make 😛

Apart from feeding the hungry, this arrangement will also allow us to form stronger bonds with students – so we can move beyond the club to other activities. There’s a strong feeling the initial 12 will soon be eager to invite their friends along. We’re hoping to have music and maybe games (time permitting), and brief prayer and Bible reading to introduce the young people to the idea of doing this spiritual stuff.

Prayer points

  • Thank God for the positive response to this initiative
  • Thank God for P’s willingness to serve in this area, and pray for encouragement and growth for her, as she is new to ministry work (encouragement and growth for me would be great too, thanks!)
  • Pray that the “right” students will be chosen – the young people God desires us to work with
  • Pray that this initiative will be implemented smoothly, and that the will of God be worked out marvellously through the club as it grows

Clases de inglés (English classes)

It’s a compulsory subject for all Ecuadorian students, and they need a certain level to study at university. So it’s unsurprising that there is a huge demand for help with English.

That said, the level is very basic. There are three teachers, two of them quite good, one of them quite a character (I’ll treat you to an anecdote in my next update). They struggle most with comprehension, so I’m trying to speak to them in English too.

I’ve told them I will come in on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. This is an important way to “raise my profile” – so that I’m visible, and young people get to know me.

Before coming, I kind of didn’t want to touch the English teaching thing, because I could do that anywhere, really, like I could go back to Madrid and do that AND get paid. But who knows if this isn’t the will of God?

I know that I enjoy teaching, but the first two days of assisting haven’t been a whole heap of fun. Three things to sum it up would be: slow, repetitive, difficulty with pronunciation. Pronunciation is actually what the teachers fuss about the most, they get each kid to repeat the new word, or the phrase, or whatever, then get me to say it, so the students can imitate my pronunciation.

My frustration is probably more with the textbook though – I haven’t looked at an entire book, so I’m not going on much, but from the lessons that I’ve been involved in, there’s an attempt to engage with real-life, practical topics, but they do it in such a way that introduces abstract or rarely used vocabulary, and there’s no systematic teaching of grammar. This means it ends up being rote-learning, repetition/reproduction by the students, and even though this seems easy, most of them still manage to get it all wrong because they don’t understand the grammatical structure behind the phrases they have to produce. It’s quite straightforward to deduce the correct answer, but I suspect that rote-learning severely limits the students’ ability to do this.

Oh, and some of the exercises are plain stupid, achieving nothing at all – for example, making a medal with your best friend’s name written in the middle, and one word stating the characteristic which you value the most in that friend.

Anyway, the teachers would love me to help in as many classes as I can and want. I’ve limited myself to some classes on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Future ministry programmes should be able to fit in around that, given that school finishes at lunchtime, 1.20pm.

Eventually I’d like to start an after school class for those students who are actually interested in learning English. Well, actually this was my initial idea – I rethought it because I realised expecting students to come back to school after lunch for extra work was just a little bit senseless. But, God-willing, through my contact with kids in regular classes, I’ll get a good idea of how many are serious about English and have enough motivation to come to something extracurricular. Then we could look at a conversation group, maybe with some afternoon tea, music, something to make it more dynamic and fun. Though, reflecting on the textbook so far, this shouldn’t be too hard to do!

Prayer points

  • Thank God for opening the doors of the Colegio; R, the head of English is a good guy, and his family has been very supportive of SIM missionaries and the work we’re doing, including defending us at times
  • Pray that I will be helpful in the classroom, to both students and teachers – that students will benefit from my input and experience as a native speaker, and that the teachers will be encouraged and supported, rather than seeing this as an opportunity to offload work on the free help!
  • Pray that God will open doors for more ministry initiatives through my contact with students and teachers

Any comments, thoughts? I'd love to hear from you :)

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