Friday, May 25, 2012

Beautiful Feet

Romans 10:15 "How beautiful are the feet that bring the good news!"

Last May I organized Barefoot Sunday to collect shoes for Rwanda, the St. Paul's Shoe Bank, other shoe banks and Nicaragua. Once I returned from Rwanda I realized the ministry connection was kids-to-kids and teens-to-teens. This was an opportunity to build leaders among our children and youth at St. Paul's. Leaders in mission.

Working with Tori VonLeer, Children's Ministry Director, was key. Her enthusiasm and amazing connection with the children and their parents got me started. Two 6th graders, Mollie and Leah volunteered to be coordinators of the Beautiful Feet shoe collection. And their moms Andrea and Patty worked alongside them. Then Tori had two children from each grade, 1st - 5th, volunteer to become class reps to communicate to their classes and make posters. Thank you Cooper, Hayden, Madeline, Rachel, Paige, Sarah, Reigen, Davis, Thomasin, Caroline, Kendall, Cassie and Lizzie.

Next posters were made to hang throughout the church and education building. Coordinators Mollie, Leah and Paige gave the Mission Moment at both services to tell the church about this project. Then on Children's Sunday April 22nd, with many children gathered around, they gave the Children's Message.

We even had a pizza party so the class reps could see pictures of my visit to Rwanda as well as meet Vincent Niyodusenga and ask him questions. They were not thrilled that dessert in Rwanda was only fruit. Also surprising to them was the fact there are 65 kids in each classroom. And before the party was over, empty baskets were balanced on heads. They couldn't imagine balancing a full basket.

These children are curious, loving,
respectful towards each other and ready to serve.

Luke 18:16 Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs."

Children's Message

April 22nd was Children's Sunday and the message was given by 6th graders Mollie and Leah, coordinators of the Beautiful Feet shoe collection.

Leah: Did you know the Bible talks about beautiful feet? Romans chapter 10 says, "How beautiful are the feet that bring good news!"

Mollie: Do you know why it says that those who tell others about Jesus have beautiful feet? If you wanted to deliver an important message to someone far away, you gave it to a messenger and they would use their beautiful feet to deliver it.

Leah: Do you think the pastors have beautiful feet? And the Sunday School teachers? Yes they do. They are messengers of the good news of Jesus Christ, and they bring this message to many people. Do you tell others about Jesus? If you do, then you have beautiful feet too!

Mollie: We are thinking about beautiful feet because some people are carrying the message of Jesus Christ to Rwanda, Africa. Carol Falke from our church has been helping at a children's home there and we wanted to help too. So we thought we would have a shoe collection so she can take them to Africa when she goes in August.

Leah: Let us pray...Give us feet, Lord, and make us swift and strong to carry the good news of your love to people EVERYWHERE!

The children gathered around for the special message.

Vincent Niyodusenga, visiting from Rwanda, thanked Mollie and Leah for their leadership in missions.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Teacher with a Passion

Janet Lybarger - A Teacher with a Passion!!!! Since I am not an educator I knew Vincent needed a mentor right from the start. Someone with a passion for teaching and love and respect for children. Someone who would work with Vincent to ensure his training focused on best practices in teaching and administration, make sure it was culturally relevant and after the training set priorities and strategies for implementing all he learned when he returned to Rwanda.

That person was Janet who taught preschool for 12 years, kindergarten for 1 and 1st and 2nd grade for 18 years. Her masters is in education to teach reading. Having spent so many years "in" the classroom I knew she would be the mentor he needed.

His welcome to Janet's house was a warm greeting in the midst of a snow storm. Then it was just a matter of getting down to business. A key resource used was NAEYC, The National Association for the Education of Young Children. The focus was on children including curriculum, classroom management, assessment of each child's progress and health. They also talked about qualifying teachers and their ongoing training and assessment, working with the community and families and most important of all was administration of the school by building on Vincent's leadership and management skills in education.

After several hours he left with his own homework. That's a teacher for you. He had resources to read through before he met with Janet at the completion of his school trainings.

A Rwandan basket that represents sharing, saving and solidarity, was given to Janet to thank her for her love and respect for teaching.

His training begins!!!!!

Vincent's Training

For two days Vincent trained at the Nittany Valley Charter School with the school's CEO Carolyn Maroncelli. She already has a connection with the Urukundo Foundation as sponsor to one of the teenagers, Liliane. A wonderful opportunity was waiting for Vincent - a stay with Carolyn and her family, in the country, for 4 days during his training.

One focus was school administration which included a staff meeting and a parent teacher meeting. Several key areas he trained in were the students Bill of Rights, teaching styles focusing on each child, how to involve parents in their child's education, setting goals with teachers and helping them achieve them and most of all providing the best learning environment for the success of each child.

The third day of training included a full day at the Stone Valley Charter School where Carolyn is on the board. It is located in a rural area and provides much needed preschool opportunities for young children. Seeing this school in action included the importance
of daily routine, preparing stations for small group teaching and observing teacher-child interactions.

As a thank you he presented Carolyn and the school with a beautiful Rwandan basket.

Look for news of his extensive training in early child education at Lemont Elementary School, St. Paul's United Methodist Preschool for 3 days, Penn State Child Development Center at Hort Woods and a visit to the Friends School a Quaker school. Also connections are being made with ESL teachers.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Vincent's Firsts

As you can imagine there are many firsts for Vincent. These photos tell it all.

He said he wanted to see a stadium and State College has an amazing one. Vincent enjoyed the Penn State Blue White game at Beaver Stadium with my husband Steve and I.

Of course no trip to the US in the spring is without changing weather. Snow one week and green grass to cut a week later. He finally got the hang of the power mower. An accomplishment
for someone who has never driven a car!

One Sunday Pastor Ed Zeiders at St. Paul's United Methodist Church and Vincent had a dialog during worship to share a little about himself, why he was in the US and why education is so important to Arlene Brown and her mission in Rwanda. What a wonderful welcome he received from everyone.

Vincent's huge smile says it all when he saw the pizza arrive, his first ever. I'm not sure he really wanted to share it, but he did.

In the midst of all these firsts there have been many days and hours of training in school administration and classroom management and there are many more to come. Upcoming blogs will share his amazing experiences with such dedicated and outstanding educators.

Vincent in the USA

It has been a very busy two weeks but my BLOG entries will begin again.

There is so much to share about Vincent learning about life and culture in the US as well as his extensive training. So let's start with his surprises.

Driving from the airport to my house he kept asking where were all the people. At first I didn't understand then realized he was talking about no one walking along the road. In Rwanda the shoulder of the road is full of people walking, people pushing vendor carts and people on bicycles. He soon realized very few people WALK anywhere in the US unless they are exercising.

Next was the food...we eat something different everyday. And we eat meat often. In Rwanda, if they eat meat, it is usually on holidays, Christmas or Easter.

Then there was the garage door opening automatically, the dishwasher, washer and dryer and families with not one, not two but sometimes three cars.

Think about how we go to the grocery store and buy anything we want for more than one or two days of food. We needed to get him a razor and shaving cream as no one in town gives shaves. In Rwanda it is inexpensive and a job for someone.

And finally the biggest surprise of all SNOW! This is the first time he has seen snow.

And another surprise, donor in Pittsburgh gave Vincent a used computer, his first. He is learning to type, email, do research and download photos.

Enjoy the photos and thank you all for welcoming Vincent to the US.