She usually makes it to school.

Unless the bridge has fallen down again.  Or unless the bridge is just too slippery to navigate safely after the seasonal tropical downpours.

The locals living in a swampy subdivision next to the Belize City cemetery are used to their bridge of patched pallets - pallets which are precariously held up by rickety stick pillars. The unstable walkways, smeared with dog droppings, teeter and totter as they wind their way around ramshackle dwellings. Once the rainy season begins, the swamp water comes up two or three feet, almost to the bottom of the shanties. And the crocodiles move in. Pieces of the bridge may not have fallen yet, but she might slip off.

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Thursday, September 26, 2019

Exciting Things Happening in Ethiopia 0 comments

Elco and I have had the privilege of being in Ethiopia this week with the Ethiopia Emmanuel United Church.  Our goal was to introduce the idea of "Responsive Discipleship" to the leaders and educators of half of the EEUC schools.

EEUC is a church denomination with 500 churches and at this point....15 schools.  Their goal is to link a Christian school with each of their 500 churches.  We had the opportunity to visit two of their schools.  The amazing thing was the size of the schools....400 students at one (K-8) and 1000 students at the second (K-12).  

The leaders and educators (and pastors) are eager to understand "Transformational Christian Education".  Their feedback, particularly about new ways to think about the Biblical story, was very encouraging.  One of the leaders of the education department of the EEUC, Pastor Nigussie, shared that this way of thinking about our role as Christ's ambassadors and agents in the world totally reframed his idea of "how now we should live?"  Understanding that our children are to be encouraged to "live into the Biblical story" and find their place as God's beloved children was well-received.  

This trip was a surprise and a gift.  Elco and I were to travel to Zambia and stop in Addis Ababa on our way.  We contacted Mitiku Abebe to let him know that we could stop for a day possibly in Ethiopia.  He wondered if we could make our stop a bit longer.....needless to say.....we have been here for 5 days and led a workshop by the grace of God.


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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Beautiful Things in Burkina Faso 0 comments

Why does the quality of education matter?

Isn’t it enough to just get a child in a classroom?

At EduDeo, we believe something different.

If you want to change a child’s life – start with their education. Start with their teacher.

It’s not enough to get a child in a classroom – they need a top-quality education to spark a change. And they also need the Good News of Jesus to change that spark into a fire of life-long transformation.

But what does a quality education rooted in the Gospel look like around the world?

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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Summer in Belize: Learning to Swim and Starting Fires 0 comments

Upon stepping out onto the black tarmac of the airport, the humidity wrapped around me like a welcoming hug. “Ah,” I thought to  myself, “ What a blessing to be back in beloved Belize.”

I was greeted by Aldair, Keila and their 8 month old daughter, Grace. At this time, I was informed about the unexpected news that my co-leader, Anne, who was supposed to start the workshop as she had a wealth of experience, had unfortunately missed her flight, and that I would be starting the workshop. I felt like I had just been thrown into the deep end, and even thought it was into the deep end of the beautiful Caribbean ocean, it was a deep end nonetheless — my first time as a learning leader in Belize and I had to quickly learn how to put on swimming wings.

I awoke the first morning of the workshop with a hesitant excitement. The excitement was rooted in my passions for assessment and obedience to God’s calling to international development. The hesitancy rooted in the lie that I could potentially do more harm than good.

I was unsure at first what I would be stepping into. I wasn’t sure what teachers’ knew or how they incorporated assessment into their classrooms. As much as I had done extensive research about Belize and its education system, I don’t think that there was much that could prepare me for the stories of the incredible teachers that I got to walk alongside.

In the opening hour together, we engaged in some activities that enabled me to assess teachers understanding and set goals for our time together.

As I spoke, I was concerned because I thought I could tell what they were thinking, “what is this young white, lady doing here.. She thinks she can teach us?” The Belizeans who I knew to be warm like their weather seemed unimpressed by my futile attempts to equip them.

It is funny how the enemy (sometimes ourselves) can try to fool us into thinking we are not worthy to be a part of God’s plan, but we are.

We spent a good chunk of time on the first day reading through assessment articles from educators that I have found to be influential in aligning the heart behind my assessment with a Christian purpose. This seemed to challenge teachers as they began to open themselves to the possibility that assessment can be a blessing. 

But it seemed that a moment of hope was quickly snagged and replaced by rising frustration. I could sense the tension in the room as the discussions continued — teachers were attempting to reconcile this new framework of restorative assessment within their own reality. Unsettling, murmuring, twitching in seats; my heart beat faster as I questioned my ability to do justice to these teachers and to the notion that assessment is a powerful tool that truly can empower all of our students to reach their God-given potential. 

As we continued our conversations about assessment, it became quite clear to me that a lot of the frustrations and concerns that teachers had were not with our discussions but with the Belize education system itself. Teachers were frustrated that they were constantly trying to teach in the “right” way when the schools around them were teaching to the test and thus outperforming their own students. They were concerned about the idea of incorporating a variety of assessment types or about letting students choose how to present their work, when at the end of the year they just had to take a standardized test anyway. It gave me a picture of what some teachers were experenciening: that they felt stuck in a hole with this beautiful idea of assessment waiting for them on the outside, but they had no tools or strength to climb out.

It was at this point that we used the circle we were sitting in to share our experiences of assessment. Was this planned? No. Was it necessary? Yes. Not all teachers shared, but I could tell by the nodding heads that there was consensus. Stories ranged from personal experiences growing up, to struggles with students, government and parents. We were vulnerable. We opened our hearts and tried to remind ourselves about the purpose of Christian Education. We challenged each other to consider if this purpose was at the root of all we do with our students, especially assessment. We encouraged each other to share the light of Christ with our students and remember that our call to nurture disciples supersedes worldly expectations and standards. The brick-wall was starting to come down; the idea that we needed to teach or assess according to a standard or to compete with other schools was weakening during our time together.

I am grateful that we took some time to build a relationship and understand each other, as it gave me the courage to change the planned trajectory of the assessment portion of the workshop. We took intentional time to share stories about assessment, and engage in activities that modelled assessment. By the end of day two, there was a buzz in the air. While the frustrations were still there, I could tell through conversations and formative strategies that hope was seizing all of our hearts again which was evident in the exit slips I received. One 3-2-1 exit slip that teachers had to fill out said:

“This is sparking a flame in me. I now know that the change in assessment here in Belize needs to start with me.”

And this, in turn, rekindled a flame in me. 

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