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April 2001

Endulen Diary
Vol. 16 #4
April 2001

Photographs of Maasai way of “doing” Christianity on our web site:
Fr. Ralph Poirier continues to work on the Endulen web site. He has recently expanded it to include pictures and explanations on how we are working to make Christianity make sense to the Maasai. We use their traditional symbols and ways of doing religious things.

Mike Jemmett, our Mennenite volunteer, talks the library we are putting together for our Maasai Prep School here on the mission in Endulen:

The great clay libraries of Mesopotamia; the wealth of the ancient papyrus library of Alexandria; the parchment and paper libraries of medieval Europe; and now, ladies and gentlemen, we present the Osotwa Maasai Preparatory School Library.

We have grown from a dusty stash of children’s storybooks housed in three cardboard boxes. Two years ago, a couple of times a week, I used to haul these down from the upper storage shelves in my bedroom for students to exchange reading materials. Great exercise.

Last year, we tailored, hinged and varnished a pair of plywood doors to an old 3′ x 6′ bookcase located in our cramped and humble living room. Students were invited in weekly to make their selections from over 300 storybooks; or to poke about encyclopedias, dictionaries, and reference works on nature, science and the humanities, or a growing National Geographic Magazine series. All of these latter were well above the students’ abilities, but the pictures and diagrams often spark interest: What is that? How do they do that? Why?

In bygone days, the students were normally relegated to night study by the glare of a single kerosene lamp in the dormitories on a table that doubled for dining… not always the cleanest or quietest with a dozen primary school co-boarders running about like moths. After seven years of primary school, not one of our current students entered knowing the alphabet. Many knew what a dictionary was, but had never seen one, let alone used one, even in Swahili!

In March this year, we moved the shelving into a recently vacated bedroom. The bed was pitched and in its place sprawls a vast, wooden table to seat ten on stools and a writing desk with two chairs. Ned contributed three storage chests and the shelving was slid in; we decorated the walls with pictures, posters and maps; suspended an inflatable globe down to eye level; installed a geoscope and radiometer (look those up in your dictionary), directional compasses, a clock and a large wall thermometer which they’ve learned to read; stored donated games: chess, checkers, backgammon, dominoes and a puzzle; and a ton of craft materials like crayons, pencil crayons, markers, watercolors, coloring books, white and colored paper, chart paper, cardboard cartons, scissors and glue.

Now our prep students have a place under solar-powered, florescent lighting that is far more conducive to productive night reading, studying or quiet gaming to stretch their minds and inspire their interests and talents with almost 400 volumes. We can spread huge sheets of chart paper along the table, and since the students were always and incorrigibly writing and drawing on the classroom desks, now they can doodle or work out academic problems to their hearts’ content, and take the sheets back to their dorms when finished. They can work in smaller groups in shifts to assist and teach each other; the proficient get practice in communicating and scholastic reinforcement, while the weaker get the extra help to seek out if they wish. Today, most can find a word in a bilingual dictionary, although for a few it may take ten minutes.

Oh, how their faces light up when they do find their word through perseverance. Just recently, a young warrior who read an entire English paragraph in a pictorial text on Maasai culture exploded with, “I am understanding! I am understanding!” It reminded me of Helen Keller, the famous deaf and blind woman, “seeing the light” of knowledge in the movie ‘The Miracle Worker’.

For all generous donations, past and present, large and never small, we thank you sincerely…Mike

Till next month…

Ned

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