Albright’s 7 person English Teaching team left Winnipeg on July 10, 2014 with 11 suitcases filled with teaching materials, Picture Dictionaries, Bibles, thank-you gifts, and many other supplies. Joined in Toronto by EMCC missionary, Marilyn McIlroy, the group continued their journey to Haiti to serve the people in the community of Gens de Nantes.
In previous blog articles we shared stories and updates from the team. In this article, Team Leader, Laurie Nemez, shares with you an inside view on the team’s experiences, where the true ‘heart of the story’ can be discovered.
‘Our mission was focused on teaching beginner level English to young people and adults. God had given our 38 students a dream, and they were filled with enthusiasm and very eager to learn! We divided them into 3 classes, with each class having 2 teachers who worked together as teaching partners. Russ planned and led our wonderful chapel times during the last ½ hour of every day, and helped us out with a variety of tasks as needed.
Our students attentively listened, and willingly participated, while we taught them vocabulary and
conversations relating to such themes as: family relationships, days of week and months of the year, clothing, parts of the body, colours, numbers, occupations, and other relevant words and phrases that would come up during our teaching. We also taught some reading, using Bible stories and memory verses. Games and songs were interspersed to add variety and fun to their learning, and our students enjoyed learning in new ways – quite a contrast to the rote method of learning that they are used to. Sometimes this more interactive style of teaching and learning was a bit of an adjustment for them, and they would wonder “What is the purpose of this game?”
We were privileged to be able to get to know our students and develop relationships with them as we spent 5 ½ hours a day with them, for 7 days. We also shared on a more personal level through “Dialogue Journals”, which were like letters that we would write to our individual students in English, and they would write back to us in Creole. These were translated by our hard-working translator, Willie.
We enjoyed being able to eat lunch daily with our students, as our guest house cooks prepared and sent a bin of delicious sandwiches and a cooler of drinks each day to the church where we held our classes. Chapel time, at the end of the day’s lessons, was always a lot of fun, and a very special time, as Russ led the group in a variety of activities such as: praying and singing together in both English and Creole, learning the Lord’s prayer in English, sharing faith stories and testimonies, having question and answer periods where students could ask us questions about Canada, and of course playing large group games like “I love Jesus”. In this game, our students were divided into several groups and attempted to out-shout each other while saying: “I love Jesus, yes I do! I love Jesus! How ‘bout you?” When the shouting game was over, Russ said to them, “Now, all of Gens de Nantes will know that we love Jesus!” I’m pretty sure that was true!
After a day or so of teaching, our translator told us that our students were really enjoying and benefiting from our classes, and that they wanted us to stay for a month! Near the end of our first week, a number of them were asking us “When can you come back to teach us some more?” One young man initiated a conversation with us about how we might be able to help him continue to improve his English following the course. This sincere Christian young man and very bright student, already has certificates in construction and in videography, but is unable to find work. Improving his English was something he desperately wanted. When he asked us when we would be back to teach again, we had to honestly say that we did not know, but that God did. His face sank and he turned away for a moment. We encouraged him that God had a plan for him, and we promised to pray for him, and to seriously consider how we might be able to direct him in continuing his learning. A few days later, he gave us letters that he had written, one to his teachers, Meghan and Elaine, and one to the rest of the team. The following is a slightly shortened version of one of his letters:
“This day, it’s with a big joy for me to take my pen to write this letter…. But I am very sorry for us, because you are going to leave us, to be back home, and I know truly you cannot stay with us for a long time. Before going, let me tell you something about all the Haitian students, the way they feel about this course.... I try to speak in their name and I think everybody will be glad when I tell them what I am doing. And I know God does not miss to bless us, especially all the staff Canadian, for the way you Canadians are helping us. I am sorry because your mission will stop. You cannot stay anymore. But you are going to help us by your prayers, and we can do the same. Because prayer is the key. Nothing is impossible for God, because we are the children of God. May God bless you. Good travel.”
Our team was blessed beyond measure by our students’ gratitude and by their hunger to learn English. We were deeply humbled, as the extent of their gratitude seemed to far outweigh what we had done for them, from our perspective. The heart of the story is that God had been working, and He multiplied our efforts in the well-prepared soil of our students’ hearts and minds. It was an incredible blessing…something we never dreamed would occur during our short time in Gens de Nantes.
It was also very humbling to hear Pastor Andre and members of his church pray for Albright Church, for our team, and particularly for our team members who fell ill with the chikungunya virus. He expressed deep gratitude for the people of Albright and the sacrifices that are made in order to send a team to Haiti.
As a team, we want to thank you for your prayers, your support, and your encouragement. Without you, we would not have been able to bless Gens de Nantes and be so incredibly blessed by going on this trip. Please know that Albright’s regular presence in Gens de Nantes shows the people that God has placed them on our hearts and that we have not forgotten them. This gives them hope, and encourages them to keep pushing forward even in the face of much adversity. Please continue to pray for Pastor Andre and his church, for our students, and for the Haitian people. Mesi (thank-you)!
- Laurie Nemez, English Teaching Team Leader’
Learn more about Albright’s Partnership with Haiti and how you can be involved!