Serving God During the Yo-Yo Effect

I worked on it, day after day, until it shone like Aladdin’s lamp.  Full of promise, the lesson would bring together all that my classes have been working on since we returned from Christmas vacation, and (hopefully) launch the kids into the new unit with energy and enthusiasm.  Confident, I saved my PowerPoints and completed the Nearpod version of that lesson before leaving it.  I was anxious to teach the lesson on Tuesday.

The Seventh Grade staff received word later that evening that our students would be quarantining this week, an all-too-common event in education this year.  Things had changed.  There would be no face-to-face learning on Tuesday.  We were being yo-yoed back into Zoom teaching.

You don’t have to be a teacher to realize that “live, in the classroom” education is more engaging (and, ultimately, more productive) than a “Zoom, away from the classroom” education.  Somehow, the electricity that is generated by teacher and students working together, face-to-face, enhances every lesson.  While Zooming has gotten us through during these long days of Covid-19, it is really no one’s choice for best practice.  It’s a work-around that has somehow pushed itself to the front of many schools’ educational endeavors.

I admit to approaching Tuesday’s encounter with my Seventh Grade Language Arts students with some degree of anxiety.  A great deal of the class’s success rested on the engagement level of my students.  Would they pay attention to the class, or would they be distracted by the items that make their bedrooms so special to them?  Would students on the screen respond to my questions audibly, as they would in the classroom, or would I be answering most of my own questions in a silent vacuum?  Would the class that I had worked so hard to create even work in a Zoom classroom?  I had made some “Zoom tweaks” over the weekend.  Would they be enough?

I have always had respect for my St. John’s students.  On Tuesday, they proved their mettle once again.  The class members were engaged, creative, and focused.  Answers, when requested, came frequently — and new student-initiated insights were offered.  The students came through, as they always seem to do when we meet together. . . regardless of the means through which we meet.

Throughout this challenging academic year, St. John’s students’ enthusiasm and engagement have fueled my colleagues’ and my desire to make each class period exceptional. Whether in the classroom or on the iPad, class periods are planned with care – and our students respond accordingly.  More importantly, in whatever teaching situation in which we find ourselves, Our Lord continuously provides us with encouragement and proof that, as we work for Him, He recognizes our work and is praised through it.

The remainder of the school year stretches out ahead of us, filled with uncertainty.  How many more times we be yo-yoed back into the Zoom classroom is known only to God Himself.  Yet, we all have seen that, even when the preferred medium of education is denied to us, God’s Work is done in classrooms here at St. John’s.  I saw it, personally, last week.

Kevin G. Smith, Instructor

Language Arts: 7

Christian Faith and Life: 7

Film Study – Elective

Peru Project 2021

Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

In this year’s message for the start of the Peru Project, I wanted to help students to understand both the impact we have had on this school, as well as the fact that in countries like Peru, where we find great burdens, a little help often results in outcomes we could never predict.  During my time in Peru, I came across many inspirational life stories which show how a little help can transform lives.  I would like to share with you all the story I shared with the students. It involves four of my wife’s cousins: Johnny, Richard, Luis and Carlos. 

When the boys were young, their father disappeared from their lives.  This left their mother, Rosa, in a difficult situation.  She had no education beyond high school and as such had no skills to work in a job which would support four growing boys. 

The only solution for Rosa and her four boys was to accept help from family. They moved in to Aunt Yolanda’s house on the street Lloque Yupanqui (I give this name because the house, which was a hub for the entire extended family, is often referred to as  Lloque Yupanqui or just la Lloque).  The house on Lloque Yupanqui was small. About 1300 sq ft on the floor Aunt Yolanda lived on.  When the five moved in, there were already nine people living in this modest space. 

Yolanda had one small room at the back where the boys and their mom slept; the boys on one bed, Rosa on another.  It was agreed that Rosa would clean, cook and go to the market for the household in in exchange for a roof over their heads and food.  Yolanda worked, but did not earn enough to pay Rosa and she was helping others in the family at the same time.  When I first met the boys, Johnny was hoping to study business administration and accounting in the national university.  While the university is free, books and school supplies weren’t, and this looked to be a rift too wide to cross.  No one in the family had money for the books.  This was when my father-in-law was able to help.  For the first time in his life, he was making enough money to take care of his family and have a little left over.  He saw that he could help Rosa and her boys carry their “burden,” and committed to buying books and supplies for Johnny’s studies.   

Johnny wanted to own his own business, a dream he shared with his younger brothers.  When Richard, the second oldest, graduated from school, he wanted to go to Argentina to work.  He’d heard that in Argentina, as compared to Peru, he could make enough money to live and save each month.  However, like Johnny, Argentina might as well have been on the moon.  He didn’t have the money for the bus ticket and based on a typical wage in Peru, no way to earn it himself.  Again, my father-in-law was in a position to help and gave him money for the trip.

To make a long story short, family members pulling together in small ways to help the five “carry” their burdens, had big and far-reaching results.  Johnny graduated and started a business with a friend in a small, rented store front in the market area of Trujillo.  They sold bulk food like rice, flour, cooking oil and sugar to market owners.  Richard in the meantime went to Argentina and found a job washing windows for a company.  With time he developed a rapport with clients and started his own company.  When he returned from Argentina (leaving Luis, who had joined him, in charge of the company), he had saved enough money to buy a truck.  With the truck they were able to go directly to the sugar plant and buy their sacks of sugar without paying someone else to do it.  This was only the beginning.

It was tough going for many years, but they worked hard and with Johnny’s business experience, slowly and intelligently expanded their business over the years. The boys now are involved in almost every step of selling sugar (all four, plus mom work in the company).  They decided to buy more trucks, so that they could actually bid on harvests of sugar cane and transport that cane to be processed.  Once processed, they then transport the final product to the store to sell at a cheaper price.  A few years ago, Richard bought land where he grows sugar cane.  It is planted, harvested and transported to the factory by people who work for him.  Johnny then picks up the sacks of sugar and sells them to other bulk food sellers in Trujillo. They each are raising their own families in houses they built.  Aunt Rosa has her own apartment.  Perhaps more significant in all of this, they have in turn helped at least three more children from la Lloque to get university educations.  Each of these now grown children are on their own with stable jobs and families. 

Can we see this kind of outcome from our modest yearly donations to the preschool?  The answer to this isn’t clear in the same way Aunt Yolanda and my father-in-law’s help had big results.  We are helping preschoolers, not high school graduates.  However, there is one thing we can trust: based on the changes that have taken place in the quality of education at the school, we can be sure that we have touched many lives in significant ways.  This can be seen in the “before and after” photos below.

When you look at the difference in the classrooms and the other areas of the school you have to keep in mind these facts:  In the ten years we have been helping the school, it has gone from being the worst preschool in the area, where people were embarrassed to say their children went there, to the best preschool in the area (this includes Las Delicias and neighboring Moche, and even is better than most public preschools in the big city of Trujillo ).  Enrollment has doubled, from 22 to 54, in that time, and they actually have to turn children away.   They originally had 2 teachers (Teacher/Principal, and a teacher).  They now have 5 including the principal—who has been an answer to all the prayers students, parents and staff have lifted up on behalf of the school over the years.  The principal, Lola Kong, is an educator and experienced principal.  She knows how to find donations and make the most of our donations.

As you look at the pictures below please keep in mind as well that we are talking about learning spaces and not aesthetics.  The truth is the preschool as it is isn’t beautiful.  It has been put together piece-by-piece and has suffered devastating rain damage which is not our place to fix.  However, if you look at what now takes place in this space, you will see the amazing difference.   The children have covered areas where they can have P.E. without time restrictions due to having the sun beat down on them.  They have plenty of PE equipment (balls, jump ropes, cones, etc) to do so.  They have a play structure where they can let their imaginations run wild and further develop their coordination.  They have a garden area where they learn how plants grow and about concepts like photosynthesis and the water cycle (Lola’s idea).  They have two classrooms equipped with big screen TVs for educational programs which help them get a jump start on math and reading.  They have new shelving to organize the plethora of games, learning tools and school supplies we have donated.  They have desks and chairs of age-appropriate sizes.  And each student receives a hot meal each day which is cooked on equipment donated by St. John’s, and cooked in a kitchen space St. John’s built.  They have a recycling area.  The walls are covered with educational posters and the teachers have a sense of pride in their work and where they work because they have desks to work at, supplies and tools to teach with and custom-made uniforms which carry both the logo of their school and that of St. John’s. 

God willing, we will be going to Peru this summer.  My wife and I are hopeful that we can find the tablet devices we saw advertised on the Peruvian channel we watch.  Putting these devices into the hands of preschoolers will give them a huge head start, not only in terms of the learning they receive from the programs on the devices, but as well the knowledge of how to use touch screen devices.  This is something which only the most elite preschools in Trujillo offer to their students.   And as well we will be working closely with the Principal, Lola Kong, to see what other needs the school has which will help these students break from the cycle of brutal poverty they live in.  The donation cycle for this year has again been generously given to include chapel through February 24.  Our goal once again is $4,000.  If you would like to see more images from over the years, please visit the website: 

http://perunuevaesperanza.weebly.com/

Holiday Scrip-Santa Grams!

Did you get your Christmas Gift Cards and Santa Grams yet? The Scrip Christmas drive ends this Monday the 7th!   These cards are sure to bring a bit of joy to Friends & Family this holiday season! 


For contactless ordering, the RaiseRight  allows you to order, pay and receive your gift cards in the comfort of your home.  Paper orders and check payment of on-line orders are also available.  Please turn in all paper orders and payments to the front Office by Monday, December 7th!

See flier below for all details!

13th Annual Junior Martin Luther Competition

October 29th, 2020 at 8:30AM in the St. John’s Historic Sanctuary

As a Lutheran church and school, we are proud of our Christian heritage and the Junior Martin Luther Competition was designed as a way for us to celebrate the life and teachings of Dr. Martin Luther.  It was his courage that laid the foundations of our faith today.  Every 6th grade student that has attended St. John’s since 2008 has spent the month of October participating in a variety of classroom learning activities that have exposed them to a deeper understanding of Martin Luther’s life, his relationship with God, the condition of the early church during his lifetime, and the good news of our Salvation that is found in the New Testament.

Three finalists and an alternate were selected from each 6th grade homeroom.  Their participation in class, quality responses to weekly reflection questions, results from the Reformation in Disguise scavenger hunt, knowledge and understanding of Luther’s Table Talk memoirs, memory test scores, and Luther’s Dates quiz results were just a portion of the criteria that earned them a spot in this year’s competition.  This competition consisted of several rounds of questions that pertain to the important dates in Martin Luther’s life, his favorite passages from Scripture, his Table Talks memoirs, his small catechism, and much more.

This was a single elimination event.  One incorrect answer removed a finalist from the competition.  All correct answers were confirmed with the statement, “this is most certainly true.”  After 35 minutes of intense competition, Matthew, from Mrs. Matthew’s homeroom, won the competition!  After winning the competition, Matthew proceeded to nail the 95 theses on the Castle Church door.  The 2018 winner presented him with a Martin Luther bobble head doll along with the Luther Cup Trophy that will be displayed in his homeroom for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year.  His picture from this event will also be displayed in the Middle School hallway on the Junior Martin Luther Legends wall of fame.  Congratulations Matthew!