Find out more about Choose Life by reading a recent article from Interact magazine below:
Change is Coming – Choose Life in DRC
“In a hospital for the mentally ill in Uvira we met a woman who is confined to a wheelchair. She is emotionally traumatised and can no longer walk after the sexual violence she experienced at the hands of soldiers during the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) years of conflict. This woman is just one among many who bear the deep scars of war and who live in anticipation of more conflict. Yet, in the midst of the shattered lives and stunted national development we encountered people determined to see their country shaped by something different.
In August 2010 we arrived in DRC ready to run the first training workshops of Choose Wisdom and Choose Life. Establishing a Bible curriculum for schools in DRC has been a long journey. It began with the initial materials put together by Wycliffe Bible Translators in the early 1990s, followed by the development of a partnership with SGM Lifewords. Now here we were training 203 teachers and coordinators of education, in four locations in eastern Congo. The curriculum and student resources were created in partnership with Wycliffe International and CCEA in Kenya, and the aim of these training workshops was to introduce both programmes to DRC so that teachers could pilot them at the start of the school year in September 2010.
The training was divided between taught workshops – where we would go through the material, and practical sessions – where the teachers would deliver a ‘lesson’ to their fellow trainees. We encountered some difficulties such as differences in language, no electricity in one venue, and a lack of food for lunch in another. But excellent translators, a generator, and the willingness to skip a meal demonstrated that all who were involved were committed to the workshops.
As we spent time with the teachers and went through the material together it was exciting to learn how much these resources are needed in the schools of DRC. Many of the teachers explained that their classroom style was to read from the Bible, while the children sat and listened. The activity-based, interactive nature of Choose Wisdom and Choose Life allows the teacher to involve the children in the lesson – this participation is a key part in the children remembering and applying what they’ve learnt. Another important aspect of the material is that it provides homework, which allows the pupils to keep the connection from one lesson to the next, and also to spend time processing what they’ve learnt in the classroom.
However, there are other, more fundamental, reasons why the teachers are so excited by Choose Wisdom and Choose Life. As we worked through the training we met teachers who were enthusiastic and ready to learn. Many are motivated by their faith in Jesus and are deeply committed to inspiring a new generation to think and act differently to those who have gone before. We had lots of conversations about the potential for change that young people have when they make the right life choices and are influenced by the right values. Both programmes are designed to offer children an interactive experience with God’s Story and a biblical foundation to make good choices in everyday life. The lessons empower the children to think through their decision-making processes and the consequences of those decisions. But more than that Choose Wisdom and Choose Life are about bringing the gospel into the classroom, allowing the children to learn about the God who loves, restores and offers them salvation.
As we talked with women and men in the villages we visited we became more aware of the bitter memories of war that the people of DRC carry with them. The wife of one of the education coordinators told us that she was forced to run for her life when she was heavily pregnant, her husband having already abandoned her to escape death (the soldiers would shoot the men first then rape their wives). She went on to say that many parents felt that anybody training their children about peace and conflict management was doing DRC a great service and that Choose Peace (part of Choose Life) was a key part in making this happen. One teacher told us that many of the children who came from families who were openly abused during the wars tended to be aggressive in school. He saw Choose Peace as a transformational tool that has the potential to first bring inner healing through the words of the Bible, and then a change in behaviour.
Another of the teachers told us about a cultural practice in some villages where girls are taken deep into the forest for informal sex-training. Those ‘teaching’ them use crude techniques in this so-called preparation for marriage. The young girls are then expected to put what they have learnt into practice almost immediately, sometimes with men they have not chosen to marry or live with. The teacher was excited about the potential of Choose Love, saying that it would help girls from those villages make decisions about whether they agreed to join the forest training in the first place and enable them to think differently about sex and relationships.
Throughout the training it was evident that the teachers are very committed to delivering this material to the children. They feel a burden to see fear and pain being replaced by hope and healing as future generations hear and respond to the gospel. What we experienced in DRC is just a part of things. We hope that Choose Wisdom and Choose Life can go on to other parts of the country, and we thank God for giving us this opportunity to interact with the educators. We already have schools using the curriculum and people on the ground to monitor how it is going. We trust God for a brighter future in DRC.”
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