Mendoncia’s baby wails. The teacher frowns. Students turn in their seats. Mendoncia scoots her plastic chair and moves to sit on the tile floor in the doorway to nurse her baby. Teaching continues. The child starts babbling. Other students turn and frown. She carries the child outside. Another class missed this week. How could she learn anyway, she wonders. She couldn’t read or write. She rarely used the little Portuguese she knew and certainly didn’t dare speak up in a classroom.
So what can Xai-Xai Bible College do with these 4-6 wives of pastoral students every year, women like Mendoncia (second from right)?
Offer literacy in their native language? – But they have different languages
Offer literacy in Portuguese, the national language? – But they don’t speak much Portuguese
Run a day care? We have one, but nursing babies (up to age two) stay with their mothers
After Jim and I took a seminar on oral Bible study methods in December, I (Karen) asked the college staff if I could take this group of five women shown here and help them study some stories.
So, on Monday, April 17, the six of us sat with our shoes off, legs extended on a straw mat, and seven children squirming around us. While Jim taught their husbands the book of First Corinthians in the classroom up the hill, I began the Parable of the Talents (in Matthew 25): “It will be like a man going on a journey . . . ” A baby cried and was nursed. A toddler picked up a flipflop and started sucking on it. Mom grabbed the shoe and everyone watched as she cleaned the grass clippings out the baby’s mouth. I asked them to watch my gestures as I retold the story. Two babies crawled around our legs. A mother walked off with her 4-year-old as the daycare teacher had finally arrived late. Neighbors walked by on their way to work and extended us the customary greeting. It was a long two hours.
But this is the reality of their lives, so I persevered. The second day I repeated most of the same things. The answers were short and few, the gestures half-hearted. “Lord, is this a good idea?” I wondered. I knew it wouldn’t help to find a Mozambican assistant as the five women represent four different languages, so Portuguese was the only language we had in common.
The third day I arranged audio Scripture players in their native language so they could review the story for homework. I made them perform the gestures. On the fourth day I arrived to hear one of them listening to the story in her native tongue on the Scripture player. In class, three of the women repeated the 16-verse story back to me in Portuguese! A fifth woman who had never spoken during these days greeted me. I persevered and we have had 10 classes. As their confidence grows in Portuguese, it will help them in other areas of their lives as they interact with government or education situations. We are now on our fourth story and have been working on the observations and applications.
Mendoncia’s pastor’s wife passed away this past Friday. Mendoncia will now be expected to step up and help the women on weekends. She has never tried to preach before and I can see that God organized this class at this point to give her the confidence she will need to step up and be a leader for these women. She has been answering a lot of the questions in class. She is gaining confidence in Portuguese but also confidence to express what the Bible says to her.
We praise the Lord for the Scripture studio and its recording of Mozambican languages. Please pray these women will understand how to study the Bible on their own using the Scripture players.