Thursday, November 22, 2012

New Godly Play Room

In a recent post I lamented the fact that we had lost our beautiful Godly Play rooms in our old chapel in Galicia (NW Spain). However, following months of moving around to hired halls, I am happy to report that we have finally been able to open a new classroom for the children at church which seems to be of a slightly more permanent nature -- at least for the remainder of this school year. It also means that I can once again programme training events on the same premises, so this is really good news for the development of Godly Play in this part of Spain.

Here are a couple of photos of the new classroom. The children are also very glad to be able to resume Godly Play in this new environment as they come together each week to engage with the stories.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Final day in Kuala Lumpur

The children at Breakthru Enrichment Station give a colourful performance 
at the end-of-year talent time and awards giving celebration
Following the Scripture Union Living Hope conference, the delegates from Latvia (Anita and Evgenia) and Spain (Paco, Toñi and myself) stayed on for a Godly Play workshop, which I led with Anita's help on Saturday, and worship at Bangsar Lutheran Church on Sunday.

The last day of our stay in Malaysia was quite intensive with a number of activities: Sunday worship and preaching, lunch with members of the church council, shopping, enjoying the end-of-year talent time and awards giving celebration, as guests of honour, at Breakthru Enrichment Station (a Christian-based school for children and young people who have learning difficulties and challenges), and finally a taxi to the airport. 

All in all, a wonderful finale to our trip!

You can see the pictures here

Godly Play workshop in Kuala Lumpur

This 8-hour introductory workshop, focusing on the Godly Play sacred stories, took place on Saturday 10th November 2012 at Bangsar Lutheran Church, Kuala Lumpur. Forty people, representing several different churches, denominations and organisations in KL, participated in the workshop. I was very happy to be able to lead the sessions with Anita Kazaka, an accredited GP teacher from Latvia. (We are both staff members of our respective Scripture Union movements in Latvia and Spain.) 

Following the workshop, the group of visitors from Spain and Latvia were invited to a meal at the Harvest Café run by the young people from the Dignity for Children Foundation, at their centre in Sentul. It was a joy to see Dignity's fully equipped Montessori classroom on the same premises, as well as their developing 'Bible Play' room, their particular version of Godly Play. Our conclusion was that there is so much potential for GP to take root in Malaysia and spread out to neighbouring countries in the Far East. They will undoubtedly need more ongoing training, which in the future could possibly be delivered by GP Australia.

More photos here

Scripture Union Living Hope Conference

Group photo of conference delegates
My recent visit to Malaysia came about through an invitation by Scripture Union International to help with the  Spanish translation at the Living Hope conference. Delegates would be arriving from Latin America and Spain, for whom translation would be required. It was a great joy to work together with Billy Clark, from SU Peru, who shared this task with me. There was also translation service for French and Russian speakers. 

Our work covered simultaneous translation of all the plenary sessions, preparing Power Point slides in Spanish, translating and collating discussion feedback from Spanish to English, voice over for the daily 90 minute video and audio broadcasts on internet, translation for one of the Latin American delegates at the children's ministry discussion group, a full day's translation at a meeting of the America's Region prior to the conference, etc.

The following is a report about the Scripture Union Living Hope conference from Janet Morgan (International Director of SU) and Colin Sinclair (Chair of International Council): 
«Living Hope Phase 2 brought together over 250 leaders from 108 SU National Movements, including Regional and International Council and staff, and 20 young leaders. This 5 day event took place in November 2012 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 
From the data collected through our Phase 1 Community listening project we heard the voices of children and young people as they expressed their hopes and despair. We explored the impact of our changing world on SU’s mission as part of the mission of God. We listened to God, and to one another. 
In the translation booth
We recommitted ourselves to our aims, belief statement, and working principles. We have been strengthened in our resolve to ensure that our ministry with children, young people, and families is an expression of God’s mission to restore all of creation. We have been challenged to help people engage with God’s word in ways that speak into their deep‐seated values and beliefs, so that transformation is possible. 
We felt God call us to extend our ministry so that it intentionally includes families, and children and young people at risk, and those who live in other faith cultures. We felt God call us to greater interdependence between our national movements, and a willingness to be bold and take risks.
We felt God call us to develop leadership in staff and volunteers and especially young leaders at all levels and in every aspect of SU. 
Immediately after the gathering the International Council met for two days to ensure that the momentum of the event was not lost. We responded with enthusiasm to all that was shared. 
Living Hope Phase 3 has now begun with the appointment of a group to carry forward the outcomes and to bring initial recommendations to the International Team and Executive in Bangkok next February. 
We believe that people will have returned to their national movements and are already thinking through and working out ways to respond. 
You can find all the resources from the Living Hope gathering on the website and many continue to join the discussion on the Facebook page. New resources are still being added. 
Please continue to pray that God will make clear to us the next steps and give us the courage to obey as we move towards the 150th Anniversary of the beginning of SU in 2017.» 
Translating for Silvia (SU Honduras)
in the children's workers discussion group
The pictures here illustrate general shots of the conference as well as the more particular involvement of the delegation from Spain (Francisco Mega, Toñi Nevado and myself) in translation, interaction with other Spanish-speaking delegates, sightseeing in Kuala Lumpur, discussion with children's workers, etc.

Godly Play practice in Kuala Lumpur

Wonderful circle of special children!
Saturday 3 November 2012 was an exciting and intensive day for me in Malaysia. I had arrived in Kuala Lumpur the evening before, made my way from KLIA, the international airport, by express train to the city's central station, where I was picked up by my hosts, Phoebe and Yu Chiet. We immediately made our way to a Chinese restaurant for supper, before continuing to the apartment they have for guests, just across the hall from their own residence.

However, Saturday was when the fun really began, starting off with an amazing breakfast at an Indian restaurantt! I was then taken to the Breakthru Enrichment Station (BEST), a school for children and young people with learning dificulties and challenges, where Phoebe and Yu Chiet are directors. This was where I was asked to present Godly Play to a group of the children, with staff, volunteers and family members observing! I was very conscious that this almost one-to-one ratio of adults to children was not at all the Godly Play way of doing things. So, while the children were looked after by some of the staff members in an adjacent play space, I briefed the adults on the background of Godly Play, explained to them that what was about to take place was not normal practice, and ernestly asked them to be as quiet and unobtrusive as possible during the session with the children.

I needn't have worried too much... when the children arrived, we began to form the circle and they focused immediately on the story ('The Exodus') and remained so throughout the wondering, response time and feast. Only a couple of members of staff had to draw near to one or two of the children to help them re-focus from time to time. Altogether, the children, as well as mums, dads, grandmother, staff and volunteers, did amazingly well!

Sweeping up the desert sand!
During response time, many of the children drew and painted pictures. The 'desert bag' was also popular, of course. At clearing up time, I told the children that they were responsible for sweeping up the sand that had managed to escape from the bag, rather than the adult helpers. The children --mainly boys-- quickly found some tiny brushes and pans, and really enjoyed the game of getting all the sand back into the bag. In fact, laughter and fun was in the air from start to finish!

After the children had left with their family members, I was able to debrief the members of staff and volunteers, and listen to their own observations and reactions to the session. The comments were all very favourable. Here is a summary of what was later posted on the 'BEST' Facebook page: «It's amazing how the children were so engaged throughout the Godly Play session on 'Exodus'. Our team had a great time watching how the session was conducted for children who have various learning abilities, discussing our observation and learning after the session. We are thankful to the Lord for this wonderful opportunity»... «Thanks for your sharing in Malaysia especially with the children in Breakthru Enrichment Station.» 

BEST directors:
Yu Chiet, Lian Ai and Phoebe
Hopefully, Godly Play will continue to feature regularly at this school. A number of the dedicated staff and volunteers later took part in the Godly Play workshop I led the following Saturday at Bangsar Lutheran Church in Kuala Lumpur. So many of the principles of Godly Play seem to connect with the core values at Breakthru Enrichment Centre.

Following Godly Play with the special needs children, it was time for lunch at another restaurant -- this time Malay! (The range and variety of cuisine was amazing!) Then Phoebe and Lian Ai (the third director at 'BEST' and a former school teacher) drove me to another excellent Christian ministry centre that I had contacted before I left Spain. It was only a few kilometres away, but neither group were previously aware of the other's existence, which sadly is so often the case in big cities. After negotiating the heavy KL traffic and monsoon showers, we eventually arrived at the Harvest centre, run by the Dignity for Children Foundation in Malaysia, a ministry to the urban poor in Sentul, a district to the north of KL.

Revd. Elisha and Petrina,
 founders of Dignity for Children
The two adjacent and interconnecting apartment blocks house a church meeting hall, a Montessori infants' school, a primary and a secondary school, residential quarters, a 'Bible Play' space and the Harvest Cafe -- a restaurant and community space run by the young people themselves, as part of their vocational training. All this, and more (e.g. a sports ministry, called the Faisal Cup), is led by a highly dedicated pastor and his wife, Elisha and Petrina. They are passionate about the effects of quality education as a means of breaking the cycle of poverty. During their theological training in the States, they had come across Montessori education and later, whilst on a visit to the UK, were introduced to Godly Play. In just 12 years, they have been able to impact the lives of hundreds of immigrant children and young people from a variety of faith groups.

Petrina showed us the vast stock of wooden and rubber (!) figures she and her volunteers had made. As they had had no ongoing training or handbooks to guide them, they began to create stories in the style of Godly Play, especially adapted for Muslim children, which they call 'Bible Play'. The materials they have produced are intended not only for their centre in Sentul, but also for the 10 partner schools they have established in Sabah and Sarawak! Petrina and her team of young teachers were really thirsting for further training in Godly Play, and I was informed that a dozen of them had already signed up for the workshop the following Saturday.

Some of the 'Bible Play' materials
produced at Dignity
It was also amazing how the leaders from the two groups (Phoebe and Lian Ai, from Breakthru, and Petrina, from Dignity) were able to quickly appreciate the different but complementary ministries they each represented, and I felt really humbled that it needed someone from Spain to travel to the other side of the globe in order to become the catalyst that brought them together!

Later, Phoebe and Yu Chiet drove me south to the other side of the city, to the hotel where the Scripture Union Living Hope conference was to take place. But not before another meal at yet another restaurant - this time Thai. Evidently, in Kuala Lumpur, variety is the spice of life, in every sense of the word!

More photos here