LEA Convocation 2016!

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Send a Bible to Ghana
for only $5

Offer ends October 15, act now!

You have an unbelievable opportunity to provide a hard copy Bible (book cost AND shipping cost) to a child in one of the Ghanaian Lutheran schools for only $5. Your gift can put God's Word into the hands of one of His young children. Donate today at www.cuw.edu/give. The website contains directions for donating by check (make payable to CUW Foundation) or by credit card. If using credit card, select the hyperlink in the middle of the web page. Choose School of Education from the drop down menu found under "In Support Of." Please also type in "Bibles for Ghana" in the space available for Special Instructions/Comments.

All donations to this Bibles for Ghana campaign may be fully tax deductible as a charitable contribution, and you will receive a receipt for your generous gift toward this most worthy cause.

Author’s note: Most of my time in Ghana was spent addressing technology needs.  Those details are not the focus of this article, but a taste of that can be gleaned from this Ghanaian news story.

 

other STF links

Inspiring Compassion in West Africa (Feature)

Who is your TImothy? Who is your Paul? (EncourAGEnet)

cros on the wall in ghana

The Cross on the Classroom Wall, Part 2

Leaving a Cross in Ghana

I had the talk figured out, but I had no plan for how I’d leave it as a gift.  In the end, God had that all sorted for me.I took a cross with me to Africa.  It’s probably not ordinary for one to pack a 10-inch wooden cross in their suitcase for an overseas trip.  I had a round-trip ticket, but this cross was only going one way.

The cross and I were heading to West Africa as guests of the Evangelical Lutheran Church Schools of Ghana and their director, Kwadwo Gyamfi.  I was invited to work with the leadership and the teachers at five of the 30+ Lutheran schools that serve about 5,000 students in this developing country of 25 million people.  The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana is a partner church of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

The expectation was that I would help these schools move further along in their use of technology.  However, I cautioned Mr. Gyamfi that I would not be able to travel so far to only speak to technology issues.  My passion for Lutheran education was also coming with me, as I was fully aware that my audience was going to be teachers who are also brothers and sisters in Christ who share in this global ministry.

The cross on the classroom wall is meant to be an active symbol which helps to reveal our otherwise “hidden” God.  As Lutheran teachers, we are called to point our students to this cross, and to a faith in our Savior whose death on the cross gives us life. So I brought this cross so that I could talk about it, point to it, and eventually leave it as a gift.  I had the talk figured out, but I had no plan for how I’d leave it as a gift.  In the end, God had that all sorted for me.

Working with Mr. Gyamfi’s leadership team, we planned for a staff development day near the end of my two weeks in Ghana.  About 100 teachers from the Lutheran schools in the Greater Accra area were brought together for a Saturday of presentations and activities during which I was blessed with opportunities to share both my passion for Lutheran education and for technology.

As people were beginning to arrive, I retrieved my cross from my bag and hung it strategically on the wall behind the podium – in a prominent location toward which I could naturally point.

Each of us has our own way of pointing our students to the cross.Each of us has our own way of pointing our students to the cross.  It will vary by subject and level, and is flavored by our own faith and life experiences and by our continuous growth fed by the Word and the Spirit.  For this moment, my students were Lutheran educators and leaders gathered for the day to grow in their use of technology.  And I had a message about the cross specifically prepared for them.

The introduction of new technologies in our schools by definition forces change on teachers and students.  Even now, 35 years after ten Commodore Pet personal computers were introduced into my Lutheran elementary school the summer after I graduated, we still struggle with questions about how best to integrate technology in our classrooms.  A generation of students into the new millennium, we still strive to update our methods to meet the dreams of a so-called “21st-century education.” Imagine the pressure in the schools of a developing country like Ghana to compete globally when the era of computers in their schools is measured in years, not decades.

Yet, amid the stress and turmoil of an ever-rapidly changing world, the cross remains the same.  Our seemingly out of control world is governed and sustained by our never changing God whose story doesn’t change and whose promises are assured.

I am secure in the certain promise that God loves me and always will.  The cross on the wall reminds me of this.In Baptism, our “old Adam” identity died with Christ on this cross so that in His resurrection we are graced with a new identity in Christ.  My self worth is no longer dependent on my attempts to please God and His laws, but I am secure in the certain promise that God loves me and always will.  The cross on the wall reminds me of this, and in its shadow I find peace, rest, and an eternal victory.

With our identity secure in Christ, we set forth into the world with purpose in our vocations, blessed with a unique source of resiliency.  Applied to our challenges with technology in our work and ministry, I call this trait “techno-resiliency,” and I define it as “the capacity to press on through the anxieties associated with the challenge to learn and apply new technologies.”  That capacity is a gift from God.  Like St. Paul, we “press on.”  In Philippians 3:13, he wrote, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.”

Techno-resiliency requires forgetting our failures and disappointments.  Techno-resiliency requires some straining, some effort, some flexing, and some stretching. Techno-resiliency comes from my secure identity. I can fail with new technology (or it can fail me!), but God still loves me. This trait is so critically important to model for our students who only know rapid change, and uncertain and unpredictable futures.

Within this message to the Ghanaian Lutheran teachers, I was able to point to the cross on the wall. But I didn’t realize someone else was similarly prepared to point to the cross that day.

When Pastor Alex Avor arrived at the staff development day, he selected a seat at the front of the room. I was briefly introduced to him as one who serves as a chaplain to one of the Lutheran schools. He must have seen me hang my cross behind the podium and consciously or subconsciously memorized its location. Pastor Avor was called upon to begin our day with a devotion during which he spoke on the words of Isaiah 55:1-13. In the midst of his message, I was thrilled to catch him naturally turning and pointing to the cross I had on the wall. I should not have been surprised since pointing to the cross is what all in Lutheran ministry are called to do. 

So, where is my cross that I hung on that wall today? Following my presentation about the cross, one of the teachers approached me and asked if she could have my cross for her classroom. Prayer answered!  I don’t even know her name. But if I could follow up someday, I’d like to revisit with her Pastor Avor’s chosen text in Isaiah 55 to imagine the many possible passages which may have led him to point to the cross. And in that shared exercise with her, we’d explore how she might point her students to my cross that’s now on her wall. 

Here’s what we might find:

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;” Isaiah 55:1a

As teachers in Lutheran classrooms, we need to be alert to the souls who thirst, and point them to the cross.  Use the teachable moment when students seem desperate for a visit to the water fountain to engage them with the story of the woman whom Jesus directed to drink from the water that gives life. (John 4)

“Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?  Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.” Isaiah 55:2

When we sense our students are caught up in the pressures of our materialistic world, competing with peers to acquire the hippest and latest, point them to the cross on which Christ paid the highest price to redeem his most precious children.

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;” Isaiah 55:6

In praise, in thanksgiving, and in time of need,… pray in your classroom, pointing to the cross on which Christ carried our burdens.  See 1 Peter 5:7.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord… Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the Lord an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” Isaiah 55:8, 13

When students are challenged by a competing and sometimes convincing world view, point them to the cross to demonstrate how God has a way of flipping the wisdom of the world, turning death and defeat into life and hope.

“…so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:10

When students feel the pressure to perform, to ace that test, to overcome the bully, to choose the right path,… point them to the cross from which Christ said, “It is finished,” declaring once and for all that our victory has already been secured.

Tim Schumacher is an assistant professor of educational technology at Concordia University Irvine. He attended Lutheran schools from first grade through college and taught for over 20 years in various K-12 Lutheran schools in the United States and Australia. You are welcome to contact Tim Schumacher about this article.