What teaching has taught me

What Teaching has Taught me

I never planned on being a teacher – the thought never even crossed my mind until a few months before we moved to Asia.

And yet, somehow, I ended up standing before more than forty teenagers at a time, first in Bangkok, Thailand, and later, in front of smaller groups of five-year-olds in Vietnam.  It has been quite a journey, and, somehow, I am convinced that I have learned more in two years of teaching than I will ever be able to teach others in a lifetime.

I would like to share some of the most important lessons with you:

1.  Screaming doesn’t help

I’ve had to learn this the hard way!  Being a relative calm person by nature, the simple fact that I totally “lost it” more than a few times is enough to prove that kids can really drive you crazy.  The only problem is that you cannot get anything done if you let them do it.  No one wants to listen to a crazy screaming mad woman, including our husbands, children, and those around us.

2.  Don’t get stuck on the bad days

No matter how well-prepared you may be, most classes will not go according to plan (at least not in Asia). There will be bad days, embarrassing moments, and unspeakable frustrations. However, there will also be good days, funny moments, and inexplicable joys in teaching others. So, getting stuck on the bad days is one sure way to miss out on the good ones.

3.  If you never make mistakes, you miss the opportunity to learn from them

Especially in Thailand, “saving face” is paramount. People will avoid making fools of themselves at all cost. This makes language acquisition and development very difficult since it is par for the course to make some blunders here and there. It is impossible to learn a new language without making mistakes; sometimes, getting it all wrong is the best way to learn how to get it right.

4. Teach to learn, learn to teach

The best decision I made in an attempt to be a better teacher was to become a student myself.  First, I studied the Thai language, and later, Vietnamese.  It gave me so much insight into the world of my students and a better understanding of the reasons behind their most common mistakes, which happened to be my problem areas in speaking their languages.

5. Remembering names

“People do not really care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”  – Theodore Roosevelt

A simple way to show interest is by memorizing their names. In Bangkok, this was difficult because I saw more than 800 students each week.  In Vietnam it was much easier with smaller classes, and it really made a difference in teacher-student interaction, as well as with relationships with colleagues, the cleaning lady, and even the security guard.

6. Asking questions is important

One of my colleagues once said, “If I had known that my teachers would have loved it, I would have raised my hand much more often in school. As a teacher, I love it when my students ask me questions.”

Asking questions is probably the only way to learn without making mistakes.  If you have a question, no matter how silly it might seem, never be afraid to ask it.

 7. Everyone is a teacher

Whether you realize it or not, if you are a mother or a father, a husband or a wife, employee or a boss, a volunteer or a therapist, you are always teaching someone something, even if it is as simple as “how NOT to do something”.  Someone is always watching and learning from you, most especially children.  Even animals pick up a lot from our behaviour and respond accordingly.

Standing in front of a class and being called a “teacher” simply makes you more aware of the fact that you always have the opportunity to teach.

 8.  The best motivation is the option to fail

Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to fail a course in Thailand.  I know this because I have personally failed students only to see that their final reports have miraculously changed into 50% or more. Most schools will save you the trouble by simply telling you that you are not allowed to fail students.  Of course, students know this as well, explaining why some of them won’t even bother to come to class.  Unfortunately, it is hard to raise standards in an environment in which failure is not a possibility.

 9. The “system” will probably get worse

This leaves one with two choices ….be bitter or be better. Too often, we resort to complaining.  We love to point out all the problems with the “system” without realizing that if we have the ability to identify the problem, we might also have the ability to find a solution.  And if we have no desire to find a solution, we might be better off simply making peace with the process.  “Mai pen rai”, as they would say in Thailand, which means, “It doesn’t matter”, so don’t worry; be happy.

10.  It is worth the reward

At the end of the day, even though teaching was never my main reason for moving to Asia, I will never regret the experience or the lessons I’ve learned.  I look forward to a life of learning from the greatest Teacher.  It doesn’t matter if I end up being a Physical Therapist again, or a teacher, a housewife or whatever. There will always be lessons to learn and stories to share and the reward will be well worth it.

It's never too late

It’s Never Too Late

This poem was inspired by the testimony of an ex gay porn star recorded by one of our friends. It is part of a series of testimonies called “Escape from Hell” and you are welcome to watch the testimony <here>… Please take note that because of the subject matter it is advised for adults only and may not be for everyone since it is a very hard testimony to watch.

 It’s never too late

no one is ‘too far gone’

to find new life

and to be reborn

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It’s never too late

to call on His name

to run into His arms

and let go of the shame

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It’s never too late

to be set free

from addictions

like pornography

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It’s never too late

to make darkness light

as we go on our knees

to fight this holy fight

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It’s never too late

to forgive and forget,

to be released

from the prison of regret

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It’s never too late

to let love rule and reign

to bring victory over

the destruction and pain

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It’s never too late

to let go of the sorrow

to be grateful for today

and hopeful for tomorrow

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It’s never too late

to share another story

that will give us hope

and God the glory

The Next Step

The Next Step

By Leon Skinner

The essence of our Christian faith is: Repentance, Faith in Jesus Christ, Baptism in water, Receiving the Holy Spirit and Sharing this same message with others.

We should then disciple those who believe and send them out to teach others the same message. This is the core of our faith. It is the lifecycle of Christianity. A very simple message but not without power. It is the cycle that our Lord Jesus has set in motion and it has transformed our world.

Disciples making disciples. Loving God and then loving our neighbours. Getting right with God then helping others to be right with God. Seeds within seed. Starting with one seed, falling into the ground and dying on the cross, a seed that bore many fruit, who in turn had more seed. So the cycle continues reaching all the way to the day we live in. We can still see the fruit of that one seed even in our own lives. His way works. History testifies to it.

However, let us not be ignorant of the devil and his devices. The devil tries very hard to stop us every step of the way. His aim is to twist our Lords plan that a simple powerful gospel is turned into a complex powerless one. He wants us to stop half-way. He wants to make us comfortable where we are. He wants to corrupt God’s commandments with man-made traditions so that it might be ineffective.

Let us do the opposite today, let us go back to the simple truth and examine ourselves so we may know what the next step of obedience is. And then take that next step. What does that mean? A step can be another tick on a to-do list that we simply get done, or a step can be another stride in this walk of faith. It should be a step of obedience, a stride closer to God. Something we pray about and consider and search out in the Bible. Most importantly our hearts need to be right with God every step of the way.

Friend, can I speak plainly? If we look at our world today: the needs, the hunger, the poverty, the unreached, the widowed, the orphaned, the sick and the poor. Our whole world is convicting us that our generation is lukewarm. We are disobedient. We are not going into all the world and we are not making disciples. We are not preaching the gospel. We are not relying on the Holy Spirit and our faith is without works.

If we were truly doing these things our world would have looked different. We might as well go back all the way and confess that we are still living in our sins. Most Christians will keep struggling with the same sins their entire lives. Can you find someone with repentance not to be repented of?

I am afraid for myself and for our generation since we are being disobedient to the simplest fundamentals of our faith. And I preach this first and foremost to myself. I am guilty. I am disobedient.

I know this is an unpopular message I share with you today but it is time for us to get fed up with lukewarm, shallow Christianity and stir up zealous flames of fire in our hearts. It is time to be obedient to the simple truth. To go back to the basics.

We need God to help us because we are a lukewarm generation who needs the Lord Jesus more than all. We need to truly repent with a repentance that does not need to be repented of. We need to overcome our sins by the blood and name of Jesus. We need to turn from our sins to the living God. We need fruitful faith, faith that is not dead but that is proved by works. Let us show the world our faith with our works, let us shine our lights. We need to be baptized as an act of obedience to the living God. We need to desire and pray for the Holy Spirit because we cannot preach the gospel without Him. We need the boldness, and the words that the Holy Spirit will put in our mouths at the right time. We need to disciple new believers properly. We need to help and disciple them through all the steps of faith: Repentance, Faith in Jesus, Baptism, Receiving the Holy Spirit and then they must go out and teach others the same.

This is not a religious to-do list. It is a journey of faith that we take one step at a time. Yes, we might stay on one step for a long time but the journey must go on. If we are disobedient the cycle is broken and everyone will suffer loss. Unreached people who will be born, live and die without hearing the name of Jesus even once. They will suffer because of our disobedience.

Will God hold disobedient Christians accountable for their souls? It is not a pleasant thought. But how can they hear if no-one preaches? How can we preach if we do not have the Spirit that gives us the words? How can we be born of Spirit if we are not first born of water? How can we be baptized if we do not truly have faith? How can we say we have faith if we are still embracing our sin? How can we turn from our sins if we are not convicted of them? How can we be convicted if we do not hear the simple truth?

Today friend, I do not say I challenge you but in the name of our Lord let us be honest with ourselves. Let us look at the steps of this walk with God, let us fervently pray and let us be obedient to the one true living God and our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us take the next step of faith. My prayer is that our hearts might be stirred ablaze into a zealous fire for the living God, in the Lord Jesus Christ’s name. Amen.

Infographic: Leon Skinner

Preach the Gospel

Preach the Gospel – Use Words

“Preach the gospel;  when necessary,  use words.”

We love to hide behind this quote.  It’s probably one of our favorites, and it sounds almost Biblical… but is it?

I’m sure St. Francis of Assisi had good intentions when he wrote it, and there is truth in the fact that we have to live the gospel, by putting words into action.  However, we do not get to “practise what we preach” if we’re not preaching anything.

For a very long time, I also held to this saying, especially since we’re living in a foreign country where we are unable to speak the local language effectively.  It seems like justification for “preaching the gospel without words”.  Studying Thai somehow eases my guilty conscience:  at least I’m in the process of perhaps one day being able to use words to share the Good News with the citizens of this Buddhist nation.

We are deceived if we think that our good intentions and hopes for salvation for others observing our “wonderful lives” without the spoken Word will ensure them of eternal life. We fail to realize that the gospel has nothing to do with our good intentions and everything to do with our flawed, sinful nature that cries out for a Saviour. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.  The Word must be spoken to be heard and to be planted in a heart.

Without Jesus we have no gospel. Without the gospel we have nothing but bad news to share.

“But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.  For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.  For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.  For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” – Romans 10:8-15 KJV

We find it easy to believe that only some are called to be “teachers”, “preachers”, “missionaries”, etc, so we use various titles to either put people on pedestals or to judge them harder than others when they fall or fail, because they’re supposed to be the “holy ones”.

Moreover, if we somehow believe that it is possible to preach the gospel without words, why do we expect one to study Theology for seven years before standing at a pulpit to minister to others?

We utter thousands of words every day (sometimes way too many in vain), but when we actually get an opportunity to open our mouths to share the most important message we have been commissioned to share, our tongues are tied.

Perhaps we are at a loss for words because we do not really know the Word. We have neglected to take up the only weapon we have against the inner battle of darkness.  So, when the Accuser comes saying: “Who are you to preach?  Your testimony doesn’t count.  You have nothing to teach.  You have no religious title”, it becomes easy to accept the lie that we are not sent, nor called, nor chosen.  Besides, who would listen to us anyway?

Perhaps we will never find the right words to explain how our messy lives became wrapped up in grace. How the One who so loved the world loved us while we were yet sinners and how His ultimate sacrifice set us free.

Maybe we will never be able to adequately describe the joy, share enough about the love, or testify of all the hope that lives within us in a way that the world will understand.  But the challenge is to preach the gospel by opening our mouths to call out to those who are still drowning and to offer them a life line to safety.

Let us challenge ourselves and each other today to preach the gospel AND use words, for the Word is Spirit and is life.

Speaking the Truth in Love

Speaking the Truth in Love

A guy came rushing off the rugby field, blood pouring out of his obviously broken nose bent at a 45 degree angle.  He looked at my friend and asked, “How do I look?”  I will never forget her answer:  “Should I tell you a lie to make you feel better about yourself, or should I tell you the truth?”

Too often, especially when we know that the truth might hurt, we just ignore reality and try to “sugar-coat” the truth.  In an attempt to avoid offending others, we choose to lie or keep quiet.  When we do not know how to speak the truth in love, we choose to silence it by our reactions;  and if we fail to speak the truth, we lack the practice necessary to gain skill in speaking the truth in love.

Our reaction to hearing the truth is often one of self-defence rather than acceptance of our imperfections.  Instead, we choose to reject the truth which can change us for the good, and choose to receive a lie, deceiving ourselves, because we want to “feel good” about the way we are, missing out on the power of truth to change us for the better.  So, since we’re not going through the process of receiving the truth in love, we’re not getting any better at that either.

I know I’m guilty of both – not wanting to offend, and quick to feel offended. Sometimes we go through life in the same way we read through books and our Bibles. Our favorite authors, quotes, scriptures, and people are often those who make us feel better about ourselves and our life styles – no matter what the truth is.

However, in my search for the truth, I’ve stumbled upon some things I did not like, mostly because they made me feel uncomfortable, requiring a willingness to change or obey.  I had to admit that many of my beliefs were based on culture, religious tradition, and even my own ideas and experiences without regard for the Word of God or the example of Christ.

I contemplate this question as I observe the people of this Buddhist nation: ” If I had been born in Thailand, would I have become a Buddhist like other Thais?”  Or, was my birth in a Christian home or a Christian nation my “ticket to heaven”?  I think not.  It is the truth and the truth alone that will set us free and save us.  Yet many will not receive the truth unto salvation and will be surprised when they stand before the Judgment Seat of God and find that their religious traditions and customs or national identity could not save them or hide them from the truth.

However, by grace alone I am saved and not by my skin color or nationality or religious teachings.  I thank God that I had the advantage of being born in a Christian home where I was exposed to the Bible and had the opportunity to discover the ultimate Truth.

I am grateful for a personal experience of true repentance, for being baptized by choice as a step of obedience, for receiving the Holy Spirit., and  for hearing the call and taking the opportunity to”go to the nations”.  It is a joy to walk with Jesus daily on this journey of faith because I know that He is the way, the TRUTH, and the life, and the TRUTH is my salvation and the only way to be transformed into His marvelous image.

I fully realize that I have by no means “arrived.”  Most of the time, I can’t see any further than the light at my own feet guiding my next step.  I am merely a sheep following the Voice of my Shepherd in faith. I am on a journey of transformation into what He wants me to be.

And yet I desire to share some of the light I have received with those still walking in darkness by speaking the truth in love. The only problem is, I’m not always sure “how” to effectively speak the truth in love.  I know that the truth can only be received if it’s desired.

Perhaps I’m not getting the right answers because I’m asking the wrong questions. Or, maybe I stubbornly choose to hold on to what I believe instead of asking questions at all. This is often rooted in pride, and pride is the reflection in the mirror of deception.

“How do we look?” Are we willing to look into the mirror or to hear the truth about our brokenness? We may look into the mirror and lie to ourselves, but we can’t fool God.

Sometimes a broken nose needs further breaking in order to be set straight. It might hurt, but the result will be well worth it. If we speak the truth in love, some people will be offended while others may choose to receive. And those who receive will be set free by the same life and love that set me free.

 
Ephesians 4:13-25 KJV

“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ;  If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.”