Tuesday, February 2, 2010

In the Beginning . . . His Story

Eric wanted a Bible story book. I was touched by his sincere interest and did what most of my friends would do. I told him that I would purchase the book and he could have it but not take it home immediately. He would have to earn the book.

Eric was excited, concerned, and anxious, focused on the book and “knew” that I would forget his book. He was sure that what I said was too good to be true. I could not convince him.

I gave him my phone number and told him that he could remind me.

The following day I got a sheepish call from his father. He told me Eric was very excited and persuaded his father to call me.

I understood. Eric was more than excited. He was completely consumed and focused on The Book.

I assured father and son that I would not forget.

On Day One,
I took three books
so Eric could choose his prize.
It was good.

He chose the easiest book to read. It also came with a cover.

The plan was for Eric to earn the book by reading aloud 350 pages (of approximately 500 pages) to a tutor, at a normal speed, and to be patient when the tutor asked questions about the story. We made out a contract, and Eric was excited.

For this special guy, delayed gratification, is incredibly difficult—nearly impossible.

Eric nearly wore me down.

He argued that he would bring it back every day until it was read.

Eric just wanted to show the book to his sister. . . to his dad.

He put his head on the table and cried, convinced that I was just trying to keep him from earning the book.

He read very fast.

He hit his hand on the desk because I was asking too many questions.

He put his head on the table and sobbed a bit because it was too many pages to read.

We took breaks.

We came back and tried again.

I was exhausted—but we persevered.

The first day we completed about a quarter of the pages.

Eric thought I was tricking him.

He thought that I would never give him the book—to keep.

It was impossible to persuade Eric of my good intent.

He found a spot in the book that was not perfect.

He thought there might be a dent in a page because he turned the page too fast.

He begged me to take the book back and get him a perfect book.

Eric did make me smile. He was convinced that Isaac's servant praying by the well had cancer. Even when I argued that some men get bald even when they are healthy. Eric still insisted, he could tell just by looking at the illustration, "But that man has cancer!"

I stayed with the plan.

I did take breaks to breathe deeply, to get a drink of water, to straighten my shoulders and then go back and try again.

Sometimes, I made Eric take breaks, a drink of water, a walk to the end of the hallway and back.

We survived.
Eric read.
I asked.
That was the end of Day One.
It was good.

On Day Two, I was hoping someone else would work with Eric but he was waiting for me, with a big grin.

It started all over, just like Day One.

He begged, he complained, he worried, but in between we read and I asked questions and sometimes I gave up and just tried to make Eric listen as I summarized the story and pointed out details in the pictures.

We took breaks. I took deep breaths. We made progress. Others praised Eric on how many pages he completed encouraging him that he would be done in a short time. Eric was not believing—not quite.

Day Two ended.
It was good.

Another tutor read with Eric on Day Three

Today, Eric was excited to greet me. He was three quarters done with his assignment.

Day Four began the same as the other days, a few tears, a bit of anger, reading fast and stumbling over words until . . .

We came to the New Testament stories.

Eric told me, “This book I like! I like Jesus! Now you can ask me questions because I like Jesus.”

Then Eric asked hard questions of me.

Was Mary a young girl?
Do you know how to say pregnant in Spanish?
Mary does not look beautiful. Was Mary beautiful?
Where is Mary’s mother?
Where is the grandmother of Jesus?
Why did she not go with them to Bethlehem?
Is this the same Jesus that died?
Eric responded, “But he is a baby!”
Is God the father of Jesus?
Why did Jesus get another dad? Was that his stepdad? Did Joseph like Jesus?
Why did King Herod want to kill Jesus when he was just a little baby? He was not even a king yet.
Was King Herod drunk?

Frequently, Eric reminded me, “I like Jesus.”

I reminded him, “And Jesus loves you.”

And then we got questions from other students.
Does Jesus give everyone a guardian angel?
I pray to my guardian angel.
Why do some people get hurt?

As we read about Jesus being baptized, one boy told about his baptism as a baby at a very famous church in Mexico, Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

So today,
Day Four,
we completed the task . . .
350 pages.
It was good.

We celebrated as did the other students in our group.

Afterwards, a more accomplished student, offered to keep reading with Eric. I wish I had that picture.

One of my favorite scripture passages is from Isaiah 55. I like the verses preceding these as well but was particularly reminded of verses 10 and 11.

As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Three other boys want to know if they may earn a book. Their tasks will be harder. Marko must complete all of his homework for four weeks in a row. He must start over if he does not complete it one week. The home room teachers will help us make worthy challenges for the other boys.

Hubby Bob teased with a smile, “So is this just the beginning? Are we buying Bibles or Bible storybooks for all forty-five children?”


Donna's Book Nook said...

It sounds like your after-school mentoring is turning out to be somewhat rewarding, though, I'm sure frustrating at times. What a great idea to stimulate their learning by rewarding them with God's Word.
Hm-m-m, maybe I should think of a reward for some of the books I send Nichole. Though she seems to be growing spiritually, so i guess that is reward enough.

Donna's Book Nook said...

P.S. How's your spanish coming?

Brenda said...

I take no credit for the idea. Eric intensly wanted a Bible story book. I just helped him get it. He helps me with my Spanish, which is difficult, and going slower than I like.

Wanda said...

Such an enthusiastic child, he even smiles with his whole being! You must feel very good about helping after school and learning Spanish as well!
Smiles to you Brenda!

Bernie said...

Brenda what a wonderful thing you are doing not only helping each student but teaching them as well. Eric is a beautiful child...many blessings my friend.....:-) Hugs

Mom/Barb said...

I agree with the last comment!

Jacquelyn said...

What an amazing story. You are so gifted Brenda! I love that Isaiah passage also...such hope, such promise. You are doing such a good work. May God continue to bless you with the stamina and patience you surely need for this job! And God bless Eric too!

Ann G. said...

So glad you shared the start of this interesting journey you are on with these kids. Their deep questions pierce me - such honest searching. May we all be as eager to learn and know as these kids are. No God has much to teach you as you serve these who are so precious to Him.

Ann. G. said...

meant to say "no doubt God has much to teach you!

Diana said...

Sounds like you better start saving your money! You're a great teacher Brenda, holding their interest can be such a challenge!
Love Di

Rebecca said...

The Isaiah passage is such a promise. You'd better write it on the palm of your hand for those times you'd like to wring their necks! What great questions he asked! What funny observations (cancer on Isaac's servant, was it?)!
How great that you have the freedom to use the Bible in this tutoring/mentoring environment!

Anonymous said...

Great job Brenda you are such a wonderful teacher Love Lou

Gina said...

This story is absolutely wonderful Brenda. You are a great teacher, if our other teachers were that dedicated we wouldn't be in position we are in our country. Blessings to you for sharing our Lord with Eric and all the other students as well.

Anonymous said...

Interesting article as for me. I'd like to read something more about this matter. Thnx for posting that material.

Dee said...

Brenda, You are an amazing woman. Love the smile of victory on Erics face.

Mummy McTavish said...

Nearly 15 years in the Christian Book industry... My favourite thing EVER in all that time has been seeing people buy bibles for kids that don't have one. Thank you for encouraging kids to read and to read the bible!