A Wardrobe in Greece and a Table Full of Food

Just before Easter I found myself in Athens with a team from California who came to teach English. The curriculum we were using was the Adventures in the Wardrobe curricula I have been co-writing for quite a while now. The curriculum is based on the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe movie and has been used in Germany before, but this was the first time in Greece. I wrote more about how the camp went on the eDOT site, head over there and find out what some of my student’s favorite colors were.

I was very happy with how the curriculum was received and as one of it’s designers it confirms that what we are doing is worth the time and effort. That alone would have made our time in Greece worthwhile, but what happened the day after the camp ended touched me deeper than just about anything ever has before.

The day after the camp we went to one of the refugee camps in the area to deliver diapers and wipes. 11 of the 50ish students we taught currently live in one of two nearby refugee camps. Most of them came from Afghanistan, but two of them were from Syria and it was these two boys and their mom who this story will center on.

Because of relationships that had been built between one of the leaders of the ministry we partnered with and the people in this camp the two boys were invited to a blatantly Christian camp. Even though they were not Christian, their mom said they could come because they have brains of their own and she wanted them to be able to learn English and have a good time.

My co-leader ended up teaching them during the camp and these boys ate up the lessons. They asked questions, were engaged in the lessons and loved speaking what English they could, whenever they could. They didn’t always understand what we were saying, but they tried as hard as they could to give the best answer they could. They certainly did not lack enthusiasm, that is for sure!

While at the camp we were given diapers and wipes to take to specific cabins. Immediately a young boy found my teammate and I and wanted to help. He grabbed my hand and, to no one’s surprise, started swinging from it. He lead us successfully to the first cabin and we delivered the diaper’s to an appreciative mother. After the success with my new friend we decided he could probably help us find the others we needed to find…yeah, that didn’t work out so well. He lead us, confidently, to many wrong places until eventually he scattered off to find other friends.

While struggling to find one of the cabins we ran into one of the Syrian boys from English camp and after helping us find the right place he dragged us, willingly, to his place to meet his mom. As we arrived we found my co-leader there already talking with his mom and with a plate of food in front of her. We had eaten lunch before we came to camp, but that didn’t seem to matter to his mom, who quickly stood up, shook our hands and then produced two more places of Tabouli and another dish of which I can’t remember the name.

In some cultures it is offensive to leave a plate with food on it and in others a clean plate means you want more. So, somehow we needed to tread this fine line of not offending our host, but also not getting even more food since we were already pretty full. My two teammates didn’t want to be rude, but realized they would not be able to finish eating their plates of food. When the mom ducked inside her place I became the recipient of their remains. Since it would be obvious that I had more food on my plate than before she went inside I had to eat their share quickly. My stomach was full…but I did what needed to be done, or at least, what I thought had to be done.

In the meantime more of our team came and joined us, eventually we had 5 teachers and 3 of the leaders from the camp at our table. At one point one of the leaders called the other in as “backup” because he knew how much food was about to be consumed.

When the mom came back out, I had successfully eaten the rest of the food on my plate (which was delicious by the way) and then my jaw about dropped to the floor with what she was carrying with her. Out on the table she placed a giant pan with saffron rice, potatoes, eggplant and chicken. We weren’t leaving anytime soon and my stomach was not going to be any less full.

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The reason for “backup.”

Again, we didn’t want to offend anyone, so I took one for the team and had a plate full of this dish. Unfortunately I made the mistake of allowing the mom to serve me. I’m not sure how she managed to get so much on one plate. I did what I could and in the end, I finished my plate. The smile on the boys’ mom’s face was enough to deal with the slight discomfort I was feeling.

Why do I tell you this? Well, it is not to tell you that refugees have it better than you thought, because they don’t. Or that they can make giant meals for anybody that comes to visit, because they can’t. The reason I tell you this is because it was the curriculum that allowed us to meet these wonderful people who opened up their limited resources to us to show their appreciation. There was no way we were going to disrespect this family by not eating what was served, because to them it was an honor to serve us. They loved that we would spend time with them, love them and care for them.

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A photo taken by one of the boys and this was only half of who all ended up at this table.

This is what our partner ministry does in Greece. This is what we do with our curriculum. It is through these relationships that we can share the Gospel and it will be heard because they know we love them and care for them. It is through these relationships that God will bring more into His kingdom and if I have to eat a ridiculous amount of food to help establish those relationships, then that is exactly what I will do!

Creating a curriculum from the ground up

Two weeks ago I was in Wheaton, IL meeting with a content expert to start to develop a new curriculum. It was a new experience for me. I have never been a part of writing a curriculum that is essentially being built from the ground up. We do have source material to pull from and content experts who have done shorter trainings on the same topic, but for the most part we are crafting this curriculum from pretty close to scratch.

I don’t want to talk about the nitty gritty details of this curriculum and the design process even though I could probably talk about those things for hours. What I want to talk about is the experience in general.

I am new to the instructional design field. Sure I have designed curriculum here and there for COSI Toledo and my own classroom, but this is different. COSI Toledo was mostly about having fun while learning some pretty basic science. My own classroom’s curriculum was so regulated by the objectives dictated to me by higher ups, so I was very limited.

This was different.

This was the first large project on my plate.

This was my first experience being the expert in the field, with a good chunk of responsibility on my shoulders.

This was the beginning of the bulk of my work here with GEM eDOT in Germany.

This was and is incredible!

First off it is pretty incredible because of the possible reach of this curriculum. So far we have 1 guaranteed conference with interest being shown in three other locations. The idea behind our design is to allow a properly trained facilitator (which may be a course we create as well) to use our curriculum and facilitate a conference in their area. The easier this is to bring to any area, the more conferences there are. The more conferences there are, the more people trained in this discipleship making movement. The more people trained, the more impact it has for the Kingdom of God in Europe and beyond.

Then it’s awesome on a personal level. I have very rarely been given so much responsibility and trust as I already have at eDOT. Sometimes, I am confident that I will have a clue what to do, but because of the way my supervisors have been treating me I have grown in confidence of my skills. I have been trained for this and they believe that I can do this.

The third way that it was awesome, was that we accomplished what we needed to accomplish in half the time that I thought it would take. That allowed us to get more done than previously thought and also work on other things we needed to get done.

The greatest thing in all of this though, is to see God moving in this project. Are there frustrations? Sure. Is there a pretty tight deadline? Definitely. It doesn’t matter though, because God is moving and where He moves, things far beyond our hopes and dreams will be accomplished. Join me in praising Him, for His work!

Guessing Strategically – DMT Curriculum

In March I went to a training called Discipleship Multiplication Training (DMT) in Lisbon. I wrote a little bit about it after the training was done. During that time I really felt God pushing on my heart telling me that I was going to do something with this curriculum. I thought it was going to be specifically with the curriculum that was used during our training, but God had other plans.

Within a few weeks we were discussing the possibility of eDOT playing a major role in the creation of a new DMT curriculum targeted towards reaching immigrants. The other two guys in the office never saw that coming…but I did!

The DMT trainings were already being planned and a grant for the curriculum/training was already obtained, all that was left to do was the curriculum itself. The grant requires that a certain number of trainings are completed within just under a year and a half. Our first training is planned for October and in order to get a curriculum written in time for it to be used at that training, we have a lot of work to do.

In the next month we will be reading a lot of material in preparation for beginning the curriculum. Neither of us, that are working on the project, are subject matter experts so next month I will be taking a trip to Chicago (and Toledo of course!) to sit down and have a very packed four days of meetings with a content expert. During those four days we will discuss anything and everything that we can, tied to the curriculum, and what he invisions for the trainings. The nice thing, that this trip will allow for, is time to ask questions and get answers immediately. E-mail is great, but when you are working on a curriculum, a lot of questions come up and will need answering sooner rather than later.

This curriculum will definitely stretch my skills and abilities to the max, but I am very excited to be able to develop something from the ground up. During the project we will be posting short articles about the instructional design process and I invite you to check out eDOT’s website to watch as we progress along in this project.

Guessing Strategically – Narnia curriculum

For the third post of the outcomes of our strategic guessing, I wanted to highlight one of the two curricula that I will be helping to design.

I have been working on an ESL (English as a second language) curriculum, based on the 3rd movie in the Chronicles of Narnia series, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. As of right now there is no technology involved in this project, so I have been secunded to EuroTeam to help.

The idea for the curriculum is to be used at a camp for teenagers who want to learn English. We are designing it to be used at a specific camp in Germany, but ideally it could be used in any number of locations and situations. Basically once this curriculum is finished it will be available to any partners who would like an ESL curriculum.

This is the first project that I have been able to work on that uses the unique skills with which God has blessed me. Instructional design is an often misunderstood process that is often overlooked as well. It’s not that you need special training in order to do instructional design, but you do need an understanding for how people learn and in what ways you can craft a lesson to reach as many people as possible.

It has been a great experience so far and I am learning a lot while doing this project. I am looking forward to finishing this project and getting to see it in action later this year. Hopefully it will be used throughout the world so that while learning English these teenagers can learn about God in a non-threatening way.