Mar 20, 2010

"Let Us Come Together": Education Day

Last Sabbath, March 13, was a long day. I was at the church from 8:45 in the morning until about 9:30 in the evening. I had multiple responsiblities throughout the day. And to top it all off I was sick--may have even been running a fever--all day.

But, it was also a really good day, one that in certain moments brought all of my years of teaching and all of the students I have loved together--memory and present experience blending together in a tapestry of love and gratitude.

Last Sabbath was the Allegheny West Conference's annual Education Rally. Each year the two Allegheny West schools, Columbus Adventist Academy and Ramah Junior Academy, join together for a high Sabbath of worship and reflection on the theme of education. Last year our school went to Cleveland, and this year Ramah came to us.

The day began early for me. I arrived at Ephesus just before nine o'clock to get some last minute work done on a few props for our drama presentation and to be there to meet the Shadow members as they arrived (Shadow is CAA's new drama ministry). Our first performance was just after 9:30 for Sabbath School. Immediately after that I co-taught the adult Sabbath School lesson with AWC education superintendent Colin Parkinson and fellow teacher, Wayna Gray. When Sabbath School was over, it was a busy rush to get ready for the church service which was being put on almost entirely by the two schools. Shadow's contribution was a skit about returning tithe and offering for the offertory. When that was over, I could finally sit with Barbara for awhile. (Fortunately for us Barbara's parents came to Columbus for the weekend, and they were able to stay home and watch Elijah, who'd been sick recently.)

Our two key Shadow actors in our improv skit, "God's Part" disucss the importance of tithing. The boy, who I'll call, "Fredo" is encouraging the girl, who'll call "The President" who plays an orange fanattic to tithe one of her ten oranges.

After tithing her orange and throwing in an extra two oranges for offering, "The President" receives a special delivery. . .

. . .four cases of oranges. The card with the delivery reads: "I've got your back, Love, God" reminding our audience that when we are faithful in our tithe and offering, God blesses us abundantly.

The Ramah drama team did a puppet show for children's story that featured a remake of Michael Jackson's "Beat It" about the Bible. From the photo, you can probably guess how the chorus was rewritten.

The kids did a fantastic job overall, but one of the highlights had to the be the joint CAA/Ramah choir's powerful rendition of "He is Wonderful."

Hats off to the music director from Ramah. . .anyone who can get middle school students to send like this has some serious talent!

After church, Babs went home to be with Elijah and her parents, while I stayed on to help supervise the students during the potluck. After lunch, we all gathered again in the chapel for a little talent show to pass the time until the main event of the afternoon, the annual Bible Bowl, would begin. Shadow performed again to open the talent show, and they did a great job.

After the talent show, the much anticpated Bible Bowl began. In years past it had been CAA vs. Ramah, but this year the principals had decided they wanted to foster a spirit of camraderie rather than competition. This time the team were mixed and the competiton was boys vs. girls. It was a close competition as we worked our way through the grades, with both genders bouncing back and forth for the lead. In the end the boys eked out a victory, winning by 15 points.

After the Bible Bowl, we closed the Sabbath and my last reponsibility of the day began--helping sell snacks and drinks for the 8th grade class at the Saturday night social in the church gymnasium. Only two of my five 8th graders were there, and one left soon after the evening activities began, leaving only the class president and me. I let her take the first shift of selling while I gave the in-laws and Babs and Elijah a tour of the school (they'd stop by to say hi). After that I spent the evening sitting behind the snack cart, trying to stay upright as the exhaustion and sickness began to catch up with me. I was so glad when, at last, the Ramah group boarded their bus for home and we were able to close up shop for the night. It had been a long day, but a good one.

Former REAL members reading this blog ought to recognize these skits. These REAL Christian Theater stalwarts, "The Bus", and "Molding Jesus" have become Shadow staples as well. Here, "Hi Energy" plays the girlfriend taking boyfriend "Class Comedian" to task. The actor playing Jesus and the best friend, are in the seats directly behind the two. (See photos of REAL doing the same skit in 2007 here in a blog about the Kagman evangelistic series where the drama team performed).

Above and below: "Molding Jesus"

Throughout the day, I'd had a strong sense of being where I belonged. It was one of those times when you find yourself looking back on the road you've come, and realize, "Wow, God has been with me the whole way." Particularly that afternoon there were moments, little snippets of recogniztion, remembering, and realization: Listening to the Ramah kids sing "Trading My Sorrows", I was reminded of praise and worship time back at Saipan SDA Church. Honestly, I hadn't expected to hear those songs now that I live in a world where good old gospel reigns supreme. Yet here it was, and it warmed me to hear the songs of Saipan in my new mission field and be at peace. I thought of REAL, of course, as my new drama team interpreted some old REAL Christian Theater favorites. The kids and the place might be different, but the actor's comic timing, the audience's amazed appreciation felt the same as it ever had.

And then there was "Let Us Come Together", a simple children's song that has followed me everywhere I've been since I first decided to let the Lord make my life a mission story. I heard it first as a student missionary in Chuuk when my students enthusiastically belted it out at chapel. It was a standby in Saipan as well--the one song you could always sing at joing worship when you couldn't think of anything else. And now, here in America, it serves the same purpose--sung regularly at Monday morning chapel, and also on this Sabbath afternoon in early spring 2010.

The names and places and faces may have changed but the song remains the same:

"Let us come together,
Praise the name of Jesus
All ye people of the earth come and see

Let us come together
Praise the name of Jesus
All ye people of the earth come and hear

Joy is like the sunshine
and it's raining down upon us
Joy is like a golden grown
Let us come together praise the name of Jesus

Allelueia, Allelueia
Alleluia, Allelueia"

One of our 1st/2nd grade students sings a solo for the afternoon talent show.

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