Friday, May 24, 2019

How do adults learn?

A few weeks ago I (Kristi) attended a second training about Community Health Evangelism (CHE), along with two colleagues from South Sudan. We spent the week discussing how to effectively teach people in a way that they would connect and respond to, and also the vision for promoting spiritual growth and physical well-being in community.

One teaching was about how to introduce a lesson using a drama, story, or activity. We were each given a topic and told to come up with a ‘starter’ for the lesson that would grab people’s attention. The dramas had us buckled over in laughter. Through our healing and reconciliation workshops, I appreciate how much drama adds to a teaching by helping people to emotionally connect with the topic and visually see the principles at work. 

Peace and Tesila created a skit about family
that could be used to start a lesson.

A real focus for CHE is on empowering communities or groups to identify and resolve their own problems. With this goal in mind, the trainer always seeks to ‘facilitate’, to help people discover truths and solutions rather than just presenting answers. The goal is that the focus always be on the participant, not the teacher. Therefore, discussion, practical activities, or group work are always a part of any ‘lesson’ that a facilitator presents. We studied how the learning process is different between adults and children, including the importance of letting adults identify and own their own problems and be challenged to find solutions, rather than simply being told what to do. We looked together at Jesus’ interaction with the woman at the well (John 4), and how he asked her questions and prompted her curiosity, rather just telling her the spiritual truth he wanted her to believe.

Elijah and Moi doing an exercise where one person describes a pattern 
of geometric shapes to the other person, who draws it without looking. This showed 
us how differently someone might interpret what we think we are communicating!

My colleague Elijah recently visited the town of Aweil, in the north-western part of South Sudan. While there, he visited a small rural congregation that started about two years ago. As is common in this culture, the congregation took the opportunity of having a visitor from the capital city to present their list of ‘needs’. They needed a building, and in the mean-time a large plastic sheet to worship under, they needed help getting land, chairs to sit on, instruments for worship, etc. As Elijah told me the story, he said “I decided to use CHE principles!” He listened to their request, and then challenged them to consider what resources they had and what problems could be resolved without appealing to the denominational leadership in Juba. “There are some things that you need help with, but you can not expect the denomination to meet every need,” he told them. The congregation realized that they could get the plastic sheet for a temporary building in their area, and that they could make bricks for a building. The local government also affirmed the positive impact that the church has had in the community and allocated a piece of land for them – they only required about $300 for finalizing the legal registration of the land. Elijah, encouraged by the significant work that the local pastor has done in evangelizing and helping the community, was able to give a personal contribution from his family towards the land registration, further motivating the congregation in carrying on the work. And, to top off the story, the congregation never realized that Elijah is from a tribe that has experienced a lot of conflict with their tribe.  I was excited to hear that Elijah didn’t wait for a ‘project’ or a designated training to share what he had learned.

Elijah visiting the church in Aweil

It is always helpful to be challenged to try doing things in a different way.  As we seek to promote God’s shalom, well-being, and salvation in our churches and communities in South Sudan, we know that it will not be easy. We are grateful for the principles of CHE, which always focus on community and its members as the owner and driver of any change that happens. We trust that God will guide and use us in the difficult but sacred process of learning and walking together with community leaders as we pray for God’s transformation in South Sudan.

Participants and facilitators at our recent CHE training in Nairobi

1 comment:

Jim Berger said...