Archives for the month of: February, 2012

This tune is still playing over and over in my brain – the Hallelujah Chorus. Only the words are “You Can Do It, You Can Do It, You Can Do It, You Can Do It, You Ca-an Do It”. Yesterday I finally passed my last prac subject to obtain my teaching diploma! After a lot of doubts and failures, I found that I could teach in schools – at least well enough to pass. And on the last day, I tried to go out with a bang.

I have done my last teaching prac of 3 weeks (extended time from the last one) at a public school in Port Augusta. It has been a great experience, with a chance to get to know a completely other side of Port Augusta life. The school is Category 1 (lowest on the socio-economic scale), at least half Aboriginal population and many children come from very difficult home lives. This said, the teachers are marvellous and a real inspiration. They pool together and support each other, especially as there is a lot less support for learning from families. The children are real gems and just want to be loved and appreciated. The classroom environment is understandably challenging, but also rewarding.

As a whole school, they have decided this year to introduce a new social and emotional wellbeing program called You Can Do It. It is about them obtaining success in all areas of life using the five ‘keys’ – Getting Along, Confidence, Organisation, Resilience and Persistence. In some ways it is a secular version of a faith school’s values and morals teaching.

My prac class was to run the first assembly of the year – yesterday. So to push the new lingo of the You Can Do It program, I got a few teachers to record with me the words ‘You Can Do It’ and the five keys onto the soundtrack of the Hallelujah Chorus. Then we added lots of actions with children holding signs with each of the words on them. To top it off, we had worked on a few human pyramids and we finished with a five-personner at the end. It was amazing! Especially to see the strong performance of the children who struggle with literacy and numeracy. This took…

Getting along – to work with the other performing students, particularly those in the pyramid. “Be united in the same mind and the same purpose.” (1 Cor 1:10)

Confidence – to perform in front of a large audience without shame. “Let your light shine before others.” (Mat 5:16)

Organisation – to prepare well enough for the assembly, planning extra rehearsal times. “Therefore you must also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming.” (Mat 24:44)

Resilience – to bounce back when we had problems and people were away. “Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident.” (Psalm 27:3)

Persistence – to keep trying when it seemed too difficult, both for them and for me! “So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

In conclusion (I’ve been teaching about persuasive writing!), anything is possible with the attitude that you can do it. Hallelujah – praise the Lord!

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Leviticus sounds pretty drastic: “A man infected with leprosy must wear his clothing torn and his hair disordered; he must shield his upper lip and cry, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ As long as the disease lasts he must be unclean; and therefore he must live apart; he must live outside the camp.” (13:44-46) But in the gospel reading this Sunday, Jesus was approached by a man with leprosy (error number 1), then he touched him (error number 2) and healed him. What freedom both Jesus and the man with leprosy claimed, what a sign of God’s love!

It is easy to think of leprosy as a thing of the past, but this Sunday brought up my memories of 2004/2005 when I spent a month in India with The Leprosy Mission. Although, according to the World Health Organisation, leprosy had been ‘eradicated’, we found it was still a major problem. Around 3-5 new cases were diagnosed every weekday in our hospital. People still got ugly blotches and lost feeling in their arms and legs. People were still being disowned by their families, ostracised and unable to care for their newborns. While leprosy is completely curable, it has to be detected early before irreversible damage is done. What stays in my mind sums up the stigma. There is a photo below of two of our friends in the leprosy wards. One day we Australians were going to visit them for a chat. We had been walking with (healthy) Indian children who went to the local school. When they saw where we were going, they ran away from us with their index fingers crossed into an ‘X’. Their fear was greater than their education and our friendship.

Today I was teaching for my final diploma placement in a Port Augusta school, which has at least 50% Aboriginal enrolment. One girl told me about her painful experience at another school where she had been called a ‘nigger’. As long as this attitude is around, Jesus confrontation with leprosy is still relevant. We exclude people based on all sorts of things: race, colour, politics, religion, social status, sexual preference, etc. We consider others unclean, unworthy or inferior. The ‘other’ is still afraid to approach us, their trust too often disappointed.

There was a nice ending to the story in India too. At the end of our stay, the same local children came up with us to the ward and tentatively met our friends with leprosy. We all have the opportunity to offer the healing presence of Jesus to others. A presence that says: I accept you for who you are. A touch that breaks down barriers and acknowledges our common humanity. Jesus says, “Just as you did it to the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Mat 25:40)

This morning our young Vietnamese friends from the detention centre were transported away, to the much larger one in Darwin. Yesterday we greeted teary faces for our farewells and final Mass together in the centre. We hope that in Darwin, at least, they will be able to go out of the centre to Mass, as the current detainees are able to attend the Cathedral and local parishes. However, here in Port Augusta, they were here 8 months and were only once able to attend Mass. Rather, 5 of them were able to come. It was only last week when the staff allowed 5 boys and young men to attend the church for a special delivery. At Christmas time, as they could not come to the church, they constructed an amazing coloured Cathedral out of paper and cardboard. It stands about 1.5m high and is intricately designed and fashioned. As they could not take it when leaving the centre, they were allowed to donate it to our Port Augusta church. What a privilege! We have it standing in the front foyer and I took a rather bad photo of it on my phone. I had to lighten out the foreground, as it was all in shadow and what you can see really doesn’t do justice to its multicoloured effect. There was one young Vietnamese man in particular who had the craftsperson’s gift. He made large origami birds, vases, teapots and even a mitre (tall hat) for the bishop who came to visit for Vietnamese New Year. Yesterday, on our last visit, he showed us his latest creation. It was a large doll’s house, made entirely of popsticks. It has stairs and 7 rooms, including a prayer room and toilet!

I gave out some bookmarks with a photo of their cardboard church (they were not allowed to have any photos of it in the centre) and a Bible verse. One of the littlest girls received one that said, “Jesus came and said to them, Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” She looked at the picture and then said, “I know what this says. That Jesus will be with me in Darwin.” Today the Vietnamese fly away, but their church stays here. Luckily, Jesus is not limited to a building, a house, or a church. He will be with them there in Darwin too, along with our prayers.