Tag Archives: Christian school

In the Spirit of the Season

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This story is a regular, “feel-good” story in keeping with the Spirit of Giving that we celebrate this time of year.  It’s a story of generosity and goodness and team building and positive values.  It’s a hero story.

The Junior High Girls from one of our Christian schools here in CR.  All lives changed!

The Junior High Girls from one of our Christian schools here in CR. All lives changed!

Here in Costa Rica, the chain restaurant Applebee’s, which is extremely popular in the United States, is just starting to build it’s business in this country.  Several of the “higher uppers” in the organization here are Christians.  As they were in the planning phase of opening several new branches of the restaurant, these men discussed their ideas about training their employees.  They didn’t just want to train good workers, they wanted to give these young employees values that will last a life time.  They wanted to develop real character in their employees.

So these general managers contacted a friend of ours, Johnny Escavel.  Johnny is the national director of the Christian School program in our denomination.  Johnny overseas 6 Christian schools in very poor communities all over Costa Rica.  Not only do the children get a solid education, but they get at least one meal a day from the school and they hear about the love of Jesus.  These kids just shine with joy and healthy self esteem because they know they are loved by God.  Johnny is totally invested in the formation of the character of these kids from rough neighborhoods and disfunctional families.  So when these business men wanted character training for their employees, they thought of Johnny who has “worked miracles” with less.

They hired Johnny to come train their new employees before the next 4 restaurants opened.  Johnny doesn’t know how to “turn off the Jesus”.  He’s always in Jesus Mode.  So when he started the training sessions, he opened with prayer.  All the employees now start each shift with a few minutes of prayer together.  For Johnny, and for us as well, there is no separating “good morals and work ethic” from the message of worth and value found in the Love of Jesus.  Without God, there’s little incentive to be good.

On the opening day of the newest Applebee’s, a list of 300 guests were invited for a free lunch (and to let the employees practice their new serving skills).  All the teachers from the 6 Christian schools that Johnny oversees were invited, along with everyone who works with these schools… missionaries, pastors, employees, supporters… all ate in 3 shifts on that day.  The entertainment of the day was the nationally famous children’s choir from one of the schools.  (This kids’ choir has sung for the president!)  And all the kids got to order what they wanted as well.

These kids from the poorest neighborhoods in Costa Rica were eating in a restaurant for the first time every.  They were ordering hamburgers bigger than their heads!  You should have seen how huge their eyes were when they saw the amount of food that was delivered to each child on his own plate.  It was a true Christmas Miracle for those children, a memory of a lifetime.  And Applebee’s paid for everything!  We were amazed at the generosity of this business and at their commitment to teaching young people life skills and values.  It’s more than a job at Applebee’s, it’s about forming a life.

We were impressed.  Way to go Applebee’s!

cheeseburger-fries

Remember Sunday School?

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I teach 5th grade in a Christian school here in Costa Rica.  Half of my students are Costa Ricans and half are Americans.  The overwhelming majority of my teaching is in English, with constant consideration for the students learning in a second language.  Often I translate an unknown word directly into Spanish for a confused student.  Other times I ask my students what the Spanish word for such-and-such word is.  And whenever I let the kids chat with their friends my Spanish speakers always revert to their Mother Tongue.  (Sometimes they forget that I can understand them when they’re speaking Spanish, so that’s amusing.)  Sometimes I wonder if certain lessons really connect with my Spanish speakers.

Because we are in a Christian school, we have Bible class a few days a week.  In general, I have found that my students know very few of the classic Bible stories- except for a couple of my missionary kids who grew up in church.  Names like Abraham, Joseph, Ruth and Saul are virtually unknown.  Yesterday I told the story of Lot and Abraham choosing land for their flocks.  I said, “Lot chose the good land around Sodom” and a boy asked, “What’s Sodom?”  He had never heard of the original Sin City.  I blame this on a lack of Sunday Schools in Latin American churches.  I feel the responsibility to teach them what they are missing.  The majority of my teaching time is spent telling the stories that I grew up on in Sunday School.  I kind of enjoy it.

At the end of our lesson yesterday was a brief story about the classic church hymn “I’d Rather Have Jesus”.  (I don’t know if this song has ever been translated into Spanish or not, but hymns are NOT popular in the Latin Churches now days.)  The lyrics of the song were printed on the page after a description of how it was written.  Scanning the lyrics, I got a lump in my throat.  Years and years of Sunday School music and stories filled my mind with sweet memories of church.  The old hymns carved deep grooves into my young, supple theology.  I quietly asked the kids if they wanted me to sing the song for them.

I closed my eyes and started singing the well known words of the great hymn.  Some of the children sang or hummed along with me, some sweetly and childishly out of tune.  The peace of the Holy Spirit came down on us in that room.  When we were done singing, one boy said it was “like a lullaby”.  That’s how he described the peace he felt.

Another boy, who is probably my most “random” child, asked if I had ever heard that song before.  I couldn’t resist messing with him.  I sarcastically replied, “No, I just made that up right now.”  The whole class groaned and laughed together at my joke.  It was a great note to end the day on.

I’ve been thinking about that song ever since. Yes, I’d rather have Jesus than anything.