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Sowing Seeds: What Impact Does Education Make?

October 1, 2006

 

Tod & Ana Gobledale – Australia

“The kingdom of God is as if a farmer would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, without the farmer’s knowing how.” Mark 4: 26-27 NRSV

The handwriting is distinctively foreign, but the postmark is North Carolina. Curious, I tear open the envelope and read with ever-growing astonishment. “Who would have thought? How did this happen?” But, let us begin at the beginning.

ImageSixty-three eager middle school students sit three-at-a-desk. The cement brick classroom bakes under its iron roof. Sweat rolls down my back despite my lose clothing. A sea of faces looks toward me, expectantly, for their first English language lesson. I wonder how anyone can learn in these conditions. Yet their bright and anxious expressions encourage me.

My teaching colleagues and I debate endlessly the efficacy of our efforts. Teaching English as a foreign language, a requirement of the Ministry of Education, to students who will likely return to their rural villages to raise cotton and peanuts...is it worth it? Should we not be teaching them more practical things?

Still, day after day, we faithfully prepare our lessons and teach our students readying them for the national high school exams. Since only the highest marks enable a student to continue studies, the vast majority of our students return to their villages. Eventually, we leave Africa and return to the United States wondering what difference, what impact, our preparation, teaching and sweating has made in the lives of our students.

Fourteen years later... I open this curious letter written in distinctively foreign cursive. “Dear Sir and Madam,” the letter opens. “You probably do not remember me. You were my English teacher in middle school. I did well in my exams and went on to high school and university. I majored in mathematics and taught high school at home. Now the government has sent me to the University of North Carolina, that I might get an advanced degree and teach in the university back home.” Astonished, amazed, we wonder, “Who is this from?” The letter continues, “I hope that we might see each other while I am in the U.S., but if not, it is enough for me to write to you extending my thanks. Sincerely, Hamidou.”

Hamidou... I remember Hamidou, a thin, lanky, quietly-mischievous kid from a village on the edge of the desert. Who would predict that seeds sown in a student from Golmy would bear such fruit? We shake our heads in wonder. The sower sows seeds and does not know how they will grow. We only trust in God.

What impact does education make? Enough that the Millennium Development Goals for 2015 include universal primary education. We know that education enables people to solve problems for themselves and take control of their lives. We know that education equips women to confidently make their own choices.

What impact does education make? Here in Melbourne, Australia, at a recent Haystack celebration planning committee meeting, a Tamil woman exclaims, “That is my school!” Her school, pictured in the photo we are viewing, was the first school for women in Asia. Started by American Board missionaries, it provided education to her and other young women in India at a time when females were considered little more than family wealth in the form of doweries. Her education there changed her life... Seeds sown, and we trust in God.

What impact does education make? Recently, we received emails from two of our former students at Inanda Seminary, another girls school started by the American Board, but in South Africa. Today, one is a lawyer and the other a social worker, both committed to rebuilding their post-apartheid country. Seeds sown, and we trust in God

What impact does education make? Holding Hamidou’s letter, listening to the testimonies of former students, we are confident that sowing the seeds of education for people around the world is ministering to them in word and deed. What fruits will those sown seeds bear? The future will tell, and for now....it is in God’s hands.

*Ana & Tod Gobledale have served Global Ministries since 1983 in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ohio USA, and now Australia.

Tod & Ana Gobledale
The Gobledales serve the Common Global Ministries Board at Churches of Christ Theological College (Seminary) in Australia. Currently, their son, Mandla, attends Occidental College in Los Angeles, and their daughter, Thandiwe, has begun a 2-year appointment with Global Ministries at the Family Village Farm near Vellore, India.



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