One of the unexpected, happy experiences I had in Malawi occurred during the workshop Linda Allen and I had with the teachers at Chizimya Full Primary School on Saturday, October 9, 2004. We arrived a bit late and so as we started our workshop with devotions, I was feeling a little disorganized. Nonetheless, the day went well. The nine teachers were attentive and willing to participate, ask questions, and share concerns.
A set of new World Book encyclopedias which had left Chicago in mid-May had arrived in Chizimya only the day before the workshop. We opened those boxes together and each teacher got to unwrap the plastic around several volumes. Then we enjoyed the smell and feel of new books as we delved into their contents. What information could we find? How was it organized? How could their pupils use it? Each teacher with a different volume found particular topics of interest and shared that with the rest of us. Frequently we heard, “Did you know…?” Finally we talked about what information on the spine of each volume might be useful to them – date, letter, volume number.
For fun, I asked who had volume L and when it was given to me, I put its spine next to my volume M. Then we found and added K and N. They began to see what I was doing. Soon the teachers were completing the set themselves and happily and proudly displaying their accomplishment for the camera. When the volumes are on a shelf in proper order, their spines not only reveal the alphabet, but also spell WORLDBOOK in large letters. Individually, those partial letters on the spine of each volume make no sense. (If you haven’t seen a set of recent World Book encyclopedias, check it out at your library.)
Once again we had proven to each other what fun learning can be. And we reminded ourselves to always look for that unexpected joy waiting for us each day in our lives. But most importantly, we rediscovered that, just as in our lives as Christians, we can do so much more together than we can do alone.