Who would have ever thought I would be teaching English to Ethiopian seminary students? God definitely has a sense of humor. When the dean of students came to my house and asked me if I would like to teach at the seminary I would not give him a direct answer. I said, “Let me think and pray about it and I will give you an answer.” I came over here wanting to teach girls but that avenue has still not opened up. The more I talked to God about it the more I realized that I wanted to give it a try. In the states I am certified to teach both English and History, but English is my minor. However, because English is my minor none of my classes at Grand Valley University included technical grammar. This was tricky for without a strong background in grammar, teaching English as a second language can be challenging. My daughter Anna-Maria, who is a second language English teacher at Texas Tech University, gave me lots of encouragement and also a lot of her old teaching material in ESL while I was home. One of her books in particular seemed right for my students. I made approximately 800 copies of the material and we we used the true stories as our basic text. After that I added Bible passages, grammar sheets, lots of talking, games and several lessons on writing a three paragraph essay.
Each morning at 7:45 I walked to the Stadium Church where a large Land Rover picked me up. Initially the conversations started in English but along the way as we picked up more workers the language switched to Wolaittina. We bumped and jostled our way up the mountain to the Kele Heywet Church Headquarters where the school is located. I had about 28 students waiting for me from all areas of Wolaitta.
One of the games I enjoyed playing with my students was 20 questions. One day I came to class with a gift bag containing three items. I always give them a little hint before beginning the game, like ‘this is something to eat, or this is something to wear.’ My students all come from the countryside and are training to be missionary evangelists. Some students are in their late forties with large families while others are single. I have one lone brave female student. On this particular day I had a tube of lipstick in the bag. We proceeded with the questions and no one could guess what was in the bag. I pulled out the tube of lipstick and they were astonished. I put a little bit on and showed them how it worked. From there, we proceeded to our planned lesson. As we were reading the lesson I saw a hand go up. “Yes?” I said.”
“Teacher, I have a question.”
“OK,” I responded. “What is your question?”
“Teacher, is it permissible for a Christian woman to wear lipstick?” All of the students mumbled in assent to the question.
“Hmm,” I thought. “How am I going to answer this?” I said, “Well, do you think I am a Christian?
They agreed that they thought I was a Christian.
“Well, I wear lipstick. Actually, I think it is important for a wife to look her best for her husband and for the kingdom of God. Everyday I put on a little make-up and lipstick so that I will look nice. It is OK with my culture to do this.”
They thought about this comment and then replied, “Well teacher, I think it is OK for a woman to wear lipstick if she lives in the city but she definitely cannot wear it in the countryside.”
My classes were full of interesting comments like this. I learned so much from my students. Last week we finished our intensive English course and my students thanked me with a huge pink bouquet of artificial flowers. The school faculty also gave me a purple house dress. They are so sweet and I definitely enjoyed my time teaching at the seminary. In June they have asked me to teach World History. Now that’s more up my line and I look forward to the new challenge.