Educating the whole child in remote Papuan villages
By Linda Ringenberg
Ibu Liza and I carefully picked our way around muddy patches of ground as we headed from the Siloam Clinic toward the Lantern of Hope School in the remote Papuan village of Nalca. Ibu Liza (Ibu means Mrs. in Indonesian but is used before the first name) works as our church relations representative in the MAF Sentani office. She joined our family on this trip to Nalca to see firsthand the life-saving work of Dr. Atik, a doctor from Jakarta who oversees the seven Siloam Clinics in interior Papua. Next, we were going to see their school in action.
We climbed the wooden stairs up onto a deck that extended outside of the elementary classrooms and peered through the chicken wire used to cover the open windows. Classes were decorated with brightly colored posters and drawings. The kindergarten students were sitting cross-legged in neat rows on a mat as their teacher spoke to them.
Entering the second-grade classroom to take some pictures, we observed numbers written in orderly columns on the white board. The teacher pointed to each succeeding number as the students chanted the name. Then, she did something different. She started pointing at numbers randomly, out of order, and calling on individual students to say the number’s name. The students answered flawlessly.
Joy and satisfaction welled up within me as we watched this scene unfold.
In most isolated villages there is not a viable school, and children do not receive an education at all. These teachers with Lantern of Hope Schools, or SLH (Pronounced Es-El-Ha), are changing all that for the children of Nalca, as well as the six other remote villages where there are sister SLH schools.
These students were also learning beyond the level of rote, or memorization. The regular schools teach mostly at this level only. These SLH students were being moved to the levels of understanding and correlation, or problem solving. They were being taught higher thinking skills, which will open up many more vocational opportunities for them.
I spied my husband Dave and son Ryan in the fourth-grade classroom. Ryan was sharing some encouragement with the children about school, and Dave taught them the English phrase, “school is cool!”
Ibu Liza and I continued on to the sixth-grade classroom where we presented each student with a children’s story Bible that had been donated by a Christian organization. One of these students, a girl named Klister (Klee-ster), wants to become a pilot. After class Ibu Liza sat down with Klister and another student and had them read to her from the book. I noticed that they read Indonesian very well.
SLH also teaches from a Biblical worldview and educates on hygiene and health care in addition to the regular subjects.
Later that afternoon, I walked with Dave and Ryan down the Nalca airstrip. The village children followed us, helping carry the supplies to install a cement base for the new metal windsock pole that MAF was providing for the village. Ryan mixed up the first batch of cement while Dave tried to get the kids to repeat the phrase “school is cool!” The children looked at us with big, shy eyes. Dave tried several more times, and finally Klister said in a loud voice, “School is cool!”
I told Dave that Klister wanted to be a pilot and he invited her to help mix the next batch of cement. Often the village children are very timid with outsiders, but Klister confidently set to work, helping with the whole process.
That evening we gathered together with the clinic and school staff. We enjoyed a delicious meal of nasi goreng (fried rice) and a worshipful time of singing before Dave shared from the Word of God. They were hungry for that kind of encouragement. What a blessing to be with these teachers and nurses to encourage them in the good, hard work that they are doing in a very isolated place. They are so thankful for MAF and the service we provide, helping them not feel so alone.
Siloam Clinics and Lantern of Hope Schools are one of MAF Papua’s priority partners. Not only do we fly in much of the materials to construct their buildings, but MAF also brings much-needed supplies to the seven villages where these schools and clinics are located. The teachers and nurses count on MAF to transport them to the city for their breaks. We are blessed to serve such dedicated individuals who sacrifice so much to make a difference for Christ in the lives of these isolated people.
This is the second of two stories by MAF missionary Linda Ringenberg on her family’s visit to Nalca in Papua, Indonesia. To read the previous story, visit A Faithful Doctor | MAF Story Hub.