Teaching and learning, discipline and gratitude

Parents Day at Imara 2018

By Joseph Abe
Mission Team Leader

I love it when a plan comes together…especially on Parents’ Day

When I arrived at Imara a few weeks ago, I was asked to play some piano and teach some music lessons. “Easy!” I thought to myself, “Besides the fact that I’ve never taught music lessons before, how could this possibly be a challenge?” Well, little did I know that I would end up playing worship songs almost every day, teaching four one-on-one piano lessons, leading rehearsals for both the moms and the staff, joining the cast of “The T-Shirt Shop,” and performing both piano and the role of the shopkeeper during one of the biggest Imara events of the year, Parents’ Day.

Although it was more work than I had originally signed up for, my involvement with Imara this summer gave me valuable insight into what the moms are learning. As I worked with the moms preparing and performing for Parents’ Day, I witnessed the great discipline and gratitude that pervades Imara’s staff, young women, and children.

Upon arrival at Imara on July 9, Carol, the Executive Director, told us we would be preparing for Parents’ Day. It is an annual event at Imara where the parents of the mothers at Imara come to celebrate their children and vice versa. There was a great deal of prep to complete prior to the parents’ arrival and it would take a lot of discipline on the parts of the staff and moms. If you want to hear more about my team’s perspective, check out the upcoming Q3 2018 issue of Imara’s newsletter, Mjumbe Imara.

Discipline

One of my favorite lines to quote growing up was from the very bald Mr. Strickland from the movie Back to the Future: “You’re a slacker!” I can still picture him face-to-face with punk teenager Marty McFly, the protagonist, pointing his finger at him saying, “You lack discipline.” As tough as this idea is, there’s much to be said about the importance of consistency in your work…otherwise known as discipline. The staff were responsible for preparing food and drink, getting the tent and chairs, and setting up everything. The moms were responsible for memorizing their lines for a drama (their word for a theatrical play), leading worship and special music, and, of course, getting their kids ready. Both the staff and the moms had responsibility for knowing their memory verse, an excerpt from various books of the Bible centered around who we are in Christ. Wow, what a list!

I got to spend a lot of time with Imara’s mothers, rehearsing the worship music (a combo of Swahili and English songs), the special music, and the drama. I had a blast! I picked up a drum since I didn’t know the piano part, and as I played, I felt all the joy packed into Swahili worship music. Listening to the moms slowly memorize their lines leading up to showtime was inspiring for me. I watched them look at their lines less and less and I could see the discipline with which they practiced. To me, it reflected the inner perseverance each young woman at Imara draws upon every day, striving for excellence.

And it was excellence I saw on Parents’ Day the following Saturday … excellence and gratitude. Everyone’s discipline paid off as we joyfully worshiped through song, dance, and drama. The day was truly one for the books, one that I will never forget. I ran around with the staff from building to building, gathering food supplies, helping clean off chairs and set up tables, setting up the piano, and running through some last-minute rehearsal (mostly for myself). Once we were ready, it was showtime.

Gratitude

One performance after the other, I watched as the moms and staff sang, danced, acted, and gave thanks. What will stand out most in my memory were the smiles and laughs representing people’s acceptance and gratitude for each other. To accentuate the appreciation, Carol and the staff gave out various awards to each of the moms and their kids for their achievements and contributions to Imara. The applause following each award was affirmation for each child of God, seen and appreciated for who their maker made them to be: unique and beautiful.

I have concluded that each time I go to Kenya, even though I go to teach, I am the one who learns the most. Those at Imara work hard and their discipline inspired me to look at my own life and ask, “What is the most important part into which I should pour the most discipline?” Those at Imara thank God every second for everything, and their gratitude inspired me to look at my own life and ask, “What has God given me that I should be grateful for?” Imara even helped me find the obvious answer: Everything.

Thanks to Carol, Daisy, Grace, Virginia, Beatrice, Susan, Jamima, Esther, Everlyne, Gipson, Evalin, Roselyn, Grace, Angelina, Felister, Bella, Caleb, Meshach, Gift and Patience for everything you’ve taught me. God is truly good. All the time.