Long ago, in a far away land…
All magical stories start out that way, don’t they? Well, the story of my childhood is magical and it too happened long ago in a far away land.
I was born in the jungles of Africa, in the country of Nigeria, quite a long time ago. After a year at the remote jungle station, my family moved to a less remote place for language school, and then on to Ogbomoso, a city that contained one of the largest mission stations.
Ogbomoso had both a seminary and a hospital. All together, there were roughly a dozen missionary families and single missionaries, depending on who was on furlough at any given time. And all of these families had children in need of an education. So the mission we served came up with a solution—home school them until the fifth grade and then pool the resources into a boarding school established and run by the mission.
In most homes, this meant the parents homeschooled their own children. But since Ogbomoso had so many families in one place, we formed a school…sort of.
For several years, one brave woman accepted the job of teacher to all MK’s (missionary kids) in Ogbomoso. I fondly remember her as “Aunt Lil”, since we MK’s called all the missionaries aunt or uncle.
Aunt Lil held a teaching certificate and had experience as an elementary teacher. But I imagine teaching a room full of students who were all in the same grade and who studied the same curriculum, was a walk in the park compared to teaching ten or more students in four grades, four different curriculums, all in the same room—which happened to be her garage.
It was magical indeed. She clumped the desks of the various classes together and walked around the garage overseeing all of her students’ work. I had a large class with three to four depending on who was gone on furlough. Some classes only had one student and his or her desk would sit off by itself.
Aunt Lil decorated her room brightly. The front, which was actually the back of the garage, had a chalk board. The two side walls each had a small window and a bulletin board, and the back of the school had two large garage doors that stayed open.
She decorated the bulletin boards and changed them regularly. Sometimes they had letters or numbers but other times they had seasonal items. She also placed bright educational or decorative items and boarders on the walls around the bulletin boards. I can still remember the magic of watching the seasons change on the walls around me. The decorations went from bright fall leaves, pumpkins, black cats, harvest moons, and hay stacks to lacy snowflakes, snow covered scenes, stockings hung by a roaring fireplace, to spring tulips, baskets, fields of daffodils, bunnies, and colored eggs.
These really did feel magical to me and the other students because Nigeria only had two seasons—rainy and dry. Our world went from lush green, full of abundant fruit to dry brown with dust so thick sometimes it looked like a fog.
Education in her one-room garage school was fun. Nothing quite compares to sitting at a desk, surrounded by friends, with paper, pencil, scissors and glue strewn on the floor for use in the project you are eagerly working on. And then looking up at pilgrims and orange pumpkins, while your mind wanders off to a land you only barely remember where leaves turn colors and frost crunches beneath your feet. A place where you need to bundle up in mittens and a coat or come inside to warm yourself by an inside fire…and just as you are lost in your thoughts, a gecko scampers across the bulletin board on its way out the open window and you feel a tropical breeze across your face.
My garage school only had class from eight o’clock until noon with one snack break and recess in the middle of the morning. At recess we all scattered around Aunt Lil’s yard climbing trees, chasing lizards, or playing on the swing set next to the house.
Once as a child, my family took a trip to the much larger city of Lagos. We stayed in the hostel there. My room had a window, which overlooked a Nigerian Grammar school play yard. From my chair near the second story window, I saw the children come out to recess. There were so many of them, all in the same uniform—blue pants and shirts or blue pinafore type dresses. They walked in single-file behind their teacher out the door until they reached the center of the large play yard where they broke into free play. But when their teacher blew her whistle, they all single-filed quietly back inside.
…I thought their school was so strange.
Writing prompt*: Martha inhaled the tantalizing aroma of simmering soup. It was almost ready. Good thing, too. She had a roomful of hungry schoolchildren to feed. She never dreamed her first teaching position would also require culinary skills. She glanced around the room at her students, varying in age from six to eighteen. Some were engrossed in their work, others squirmed and fidgeted. Her satisfied mood changed to alarm when… (Finish the story and post as a comment). *Writing prompt by Betty Owens
A bit about Harriet Michael – Harriet’s writing journey began in 2004 during a difficult time in the life of someone close to her. She started a journal and personal Scripture-search on the topic of prayer. Four years later, she had a manuscript written, and a love of writing. She began freelancing small pieces in 2009. Today, she has a growing list of published credits, including articles, devotions, and stories. Her work has appeared in publications by LifeWay, Focus on the Family, Bethany House, David C. Cook Company, Standard Publishing, American Life League, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Judson Press, The Pentecostal Publishing House, Smyth & Helwys, The Upper Room, and more.
A book by Harriet E. Michael and Shirley Crowder:
In early November, we get busy preparing for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year, and we often forget the real meanings behind these celebrations. We can guard against this by preparing our hearts to seek Him as we focus on God’s Word, and by remembering that Thanksgiving is a time to give God thanks; Christmas is the celebration of the Savior’s birth; the New Year brings new beginnings. Then, as we go about doing the things the Lord has called us to do where He has called us to do them, we catch Glimpses of the Savior and biblical truth in the things we experience and observe. These devotionals are based on memories of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year celebrations in Africa and America. May the Holy Spirit work through these meditations to help readers recognize Glimpses of the Savior in the things they observe, and become skilled at finding Jesus among the celebrations and decorations.