Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

The Freedom Writers Diary

Some time ago I attended a church service which was led by my oldest son, presently in his final year of theological studies. During the service he showed a clip from the movie, The Freedom Writers, which he used as illustration to speak about God’s righteousness. Some time later I saw the whole movie and then decided to buy the book on which the movie was based. The entire book consists of diary entries written by the teacher, Erin Gruwell or by the children in her class, all of whom remain anonymous.
Starting as a young teacher in a class of “unteachable, at-risk” students, she intercepted a strong racist note passed around the class one day. This infuriated her and she told the learners that it was this attitude which had eventually led to the holocaust. Most of the children in the class also belonged to various gangs and there were frequent fighting amongst the gang members. Eventually it also came out that virtually not one of the learners had not lost at least one friend due to gang-related violence.
Through the reading of books such as Anne Frank’s and Zlata Filipovic’s diaries, she was able to make them understand that they had to learn to tolerate each other. But she also helped them to believe in themselves and this seemingly useless learners eventually became star children of whom many went on to college and later had a successful career. You can read more about them here.
While at Willow Creek on 7 & 8 September, Bill Hybels had an interview with Wendy Kopp, CEO of Teach for America. I first read about her in Jim Collins’ book: Good to Great and the Social Sectors and her story not only inspired me but also became a model for me when we train new volunteer caregivers for our Home-Based Caring program when I warn them that we are expecting a great input from them but that they will not be rewarded for their work through a salary. (Amazingly, we have found that instead of chasing people away, more and more people want to be part of this project through which they can serve their neighbours.)
Through excellent teaching methods, children who may never have been able to break out of their cycle of poverty and lack of education, are now getting a first-class education and are being enabled to make a success of their lives.
The Freedom Writers Diary is an extremely inspiring book to read. Perhaps, one day, the day will come when we will be rid of all prejudice and where every child will be able to get first-class schooling and where children growing up in bad circumstances will be able to start a new life.
I salute people like Erin Gruwell, Wendy Kopp and the thousands of teachers willing to walk the extra mile in order to enable students who would most probably have ended up in prison or rehabilitation centres to start a new life. In fact, this morning I started wondering if God would not want our church to do something about education in Swaziland as well. But I still need to pray and think about this.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008 - Posted by | Church, Cross-cultural experiences, Home-based Caring, Hope, Jim Collins, Mission, Poverty, Social issues, Stigma, Swaziland, Vision, What I'm reading

3 Comments »

  1. I loved this book! Erin also wrote an autobiography called, “Teach With Your Heart.” I haven’t read it yet….but I’m sure it’s inspiring as well….

    Comment by Michelle | Thursday, August 21, 2008 | Reply

  2. Thanks for reminding me about this book. I also haven’t read it myself, but it is available on Amazon.com: Teach With Your Heart

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Thursday, August 21, 2008 | Reply

  3. i luv ur book n i luv da movie

    Comment by michelle | Wednesday, December 3, 2008 | Reply


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