Just like Jesse

I’ve been watching this PBS film series with my 7th grade BTS class. It’s tracks the lives of 7 children who are going to school ( some for the first time) in 7 different countries. It shows the constant risks to their education, even survival. A girl from Afghanistan, India, Romania, and Benin and a boy from Japan, Brazil and Kenya are featured.

In the second part of the series we are checking up on the children 3 years later. All are still in school…but some barely so and are facing having to withdraw. Two of the children have lost a parent ( or another parent), the night school in India that our little girl attends is closing, and the school in Afghanistan is under serious threat as Taliban attacks in the area on girls’ schools are increasing.

I can’t help but love all these children, their drives to not continue cycles of poverty and ignorance are astounding.

The Kenyan boy, Joab, looks/talks just like Jesse. When he first appeared on screen everyone screamed, “Jesse!” It was eerie. A few words from Joab and I was in tears. His mother had died from AIDS – compliments of his father who had found a new wife and left the children to ten year old Joab’s care. Joab explains how no one had anything to do with them, wouldn’t even let their children play with them, because they said his mother was a bad woman. (She was godly and gracious and had done a fabulous job with her children.)

So Joab, finds a way to feed and keep his brother and sister somewhat sheltered in the huge dump that so many children call home. And every morning he gets them all up and walks them to school. The school covers their costs; someone, somewhere else sees to it. This young man, now 13, talks about forgiveness and long suffering. His father comes to take some of the meager food stuffs Joab and his brother and sister get from the school sponsor each week. His father, an alcoholic, remarried remember, is not working.

I think everyone in the room was more touched by Joab and the children than they thought that they would be. Most of them just sort of stared beyond the screen – lost in consideration of it all. Some teared, a couple looked at me as if to say, I’m going to throw my life at that. I didn’t tell the kids beforehand what it would be like, or suggest any further lesson plans. We just watched it all for the first time together. When the credits ran, they turned and asked, “What are we going to do, Mrs. Sullivan? What can we do?”

“I don’t know,” I responded. “What do you think we could do?”

“Maybe pay someone’s way through school, or buy their uniform or books or shoes,” came idea after idea.

“Tell you what, I’ll fb my friends overseas and see who has some struggling school age kids that could use your help. Monday, we will make a plan.”

Lea and Mark ( South Africa) just happened to run into just those kind of kids a week or two ago. They fb’d me back with a real need and plan to solve it, if we could just get together a little money. Tomorrow, I’ll have pictures of the kids and their school and teacher and what they need from us to keep on growing and learning.  And then Lea promised she’d have pictures of those very kids walking, playing, going to school in the new shoes we provided them just a week or two later. She and Mark would go and buy the shoes with their pastor/teacher and take them to the children themselves.

My grandfather, who raised his brothers and sisters and put them all through school, even college, only saw Trent once. He was tickled with him. He called him Double Breasted Jesse, after a black man who had worked with him and who had been a friend to him. “He was a wide fellow, always wore a double-breasted suit, for the room,” he told me.  When I first met Jesse Mwakajumba, Trent introduced me to him as his African twin. So I have twin sons: Jesse and Double Breasted Jesse.  I have loved Jesse like my own from the moment that we met. Even in that dream of Trent’s that he had so many times before sharing it with us all, it is Trent and Jesse, together, fishing and catching men at the seaside. I believe that their lives are linked in so many ways that we do not yet understand.

Joab is a Jesse, A God man. It is all over him, too. Pray with me for Joab as you would Jesse or Ole Double Breasted.

To see this film: http://video.pbs.org/video/1239934544/

or go to PBS video |Wide Angle| Time for School 3|


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