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LitNet! Newsletter February-March, 2018
posted by David and Sharyn Curtis on 2018-02-28 13:39:21
 
Dear Friends and Family,

Several weeks ago our church in Kalispell, Christ Church Episcopal, celebrated “World Mission Sunday”. I was invited to speak about being a missionary in Uganda and the Czech Republic. My preparation to speak provided an excellent opportunity to reflect on the experiences and resulting core values that have shaped our behavior and attitudes as missionaries working in an international setting. Here are some of the talking points that I shared or hoped to share:

Those Who Are Sent

Romans 10:11-15 New International Version (NIV)
13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
The Apostle Paul’s words to the Roman Church mirror the fundamental understanding that certain individuals will be sent out to proclaim the good news.
God has a plan and destiny for each of our lives. This plan is actualized within the framework of the local church.
Not all who are sent are evangelists. The Lord uses a great variety of gifting and talents which embraces great diversity within the Christian community. Sharyn and I definitely found need and purpose as teachers as we lived in Uganda and the Czech Republic.
In the local church expression of the Body of Christ every member has a purpose in advancing the Kingdom of God; some are sent beyond the walls of the church building.
Many members find purpose and fulfillment in activities that take place within the walls of the church building.
A few members are sent to facilitate community-based activities
A few members are sent to represent the local church regionally, and on the state and national level
A very small number of local church members are sent to serve the Lord in the nations

One Story-Ugandan Pastor Samuel Namatiiti/David & Sharyn

Meeting Pastor Samuel Namatiiti in 1987
Samuel came to the US to be trained as a Christian School administrator
Uganda was struggling to overcome the aftermath of civil war and the destructive results of Idi Amin’s dictatorship
AIDS was endemic
50% of the population 0-14 years old
Samuel was committed to help establish Christian schools in both urban and rural settings-to help raise up the next generation of Ugandan children in a culture the had lost its spiritual and moral compass.
“The most important resource of a nation is her people, and her children are a treasure from the Lord.”
Three Pillars of Christian Education in Uganda-“Education is Life”
Christ in the home
Christ in the church
Christ in the school

David and Sharyn in Uganda 1994-2014

1994: Our visit to a rural Christian school in Uganda: catching the vision of serving the Lord as educators
1998: Approached by Ugandan pastors and teachers to develop a “culturally appropriate” curriculum for teaching young children the fundamentals of reading and writing in English
2001: School in a Briefcase published and teamed with Annie Birungi (Mugisha)
2002-Present: Oversight and monetary support of School in a Briefcase (SIAB) & Alphabet Animal Story (AAS) teacher training
2003: Transfer of LitNet! Uganda administration and project management to Annie Birungi

Annie Birungi (Mugisha) 2001-Present

2002-Present: Annie teamed with Bibian Musasizi and others to conduct monthly School in a Briefcase, Alphabet Animal Stories, and “Teacher Follow-up” teacher training sessions, primarily in the south-central region of Uganda.
2009-Present: Annie created a second team of teacher trainers to conduct teacher training seminars (SIAB, AAS, and Follow-up) in the eastern region (Mbale) of Uganda.
2016: Publication of a Luganda version of East Africa Animal Stories
2011-2017: Annual LitNet! Uganda outcomes for School in a Briefcase (SIAB) & Alphabet Animal Story (AAS) teacher training (*note: each year)
400 Teachers Trained
12,000 students impacted

LitNet! (Literacy Network) a “Translocal Ministry”
(a fundamental principle of church stewardship)

Spiritually covered and sent by a local church
Spiritually covered and received by a local church in another nation

The Short-Term Missions Movement

The timeframe for serving as a missionary in another nation can be weeks or months, not necessarily years.
Sustainable change in an international community is only possible through recognizing that the indigenous leaders are the experts. As short-term missionaries, we offer our services as a resource to fulfill the ideas, hopes, and aspirations of members of the local community.

“Go to the people
Live with them
Learn from them…
Start with what they know;
Build with what they have.
But with the best leaders,
When the work is done,
The task accomplished,
The people will say,
We have done this ourselves!”

Lao Tzu (700 BC)


David & Sharyn
 


LitNet! Newsletter January, 2018
posted by David and Sharyn Curtis on 2018-01-26 13:39:32
 
Dear Friends and Family,

It may be that the seed for these thoughts was planted last November, when we traveled back to Moscow, ID, for Jeanette’s 100th birthday (see LitNet! News last month). One of the places we visited happened to be the building housing our first apartment . It’s still there and hasn’t changed much in 47 years…
The seed of memory swelled and sprouted when I received two totes full of memorabilia, old photos and genealogical records from my parents’ previous residence . They had been forgotten in Dad’s move to Kalispell last May. I began an emotional roller-coaster ride as I cast thoughts back to what was and what might have been. All in all, it’s been a healing process.
Now, we find ourselves in January: the month that looks back, while it looks ahead to a new year. We have LitNet! news to share on both fronts.
My pastor set me to thinking a new way about this backward/forward viewpoint when he said that we (the Church) are like a tree that has its branches in the present, and its roots in the future. Whether we are a Christ-followers or not; we can choose to have our roots feeding on the past (or this disturbing present), OR we can look ahead with hope and with optimism for the future.
2017 was a year full of challenges and accomplishments; 2018 holds uncertainty and exciting promise. Please enjoy this report from a new vantage-point! —Sharyn

LitNet! 2017
In Uganda—once again the statistics were impressive: 231 teachers from 19 schools and 169 Sunday School teachers from 18 churches trained in effective educational practices and use of LitNet! materials. If each teacher impacted the lives of only 30 students last year, that’s 400 adults and 12,000 kids impacted in over 20 communities for 2017. (a conservative estimate—most classes are much larger)! Hopefully, most teachers will teach for many years; the numbers grow exponentially…
But, numbers are only one measure of effectiveness; attitudes and heart changes can’t be quantified. If a teacher learns the importance of planning, or learns effective alternatives to beating students, if he or she gains useful tools for creating a learning environment that is stimulating and inviting, if a new network of collegial support for learning and encouragement develops among teachers and school administrators, lives are changed forever. How can we measure those changes? Have seeds of hope for a better future been sown? We believe so. Annie and Bibian believe so. Cathy and Juliet believe so. This motivates them to face daily challenges and difficult circumstances. LitNet Uganda, we applaud you for work well done!!
In the Czech Republic and U.S.—we think of last January and are amazed; at this time in 2017, we were living in Znojmo CZ, and seeing the first copies of Stories from the Shepherd in print. 50 copies were left with the Znojmo church team for distribution; 8 more were ordered later by a public school teacher from the church (several of her students wanted their own copies). The publisher continues to fill orders as they come in. We have sold or given away 20 copies here in the U.S., and we bought 10 more for a Czech English Camp outreach that our friends Michael and Sona (from Kalispell) will be joining next July with a team from their church. They will be using Stories from the Shepherd as their textbook as they teach a class for Beginning English language learners. We will say more about that later, as their plans develop…
LitNet! will move forward with hope, planting as we go.

David and Sharyn

 


LitNet! Newsletter March, 2016
posted by David & Sharyn Curtis on 2016-03-31 13:12:18
 
Dear Friends and Family,

This month we can share a love story that has given birth to several happy endings. It began in 1994, when David and Sharyn fell in love with the nation of Uganda and its people. Much later, and with God’s help, in 2002 the first LitNet! School in a Briefcase was born.
The book of stories in that learning-to-read program was popular among teachers and parents, so the first publication of East African Alphabet Animal Stories was birthed several months later. It has a distinctive tawny lion-cub cover.
Alphabet Animal Stories (AAS, as it is affectionately called) has parented a U.S. version in English that displays a zebra face, available since 2006. In 2013, the first copies of AAS became available in a bi-lingual edition: Czech and English.
THIS MONTH, LitNet! is happy to welcome the latest member of the family— a version of AAS that can be used in homes and schools and churches where people are more fluent in Luganda (a vernacular language spoken by over 5 million people in Uganda).
The birthing process was not an easy one—the labor came long after the conception— but it has been a long-awaited addition to the LitNet! family of books! WELL DONE, UGANDA TEAM !!!

LitNet Uganda is in the air and on the move again next month...this time, destination: Zambia!
Annie Mugisha and Bibian Musasizi will fly to the Livingstone airport on April 3, to train teachers and Sunday School teachers at Ebenezer Children’s Village (Google: Ebenezer Child Care Trust to learn more about the place). We can hardly wait to hear their reports and to see their pictures!
We met Ranji, director of Ebenezer Children’s Village, last November when we attended a missions conference hosted by River City Church in Lewiston, Idaho. She expressed interest in our LitNet! materials and in the LitNet! vision of teacher training. Leaders from River City had visited Uganda earlier in the year, and had seen School in a Briefcase classroom practices in action. They were impressed. As a result, they were eager to send our LitNet Uganda team to Zambia to train Ranji’s teachers!
Our Uganda team was eager to respond with any help they could provide. Ebenezer is a name taken from Hebrew words meaning “stone of help”; it refers to a commemorative stone erected after a great victory.
One of LitNet!’s primary goals has been to connect people, to connect supply with need. It is with great joy that we see this happening: sometimes in small ways, sometimes in really BIG ways.
Our U.S. version of Alphabet Animal Stories (and its accompanying CD of songs) continues to be offered online at our website.
Shipping is included in the asking price; proceeds from sales help keep connection happening in Africa and beyond. Perhaps you know of someone young-at-heart who would like to meet a talking zebra or a monkey who plays too many trick for his own good…
We are glad you are interested in LitNet!, and can share our joys and our journeys.

Love and blessings,
David and Sharyn

LitNet! is a registered nonprofit organization.
Donations are tax-deductible.
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LitNet! Newsletter January 2016
posted by David and Sharyn Curtis on 2016-01-23 18:46:46
 
Khuka (Grandpa), why do you have a picture of the Karamojong stealing cattle?”

Dear Friends and Family,
Christmas came a week or so early to the Curtis household this year. We were blessed to have Shem and Catherine Mabongor and their three lovely childen (Kakai, Kana, and Andy) stay with us. The Mabongor family are Ugandan missionaries and our lives have happily intersected with theirs several times in the last five years.
As Kana and I were passing from my office to the kitchen, she looked at the batik we have hanging in our hall. She asked me what I have quoted above. I was seriously taken aback by her thoughtful question...
Honestly, when Sharyn and I bought it while in Uganda, we were thinking: “colorful design, interesting composition, original art, and a good memory”. From Kana’s perspective, she sees an image of a neighboring, marauding tribe member who is notorious for stealing cattle! [Incidentally, the lattice-work on the right side could be the edge of a thorn “kraal” (corral), an enclosure where cattle are kept at night.]
So the innocent words of my-ten-year old companion totally changed my perspective on what I was looking at and experiencing. I am reminded how vitally important it is, when we minister in other cultures, other nations, to maintain close ties of friendship with the nationals and to keep open ears, open hearts to their insights on how to navigate within their community. —David
[see page 2 for a brief annual LitNet! report]

LitNet’s goal has always been to put practical tools in teachers’ hands. The curriculum is helpful, but the training these teachers receive at the seminars impacts every day they spend in their own classrooms. We believe good teaching is strategic and effective; our trainers help teachers learn how to grab students’ attention, how to create an environment that stimulates learning, and how to manage children without shaming or beating them.


Thanks for joining with us in this exciting adventure! ...can’t wait to see what 2016 brings...
Thank you for partnering with us.
 


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