Thursday, September 08, 2005

Two terrific Katrina-related interviews

I was able to interview two people today who are both relatively small cogs in the gigantic wheel of Hurricane Katrina relief...but both interviews brought to mind a song my dad used to sing a lot, "Little is much when God is in it!"

A small church reaches out with compassion

Pastor Bob Bixby

I told you earlier about Morning Star Baptist Church, which is taking seriously Biblical mandates to care for the hungry and hurting.

I was able to talk by phone with Pastor Bob Bixby, who along with his associate pastor Mark Garard has been in Lousiana and Mississippi trying to determine what one small church can do to help. Bixby and Garard took a vanful of donated items along with them--items that ended up being airlifted to a church in Gulfport, Mississippi.

Pastor Bixby told me he's learned so much about what to do and what not to do. But he's been struck by the compassion of small churches who are doing so much to help, and by the reactions of the evacuees.

And he said he hasn't seen a great deal of anger and frustration: "That has not been our experience. We expected that. (But) I have been hugged so many times, I mean, I've gotten enough hugs to last me a year--and thanked. Just thanked for coming, even though I had nothing to offer."

Although Bixby believes the spiritual need is the greatest, he also believes that Christians need to show love and compassion by helping to provide needed material things. "Let's face it...would you want to hear somebody preach to you when you've been in the same pair of underwear for five days, and haven't brushed your teeth in as many days, and have these physical needs? You wouldn't even be interested. That's just the way we're made, and it's appropriate to give materially."

Bixby plans to come home and organize his thoughts and impressions and write them down. He wants to encourage churches to hook up with churches in the hurricane-ravaged area. "I've learned how to help them," Bixby says. He expects to send a group from his church back down to the area next week.

Go here for more information on what Morning Star is doing.

Homeschooling help for displaced students...

Charlotte Mason

My second interview was with a fellow blogger, Donna-Jean Breckenridge of Liberty and Lily, who had alerted me to a possible way that children displaced by Hurricane Katrina can continue their education.

Donna-Jean serves on the advisory for Ambleside Online, a free online homeschooling curriculum based on the educational methods of Charlotte Mason--a Christian woman who lived a century ago in England.

Donna-Jean tells me: "(Mason) has a motto that says, 'Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life.' ...She talks about 'the natural home atmosphere.' In other words, not bringing everything down child-size, but letting children live among what's normal, what's natural.

"The discipline of habit...creating good habits with children so that they don't have to consciously be making decisions about things, but that instead doing things properly becomes a habit.

"And then the one that most people love the most is the part that says 'and a life'--and that has to do with living books in particular. What the Charlotte Mason method of education would advocate is using the best books for children. She believed that
the mind feeds on ideas, and that therefore children should have a generous curriculum...rather than textbooks, which are often pre-digested, if you will, by a team of people who determine what a fourth-grade child needs to hear.

"Instead, the Charlotte Mason method would advocate children being put in direct contact with these living books, great that, in a sense, the authors become the teachers. And the teacher's job then is to present this sort of smorgasbord of ideas for the children to to directly go to Robert Louis Stevenson, or C.S. Lewis, or Emily Dickinson, or the great works of art, and so on."

Now, Ambleside Online is working on a project to help Hurricane Katrina evacuees use the curriculum during this time of disruption in their children's lives.

Of course, this pre-supposes that the evacuees will have access to the Internet. Says Donna-Jean: "We're sort of envisioning a family that has had to leave, that has been displaced, and they may be living with relatives in another city or another state, and of course has had to leave behind--may have lost--their books, their materials, their resources, their curriculum."

If you go to Ambleside Online, you'll find a link for a simplified plan for Hurricane Katrina victims. "As part of our effort we will be including website links to simple, easy to follow resources- music sites, origami (it seems to us this is the simplest of handicrafts to institute in an emergency situation), handwriting pages, simple and easy games to play, physical activities, and so forth."

Sounds like a great idea to me...and it was wonderful speaking with this terrific lady that obviously has such a heart for children.

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