This family looks like any ordinary Mom and Dad with 3 little daughters. But they are not ordinary. Both parents grew up in outlying areas of Chiapas, Mexico. Both are indigenous, which interpreted means in the caste system in Mexico, still either consciously or subconsciously adhered to today, they garner less respect or standing in their community than a slave. They are on the bottom rung on a societal ladder they need to climb to get out of a hole of poverty and prejudice.
Around 20 years of age Armando served an LDS mission where he was forced to talk to people, look them in the eye, develop confidence in his ability to communicate and practice speaking Spanish. His wife also served a mission. He returned to his community afterwards and studied in the local University. He would like to secure a job with the federal government translating Spanish to Tzotsil, his native language. Meanwhile, he does part time work as a promotore for Escalera and has a business raising chickens.
He stands in the shell of the cement home he proudly is building for his family in San Cristobal. He took Bryson and me to a remote village to attend church a couple of Sundays ago where after the worship services we met with the local leader to ask “Are there young people here that would like to serve a mission?” We’d like to help create more families like Armando’s.
Yesterday was Sunday. My favorite sermon of the day came from my 6 year old grandson. He was playing with his sister and cousin on the front porch below our veranda. We couldn’t see them but could hear them. My daughter, concerned the little one was ok called down. “Do you have your sister with you?”
“I know where I am and I know how to get back.”
My daughter explained there had been a traumatic experience this summer when Sam took her 6 year old to Lagoon. They had seen a little boy that was lost. After returning home, he told his mother about the incident and she used that as an opportunity to teach him what to do if he was ever alone and needed help finding his way back.
I hope I have done my motherly duty. I hope my children can recognize where they really are and when they are lost are courageous enough to admit it and sensitive enough to remember what I have taught about repentance, the Spirit so that they and will not only know the way back but return.
In April I went on a biking trip with two friends to see the Dutch countryside abloom in the bulb flowers for which my ancestral home is famous. None of us spoke Dutch. None of us had ever led a biking excursion before let alone in a foreign country. While we were all sufficiently intelligent and reliable grandmothers we felt a little inadequate on this adventure. We rented a GPS device and consulted maps but most important, once on the road, looked for the important road signs that would take us to our destination.
We quickly learned how much help it was to have multiple sets of eyes ready to take responsibility and speak up. Not one of us was ever right the entire time. Going ‘at the speed of bike,’ it was easy to be looking in one direction and miss a sign in the direction where you weren’t looking. At one time or another, two would hear the voice of the third calling “Did you see that sign? These roles changed frequently. We were always happy to receive immediate course correction so we could continue with minimal delay.
I’ve thought of this recently as I’ve considered our stewardship to teach and lead children.
As prepared as we might be or as sure of the stories or doctrines we are, inevitable slip-ups occur when we are on the spot. Maybe we get flustered and say something when we mean something else. Maybe we get distracted by something or feel we need to finish our sharing time and inadvertently miss an opportunity to clarify or engage in important discussions. I recall a sharing time where modesty was being discussed and the primary counselor explained that some clothing that was too tight could be immodest. One child, thinking she understood perfectly well, nodded her head as she pulled at the heel of her shoe and said “Yeah, like when your shoes are too tight.” While suppressed chuckles danced around the room a sincere inquiry by another child “What if someone likes to wear tight cloths?” went unaddressed.
Even after much preparation you may experience slips-ups at the moment you are before the children teaching. We invite you to join us in implementing a “culture of catch” amongst ourselves in which we receive and give kind but clarifying correction happily and immediately.
Let’s not avoid a correction or clarification for fear we may offend. Let’s not assume an incorrect statement will go unnoticed or be ‘over’ the children’s heads. Primary should be a place free from misconceptions. Primary should be the port of embarkation in a child’s journey introducing them to vistas of testimony, truth and light in an environment abloom with love and humility.
We invite you to be both teacher and student in a culture where we happily catch each other as we lead on the path back to Heavenly Father.