The Holy Spirit empowers God’s people to withstand challenging situations with ‘perseverance and endurance’ says a grateful Hilary Gunning, serving with SIM UK in Namibia.
Within days of moving to an online classroom, Hilary was bombarded by hundreds of messages, emails and phone calls from parents of her Grade 1 pupils at St Paul’s College, Namibia.
“It was crazy and I was an emotional wreck as I needed to reply to them all, as well as trying to cope with new technology, which I struggle with,” she admits.
However, by God’s grace, she was soon able to get to grips with all the teething problems and is now finding creative ways of staying in touch with her class of 27 six-year-olds, who had only experienced nine weeks of school before the stringent lockdown was imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We were very fortunate that the parents were able to come into school the day before lockdown to collect work. We’d been able to make workbooks so the children could do worksheets at home and set up Google classroom,” she says.
“All the children enrolled on Google classroom and they log on every day, although unlike British schools, we aren’t doing live teaching because of our internet problems. I will post a lesson and the children can complete it. Now instead of standing in a classroom, I’m constantly on the phone; scheduling video chats with each pupil; posting video clips and responding to photos of their work they’re proud of.”
As Hilary’s young pupils can only do basic reading and writing, she is relying on visual methods and regular contact to help make feel part of what the school is doing.
“I’ve enrolled our cat Loki as a teaching assistant and every day there’s a picture of Loki doing something related to learning to get the children’s imaginations going. He’s even got his own supercat logo!"
Hilary and husband Paul were sent by Gilcomston Church in Aberdeen to Namibia 25 years ago.
“We came for two years on a short-term mission with SIM UK and never went back.”
The couple spent ten years working with Angolan refugees in the north of the country, before moving their ministry to the capital Windhoek, where Paul teaches at the Namibia Evangelical Theological Seminary (NETS).
He is also using distance learning to support those training for full-time Christian roles, but is doing most of his classes via WhatsApp as some students cannot afford internet access at home.
As the effects of COVID-19 on the economy begin to bite, many people are losing their jobs and income and some students were thrown out of their homes.
Fortunately, the NETS team were able to offer accommodation at the college, but the situation there is a far cry from the private, academically renowned Christian school where Hilary teaches.
Pupils are from affluent families and Hilary believes God is using her to prepare the ‘future leaders’ of Namibia — a country with one of the most unequal distributions of wealth and income in the world.
“Namibia is a diverse and challenging country and St Paul’s is fortunate compared to the government schools, but I’ve realised more than ever that God wants us to be here. Who will be running the country in 20 years? It’s likely to be the children of the elite and my role is helping SIM Namibia in its mission to build a strong and resilient church for God’s glory.”
By Kerry Allan
Pray for all the staff at St Paul’s and give thanks they are encouraged to share the gospel and pray with their students.
For God to give Hilary and Paul ample strength and energy to adapt their education ministry during this time of crisis.
For God’s protection on the couple’s family – including their second grandchild, who was born two months ago in Australia.