Friday, September 22, 2017

Peace Grows Like Coffee

A few weeks ago, we remembered the tragedy of September 11, 2001. I found myself thinking about how the world had changed because of that horrific event. In my mind, few changes are positive. This picture book tells of positive changes in an African village inspired by the events of 9/11. 
Picture Book: Growing Peace: A Story of Farming,                                               Music, and Religious Harmony
Author and Photojournalist: Richard Sobol
Summary: This story begins and ends in Africa in the village of Namanyonyi, near the border of Uganda and Kenya. 
Namanyonyi is unusual. In this small Ugandan village live Christians, Jews, and Muslims. They live in harmony, but they used to live more separately. Here you see children from each religion enjoying futbol. (The hats identify the boy in the middle as Jewish and the boy on the right as Muslim.
Since one villager's witnessing of 9/11, they live more cooperatively and productively. J. J. Keki, a musician and coffee grower, happened to be in New York City on his way to The World Trade Center on 9/11. 
He emerged from the subway station in time to see one of the planes hit a tower. His life, like so many others, would never be the same. 
He came home and realized his village offered a perfect opportunity to model interfaith cooperation. Most families have a garden for food but also grow coffee for export. (They prefer to drink tea.) 
Through contacts made in his village via his children's many friends, Mr. Keki met with village farmers of all 3 religions: Islam
and Judaism.
Together they created a farming cooperative so that they can import their coffee at a better price and highlight their cooperation despite their village's religious diversity.  On the sign below find the word "Kawomera." It means "delicious." The Delicious Peace Growers Coop was born and has transformed this community! 
A model of interfaith cooperation was been born thanks to one man's determination to counteract religious hatred! 
J. J. Keki has even written songs celebrating the extraordinary peace and joy that his village now experiences. 
Besides a detailed account of this story, you'll find the process of growing coffee beans. Children and adults are photographed demonstrating the steps: the harvesting of coffee cherries,  
the drying of their seeds, 
the shaking to remove skins, the bagging, and the transporting to a Kenyan sea port. 
Growing Peace offers a wide but pragmatic perspective on peacemaking, integrated with economic cooperation. 
Hard work is celebrated here as well as the joy of living in the diversity that God ordains through nature and humanity.
Hanna’s Comments: There is so much text in this book that I highly recommend reading it over a couple of sessions or telling (rather than reading) this powerful story while showing the photographs. Find in the back an Author's Note and lots of resources including a glossary which will help with pronunciation. The music behind this story is available [here] and you can purchase the fair trade Delicious Peace Coffee [here]
Check out other PBT books about Africans' responses to September 11, 2001 [here] and [here].
Original Publisher & Date: Lee & Low, 2016
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 7 and up, 2nd and up
Formats other than Book: this story is told in a feature-length video available at [Youtube]
Scripture Connections: Two are better than one, because they have good reward for their toil. If they fall, one will lift up the other. (Ecclesiastes 4:9); Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called people of God. (Matthew 5:9); Consider how to stir up one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24); Strive for peace with everyone (Hebrews 12:14)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of older children or adults and consider how scripture encourages cooperative community, even across religious traditions. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

No More Fruit?

Picture Book: Little Apple Goat
Author & Illustrator: Caroline Jayne Church 
Summary: In this story, an ordinary goat has quite an extraordinary appetite
Wednesday's laundry isn't appetizing to her. 
Instead she loves fruit! Each autumn, Little Apple Goat patiently waits for fruit to fall before she munches and munches. 
Any fruit will do: cherries, pears, and especially apples. 
For years, Little Apple Goat spits the pits and seeds over the hedge on her way home from the orchard
On one particular day, the breeze is strong. 
It picks up to a bluster, and then a storm, a terrible storm. 
The animals gather in their barn, huddled together while watching and hearing the terrible wind. 
Once it's safe, Little Apple Goat hurries to see her beloved fruit trees. 
Every tree is destroyed! 
As the farmer cuts and drags debris away, the animals are sad. They agree that the farm "just won't be the same without the orchard." 
When winter comes, Little Apple Goat thinks how the logs from the orchard trees are keeping the farmer warm. 
Spring comes, and Little Apple Goat notices blossoms peeking out over the hedge. She wonders about them. 
"Then one Autumn" the fruit trees are back. Along with them is their yummy fruit. The animals wonder who could have planted all the new fruit trees. 
The reader knows who!
Hanna’s Comments: Recently I’ve heard several radio stories about the destruction of fruit crops in Florida because of Hurricane Irma. This book seems perfect for children or families in congregations who have experienced the destruction of recent hurricanes because it offers a comforting long view, a hopeful view that seeds (all sorts of seeds) are already planted for their recovery. Also, fruit is coming - sweet, juicy fruit, and the fruit we see in the Fruit of the Spirit. Picture books are a non-threatening and comforting tool for difficult subjects, even for adults. Having a faith orientation that helps with this kind of hope builds resilience and sustains in the difficult work and wait ahead. Read this book to other groups as well because we all suffer through disasters or tragedies at times and need to lean on our faithful hope to wait and endure. Seeds are planted without us knowing.  
Original Publisher & Date: Eerdmans, 2007
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: They who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength… (Isaiah 40:31); Behold, for I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it? (Isaiah 43:19); For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11); Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation… Romans 12:12); What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. (1 Corinthians 15: 36); the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Idea(s) for Application: Read this book to a group of children in your faith family and talk about recent natural disasters. Help the children view those negative consequences with hope that is found in their faith. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

PBT Stories #4: Singing Our Faith

A favorite memory at my church happened when I taught Music Play. It was time to demonstrate what the children were learning in a worship service. I had about 12 children (all post high school now!) standing across the front ready to sing and do their motions with great enthusiasm. 

Suddenly, I felt terribly privileged. I had the opportunity to teach these children songs that could spiritually ground their faith for a lifetime. They sang lyrics like…
My God is so great
So strong and so mighty
There’s nothing my God cannot do.
Be strong and courageous.
Do not be terrified.
Do not be discouraged
For the Lord, your God is with you wherever you go.
O God, you are my God
And I will ever praise you….
I will seek you in the morning
And I will learn to walk in your ways.
And step by step you’ll lead me.
And I will follow you all of my days.

My children still remember many of these song. I hope their memories will serve them well as they face adulthood.

At present, I’m writing a Sunday school curriculum for our children (age 1 through 5). It is called Trinity Treasures and is tied to The Revised Common Lectionary. Lessons use picture books, readings from particular children's Bibles, and activities to learn more about a key idea or story from the Bible. Yesterday I wrote a lesson for October 22. The Trinity Idea for that lesson is

No one is like God. With your special voice, sing praise songs to God. 

Again, I'm privileged to encourage our children to understand the importance of singing praise to God. 

Today's post is pulled from PBT archives of my first year in which I posted about a new PBT book every day. Your children will love this story about an African girl who wants to find out what to do with all of her happiness. After seeing the many ways her family members show joy, she finds her own special way. I be you can guess what she does! 
Picture Book: Anna Hibiscus’ Song
Author: Atinuke
Illustrator: Lauren Tobia
Summary: Anna Hibiscus is an African child who loves to sit in a mango tree and watch her extended family in their daily tasks. She becomes so happy she doesn’t know what to do with her joy. She comes down and begins asking a series of relatives how she might express her happiness. Each of them has a suggestion (counting the reasons why she’s happy, dancing, tumbling, whispering in an ear “I love you”…) all of which she tries, but her happiness only grows. After her mother confesses to sitting quietly when happy, Anna Hibiscus settles into her mango tree again, but she is still about to burst with happiness. Then the birds inspire her to open her mouth wide and sing. Oh how she sings!   
Hanna’s Comments: Besides the overall delight of this picture book, I especially like the way the love of these extended family members shines through. Also, I am always glad to see various skin colors in picture books. Lauren Tobia has chosen to give us a bi-racial Anna Hibiscus. Anna’s mother appears light-skinned. Anytime book illustrators offer non-white characters, especially protagonists, their offerings are especially appreciated by those of us who hope to see more diverse characters in children’s books. Note and Helpful Hint: There are several Anna Hibiscus books. Some are picture books and some are early chapter books. If you are looking on-line, you can usually tell this by the photo of the book. Picture books are usually more square than chapter books.
Original Publisher & Date: Kane Miller, 2011
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 3 and up
Formats other than Book: None at present
Scripture Connections: Let us sing to the Lord (Psalm 95:1); O Lord, You are my God. I will exalt you and praise your name. (Isaiah 25:1); Rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4)
Idea(s) for Application: The concept of worship is often difficult for children to understand. This book offers a wonderful demonstration of why and how we worship God in various ways. Sometimes praise and thanksgiving to God is the most natural human response we can make.