Wednesday, April 9, 2008

In the News and in My Classroom

A few weeks ago I planned to start a news writing unit in my 7th-8th grade English class. I wanted to find a news article to pick apart, so I went to the Orlando Sentinel web site. The first thing I saw really surprised me, because it is a follow-up of something that happened over 15 years ago. In January 1993, three American missionaries with New Tribes Missions were kidnapped from Panama and taken to Columbia, where they lived in the jungle with terrorists for 3 years before being murdered. They weren't confirmed dead until 2001.

I remember this very clearly from the time it happened, and when we moved back to Florida later in 1993, we met Tanya Rich, one of the missionary wives, because she went to our church. I can't tell you how many times we prayed for these men over the years. I also went to their memorial service in October 2001. Well, now their families are suing Chiquita for funding the terrorist organizations that were responsible for the kidnappings and murders. I certainly hope they will win!

Here are just two of the news stories that I found about the current court case.

Kin of missionaries slain in Colombia sue Chiquita
The company is accused of funding Colombian killers of New Tribes members.
Gary Taylor Sentinel Staff Writer March 15, 2008,0,3185089.story

Families Sue Chiquita in Deaths of 5 Men
By CARMEN GENTILE Published: March 17, 2008

I didn't use the news stories that week, but I did take the opportunity to include them in my lessons this past week. During class, I read parts of each of the articles, as well as one from a Christian magazine from several years ago. You can find that one here: Without a Trace
Today's Christian, January/February 2003 by John W. Kennedy

We discussed the writing styles of each of the newspaper articles, noting that one started and ended in a more compelling manner. I also showed them the book Hostage that Nancy Mankins, another of the widows, wrote in 2001. And I told them about a similar situation when Martin and Gracia Burnham, New Tribes Missionaries to the Philippines, were taken hostage in 2001 by the Abu Sayyaf and forced to live in the jungle. During a rescue attempt a year later, Martin was killed. Gracia has since written the book In the Presence of My Enemies.

As a homework assignment, I told the kids to write down all of the who, what, when, where, why, and how facts in each of the stories, and compare what was included on one story but not the other.

If you've read some of my other posts about teaching English or history, you will know that I am constantly trying to get my students to think about what is going on in the world around them -- and be affected by it.

I will close this blog post with something I wrote after the memorial service for these men in 2001. I read it to my class on Monday. Think about it!

Dave Mankins, Mark Rich and Rick Tenenoff
Three Missionaries in a Place of Abundance
by Virginia Knowles in October 2001
for the Hope Chest, a global home school newsletter

Saturday morning I had the privilege of attending a memorial service for Dave Mankins, Mark Rich and Rick Tenenoff. Many of you have prayed for these men since they were kidnapped in January 1993 from their New Tribes mission station in Panama byColumbian terrorists. For family, friends, and the Christian community, it has been eight and a half long years of waiting and researching. Now we know that the three men were killed in mid 1996, after three and a half years in captivity.

In the margin of my Bible on April 11, 1996, probably about the time they died, I jotted a note that Psalm 66:5-12 summed up my prayers for these men: “Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man's behalf! He turned the sea into dry land, they passed through the waters on foot -- come, let us rejoice in him. He rules forever by his power, his eyes watch the nations -- let not the rebellious rise up against him. Selah. Praise our God,O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard; he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping. For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let men ride over our heads; we wentthrough fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.”

I do believe that God answered those prayers. It may seem that wasn’t just and merciful to his dedicated servants when he put them through what they suffered. But God is righteous in all his ways. They have received their reward. From the recorded messages that were transmitted by radio, we know that they were grateful for the gracious care of their Sovereign God even during their years living in the jungle with terrorists. What struck me about the memorial service is the absolute contrast between our modern culture and the lives of these courageous men, who were devoted to the gospel of Christ at all costs. Are the things we pursue bringing glory to our Redeemer, or shame? How we spend our time, money, energy, intellect -- these things show what is truly important to us.

I am spurred on to be more wholehearted in my faith and to lay aside those things which hinder me. I desire to raise children who love and serve God passionately. Even dedicated home schoolers can get distracted from focusing on discipleship by all of the other demands on our attention. I think we often forget that we are engaged in spiritual warfare, not only for the lives of our own children, but also for our impact on the culture at large. Though I fall so short in this area, I still I believe that home education provides us the ripest opportunity for an emphasis on Scripture, prayer, and service. May God help us purify our hearts and simplify our lives so that our children will be equipped for whatever He would call them to do!

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