Tag Archives: Break-Out Session

Abandoning Shame and Embracing Love: A Speech Class Experience

Costumes, healthy physical touch, eye contact and God’s love — welcome to our twice-weekly Speech/Communications class! As we’ve reached our mid-year point in our discipleship-based community homeschool program at the Living Waters Ranch in rural Honduras, we’ve introduced several new classes. One such class is a dynamic, sometimes impromptu class I’m teaching our oldest students — roughly 25 teens grades 5th-8th who come from (and many of whom are still in) marginalized situations.

During the first half of the school year we began seeing the dire need for such a class as the majority of our new students are desperately shy, afraid to speak up or share in Bible study, won’t pray in public, and are completely lost as to how to do any kind of class presentation. In Honduran culture, it is very common and accepted for people to be ‘ashamed,’ which becomes a debilitating disease that causes them to hide from doing anything good (but not, of course, to shy away from doing anything bad, as we know all too well that violent crimes and rampant sin have this culture in a stranglehold).

As we are learning alongside of our students in Bible study every Tuesday and Thursday, one of the many messages in the book of Hosea is that human beings generally love shame above honor; we love what cuts us off from relationship rather than what gives life; we give our affections to a passing, flawed worldly system with false promises rather than to the good, eternal God. This backwards or confused attitude is very present in our students, as many struggle secretly with pornography addiction, theft, lying, etc, but are scared stiff to talk openly about God’s love, give their undivided attention to the person speaking to them, respond to God’s grace in joyful, unashamed devotion, etc. They are scared to sing worship songs but are not scared about falling into sexual sin. Surely we as a human race have got it all backward!

Thus, we invented our three-week-long intensive Speech/Communications class (a more in-depth version of the one-day workshop I gave last year), and thus far we’ve seen many breakthroughs in even our shyest of students. The class atmosphere is light and fun, and the youth are encouraged to participate openly without shame. In addition to playing many interactive games, a good portion of each class is dedicated to sitting in a large circle as a certain theme is presented (it could be something from the Bible, everyday life, etc) and each student — in their own timing — stands up and talks freely for a minute or so on said topic. (This is the only activity I can recall from my own high school speech class, and I remember that it greatly helped me overcome my own fear of public speaking.) The speaker is instructed to create and maintain eye contact with each member of the audience (which is a new concept for the majority of them, as they’re used to staring at their own feet or up at the ceiling), and the audience is instructed to maintain ¬†open body posture and not break eye contact with the speaker (another struggle, as respectfully listening to speakers is not generally a strong point in Honduran culture.)

Last week as class was nearing its end, we sat down in our large circle on the porch to discuss the topic of ‘family.’ I had assumed this topic would be the easiest of all to discuss because it was intimately known and experienced each day. They didn’t need to prepare a large presentation or do any research; just talk about their family. After all, if they wanted to take the quickest route out of their public speaking commitment, all they had to do was stand up and stutter, “Uh, I have three siblings, and I live with my mom and dad,” before quickly sitting down again. I thought it would be easy enough.

Well, a young male student was our first volunteer. He popped up to his feet, his short frame standing as tall as he possibly could as he opened up his heart in an entirely unexpected way. He began sharing with all of us some of his family struggles along with the fact that when he was younger he spent much time in the street, even occasionally sleeping on the street to avoid family conflicts. He then went on to publicly thank God that he now has a much more loving step-mother who treats him nicely along with the fact that God’s hand has been over him in several other noticeable ways. This particular young man is normally very upbeat and tends to play the role of ‘class clown,’ so we were all blown away by what he shared. As my eyes searched the faces of all those two dozen students who were looking up at him, eyes trained on him as he spoke, my heart recognized another miracle: no one laughed.

When he finished sharing several minutes later, another teen boy hopped up to his feet and began sharing a long, intricate narrative of his woeful relationship to his mother, her murder a couple years ago, and his blossoming relationship with Christ since then. No one made any uncomfortable faces or poked fun. They were just really, truly listening in the purest sense, and he was earnestly speaking. No big poster boards; no dull, memorized speeches; just real, God-honoring sharing.

Our eldest daughter was the next one to follow suit and, like the other two young men who shared, she went far over the minimum time limit and valiantly shared about her experiences with her biological family, the devastating details of which her classmates had not previously known. After her, three or four other students shared sincerely. Two students finished their time of sharing about their family in tears. Some shared heartwarming stories of parental love and support while others spoke of murders suffered, indescribable loss and abuse. The element that was present in nearly every story, however, was that of redemption, of God’s love shining through to reach them in the darkest of places, drawing them toward Christ. And the best part was that they were putting it in their own words, were recognizing (and proclaiming to others!) God’s handprint on their lives.

With great joy I share with you the following photos that were taken from our class last week. To God be the glory!

The first step during each Speech/Communications class: hand out silly hats! We’ve purchased dozens of fun hats from a local thrift store, and with our students they get plenty of use! One of the goals of the class is to help the students to have more confidence, not be afraid of one another, and lose what the Honduran culture calls ‘shame,’ so we see the use of the goofy hats to be integrally important to this process!
Our 16-year-old son Brayan loves his Mexican ‘mariachi’ hat!
What a cute, fluffy pink bear! That’s our 13-year-old daughter Jackeline who oftentimes gets the giggles when she has to stand up and talk in front of the group!
The next step: silly greetings! Everyone has to go around greeting everybody‚ĶThe only catch is that you have to do it according to the announced theme. Sometimes we have to greet each other ‘sickly;’ other times ‘like old people;’ sometimes ‘mad’ or ‘sad,’ etc. This always makes even the shyest kids laugh!

What an elegant gathering of young ladies! Great hats!
Next up: eye contact! Everybody grab a partner and you have to look them in the eyes for several minutes straight! (This activity can be extremely difficult/uncomfortable even for the most socially well-balanced person, so this ‘eye-contact game’ proves to be quite the challenge for youth who come from broken backgrounds and are used to hiding at all costs. I’m sure they feel like they’re under a magnifying glass!)

These are two of our shyest boys, both of whom this year have struggled with behavioral issues in the classroom. The act of looking each other in the eyes for several minutes can go a long way toward cultivating focus, respect, and love toward one another. As the kids/teens do this activity, I walk among them and talk openly about the fact that each one of them was made in God’s image, and the same salvation in Christ Jesus is available to each one — there is no reason to hide, to fear, or to hate one another. The students have at least a ‘head knowledge’ of this through our ongoing Bible studies and prayer groups that they all participate in, but it is pretty cool to be able to reinforce this reality through interactive games such as this, especially in the Honduran culture where violence and broken relationships abound.


The giraffe and the pig have a stare-off!
Great costume! We’ve got a fireman in our class just in case any problems break out!

 

Okay, now everybody break up into groups of two, and find a quiet spot in the yard to start planning your secret handshake! In 10 minutes each team will have to perform in front of the rest of the group! (In this photo Sefora, one of our new seventh grade students, got brave enough to try on the large, old lady dress I got from the thrift store. It was the only costume part everyone was afraid to put on!)
Don’t be scared to show your face! You’re rockin’ like a homeschool mom from the 80s! You go, girl!

Everybody’s busy designing their secret handshake/greeting with their partner!


Here is our 16-year-old daughter Dayana (right) planning her upbeat ‘secret handshake’ with 12-year-old Dayra, one of our new local students who entered the Living Waters Ranch in Jan. Their greeting involved a hip bump and many other fun details!

Okay, gather up! Everyone sit in a semi-circle on the schoolhouse’s front porch (it was way too hot to do the class inside), because everyone’s going to present their handshake! (Aren’t they all just too cute?)

Elalf (our tallest student, Pastor Domingo’s son) was partnered with Charlie (our shortest student). The last step of their creative greeting was that Elalf picked Charlie up by his trousers and spun him around! Good thing he’s got a firm grip!

Come on out, Jackeline! She was so nervous that she kept hiding behind the house so that she wouldn’t have to perform!
Our daughter Jackeline was so nervous that she ran off the ‘stage’ when she finished the last step of her handshake with Josselyn!

Amen! Glory to God!