On an island in Vanuatu a little school made of bush materials stands in a clearing off a bumpy dirt road. Next to it stands a simple church. In one half of the bush school first-grade children chant the words that the teacher has written on the blackboard. “Bat! Cat! Fat! Hat! Mat!” In the other half of the building second-grade children are learning about good health.
A few feet away stand four more classrooms in which older children are reading, practicing multiplication and division, and studying science. Four years ago there was no school or church in this village. Girls spent their days working in their family garden or caring for younger brothers and sisters. Boys went with their fathers to hunt wild pig in the bush.
Tapi is in the third grade. He is glad that he has a chance to go to school and learn to read and write. He shows us a book about snow that he’s read. He’s never seen snow.
Rosa is in the second grade. She works hard to form her letters into a neat row. Her parents are glad that the village now has a school where their children can learn to read and write and learn how to have a better life.
While the students are busy with classwork, a small girl of 8 or 9 slips into the clearing. She stands near the bamboo trees that surround the clearing and watches, eyes bright with wonder. She’s never been to school before.
For months Mary has seen the children walk past her aunt’s home toward the clearing up the dirt road. She knew they were going to school, and she wished she could join them.
Today when Mary saw the children walk by, she stepped out of her aunt’s house and followed them up the road to the little school.
When asked if Mary wants to attend school, she doesn’t speak but says yes by lifting her eyebrows. She can’t read or write her name, and she can’t count. But she wants to learn. But she must have her aunt’s permission to enroll in the school.
Just then a woman carrying a baby appears in the clearing. It’s Mary’s aunt. She has followed Mary to the school. When Mary hears her aunt give permission for her to attend school, her little brown face breaks into a huge smile!
Almost no one in the village has a Bible because few of the parents can read. Part of this quarter’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help buy Bibles so that Mary and Rosa and Tapi and all the other children in the little school in the clearing can read God’s message of love for themselves. Let’s save our money and bring a big gift of love on Thirteenth Sabbath so that many children can read for themselves that Jesus loves them.