Bright-eyed and bushy-haired -- one of the younger participants in our workshop.
Teachers in the more rural places like Uhu and south Malaita are often isolated and lack even the scant resources available in the larger towns like Auki. The participants in our program this week, like Sr. Margaret from Rokera and Gorrethy, a nurse and health educator (below), were very eager to learn as much as they could from us and from each other. Questions overflowed from the classroom into breaks and lunch, and then to after-dinner sessions on the veranda of the house where we were staying. Almost 200 people from the village joined us on the evening when we showed a film about Mary's apparitions at Fatima in 1917 called The 13th Day.
One of the most popular features of the workshops over the years are the "door prizes." At the end of each morning's sessions small prizes like stickers and markers are handed out by pulling numbers and comparing them with the registration list. This is a technique that I learned from Sr. Melanie Swaboda at a Chaminade faculty retreat years ago. Besides being a lot of fun after a long morning's work, the door prizes teach a good theological lesson. Grace, Sr. Melanie explained, is like a door prize: You can't earn it, you don't have to buy a ticket, you don't need to know the right answer. You get it for free, but you must be paying attention and be present to win. And like grace, there are more than enough prizes for everyone.
Since this was the last workshop for this year, we pulled some "grand prizes" on the last morning and gave away all the supplies from the program: our inflatable globe, a big bag of office supplies, all the extra stickers, etc. The "grandest" of prizes came at the end. The lucky number could choose between a poster of an icon of the crucifixion or a bag of gold leaf which had been used to explain about icons as sacred images of the holy and windows into heaven. (When the gold leaf had been passed around earlier in the week as part of the lesson, everyone had been nearly ecstatic to touch real gold.)
Hicksley, the young man in the maroon shirt at the center of the photo below, was the lucky winner but he was faced with a difficult choice -- choose the cross or choose the gold. He deliberated a few minutes while everyone shouted advice. In the end, Hicksley choose the cross and I gave him the gold as well. Now there's a theological lesson for us all. Choose the gold and you may loose the cross. Choose the cross and the gold will follow. Not a bad way to end our MAST workshops for this year.