This week my boys completed their biggest project ever. They did it together and they did it for the Church. In honor of Mokuaikaua’s 195th Anniversary Celebration I wrote down the true story of the coming of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Hawaii which the boys then illustrated, copied and assembled into coloring book form. They then spent all day Saturday at the street fair selling the books to raise money for the church. It was a real 9-5 job and the culmination of hours of labor and more than one late night standing assembly-line-style putting these things together. Needless to say, a lot of school books lay neglected for a couple weeks as they poured over Hawaiian history texts studying pictures and then creating their own renditions. They even came up with some cool shadowing effects using clear overhead sheets. Each boy contributed their own artistic talents to the project and then worked tirelessly to see it from conception to production and then on to sales. Our goal was to share the amazing story of God’s redeeming work in the islands with 195 children and we nearly met that goal in just two days!
Obviously Tom and I were super proud of their artistry, hard work, team effort, and willingness to contribute to a greater cause. But mostly I was struck by how my children have so much more to offer the world than I gave them credit for. It seems like all my work from morning till night is all about turning these boys into men of God. Teaching them basic manners and social skills, how to take care of themselves and the space around them, educating them in all the subjects a liberal education requires, cultivating their talents, encouraging them in their gifts, protecting them from harm… all so they can make it into adulthood and start doing whatever work God has prepared for them to do.
But what if He has work for them to do right now?
When I started this series on Industrial Waste (hopefully the title will begin to make more sense as my thoughts unfold) my intent was to explore how the modern education industry is depriving our boys of the satisfaction, self-confidence, independence, and practical skills that productive work can provide. But after researching this story and learning how God used a couple Hawaiian boys in their early teens to bring the Gospel and the written word to these shores, how both spread throughout the islands like wildfire culminating in a 95% conversion rate and 75% literacy rate where 30 years prior there had been no alphabet and one of the ugliest forms of paganism imaginable, and then after seeing first hand how my own boys could be used in building up Christ’s Kingdom, I was struck by an even greater form of waste. Not only does compulsory schooling deprive the workforce of a huge percentage of potential workers, it deprives the Kingdom of some of it’s most valuable laborers as well.
I am not at all saying that all Christian children should be pulled out of school and sent out on the mission field (after all schools themselves are a field ripe for the harvest). But I am saying that forcing every child to give up more than 12 years of their life to a system that isn’t fully designed for their personal benefit doesn’t show much improvement over the circumstances the child labor laws were designed to prevent. And further, if compulsory education is stifling a child’s God given talents then we as parents and teachers are doing nothing short of quenching the Spirit’s work in their life and the lives they could be impacting for His glory.
As I am preparing our lessons for this new week I realize that the boys are now a bit behind in their math, grammar, and geography texts and we are going to have some major catching up to do in the weeks to come. But there is a dear Hawaiian lady on the little island of Molokai with a stack of coloring books that she is eager to distribute to children in her community. Another Hawaiian “Aunty” has a stack set aside to put in the shoe boxes she fills every Christmas for Samaritans Purse. Who knows how far around the world this true story of God’s love for an isolated people in the middle of the Pacific might go?
It’s time for me to reevaluate our education goals. Are my efforts to turn these boys into productive citizens and godly leaders of the future hampering the work God has gifted them to accomplish for His kingdom RIGHT NOW? I’m not talking about forcing my kids into religious servitude. That’s not any better than child factory labor or compulsory schooling. But is my drive to make sure they measure up to some bureaucratic standards squelching their opportunities to develop the talents God gave them for His glory? I was truly humbled to see what they could accomplish when given the freedom and opportunity to step up and serve in this way. And I’m more than excited to see the ways God will be using their gifts, not just far off down the road, but right around the next corner.