Mr. Sam Hannah

In preparation for my upcoming trip to Tanzania, I had to prepare a sermon. I’ll be preaching at a parish church while I’m there. Preaching is definitely not my gifting; and I’m slightly nervous about the whole thing, but I know with God’s help it will be fine.

My sermon centers around the New Testament reading for that Sunday, which is 1 John 4:7-21 (the famous passage about how loving God and our neighbour goes hand-in-hand), and the issue of children’s spiritual formation. I’ll be traveling to Tanzania to be trained in Rooted in Jesus Junior, and thinking about children’s faith formation made me reflect deeply on my own spiritual formation as a child. I was reminded of the Sunday school teacher I had as a child, and I talk about him in my sermon. Below is the clip, and it is dedicated to my Sunday school teacher, Mr. Sam Hannah, and to all Sunday school teachers for children. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

8-or-9-year old me. Age I would have been in Mr. Hannah's Sunday school class.
8-or-9-year old me. Age I would have been in Mr. Hannah’s Sunday school class.

“I want to tell you a story about myself. When I was a child, my Sunday School teacher was a man named Sam Hannah. Mr. Hannah was an elder in the church and community. He was kind-hearted and was like a grandfather to me and the other children. He prayed with us and listened to us. He would laugh with us, and I remember his lovely laugh. He was such a joyful man. Many times after church, he would buy cool drinks and candy for us kids. Mr. Hannah died several years ago, but I still remember him. I don’t remember a single Sunday school lesson he taught us, but I remember that he loved us, that he loved me. Through Mr. Hannah’s words and deeds, I knew that I was special to God and that God loved me. Through Mr. Hannah’s love, I experienced the love of God; and I have never forgotten that.

When your children grow up, they may not remember a single lesson you taught them about the faith, but they will always remember the way you loved them. Your love for them will be etched on their hearts and minds as a manifestation of God’s love for them. God is love; and if we love God, we love others, says the writer of 1 John. If we love God, we love our friends, enemies, people in our community, strangers, elders, children. 1 John 4:12 says, “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” If we love one another, God’s love is manifested among us.

In closing, I want to challenge you and me to love God more by loving our neighbour more. I especially want to challenge us to be more intentional about loving our children, teaching and equipping them to have a personal relationship with Christ now. Our children are not just our future; they are our present. As we love and welcome children in the name of Jesus, we welcome our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”

Before I became an adult or a teenager, before I knew where my life was going or what God was calling me to do or whom he was calling me to be, Mr. Sam Hannah was playing a role of ubuntu in my life. I am who am partly because of this wonderful man.

Advertisements

Stretching

Str-e-e-e-t-c--h
Str-e-e-e-t-c–h

“But you moved to Africa to be stretched out of your comfort zone,” my friend said. Yeah, but, I thought, I can take only so much change. I wish God would place me in “time out” for a while.

In a few weeks, I’ll be traveling to Tanzania in order to be trained in Rooted in Jesus Junior. As I read through the training manual, I only get more excited about my trip. I’m thrilled and honored that I will be trained in this powerful and transformative discipleship course for older children and young teens and that I will be bringing back this course to South Africa so that we can introduce the course to Sunday school and confirmation teachers. People in South Africa are already asking for training, so it’s quite exciting.

At the same time, I’m a bit nervous about the trip. I will be totally stretched out of my comfort zone, as I travel in rural Tanzania. In a way, I feel as though I will be hurled out of it. This American city girl is about to get the American city girl knocked out her. I will be traveling with a training team from the UK, and we have to bring our own water and loo rolls (toilet paper). In one of the places, we’ll be using something called a “long drop toilet.” (I think I’ll let this one surprise me.) I had to get several inoculations for the trip, and I’ll have to take malaria medicine and sleep under a mosquito net. I have been invited to preach at one of the parishes; and this, in a way, makes me more nervous than anything. Talking with my friend about my anxiety led to the snippet of conversation with which I opened this blog post.

I have no doubt that my trip to Tanzania is going to change me in some profound ways. I keep hearing about how hospitable the Tanzanian people are, and I know that I will be met with some mind-blowing hospitality. I look forward to visiting Rooted in Jesus Junior groups and to meeting the children. I look forward to being trained in the course and to helping out with the training during the second week. I’m praying for God’s direction as I start planning my sermon.

Yes, I’m being stretched out of my comfort zone. Like physical exercise, it is tiring and at times painful; but it is also exhilarating.