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by Debora Bell, Lt. Colonel – 

by Lt. Colonel Debora BellThis summer I had the wonderful opportunity to see the work of The Salvation Army in the Pacific Islands. While participating in the family camp meetings of the Marshall Islands, I was able to announce that Women’s Ministries groups of the Western Territory raised over $30,000 for this year’s territorial project.

Major Ivy Hood, divisional director of women’s ministries, and I asked all the children in the meeting to come up to the platform. Over 100 children came forward, and we had the congregation extend their hands toward the children as we prayed for them. The significance of this announcement and its timing lies in the fact that the money raised was for scholarships that will enable children of the Marshall Islands to go to school.

There is a $40 fee for children who wish to attend school. This includes registration, uniform and school supplies. Many families cannot afford even this nominal fee and the children do not go to school. Some families can only afford to send one child, so the child chosen will be the one who will be able to contribute the most back to the family. Growing illiteracy is the result. Children grow up without the skills to live and compete in a technological world.

As the Marshall Islands’ economy becomes based more on wages than on barter, the children become more disadvantaged as they compete for jobs. Poverty is the outcome and poverty creates despair. Despair has resulted in the suicides of Marshall Island teenagers who think that they have no hope of a future. The women of the West have provided money for scholarships that will make a difference for some of the children and hope for their future.

Major Ron Wildman, Marshall Islands coordinator, is working with local companies and other organizations to get matching funds and Major Ralph Hood, divisional commander, is working on an endowment that will wisely invest the funds to make these scholarships last well into the future. This will insure that the dollars raised will help solve problems related to illiteracy rather than serve simply as a band aid. Hundreds of children will benefit.

Education is not the solution to the problems of this world, but it can help individuals find the solutions. Even the process of receiving an education becomes helpful in the development of healthy and hope-filled people. Teachers play a key part in the education process. Good teachers get good results. Can you remember teachers that made a positive contribution to your development? Most of us can name at least two or more teachers that inspired us or influenced our lives.

I prepared a short biographical sketch recently that will appear in my hometown paper. It is important to report the facts that will resonate with the readers. Readers of my hometown paper do not know about the structure of The Salvation Army and will not easily appreciate a list of appointments and the titles that accompany the appointments so I decided to mention some of my teachers and how they influenced my development.

Thank God for those grade school teachers who saw more than a quiet, freckled faced, redheaded little girl. Thank God for the teachers that encouraged my potential and passed on valuable life lessons. Some of those lessons were not a part of the curriculum, but influenced my values. My shorthand teacher talked about saving $5 from every paycheck and letting the interest compound so that we could have a nest egg. My humanities teacher introduced me to the arts. My choir teachers used music that included the Gospel message. My government teacher taught me to think.

Women of the Western Territory have made it possible for children to go to school by raising money. If we stop there we have not completed our task. We now need to pray for the teachers who will teach the children. Pray and ask God to call godly teachers to serve him in public and private schools. Pray that the curriculum is taught from a balanced perspective that will help our children understand their world and make wise choices that will honor God. We must also pray for the children, their safety and their health.

When can we pray? We can pray when God reminds us as we pass a school or see children. When we pray for the teachers, the children and the curriculum, we are sure that our dollars will make a difference in the Marshall Islands and around the world. Thank you for being a part of this great effort.

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