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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Teacher (10/26/06)

TITLE: All in a Day’s Work – October 31st - Halloween
By Suzanne Windon


Cut off the top of the pumpkin. ‘Cut off’, ‘cut into’, ‘cut out’, ‘cut’ …horrible prepositions. Hollow out the pumpkin, then carve a face. The verbs ‘hollow’ and ‘carve’ were new. Place a lit candle inside and replace the top of the pumpkin.

Unfortunately, within two minutes, the odour of burnt pumpkin filled the room. Nevertheless, it was a fun lesson.

This next class has a coursebook to work through, so we’ll have a brief ‘Halloween culture spot’ and then move on to today’s chapter.

The class members arrive. I point to the candy and the glowing blackened pumpkin, and ask ‘What is special about today?’

“Wan sheng jie!” (Ten thousand spirits festival)

Halloween is mentioned in some popular English coursebooks, so these local English teachers know it exists. I give a brief presentation, followed by several questions.

“Does China have anything similar?”

“Oh yes! We have several ‘Ghost Festivals’. We burn paper images of money and other things so that our dead relatives will be provided for. Of course, we don’t really believe that their spirits live on. It’s just a way of showing respect.”

I bet deep down some of them believe in an afterlife. I think of another teacher friend, a new Christian. Having refused to burn paper money for her recently deceased mother, she was then plagued with incredibly awful nightmares.

“Do some people still believe in a spirit world?”

Kathy, petite, well dressed, an English teacher and a successful businesswoman besides, is quick to answer.

“Sure they do. My mother prays every morning for our family.”

“And who does she pray to?”


Raylene catches my eye, but doesn’t speak. Her mother is a Christian. Raylene claims to ‘somewhat believe’ in God.

Wilma looks up, her narrow eyes gazing thoughtfully through thick glasses.

“It isn’t important what we believe, so long as we’re good people. What is the word for ‘lunhui’ (reincarnation)? If it is true, we’ll come back in a better life next time anyhow. If it isn’t true, we haven’t lost anything.”

The class members nod in agreement and look to me.

“That’s fine IF reincarnation is true. You know I’m a Christian. What if there really IS a God who judges?”

Everybody laughs in embarrassment.

We move onto a cute song about kids going trick-or-treating. The somber atmosphere dissipates like a snowflake in hell….

The topic for the second half of the lesson is ‘complaining’. Students are asked to share their ‘pet peeves’.

Kathy laughs. “I hate it when I step in what dogs do – what is that called?”

What DO we call that?

Raylene sighs deeply then speaks.

“I’m peeved because I have to ask for leave. I don’t know the English word….”

She is silent, looking at the floor, cheeks glowing. Her friend, Wilma, steps in.

“We’re only allowed one child. Raylene is pregnant again. She needs a small operation. What’s that in English?”

They look questioningly at me. Each pair of beautiful brown eyes represents a soul. An eternity. Perhaps even two souls….

“I’m so sorry. It’s called an ‘abortion’.”

They dutifully write the new word into their notebooks. Briefly, I consider the folly of adding the word ‘murder’. I know from experience that this is a much bigger deal to me than it is to Raylene. She sees it as preventing life – an illegal life at that. Still, I can’t let the moment pass without saying something.

“Raylene, this is more than a ‘pet peeve’. This is serious.”

After class, Raylene offers to postpone her medical appointment so that her time away will coincide with that of a planned break. I understand how my Lord felt when he addressed Judas, saying, “What you have to do, go and do quickly.”

Wilma also stays back to ask how she can get a Bible. During her student days, she apparently used to read the Bible in the university library. I refer her to the local church.

As I wearily pack away the black jack-o-lantern and slip a piece of Halloween candy into my mouth, I consider another serious issue that is more than just a ‘pet peeve’.

Due to increasing globalization, many Asians are eager to learn English. An undergraduate degree plus a certificate in English teaching is all you need to find teaching work here. Why don’t more Christians come? Why do we live in comfort in our home countries while others, in ignorance, head for the horror of a Christ-less eternity?

Teaching isn’t for everybody. Eternity is.

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This article has been read 593 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Val Clark11/02/06
I’m reminded of the apostle Paul (or was it Peter?) who used the unknown god as a jumping off point to preach the good news. Who’d of thought a Halloween lesson would prompt someone to buy and read a Bible? A story with a sting in the tail, but a sting that we all need to prompt us to action in going, praying and/or supporting people like the narrator of this story.
Christine Miles11/04/06
Hmmmm, I can see why I'm not called to primarily teach. This is big. These are big issues. This challenges my thinking, what I'm doing with my life, and who I'm sharing the Gospel with. Write well.
Joanne Sher 11/06/06
Oh wow! This one was definitely a learning experience for me. I do believe this piece will haunt me for days, if not months! Thank you SO MUCH for sharing it.
Jan Ackerson 11/06/06
I understand how my Lord felt when he addressed Judas, saying, “What you have to do, go and do quickly.”

Wow--powerful, powerful writing.
Pat Guy 11/06/06
I feel you've only scratched the surface here, or maybe it's the curious acceptence of the student of any teaching that's disconcerting.

I'm probably not making myself very clear - but this is a well written, haunting piece.
Sara Harricharan 11/06/06
WOW! This was deep, and it carried the message true. Amazing job,
The sentence with the snowflake+hell. That was a very vivid description, I don't think I've ever heard that one before. :)
Lynda Lee Schab 11/07/06
What an intense, powerful, thought-provoking entry. You've written it well and added some very insightful thoughts. A little different than your norm - great job stretching a bit. Nicely done!
Marilee Alvey11/07/06
Yes, this Halloween piece haunts me as well. On one hand, it is deep with its fresh insights, yet disarming in its simple charm: girls with a limited knowledge of the English language. I felt the difficulty experienced in being one just trying to stem the tide. I, also, loved the Judas imagery. I have been in a spot like that before, one in which I had no power, and that is exactly how I thought, as well. This story drew me in, engaged me, taught me and broadened my horizons. It reminded me to get out of my Saints' Club and engage myself in the bigger world. I'd write more but I feel a compulsion to sign up for our Fellowship Friends program with the foreign college students in our area! Wonderful job!
Judy Hollins11/08/06
Well done, this is one of your best I think! Very thought provoking, especially as I've been seriously considering TESOL teaching....
Beth Muehlhausen11/08/06
Intense. Very intense. There are layers here, suggesting the layers of human experience. Intense. (Did I say that already?!))

This was a great line: "The somber atmosphere dissipates like a snowflake in hell…"

Phyllis Inniss11/09/06
You have a very serious commitment to share your work in the Lord. Your writing bears this out and I applaud your efforts. We who are unable to do what you have chosen and are called upon to do can only pray that God will continue to provide you with the strength and will to persevere in your spiritual pursuit. Thanks for sharing.
Amy Michelle Wiley 03/05/07
Pow! I can really connect to this...the language learning, the words and holidays carrying so much meaning to us, and yet lost to them. Just last week we discussed in class if there was a different sign for "fetus" than for "baby" since they carry such different political (life) connotations. Sometimes its hard for me to think that I'll just be passing on information without opportunity to add wisdom like you can at times, and yet I know God will indeed use me for things.