Government curriculum in Sri Lanka requires that all children go through religious classes according to the faith that they are born into. However, many Christian children end up attending Buddhist or Hindu classes because no one is available to teach them about Jesus and the Bible. If they don’t attend these classes, they receive poor grades, since religious classes are part of the total grading system.
This has been the predicament of Christian students at Kalawana public school for the past 25 years. But, in the same village, lived a Sunday School volunteer named Filomena. When she learned that the public school had been without a Christian teacher for so long, she decided she would be the first. The opportunity however did not come until three Christmases ago. Her pastor announced after the service that the church was looking for willing hearts and hands to teach Christianity at the Kalawana public school. Filomena signed up and went through a screening process like the other volunteers. She was chosen, and soon after, taught her first class in February 2009.
“I teach in all grade levels for eight hours every day,” said the 32-year-old teacher. “I have twenty-seven Christian students in all. I notice that the children are very strong spiritually, so I encourage them to reach out to people.” Open Doors gave Filomena a monthly allowance to cover her travels and meals at school. With Filomena on campus, the 27 Christian children in her classes were now on a level playing field with the rest of the 1,000 students, the majority being Buddhists.
In her grade six class Filomena had a student who couldn’t write. “I asked how he passed his exams, and teachers told me about certain government policies that prohibit teachers from failing students,” she said. “I thought it was a bad rule, but the boy was very well behaved, so I decided to do something about it. We started praying for him in class. Then, I tried to teach him how to write ‘Jesus’ in Tamil on a piece of paper. Initially, I didn’t have the heart to point out to him his mistakes, but he would ask me, so I corrected him gently.”
With Filomena’s perseverance, the boy learned one letter after another. Then, the most amazing thing happened a few weeks later; the boy started scribbling notes in his class! “The boy’s mother could not believe it at first,” Filomena said. “I told him to write something again and show it to his mother. Because of this, his family became more prayerful. It’s a marvelous story. The boy wants to become a pastor someday.”
Father, we praise You and Thank You for precious women like Filomena who surrender to your prompting to teach others about Jesus. We ask, that in the days ahead, many more will rise up to fulfill this calling. Lord Jesus, strengthen and care for them through Your Holy Spirit. And meet all of their physical needs as they faithfully serve You. Amen