Godly Play continues to expand internationally with the latest round of trainings in South Africa and India. Below Board Member Andrew Sheldon recounts his journey with fellow Godly Play Canada Trainer, Amy Crawford. Their trip was funded largely by the Foundation’s International Development Fund, which continues to accept donations for missions and projects such as this. A full account of their adventure and more pictures are available on their travel blog.
We first traveled to South Africa in 2012 at the invitation of Joan Truby who had discovered Godly Play and was beginning to make materials and tell stories at St Dunstan’s Anglican Cathedral in Benoni. We had an initial Core Training of about 10 participants. Under Joan’s guardianship Godly Play in South Africa began to grow and demand increased for further training.
We returned this past January and began with a Core Training at The Pinetown Methodist Church in Durban. The Rev’d Brenda Timmer had started Godly Play at the church, made some materials, and with Joan’s help hosted the training. We accredited 17 new storytellers and doorpersons and also identified three or four who would make very good trainers.
Following the training we had a day off and then flew to Johannesburg where Joan and her husband Stan picked us up for the drive to Mafeking. Our purpose in Mafeking, or Maheking it’s African name, was over 2 days to introduce participants to Godly Play and to deliver some training on the spirituality of children in general. The 30 or so participants work with a German Lutheran NGO and work with children in homes, in after-school programmes, and for many, in church. Their first language is Tswana and while many of them spoke good English much of our content – especially Andrew’s! – was translated. We were especially inspired by the singing. Back home it is common to take a break from learning with a stretch or a walk around the room; here they sing and dance. And what singing and dancing!
After Mafeking it was back to Johannesburg and another Core training at the cathedral in Benoni. What a delight it was to see the brand new shelving in the main Godly Play room and the beginnings of a second room. We accredited 24 new storytellers and doorpersons and again identified some future trainers for South Africa. And thanks to the efforts of Joan and Stan each church represented was able to take home some ‘people of God’.
Immediately following the training in Benoni it was off to the airport for our flights to India. The India Sunday School Union (ISSU) was formed in 1876 and since then has actively promoted Christian education and nurture through its curriculum and training programs in South Asia and from China to Egypt. Through various training programs, the ISSU seeks to empower leaders to be transformational in the diverse work of the church in the world. In 2012 the India Sunday School Union decided that they would adopt and promote Godly Play as a program befitting their goal to strengthen the life and work of the church by enhancing the knowledge and skills of laity, clergy, activists, and students. To this end Ajit Prasadam, the Executive Director of the ISSU, travelled to Denver in September of 2012 to meet with Jerome and Andrew to begin planning what this might look like. The result of this process was the determination of the Godly Play Foundation to create an International Development Fund. Under the leadership of Rebecca McLean this fund was able to provide the ISSU with materials for the Godly Play Core stories and to help with travel expenses. And so this past January Godly Play arrived on the ground in India for an initial Core Training.
For many months we had been preparing to train around 25 participants and had planned accordingly. And then just days before arriving we were told that there were about 50 coming and would that be alright?! Well clearly it would have to be alright and so we put our heads together and devised a plan. It involved breaking into two groups, creative time allocations, a lot of moving about, and 12 hour days for the trainers. But we made it happen and after 3 days we accredited 44 newly trained Godly Play practitioners for India.
These were busy but very fulfilling days. The participants took to Godly Play with great enthusiasm and we heard some terrific stories. The other area of great interest was around the spirituality of the child. The thought of the child as spiritually full and not merely an empty vessel that adults fill with information about God was an idea that was clearly new and challenging to them, but an idea that they embraced eagerly. We are confident that India is fertile ground for Godly Play and that the seeds that were sown are already beginning to grow.