Unlocking the world through books might seem like a lost art in this time of movies, internet and all the electronics available to much of the world. But how do you expand your world if none of that is possible. What if you don’t have a TV or a computer or even electricity?
We have always told stories. All down through history stories were passed down from generation to generation. The storyteller and audience have a bond as history is remembered or lessons are learned or entertainment is enjoyed. A good animated storyteller is a delight to encounter. We can sit transfixed as they invite us into a world we can imagine through their words and actions. When authors and illustrators took the storytelling to the written page books became the method of transformation. Whole worlds opened up as books spread throughout the literate civilizations. As there appeared an abundance of books in each household libraries were formed for the sharing of the wealth. Now the less fortunate as well as the privileged had access to books. If you couldn’t read you could, at least, look at the pictures and form your own story to match the illustrations. The pictures were a great incentive to learn to understand the words.
Today in the village of Masese in Eastern Uganda there is a library. This is a place of great joy. The world has expanded for these people. Not all can read but many are learning! For those that can read this is an oasis with lush, life giving tales of other lives, in other worlds, in different times and faraway places. For those just learning to read the books offer amazement and delight as they unlock the words into sentences, the sentences into paragraphs and the paragraphs into chapters. What a gift! What a wonderful way to learn!
The enchantment on the faces of a class as I read a book to them and show each picture warms my soul and delights my heart. Any class anywhere can relish a book being read but in a Ugandan village where books are rare the amazement is unspeakable. Stories that are dear to the hearts of children in my part of the world are fresh and new to these eager listeners. “The Little Engine That Could” teaching the little ones that if they try they can make it over the big hills, the silly fun of singing “Little Bunny Foo Foo” , the imagination of the Disney’s Princess books, the vivid pictures and nature learning of “ The Hungry Caterpillar”, and so many more to come. What a joy to share!
And then there are the adults! Grown men with too much time on their hands come and immerse themselves in reading, devouring books with starved minds. Many men in this village consume alcohol in their despair and boredom. How much better to consume books! Their formal education may be over or interrupted but their desire for learning is still alive and well. Wow, a whole room of books envelope them and they are taken away for a time!
The women don’t seem to have found the library yet. I am sad about that. Young women still in school crowd in reaching eagerly for what book they might find but the older women aren’t there. My guess is that they are too busy taking care of their families, or that they have not had the chance to learn to read. Life In this village is hard and the women get the brunt of the labor. I can’t wait for the time I can sit a few women down in front of a computer and teach them to surf their questions in the internet. Or I can put a book in their hands that helps them lighten their work load. Or read a story to them that helps them relate to women all over the world. Or show them how to improve their family’s health through current educational opportunities found right there in their own library. Or, best of all, they can read God’s Word and learn of Him, encountering His love and the grace of forgiveness and redemption.
The possibilities are endless now that there is a library right there in the village of Masese, Uganda on the outskirts of Jinja, at the mouth of the famous Nile River. The world is being unlocked! Praise be to God who is the Giver of every good gift!