A ministry update from Kate Shugart, serving in the Philippines as a Literacy and Education Specialist with SIL.
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Dear friends,

The last couple of months have found me in a place of desperate dependence on the Lord.  God is opening up exciting doors that have given me glimpses of the depth of his love and the beauty of his plan for the Kanu* people!  And yet as I've taken a few steps through one or two of these open doors, I find myself wholly inadequate, weak and anxious, suddenly very aware of how limited I am in my understanding, my spiritual sight and my confidence in the Lord.  I struggle to believe that my weaknesses and mistakes and sin won't mar the beauty of his plan as it unfolds.  

But I read D.A. Carson recently, writing about Deuteronomy 7 and the way that God had "set his heart" on Israel not because of their great potential, but simply out of his grace and by his own choosing.  Carson said,

                  'The God who chooses people is strong enough to
                   accomplish all of his purposes in them; the people
                   chosen by God ought to respond not only with grateful
                   obedience, but with unshakeable trust.'  

Of course he's strong enough to accomplish his purposes in me!  Where God sets his heart, he gives his Spirit.  And in all of my silly, selfish anxiety, I forgot about the most miraculous part of his beautiful gospel plan - the part where he somehow weaves all of my weakness and mistakes and sin into his plan, redeeming them for his glory!   

At the same time, I feel a tension between all of these doors that are opening up and the fact that I have to start preparing to leave the Philippines.  My heart cries out to the Lord, what will happen with this tenuous school situation?  What about that person whom I've only begun to mentor?  That 'unshakeable trust' that Carson mentions feels beyond me.  But God has chosen people among the Kanu, he has set his heart on them and I have had the joy of knowing and loving some of them!  God is strong enough to accomplish all of his purposes in them as well.  His redemptive, restoring work doesn't rely on me being in a certain place.  Especially not when he has made it clear that I'm meant to be elsewhere for now.  But the trusting and the transitions are difficult.  Please pray for me?  

Let me share with you some of what I've been involved in over the past couple of months, some of my future plans and how you can hold me and our work here in prayer.      
*Kanu is a pseudonym that I am using due to sensitivity concerns. For the same reason, please do not publish or post any letter from me or the information contained therein without my permission. Thank you for your understanding.

Helpful Training

In August, I had the opportunity to take part in a training workshop in Manila called Learning that Lasts.  I was thankful to learn more and develop practical skills for teaching adults in learner-centered, participatory ways for the purpose of meaningful change in their lives.  I've been asked to facilitate workshops and lead teacher training quite often in my work here and I've learned a lot from these experiences and from observing the way that my colleagues teach.  But I'm grateful for the opportunity to have more formal training in this area and to consolidate what I've learned by trial and error!  

A few weeks later, I joined a workshop on Participatory Methods for Engaging Communities, along with several of my Kanu team members.  This was an exciting opportunity for me because in addition to using these methods for teacher training and community literacy program planning, I hope to use participatory methods as one way of collecting data for my M.A. research.  I'm so grateful for these opportunities that SIL provided for growth and professional development and especially for the opportunity to learn as a team!  

Visit from my Sister

Also in August, I was blessed to have my younger sister, Hannah, visit me for 2 weeks!  Together we explored the crazy streets of Manila, rode on the many different types of public transportation and visited Lake Taal volcano (which is a couple of hours outside the city).  After that, we traveled down to Davao just in time for Kadayawan, the biggest annual festival, which celebrates the cultural diversity of the Davao region.  We saw some beautiful cultural performances and enjoyed yummy street food.  The highlight of her visit, though, was the day we spent with my closest Kanu friends out on the water - boating, swimming, fishing and picnicking on a sand bar that vanishes at high tide!  Hannah caught a few moments on video, too - a stroll through the market, a musical performance at Kadayawan and a traditional fan dance at Kadayawan.  


I've been continuing to read and think and plan for the research that I hope to do in the field of literacy and education - a case study on the needs, resources, challenges and hopes related to education for Kanu communities situated in multilingual urban environments, in which they represent a minority.  God willing, I will apply this month for ethical approval for my research plan.  

During the participatory methods training, I had the opportunity to work more closely with one of our Kanu team members, Omar (pictured below with another Kanu team member).  He is very interested to help me with facilitating discussions and collecting data!  But before we can begin collecting data, we need to develop and test the methodology and tools I hope to use.  My goal is to complete that stage of the process before leaving the Philippines in mid-November.  The picture below on the right was taken as we were practicing facilitating a participatory discussion in the community.  There were a lot of challenges specific to a Kanu context that required us to adapt the tools significantly, with mixed results.  This is an aspect of my research that I'm excited to explore, but also anxious about.

First Big Book Workshop in Kanu!

In my previous email update, I asked you to pray about a potential opportunity that the Lord was opening to partner with the elementary school nearest to the Kanu community here in Davao where I've been studying language.  This is one of a handful of elementary schools in Davao at which a significant minority of the student population is Kanu.  Well, the Lord answered those prayers swiftly!  Out of that newly formed partnership grew a workshop with the goal of developing big books (for shared reading in the classroom) in the Kanu language, as well as books to help Kanu children learn Binisaya (the language of wider communication in Davao). 
The workshop was a joint effort between the school principal, early grade teachers, leaders of the Kanu community, Kanu writers, Kanu artists, parents from the Kanu community and the SIL Kanu team.  It was such a thrill to see so many answers to prayer in one month-long workshop (we worked at the school on 4 consecutive Saturdays)!  Members of the Kanu community from different clans came together in unity to develop stories, write books, illustrate them, color the pictures and bind the books.  I also saw the relationships between the Kanu community and the school leaders/teachers strengthened.  (Here is a video of some Kanu women demonstrating for the teachers their unique style of mat-weaving.)  By the end of the workshop, several of our Kanu friends were articulating the importance of their children learning in their mother tongue!  
For me, it was an incredibly full and exciting month, but also tremendously draining!  I had never planned and facilitated an entire workshop like this before, certainly not in the Kanu language and with a large proportion of the participants unable to read and write themselves.  We had some unique challenges!  And partnering so closely with the Department of Education was rewarding, but has also been stretching in a lot of ways.  It made me incredibly grateful for my Kanu teammates who pitched in to help whenever they could.  God has wisely put together a team of people who are gifted in such different ways - I think I would find this work impossible without a team to share the burden.  

Upcoming Transitions and a Financial Need

I have so enjoyed the past 2+ years in the Philippines - not only because of all that God has done in me through the joys and the heartache, but also because it's been lovely to feel truly settled here.  I was able to invest deeply in friendships, in church community, in language learning and in the ministry opportunities that the Lord gave me.  I have had such sweet experiences in all of those areas, which makes it hard at times to consider the transitions I will be making in the next few months.  At the same time, I am excited to spend some time with family and friends at home, to be reunited with Chris and to continue with my training in England.
Although I've learned so much in my time here (trial by fire!), I'm leaving with more questions about work in literacy and multilingual education than I came with. Everything is always much more complicated in reality than the theory that I first learned.  So, I'm eager to join with other practitioners and experienced professors in England to process some of what I've experienced and be better equipped for future work in this field.  After a 5-week break in the US, I'll be returning to Redcliffe College in Gloucester, England, to continuing pursuing the M.A. in Literacy Programme Development that I began in 2012.  The course will end in May 2016, at which point I'll return to the US for a full furlough of about 9 months.  

With all of these transitions will come some added financial burdens.  I've been able to save enough money to pay for all of the international travel (praise God!).  God has also provided a wonderful family (friends of Lydia) who have offered to house us for free in Gloucester!  However, the course fees for my training at Redcliffe have to be paid up-front and total $5,200.  If you are able and willing, please pray and consider giving a one-time gift towards the course fees.  You can use the button below to give online or scroll down to see the instructions for giving by mail.
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Please Pray with Me...

- For the completion and digitization of the books that were begun at this workshop.  There are a few still needing illustrations, several that need to be bound and many that still need to be enhanced and formatted for digital reproduction.  This represents a lot of work for me and my teammate, Luke.  Pray that we would be able to finish it before I leave so that as many households and schools as possible will have access to these books!

- For the approval of the books by the Department of Education so that they can be used in Grade 1 classes and for a strong relationship and clear communication with the Davao City administration as we seek to serve them with some specific activities that they have requested help with.

- For wisdom and clarity of mind as I plan my research methodology and for the work I will do with Omar to prepare for data collection and test the tools.  

- That I would be able to sleep well and have energy for the whirlwind pace of my last 6 weeks here in the Philippines.

- For comfort and an attitude of thankfulness as I say goodbye to my Kanu friends, my SIL colleagues, friends from church and friends in Manila.  

- That in the midst of anxiety, exhaustion, disappointment, joy, sadness, excitement and the myriad of other emotions that are sure to arise throughout this transitional period, I will focus my mind and attention on Jesus.  'You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.' (Isaiah 26:3)
The happy side of all these upcoming transitions is that I will get to reconnect with many of you!  I'm still working out my specific schedule for my short visit to the US at the end of this year - thus far, I know that I'll arrive in Florida on November 22nd and spend some time over the succeeding 5 weeks in Orlando, Jacksonville and Tallahassee.  As I know my specific travel dates and opportunities that we may have to get together while I'm in Florida, I will let you know!  And for those of you I can't see this year, I hope we can spend time together next year when I've finished my training and I'm on furlough.

Thank you so much, friends, for your faithful prayers and encouragement over the past couple of years!  It blesses me, the SIL Kanu team and the Kanu people as you invest your time and prayers in this work!  I can't thank you enough for your care and concern for me and your willingness to love the Kanu people with me.

With love,
Contact Information:
PO Box 81439
8000 Davao City

Financial Partnership:
Gifts may be given to Wycliffe on behalf of my ministry by clicking here.

Checks may also be mailed to:
Wycliffe Bible Translators
PO Box 628200
Orlando, FL  32862-8200
Please include a separate note which says,"Preference for the Wycliffe ministry of Kate Shugart, account #226690."

Copyright © 2015 Kate Schell, All rights reserved.

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