My student, Pastor Ana Felicia, was approached by several of the parents in her congregation, “What on earth can we do with our teenage children? They are disrespectful, disobedient, and driving us crazy!” It was clear to Ana Felicia that these parents had lost control of their children in the pre-school years, and that any attempt to remedy the situation now would be extremely difficult. So she came to me. I decided to use her case for our unit on Popular Education, a methodology developed by the Brazilian educator Paul Freire. His basic premise is that people learn and are transformed when they take control of their own learning process. So, I made up a skit based on the situations in these families, and asked some students to present it so that we could analyze the situation in depth, looking at the root causes and related issues, and then hopefully gaining some insights for possible courses of action.
What I didn’t know until weeks later was that Ana Felicia decided to use the method in her church. She gathered the adolescents in the congregation and asked them to help her prepare a skit for the worship service. She assigned the best behaved ones to take the role of the disrespectful kids and the “troublemakers” to play the role of the parents. They practiced all week with great enthusiasm. On Sunday, she explained to the congregation that they would watch a presentation and then analyze it, the parents from the perspective of the teenagers and the teenagers from the perspective of the parents. The actors outdid themselves and the congregation was laughing uproariously. But when the pastor began to debrief, suddenly, it became all too real. She asked the boy who had provoked this entire process why (as an actor) he acted like he did. He, freed perhaps by the acting, revealed his true situation: “My mother is always comparing me to other people and I can never be good enough for her. My grandfather told me that when I was born, my dad was terribly disappointed that I wasn’t a girl and has never accepted me.” Ana Felicia quickly pretended that this was still part of the skit, summarized, and asked everyone to reflect on ways in which they could improve relations in the family. Afterwards, in private, she facilitated an emotional reconciliation between the boy and his parents.
This is why I teach. Freire’s call was for an education that transforms lives as people are empowered to act positively to change seemingly hopeless situations that crush them. My job is to teach pastors how to make that happen. I rejoice in the way that God was able to use my class and Ana Felicia to bring healing in a family.