For five years of my teaching career I worked in a small private school in Cyprus. I lived in wall to wall sunshine and hot temperatures for most of the year. I don’t do so well in warm climates. I seem to have more than my share of sweat glands. Where most ladies glow and manage to look cool doing so, I pour moisture from every pore of my body and look most uncomfortable doing so. It was the lack of rain and clouds and low temperatures that finally drove me back to the UK – that and the fact that I was growing out of the school and the Brethren Church and into something new and Holy-Spirit free.
The school ran a boarding house for overseas pupils. Some parents were on the mission field in the Middle East and wanted their children near. Other parents wanted their children disciplined – and we ran a very disciplined school. Some parents were obscenely rich, mostly Saudi Arabians with oil wells. Others were poor and their children benefitted from our scholarship programme.
I spent a couple of years living in the boarding house being a pretend parent. On Saturdays we tried to take the pupils out on excursions. Sundays were days of rest. Rest meant rest and playing football in the neighbouring field was not permitted.
One year we took the pupils up to the Troodos mountains. We all piled into the minibus and headed for the hills.
Such was the topography of Cyprus that down by the coast a person might lie almost naked on the beach and soak up the rays while another person in the mountains might be layers deep in clothes skiing in the snow.
There were significant feet of snow when we arrived in the mountains. We had pennies warm in our palms to hire skis and…t-shirts and sandals? Some of us, not all of us, had never seen snow before. Living in Saudi Arabia they knew all about sand and hot temperatures – but snow was a mystery. They had seen the pictures and knew it was white and covered everything in a pretty blanket but they didn’t know it was cold, and that when it melted, it was wet. It wasn’t irresponsible of us not to warn them. Like most kids do – they ignored the warnings and we shrugged our shoulders and thought – they will learn.
It didn’t take them five minutes to work that out but more like half an hour. There was a giddy half hour of making snowmen and throwing snowballs before the cold took hold. While the warmer dressed of us took to the hills in skis, the wet and cold stayed in the warm minibus and watched out of the steaming up windows. (One of us, me, didn’t really take to the hills – the skis were there, but the skills were absent. I soon joined the wet ones in the minibus) The next time we went up into the mountains they were properly attired.
How do you tell people about snow when they have never seen it before?
You can show them pictures, of course. Snow capped mountains, snowmen, snow ploughs on the motorway. There is an endless supply of pictures.
In this day and age you can show youtubes of dogs running about in the snow, toddlers wrapped up in a hundred layers, falling over in the snow. Yet again, another endless supply of home made movies.
You can dig out the encyclopaedia and look at the structure of a snow flake and be amazed at the sheer variety. You can analyse temperatures and ratios.
You can even make your own snowflakes with a few folds of a page of white paper cutting out bits with a pair of scissors. Unfold the paper and there is your snowflake.
What do you really know about snow after all of that?
My pupils knew a lot about snow after playing in it for half an hour. Experience become the real teacher.
Makes me wonder about God.
How much can a person know about God outside of a personal experience of Him?
My experience of God has gone well beyond the half hour. After nearly forty years of walking with him (with more than a few days off) I know only a fraction of what can be known – but what I know has been life changing.