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Email from Sandra: ‘There was a swallow’

Kids! There's so much to learn from them; especially these 21st Century "species". Merhn! They know so much. Sunday morning for me, was a great learning time.

I had been called out of the choir to handle the Children's Class- their two teachers couldn't make it to church. The third had phoned to say she would be late.

I wasn't too keen on taking on the assignment: I was poised for the day's song ministration whose alto my team and I had rehearsed way before service commenced; I hadn't learnt anything to teach a class of about 34 children aged between 5 and 10.

After much protest,  without success, I obeyed the Warden of the day and descended into their class.

Most of them had had the opportunity to partake in my previous lessons. They started cheering as I entered: "Aaaaantie Aaaantie Aantie..."  I felt so welcomed.

Calming their excitement, I asked them what they'd been taught the previous week. Half of the population had their hands up. Little Becky was first to be called for a recap. In her tiny voice she said drudgingly, "we learnt about major and minor prophets".

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"Clap for Becky", was my next instruction. Nii Sorsey was next to give examples of who the minor prophets in the Bible were: Nahum, Obadiah, Ezra, Habakuk ... He went on and on and ended with Jonah. Chaiiiii, I had gotten an idea of a lesson - Jonah it shall be!

"Who knows the story of Jonah?" I asked. Anna and Bismark's hands went up. I refused to call them for a narration because they'd take the wind out of my sail.

So I started my lesson. "Once upon a tiiiiiiime?"  "Tiiiiiime tiime", they chorused. There once lived a man called Jonah. He was a prophet. The people of a city called Nineveh had sinned against God so He asked him to go and ask them to repent.

He disobeyed God and tried to run away. He went on a ship which almost got destroyed in a storm. The captain of the ship had to throw him out so the storm would cease. It was the only way out."

A few shouted "ooooooh", trying to sympathise with Jonah.

"As they threw him, a biiiiiiiiiiiig fish opened its mouth and swallowed poor Jonah".  "Ooooooh", chorused a few more sympathisers.

I had barely completed my sentence when Nii Sorsey's hand went up. I gave him the chance to ask his question.

"Antie it wasn't a fish that swallowed Jonah. It was a whale".  Then he sat down. I was flabbergasted. Was this seven year old trying to challenge my knowledge of

Brother Jonah?  He sounded so sure of what he was saying. "Nii, eeeerm, are you saying a whale isn't a fish?"

"Yes, it was a whale that swallowed Jonah; not a big fish. A whale is a mammal; a fish is not. Whales are mammals because they are warm blooded and breathe air through lungs.

Antie, they give birth to live babies and feed their babies with milk.  A whale has sideways tail fins while a fish's fins run up and down? That's why when a whale swims it swings its body up and down, and when a fish swims, it moves from side to side".

His explanation made a lot of sense. Without hesitation he gave me his mother's tablet from which he was reading his Bible. He asked me to give it back to him whilst he opens a website which talked about whales.

It was a real eye opener. I read about how accommodating the belly of a whale was; obviously if that marine courier which swallowed Jonah were not a whale he would have died minutes after being swallowed; fishes are cold-blooded, egg producing, and do not require air to breathe (that's how Jonah would have died quickly).

I also learnt that there is always some air in a whale’s stomach, and, as long as the animal it has swallowed is still alive, digestive activity will not begin. That was how come Jonah survived in the whale's belly three days and three nights.

I was amazed at the lesson this little "dadaba" boy was teaching me.

"Everyone clap for Nii Sorsey. He has proved to us that Jonah was swallowed by a whale and not a big fish".

He felt so accomplished. Handing over a lollipop to my teacher, I made him take his seat whilst I explained the "discovery" to the class.

Later that day, I took time out to read about whales and fishes. And goodness, did I learnt a lot!

After teaching the lesson, I had a good laugh when I asked the children what they had learnt. Eight-year-old Sally raised her hand and said, "I have learnt that we should travel by air, not sea. The air is safer. There are no whales in the sky". I laughed till tears streamed down my cheeks.

These 21st Century children ... they know oooo. Don't ever underestimate them. My only worry however is whether or not Nii Sorsey visits other websites apart from the likes of the site he got the whale/fish information for me. He seemed very intelligent in the use of the Tablet.

Hmmm. I must have a chat with his mother, just in case ...

• This article has been published earlier

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