The battle for the minds of our kids
Published on ASSIST News website – July 19, 2017.
New Zealand author and international speaker Lynley Smith has taken on the monolith – secular education and its attempt to subvert the minds of our children.
Lynley has written a book, Greenstone Mystery, a novel for children aged 9 – 12 years old, a fun read, capturing young readers’ interest but also informing them of something the world out there is not saying.
“The first time I realised just how ignorant our children are of the truth of the Bible and the existence of God was when I was helping out at a Salvation Army store in my city in New Zealand and a child, about 10 years old, brought a book to the counter,” she says. The book was an old Bible he had picked up from a pile of books in one corner.
“What’s this?” he asked. “I told him: It’s a Bible.”
“What’s that?” he asked.
“I was shocked almost speechless. Finally I said it was a book about God but it was not just that. The words in it had been written by God himself with the help of some men, and were so powerful, that they could be used, just like you use a sword, to fight for what is right. I could see the idea of fighting and action would appeal to him!”
The boy looked blankly at Lynley, left the book on the counter and rushed off to join his mates who were leaving the shop. It was then that Lynley realised just how little the ordinary child knew about God, or even if there was a God. It didn’t stop there. Lynley became keenly aware, as her own 13 grandchildren began to grow up, that, even though they had been nurtured in loving Christian families, attended church and some of them even attended Christian Schools, the issue of God’s existence was still a question mark in their young minds.
Was he real or just a good idea, a bit like the tooth fairy or Santa Claus? And how could you integrate the teachings of science, which only acknowledges what can be measured and thus proven, with concept of the timelessness of God (and eternity)? Many questions!
“I realised that once they got to the age of about 9 or 10, they were starting to question the things they had been taught, often challenged by contrary teaching at school and opinions of friends.
“My oldest grandchildren, all bookworms and aged 10 to 12, had little else exciting to read except the Percy Jackson and the Harry Potter series, both of which dabble in the occult. The available Christian books didn’t hold them spell bound – this had to change! Greenstone Mystery was my answer.”
In 2016, Lynley attended a writer’s group at which a smooth round stone was passed around as a catalyst for creative writing. Lynley, a trained journalist and author of two published books already, produced in the allotted 10 minutes a short story about this stone, but couldn’t find an ending. Later, as she pondered this at home, the ideas began to download.
“Each night I would go to sleep and be wakened in the night with the plot for the next chapter. So my short story was becoming a chapter book! I had no idea where it was all going until almost the end.”
The result was Greenstone Mystery, recounting the adventures of a group of six children in a Values Education class at their local school. (In New Zealand and elsewhere it is no longer permissible to have religious education classes focussing only on Christianity – we must be inclusive! – instead we have “values education”).
The six children find themselves catapulted back in time, into an ancient land, the land of Israel. A strange man, wearing a keffiyeh, hands them a stone and presents them with a challenge: find the other replica stones, discover the greatest truth in the whole world and you will find your way home.
The children experience adventures in some of the places where well known Biblical events took place, such as Abraham’s intended sacrifice of Isaac on Mount Moriah. The children’s parallel adventures teach them important things about themselves and their quest. Stones in the Bible represent the presence of God (stone altars etc) and as the children collect the stones they are collecting a little more of the truth of God’s identity.
“My goal in presenting the story in this way was always to connect the children through exciting adventures to the real essence of the Biblical stories, to personalise them, and to instil an awareness of the very Jewish nature of them. By the end of the book, as they discover who the man in the keffiyeh is, and who the ‘magic’ stone which guides them is, the children have clearly associated this God with the nation of Israel.”
Knowing God exists is not enough, she says. One of the defining characteristics of the Christian God is that he is in particular, the God of Israel – this characteristic separates Him out from the multitude of other gods, such as Allah or the many Hindu gods.
At the end of the book there are the relevant scriptures for each episode in the children’s quest, telling the Biblical story. Readers can then draw parallels between the children’s adventures and the actual Biblical events.
Also each chapter has a set of questions in the appendix, so Greenstone Mystery is more than a children’s novel. It is also a resource tool for classroom use. Although only just published (February, 2017) the book has been snapped up by a number of Christian schools in New Zealand, one school so far buying a class set for its religious education programme.
Classroom teacher’s comment:
From Joshua Donaldson, Year 6 class teacher Pukekohe Christian School, NZ, April, 2017:
Introducing bible stories and values within the context of a fun-filled fantasy story, Greenstone Mystery by Lynley Smith is a great way to start classroom discussions based on important Christian values. I am enjoying reading through the story myself and my students who have read the first chapter are looking forward to reading this book as a class and following the study which comes with the book. My students have been asking some really interesting questions about the Bible and Christianity and I chose this book because it will be a great starting point for class discussions as well as being enjoyable to read.
Lynley Smith is a New Zealand journalist of 15 years’ standing, an ESOL teacher and international speaker. She is a passionate supporter of God’s chosen people. Her other published books are Zainabu’s Story (2017) and From Matron to Martyr – Jane Haining’s ultimate sacrifice for the Jews (second edition, 2017). She is currently working on a sequel to Greenstone Mystery, which will be titled Acorn Adventure and is expected to be published early in 2018.