Mapping Out Our Faith

March 30, 2017

Don Evans is a 20-year veteran of Galilee. For most of those twenty years, he has taught Sunday School. Galilee lives or dies on the strength of its volunteers, and anyone will tell you that volunteering to teach elementary school kids is kind of like jumping into the deep end of the pool. 

You have to love Sunday School, right?

“As a child, I hated Sunday School!” says Don, surprisingly. “I lodged many complaints. My parents finally gave up and stopped forcing me to go. It wasn’t until college that I developed significant interest in religion and became active in a church youth group. As a result of my own experience, I am determined to make Sunday School interesting and fun for my students, as well as educational.”

Don and Claudette Evans

Don teaches third through fifth grade Sunday School and loves to teach. “I had seriously thought about a career as a history professor, before I got diverted into law. Sunday School has allowed me to share my passion for teaching, combined with a belief in the importance of God in all our lives.”

“I want to convey to my students the geographical and historical reality of the Bible. It’s not like Star Wars, a made-up story which occurs “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.” The Bible takes place in our world, the real world; in real countries like Egypt and Israel; in real cities like Jericho and Jerusalem; on and along real bodies of water like the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River. You can see them on a map. You can visit them and even stand at the location where these incredible events transpired.”

Don doesn’t just show maps to the class. His students create maps, like this one made from clay (and Swedish Fish).

“I love maps and refer to them frequently in class. I want students to see where key events take place. I want them to visualize the locations we talk about and the distances between places, like how far it is from Nazareth to Bethlehem? I want them to understand these are real places.”

Clay representations of real cities by the Jordan River.

“To convey the geographical and historical reality of the Bible, to make lasting impressions on student memories, and to have fun while we are doing it, I like crafts and projects that bring lessons to life. For instance:

— We have reenacted being slaves in Egypt before the Exodus. As commanded by the Pharaoh, we make clay bricks to build the Pharaoh’s great buildings.
— We have constructed a large geographical map of Israel in clay. The map shows cities, bodies of water, and mountains, helping us to visualize our lesson.
— We have erected the walls of Jericho in clay, circled the city seven times, and then watched the walls collapse as we yelled “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city.”
— We have reenacted Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, building with Lego plastic bricks the city walls and the gate through which Jesus passed.”

Young builders work on the gates of Jerusalem in Lego.

Don would tell anyone thinking about teaching Sunday School that it is interesting and fulfilling, and that you don’t have to be a professional educator. You will be surprised at how much you learn—when you teach. Don uses a spiritual gift that he uncovered and developed after he took the first step, to volunteer.

Don graduated from the University of Washington with a history degree, but is a lawyer in real life. “I recently retired after six years on Capitol Hill as a legislative assistant to a Congressman from Ohio, followed by 35 plus years as an attorney for the American Chemistry Council, a trade association representing the chemical industry,” Don explains.

“My beautiful wife Claudette and I will celebrate our 25th anniversary this November,” says Don. “She operates an embroidery business. We came to Galilee about 20 years ago; my background is Presbyterian and Claudette is Catholic. We looked for a church home where we both felt comfortable. After trying different churches, we found Galilee. We never looked back.”

The couple have two daughters, who for years could be found alongside Don as he taught class. Kelsey graduated last year from Marquette University in Milwaukee and now works as a legislative assistant at the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors. Hayley is a second year student at Virginia Tech.

The toughest part of one of Don’s classes is getting your kids to want to leave.

When not teaching Sunday School, Don can be found with his head still in historical sources. “I am especially interested in ancient history, having taken three years of Latin and two years of Greek. It was a thrill for me to go with my family to Italy, where we visited Rome, Florence and Venice. It is an amazing experience to enter the Colosseum and to walk through the Roman Forum. Also, to tour the Vatican and stand inside the Sistine Chapel is deeply moving.”

Or you might find Don outside. “I am a collector. I collect fossils, rocks, and shells (as well as coins and stamps). A perfect day for me is spent at Calvert Cliffs, Maryland, looking for fossilized shark teeth. I have also traveled to Arkansas in search of diamonds at Crater of Diamonds State Park (I found none!) and crystals in the Arkansas mountains (I had better luck there).”

Teaching is not the only way that Don serves. “I am a driver for the Loudoun County home delivered meals program. On Wednesdays, you may spot me driving through Ashburn, dropping off warm and nutritionally balanced lunches to residents.”

If, like Don, you have ever hated Sunday School but think you could work with great kids and impress on them the value of Biblical lessons, we can help. Don can offer his advice, and the Holy Spirit will always be at your side.

Contact bri.jones@galileeumc.org if you’d like to learn more about Galilee’s Sunday School program.