What is "Who Are You, Jesus?"
Children are born in relationship with God. We're creating an app that facilitates that relationship through age-appropriate Scripture that uses Jesus' own words to answer the question of the child's heart, "Who Are You, Jesus?" With the guidance of Nouma, a beautiful, yet playful and mysterious animated dove, the app will enable the child to engage directly with Jesus' words. The child can use the functions of the app to listen to or read the Scripture and wondering questions, then type on the keyboard, speak into the microphone, or draw a response on the iPad. The responses will be saved by the app. The end result will be a unique book created by the child.
Who is it for?
This app is for anyone interested in helping children come to know, and pray to, Jesus.
Why are you making it?
I am so grateful to my parents and grandparents for teaching me to pray and taking me to church. My relationship with Jesus enables me to survive and thrive. I want all children to discover Jesus' unconditional love for them.
When my daughter was born, I wanted her to know that Jesus loves her and is there for her in good times and bad, but didn't know how best to tell her. I found a compelling introduction to Jesus in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, a Montessori-based approach to children's spiritual formation. I was trained in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, earned a master's degree in pastoral studies, and listened to God with children ages 3 to 12 for over 20 years. In the back of my mind was always the question how to get Jesus' message of love to the children who haven't heard it yet?
A couple of years ago, with the help of Educo Web Design, I created a website, suzanneharaburd.com, where I blog about living our faith in daily life, and show religious art, including my own photography. I share my blog and photography via a monthly e-newsletter. I wrote a book, Women's Inspirational Daily Prayer, and, to make it more convenient for a busy woman's life, worked with Educo to create an app for the iPhone and iPad based on my book. That got me thinking about what a prayer app for children might look like.
Over 25 years of work in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd has taught me that the 3 to 6 year old child is at a sensitive period for forming relationships. Most approaches to children's spiritual formation miss this important moment, when the child is most open to entering into a loving, joyful relationship with Jesus. In the Catechesis, we learn that the adult best serves God and the child as a matchmaker. We bring the young child and Jesus together, proclaim the Scripture, and give the child prayerful work time to meditate on age-appropriate Bible passages that answer the question, inarticulate, yet present in every child's heart, "Who Are You, Jesus?"
Even the very young child is capable of responding in a profound way to God's word. Most often their responses are expressed in free drawing, but this age child also has a tremendous affinity for language. They love to learn new words. I knew that the app would have to create a way for the child to respond both verbally and artistically.
How will the app work?
I started thinking about how I could use technology to give young children an engaging way to be in relationship with Jesus, and, secondarily, to learn to articulate their emotions and express their prayers through words and art. The question was how to engage children who aren't reading yet? Knowing that many children use their iPads on their own, I didn't want the app to depend on having an adult read to the child. The beautiful collage dove on the cover of my women's prayer book has tiny words of inspiration embedded in the colorful wings. One day it occurred to me, why not animate the dove? The dove can read to the child, and carry simple emotion and prayer words within its wings to help the child learn the language of prayer.
Writing & Content Development
I received early encouragement from my friend, Hollis Bernstein, a member of my church and mother of one of the children in my catechesis class years ago. Hollis is a writer who had a career in advertising before her retirement. She was a first reader for my book, Women's Inspirational Daily Prayer, helped me promote the book, and wrote promotional copy for the app.
I also shared my idea with the web designers at Educo who were enthusiastic about the project. Rami Atassi at Educo, and his brother, filmmaker Remsy Atassi, have conducted several successful crowd-funding projects, and I'm relying on their expertise in my Kickstarter campaign. Remsy made the very cool and professional video for my campaign.
Author Pam Moore, a friend who I met at Catechesis training in 1988 and worked with on many formation courses, had a 20-year career directing children's religious formation, most recently at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Evanston, IL. Now retired, Pam collaborated with me in writing the scriptural content and wondering questions for the app.
My friend, Charles Tupta, whose background includes religious life, as well as marketing, publishing, and now running Bishops Hall Bed and Breakfast in Oak Park, IL, has given me essential advice on marketing the app in preparation for the Kickstarter campaign and beyond.
My husband, David G. Strom, has encouraged me from the beginning. His support and free legal work + Hollis + Pam + Chuck + Rami + Remsy + Chris & Marty at Educo = almost all the ingredients we need to make a great app. The final ingredients are Fabricia, our artist, the creator of Nouma, and Evelyn Way, Nouma's voice. See below.
Jesus is the center of the Christian message and this app. We need an attractive, intelligent, but low-key guide for the child, a guide that does not overshadow Jesus, the Inner Teacher. We need to leave as much space for the child's imagination as possible, and avoid limitations inherent in trying to depict human characters. The animated dove beautifully fulfills the role of guide, and, indirectly, introduces the child to the Holy Spirit.
For such an important role, the look and character of Nouma are critically important, and require a talented artist who both lives her faith and understands the spiritual life of children. God sent me this uniquely talented artist in Fabricia Duell of Cincinnati. Pam Moore and I met Fabricia in 2000 when she came to our Catechesis course with Mary Hagner from Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati. She became Director of Children's Formation at the cathedral. Fabricia has also created a new program for children, Art as a Spiritual Connection, that uses art to nurture the child's spiritual life.
In preparation for her work, Fabricia asked me to introduce her to Nouma. This is what I wrote:
Hello! My name is Nouma. I will be your buddy on a journey we will take together to answer the question: "Who are you, Jesus?”
Although I look like a young dove, I have been on earth for a very long time. When Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit of God descended on him in the shape of a dove. That was me! In the Bible, it says that the Holy Spirit, like the wind, blows where it will. I like to move. You will see me moving: walking, flying, or hopping from page to page, but I will always be there for you.
Most doves are white or grey, but I am very colorful. If you look closely at my feathers you will see not only colors, but words. The words are for you to discover and use as we read the Bible together and respond to what Scripture is telling us.
I have a mischievous sense of humor; occasionally I might do something that will surprise you, but always in a gentle, playful way. I am generally quiet, but happy to read the Scripture to you. After each Scripture passage, I will ask you questions that will help you to respond to the Scripture we read together. If you want help finding a word, click on the words hiding among my feathers. If you want to use the word, double-click on it and the word will go into your book. Try it now and see!
I picture Nouma as a child-like dove, not a cartoon character. She looks gentle, intelligent, with a mood generally solemn but not too serious. She is an old soul. She has a playful sense of humor that shows once in a while. She might be a little mischievous. She moves nearly constantly, but her movements are small, fluid and gentle. Her feathers are colorful and contain emotion words and simple prayer words.
I am thrilled with Fabricia's new creation. Her paintings will be animated by Chris Mickens at Educo, and so become the child's buddy and guide to the words of Jesus, while indirectly introducing the child to the Holy Spirit.
Nouma's voice will be created by my friend Evelyn Way, an acoustician for Charcoalblue who is also an accomplished vocal performer.
All through my story, you can see how Educo Web Design has worked with me every step of the way. Their professional and beautiful work on my website gave me the confidence to entrust them with my first app, the results of which inspire me to entrust them with Who Are You, Jesus? When I was writing my book, Women's Inspirational Daily Prayer, I soon realized that the most effective way to ensure its wide distribution was to create an app based on the book. The web designers that I found online were too far away, too big, and too expensive for a project that I had to fund by myself. I knew there must be someone right in Oak Park, IL, that could do the job, and I prayed for an inspiration. Inspiration walked in the door in the person of Anne Ramsell, a friend of my daughter's who moved back to Chicago to work for Educo Web Design. Talking with Anne, I felt that Educo might be the right fit for me, a feeling that later meetings bore out. They are young, intelligent, professional, reliable, and--most importantly--they were able to enter into the spirit and religious message of my website and book. They gave me clear project targets and met them on time and within budget. And their work is beautiful! Just look at my website and app and you'll see.
How can I help?
You can help make Who Are You, Jesus? available to children by pledging any amount to this project. We have wonderful rewards for donations from $5 and up. Or, if you aren't ready to give, please consider liking our project page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/whoareyoujesus, and sharing this announcement on social media.
Where will my pledge go?
Most of our budget is dedicated to app production. We'll use it to pay fees to our partners, who are developing and launching the app.
We'll spend a small portion of the budget to offset some of the Kickstarter campaign costs, including the Kickstarter video and reward distribution. We've paid most of our startup costs out of pocket.
After the app is complete, we'll need to share it with the world. If we have any funds left over from the app production, we'll use them to launch the app with a bang.
Risks and challenges
Our production is relatively low-risk because we are producing a software product, and our team has previously worked together to create and produce an iPhone app. If we have any major production setbacks, we'll be sure to share them with you quickly and transparently.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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