Saturday, March 24, 2007

On Tuesday I took my class on a field trip to New Life Home. We went there back in November, so some of you may remember that this is an orphanage for abandoned babies. We spent the morning holding babies and running around with the toddlers. Some of them are just learning to walk and others are hard to keep up with. It was a well-spent morning. The kids in my class absolutely love playing with all these chocolate-skinned beauties. And we decided that as a classroom, we could adopt 3 or 4 of them and then we can add "baby duty" to our class jobs list. Oh it's fun to imagine. And I have some imaginative students. My internet connection isn't very good, so I'm only able to post this one picture. At a later date, I will try to post some more of the students in my class because they are much cuter than me.

Not only did we have a great field trip, but we also had parent-teacher conferences this week. It was good to talk with parents and see how they feel about the class and their child. The most encouraging thing was looking at all the progress they have made throughout the year. Several students came from Kenyan schools, which are quite different than American schools that accommodate different learning styles and abilities. For many of these students, the first semester was an adjustment period to this new system of school. And now many of them are beginning to thrive. It's so encouraging to see that! I realized, however, that I am not used to talking to adults all day, and when I got home from conferences on Wednesday, I couldn't stay awake past 8:00.

Aside from school, I don't have much to report because, well, school seems to be my life. I love it, but I am definitely ready for a break, some much-needed reprieve. Spring break is coming up in about two weeks. So to take full advantage of my break, I am going to climb Mt. Kenya again. This time I hope to make it to the summit, but mostly I'm looking forward to the journey, being in the outdoors, being with Kayla and other friends, and not being in Nairobi! The city begins to wear on you after a while.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The fatigue is setting in quite heavily, as Kayla and I had a lock-in at the school with the middle school girls on Friday night. We had a great time, but even after two naps on Saturday afternoon, I still went to bed at 10:00 Saturday night. We used one of the classrooms to watch movies, and then we slept in the library. After the movie started, Kayla and I snuck outside to lie on the ground and get a glimpse of the stars that I so often ignore. It was noisy night. Not noisy with cars and sirens but monkeys and birds. Monkeys and birds. A year ago, the wildlife consisted of the moose in my yard and the bears in the woods. And now I live with the monkeys.

Some things I love about my life in Kenya.
1. The smell of tempera paint on my classroom
2. The hugs and high fives from my students at the end of the day
3. Kayla
4. the tall, skinny 8th grade boys who pretend they are really tough but still like me
5. acacia trees
6. sunrises
7. power outages at night when i get to use my candle. did you know they make a sound when they burn?
8. mangos
9. the men who wear Bill Cosby sweaters when it is 90 degrees outside
10. the community of people I teach with
11. the families who send their kids to West Nairobi School
12. children who teach me how to believe
13. learning to trust God's sovereignty
14. learning what the word "sovereignty" really means
15. e-mails
16. letters
17. Psalm 139:5
18. my tiny, L-shaped bedroom
19. and many more, too many to tell...

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Written on Thursday, March 1, 2007...

It was a year ago today that he died. He was outside on the field, teaching P.E., when suddenly he collapsed. A heart attack. An unexpected death. And the innocent eyes of children standing by, watching, knowing they will never forget the day that their teacher, Mr. Stauffer, died.

As I sat down to finish reading the book Walk Two Moons with the 6th graders, I was a little nervous about the ending. I remember spending a weekend in college reading this book, barely able to put it down, choked with tears at the end of the story when the main character realizes her mother is dead and her grandmother dies shortly thereafter (sorry if you haven’t read it and were planning on it...). Reading this part of the story out loud, I managed to maintain my composure as best I could. But there was an eerie silence when I finished the story, and then I remembered that a year ago these students had tasted death, many for the first time. I looked across at the beautiful eyes gazing up at me, many starting to turn puffy and red.

It was time for lunch, so I told my class that if any wanted to stay in the classroom and cry or think or pray or whatever, that they were welcome to. I took the rest of the class to lunch and came back to the sniffling sounds of every girl in my class but one. I got them some tissue, and we all sat on the rug in my classroom together. We just sat there. They cried, they sniffed, I cried a little, and we soaked in the silence of sorrow, knowing that there were no words. What mattered was that we were together. I kept praying, asking the Lord for the right words to say, if there were any. And I felt strongly that it was important for all of them to sit. To sit and cry. The Native people in Alaska will often sit together for hours and never speak a word, and I felt this was one of those times where being together was what we needed to do.

Eventually the girls were able to choke down the sobs and talk a little. I read Psalm 116 to them, emphasizing verse 15 where it says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints”. I was so thankful the Lord brought me to this Psalm last week. It was as if this was the moment for which the Psalm was written. So we talked about heaven and eternity and people and God and all those other things that somehow we never get to in our academics. And when it was time for recess, they all wanted to stay.

Sometimes when I wake up in the morning, I’m not sure exactly what I’m doing. In my mind, I am thinking about the lessons I will teach and how much I will get accomplished on my breaks. It’s like a game. How many tasks can I get done, and will I go home tonight with no papers to grade? It’s a fast-paced job, and every minute is filled. God tries to remind me of the opportunities I have with people, the students that need to see Christ in my life. And I probably put on a pretty good show for them, but do I really care about them, or do I just care about getting my job done? As the Lord tries to remind me, knowing that I can be a little dense, He brings a day like today. A day when I had planned on grading two stacks of papers on my lunch break. And instead I spend it with pre-pubescent girls draining their tear ducts. I did not get my grading done, I was not ready to teach math at 1:00. But what I walked away with was a feeling of deep satisfaction. When I recount the events of my day, I grin from ear to ear because I know that the Lord met me in my busy-ness and that He met these girls in their sorrow, and though not many words were shared, the fellowship was some of the sweetest I have known. I know why I teach, I know why I prepare all these lessons, grade all these papers, discipline these students. It is because I have been seized by the power of a great affection. This affection moves me beyond my tasks and gives me the power to bring others to this same affection. May the Lord give me the strength to do this with my whole heart.