Saturday, August 31, 2013

Reflections from Week One.

I love being only a high school teacher.  I love having only one classroom that I can work to make beautiful and to focus on.  I love being upstairs at all time and being able to enforce high school expectations on our students.  After last year being a difficult year with students, I prayed a lot over summer for God to equip me to be the teacher the students needed.  I prayed I would be strong in discipline, and a strong teacher focused on lessons.  I prayed that this expectation would be placed at the beginning of the school year.  Well prayers have been answered, I have been firm and strict and the students have responded in a good way. This has not been in a desire for power and authority over the students.  But rather for them to grow to be respectful young adults.  Thus far, I am proud.  

The now seniors have been wonderful.  After filling my suitcases with bowties, suspenders, tuxedo shirts, and sweaters for their uniforms, they have looked "fresh" walking the halls of Sonlight Academy.  They are working hard and focusing on schoolwork.  We can only hope and pray it will continue!  Here they are on the first day of school.  The boys are shorter than the girls; oops you can barely see them.  Sorry!

Here is a picture of me with one of my favorite students Jean Gardy!  He is a senior this year, and I’m heart broken.  I am giving him his morning pep talk, and mainly embarrassing him.

Four of our graduates from last school year are now working at Sonlight.  Which, of course, over joys me because now I can see them everyday still.  Fiona is working in first grade, Evenson and Jethro are in high school, and Chnida is in sixth grade.

Here are Eliona and Elionise on their second day of kindergarten.  They were late on their first day and I didn’t get a chance to see them.  They are so cute with their backpacks!  And Eliona has lost a tooth.

Here are two more senior boys, Bob and Yves-Mary on their first Friday.  On Fridays the boys will wear a straight tie.  They look sharp!

 One of my biggest fears of teaching only high school was the junior class.  I had heard only horror stories of this class, not listening to the teachers, acting out.  I thought for sure they would kick me back to the States.  But, as it turns out, I love them.  I have truly enjoyed having them in class so far and we have already done a fun activity in class and they handled it well.  I think we will have lots of fun getting to know each other this year!  Can’t wait to start to get to know their families.
I miss you all very much!  I love and pray for you often!  

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Developing a Thick Skin.

This year in orientation we were blessed by Thom and Cara Whimpelberg leading us in two courses: Haitian History, and Haitian Culture.  Cara is one of Roger and Norma Alexander’s daughters, and moved here in 1983 when her parent’s originally moved her.  She is one of the first few Sonlight graduates, and has been teaching here for almost 20 years.  Somewhere in those years, she met her husband Thom, who visited several times with groups.  They are a power couple full of knowledge, encouragement, love, work ethic, and a passion for God’s people.  While they taught us, we staff had our eyes opened anew, even for some of us who have been here for 5 + years.

I can never learn enough Haitian History, and wish my schedule allotted me to time to attend Thom’s class, but it was Haitian Culture that continues to reel around in my head.  One phrase in particular, Cara said on numerous occasions, “Well, because Haiti forces you to develop a thick skin.”  Cara compared her life to growing up in Haiti and how it made her have a thick skin.  And I am starting to see it in myself too. 

It is Haitian culture to be called out for something that normally you would not do in the States.  Someone may yell across the street that you cannot wear what you have on to church because you are showing too much skin.  Someone may rub your hips and bottom after summer vacation stating, “Ou gwo!”  This meaning, “You are bigger than the last time I saw you.”  When you are thinking in your head, “I thought I did good, only 3 pounds!”  But they say all of these with good meaning.  Meaning they respect you enough for you to be sure to cover yourself, meaning you had a good vacation able to eat and relax.  All good things.

But this does make you develop a thick skin.  The more you are called out for an insecurity you may have, the more likely you will be able to accept it, brush it off, think, “God made me this way”, focus on what’s important, and to move on.  It reminds me of Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:3-4 when he says, “ I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed I do not even judge myself.  My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent.  It is the LORD who judges me.”

All in all, God’s opinion is the only one that matters.  Forget about everyone else’s.  Brush it off, and move on.  Develop a thick skin.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Home is where Haiti is.

First of all, I must say, it was so good to see all of my family and friends over the summer.  I love how God has blessed me with people in different cities, states, and countries.  I am spoiled.
While leaving America was difficult, walking the streets of Port-de-Paix has filled the voids.   It has been great reconnecting with families, walking and seeing old friends, and attending church hugging everyone as hard as possible.

First visit first, I had to run to go see the twins, Eliona and Elionise.  I was extremely happy that everything was the same.  They told me funny stories from summer vacation, work they had done to prepare for Kindergarten, and they placed a masked toy on my head saying I was the “Mardi-Gras”.  Then they would put it on each other’s heads.  It was wonderful to hear their laughs, singing, and silly stories.

Next visit, to the Dubois home.  It was great to see that they all looked great, had a great summer, and a great visit to Port-au-Prince to visit family.  I will have both sons in school this year.    Freud, the eldest son, will be a senior this year, I am proud yet sad.  He is very sweet, one you love to be around.

My favorite student Chnida (she graduated last year) keeps showing up to help in the classroom.  I love that she is not embarrassed to be at Sonlight after graduation, love that she wants to help, love her presence, love talking with her, and love making her cry when she laughs.  We are having fun, getting sweaty, and getting work done!

This year our staff has grown, a new single girl and a family.  We have been in orientation all week, and we have bonded over “Fun with Thom”, and learning Haitian History, and different points of Haitian Culture.  It has been unbelievably humbling to hear different aspects that are important in Haitian culture standards, and I have done the opposite.  Merci Senye pou gras-ou! 

Yesterday we completed a prayer walk, stopping in each teacher’s room, and anointing the teacher, the students, and the classroom for the education and ministry that will happen this school year.  It was touching to hear our staff (and some new friends) join together in prayer for the furthering of God’s Kingdom.  Your Kingdom come!

All in all, thankful to be back, and thankful to be back to work, thank you for all of your support in all the different forms of it.  Still can’t believe God chose me.  Please pray, tomorrow I will go visit a student’s home, which lost his father at the beginning of the summer.  Pray God will guide me in words of comfort and love to say, and the discernment if I just need to sit and be with them.  Pray for them as they continue to grieve, as well.
Much love in Him.

P.S. Sorry for the lack of pictures.  I was too fixated on seeing people to snap shots.  Photos to come.