Praying for my brother

My wonderful brother, Jason, is currently serving in Iraq, working to train men in the Iraqi army. He's been there since September, and it's been a pretty rough road so far. For example, the truck he was in one day drove over an IED, which exploded and shook his truck up badly. Thankfully it was one of the new, expensive trucks and protected the guys within it very well. Still, it was quite a scary experience for them all. Then a few weeks ago he had another close call when he had to dive out of the way of an incoming round of mortars that were shot close to him.

This week he sent me the link to this article. The guys who were killed were not in his direct unit, but he did know them and said the interpreter that was killed just lost his brother a couple of weeks ago. (This article talks more about the soldiers lost.) Obviously all the guys around him are dealing with a lot of heavy emotions this week and could use some extra prayer support. I am writing to ask all of you wonderful prayer warriors to please say a prayer or two (or many!) for my brother, Jason, and all the guys he is serving with. I pray for God's total protection over them, as well as a complete peace to surround them all. Thank you so much for joining with me in prayer for this, especially this week.

Here are a few pictures of Jason in Iraq:
Hanging out with kids

Teaching a class

Standing in front of Iran

We love you, Jason! God has you in the palm of His hand and is always right beside you.
"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:5

Spelling Bee

Saturdays can get really long and boring around the hostel if we don't have things planned. We didn't have anything special planned for this weekend and I was still brainstorming some ideas as we watched the movie, "Akeelah and the Bee" yesterday afternoon, a movie the kids really love. As we were watching it, the thought came to me that we could have a boarding spelling bee. The response was mixed at first, but I ended up with 24 participants, half girls and half boys. I spent an hour searching the dictionary for the perfect words and had quite a bank of words to use for our "bee," which was held in my classroom and ended up lasting two hours!

I am happy to report that the first ever "Boarding Spelling Bee" was a great success. The kids were so sweet and encouraging to each other and everyone showed wonderful sportsmanship. When one of the boys beat out the last remaining girl and won the bee, I was proud to to see him walk over to her and shake her hand and tell her "Good job," just like in a real competition.

The top four spellers will be joining me this week for a nice dinner outing, which they (and me!) are very excited about. I'll be sure to post pictures of us all dressed up for our special victory dinner. :)

Looking Up

I am excited to say that things are finally beginning to look up around here. We have now had two crisis-free days at the boarding hostel, which is a really big deal! The internet is working at home again, which is a huge blessing, and I've been feeling more at peace and rested the past couple of days. On top of that, I am seeing relationships beginning to grow between me and several of the new boarders and some of them are showing a growing interest in living for Christ. Thanks so much to all of you who've been praying for me and sending encouragement my way. If you only knew how helpful it is for me. I am truly blessed to have such wonderful people in my life!

I haven't been taking many pictures lately and definitely need to change that. I did take this picture this afternoon, though, of my sign language students and our guest, Monty. She came and helped me teach the students today and they were thrilled to have her there and show off their growing sign language skills. :) Another special part of the afternoon was when Monty gave all of the kids a "sign name". This should only be given to someone by a person who is deaf, so it was great that Monty was able to do that for the kids. I hope this afternoon is a memory they will hold as dear to their hearts as I will!

And here's one more. This is my precious class on "Friendship Day" (aka Valentine's Day) when they didn't have to wear their uniform to school. Don't let those boys fool you...they may try to look like tough guys, but they are total sweeties!

Challenges = Growth

I love watching inspirational "teacher movies" like Mr. Holland's Opus, Music of the Heart, and Freedom Writers. For years now when I've been in a difficult season in teaching, I have found myself watching one of these movies, having a good cry, and coming out with a renewed passion and motivation to make a real difference in my students' lives.

A couple days ago my wise mother reminded me of these movies that I love so much in the midst of some of the current challenges we are facing in the boarding house. She reminded me how in each of these stories the beginning held such great challenges, but the end result was by far worth every one of those challenges.

Last week was pretty insane and this week didn't start out too much better, but God really turned things around in my heart Tuesday evening, and provided for me a renewed passion and brokenness for these teenagers and the role He's called me to play in their lives. It's so easy when facing times of challenge to be overcome with the obstacles and to be kind of "short-sighted" instead of focusing on the big picture. That is definitely where I've been the past couple of weeks. However, on Tuesday afternoon I escaped to Audi Camp, my happy place in Maun, for a yummy cafe mocha and dinner, along with some much-needed time in the Word and prayer, not to mention a huge need for a God-given perspective change. God opened my eyes and heart to all kinds of things and I left there feeling a million times lighter than when I arrived.

Without going into more detail than is needed, I just ask you to continue joining in prayer with me for all of these precious teenagers God has put in my life. I pray for His wisdom, discernment, unconditional love, patience, and joy in fulfilling this calling. I pray that I will not be "short-sighted" but will keep in mind the big picture and the hoped-for end result, just like in all those teaching stories I love so much. I pray that I would deal with the boarding challenges in a godly way, always intent on reflecting Christ through every circumstance. Problems and challenges can be big, but God is so much bigger! And going through times of trial brings great growth.

I've been thinking a lot lately about one of the verses God has used to encourage me so many times, "Ah, Lord God! It is you who has made the heavens and the earth. Nothing is too hard for you!" (Jeremiah 32:17) Thankfully it is this same Lord who is working with and through me here in Botswana and will not give up pursuing each of these kids' hearts. Nothing is too hard for Him!

Clumsiness and Girl Time

Here's another one to add to my crazy week last week. If you remember on a previous post, I admitted on #1 that I am a seriously clumsy person. night last week after checking my email at the offices, I was trying to quickly walk back to the hostel as it was beginning to rain. I didn't have a flashlight, was in a rush, and am a clumsy person by nature...not a good combination. One second I was walking upright and the next I was on the ground, having apparently tripped on something. No major injuries, just a small scratch and some soreness....or so I thought. After a few minutes it became clear to me that I injured one of my ribs, either with a painful bruise or a minor fracture. Now, a few days later, I am fully convinced that I have a small fracture. I know there is not much that can be done for rib injuries other than to take it easy, take pain reliever, and monitor it, so that is what I am doing. I also have to be careful not to laugh, sneeze, or cough too much. The last two are easier than the first. Try spending all day with kids and teenagers and not laughing several times, especially when they know you are trying not to....impossible.

On a bright note, Saturday night was "girl night" with some of us girls at the mission. We left a couple of the guys in charge at the hostel and then Keturah (the other boarding mistress), Kelly (co-children's pastor with husband, Matt), Camilla (intern from London here for 3 months), Serena (former summer intern/now here again for 6 months), and I went out for a nice dinner and girl time. It was wonderful! And we didn't even discuss work one time! :)

(From left to right: Camilla, Kelly, Serena, Keturah, and me)
Things have been better the past couple of days and I am sincerely praying for a smoother, blessed week this week...drama and injury free!

What a week!

Talk about drama...this week has been full of it! I have officially decided that being a mom is the hardest job on earth...especially of teenagers! This week I've been totally worn out and discouraged many times. However, thanks to the prayers and encouragement of my "prayer team" and the loving faithfulness of the Lord, I am feeling much better as this week comes to a close. Here are just a few things I dealt with this week:

1. I experienced some discouragement last weekend when I held the first girls' Bible study, which is optional this year, and only six girls came. I knew not all of them would come, but it was a disappointment to have so few come, and especially to have some of last year's girls not come. (I have since been encouraged to change my perspective and rejoice that those six chose to come and to trust God that as I pour into their lives, God will grow them and will use them to help reach the other girls.)
2. We boarding parents had to have the "relationship talk" with the teenagers, drawing boundaries for boy/girl relationships. This talk was received so well...haha! Actually, in response we received rolled eyes, dirty looks, and the silent treatment. Lovely.
3. I had a falling out with one of my teenage girls that led to her not speaking to me for days. Praise the Lord that after notes written back and forth between us this week, He is working to heal things and restore that relationship.
4. There was a fight with three of the boys at one of the boarding houses, ending with all three boys falling off the porch and one of them breaking an arm, one being knocked unconscious, and one with sore ribs and back. All three boys ended up in the hospital but are thankfully ok now.
5. Two of my girls got into an argument one morning over showering schedules which led to one of my girls crying hysterically, almost hyper-ventilating, and proclaiming that she just wanted to go home. I ended up consoling her and talking things out for an hour. I was late to work and felt real empathy for the first time for all those working mothers out there.
6. We had a cell phone go missing and presumably stolen which caused a hostel-search. Fortunately the phone was found, though, and all is well.

On top of all this, I had one of my students in my class steal from another student and lie repeatedly about it, even after I found the stolen items hidden in her backpack. My response to this incident was, "Seriously?!?!?" Needless to say, this week I've been clinging to the verse, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me," and the truth that He will never give me more than I can handle.

As I said before, though, once I contacted my prayer partners and unloaded things on them, God immediately encouraged and strengthened me in an amazing way through their prayers and words of wisdom. I am so happy to be able to share a praise that at today's Bible study I had fifteen girls show up! This was such an encouragement to me and we had a wonderful time together learning about the Lord and taking time to worship Him. I've also felt my spirit being renewed and refreshed and am seeing things from a new perspective. As many people have been reminding me, God has big plans for this year's teenagers and all these challenges and opposition should just encourage me that big things are to come. I cling to that truth and pray that every morning I will rejoice that His mercies are new and remember that He will give me all the strength I need for that day.

Today I am praising God that He got me through this week in one piece and just pray that next week is much smoother!

*If you are interested in being a part of my prayer team, please just email or leave me a comment and let me know. Your prayers are so important to me!

My Class

Here is my wonderful Standard5/6 class:

I LOVE these kids!

"White as Snow"

Another of Emily's recent recommendations was Jon Foreman's music. I've been a fan of Switchfoot for years (of which he is the lead singer), but I've never really listened to much of his solo stuff. I downloaded a few songs of his, and one that I really love is called "White as Snow," based on Psalm 51. That Psalm has ministered to me more times than I can count. I especially pray verse 10 over my life frequently: "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me."

I wish this video had the words with it, but you can at least give it a listen.