Every other month or so, Matt and Kelly take all the children's church kids to a nearby playpark on Sunday morning. Since Semakaleng and I have now started working in children's church every other Sunday, we were able to accompany the kids this morning. It was a wonderful time with lots of smiles and laughter. Here are a few pictures from the park:
Five of these guys are in my class. Love it!
Totally pooped out after a great morning!
*You can find the rest of the pictures from the morning here.
Today's "you don't see that everyday" and "oh yeah, I live in Africa moment" happened while my class was at a nearby pool for their swimming time. Several of the girls began pointing and laughing at the school bus parked close by, while exclaiming, "There are monkeys on the bus!" When I walked over to look, sure enough there were three monkeys running around the school bus. It was great watching the bus driver working to shoo them out and seeing one monkey just stand next to the bus, looking clearly offended to have been kicked out. Maybe he was the same one who left a little "present" for us on the dashboard.....I love Africa!
632 days since I arrived in Botswana. That's 15, 168 hours. I wonder how many of those I made count. I'm remembering today that each day provides twenty-four new hours to try to make a difference, to love, to share Christ with someone, to encourage someone, to laugh or cry with someone, to help carry a burden, to grow in knowledge or wisdom, to discover something new in the Word that I never noticed before, to appreciate the beauty in the creation around me....the opportunities are endless.
Praying that my last 75 days (1,800 hours) in Botswana are spent well, striving to make each moment really count.
A year ago I posted this post, asking for prayer for my brother, Jason, who was headed to Iraq. I am thrilled to say that as of yesterday, he is on his way home! He is currently in Kuwait waiting for his flight back to America, but in his words, "The good news is that there won't be any more artillery attacks or stuff like that. The only thing I have to worry about is getting sand in my eyes.....and I think I can deal with that."
Please join me in thanking Jesus for His protection of Jason, especially through those especially scary and dangerous times. And please pray with me that the rest of his journey home will be quick and easy, with his safe arrival in America this week. WooHoo!! :)
I was told when I first started teaching, "Teaching is hard and a lot of teachers leave the profession after a few years. If you can make it ten years, though, you'll be in it for life."
In a couple of months I will finish my 10th year of teaching. It's hard to believe it's been that long, but I am reminded of it every time I come in contact with a former 4th grade student of mine who is now in college! I've been reflecting a lot lately on this calling God has given me, one to love on kids, to help them reach their full potential, to build relationships, and to reflect Christ as well as I can to all those young people placed in my care for 180 or so days a year. I really can't think of another thing in this world I'd rather do.
It's funny when I came to Botswana on my scouting trip to figure out how I would best "fit" at the mission, teaching was not on the top of my list. I just figured that since God had called me out of teaching in America to serve in Botswana, Africa, surely He had other plans for me than just to teach. Well, if you read the first few posts on this blog, you'll see how the Lord slowly revealed to me that teaching was exactly what He had in mind for me, even here in Botswana.
You see, for some reason I thought God could use me to do more for Him involved in a "real ministry" here. Maybe I could serve more people. Maybe I could grow more. And maybe that is true, but what I've found is that He has given me a very special love for this occupation. Not so much the actual teaching of lessons (although I love that too), but mostly this amazing privilege and opportunity of having twenty or so children in my care everyday, providing incredible opportunities to pour out love and encouragement in countless ways, helping to shape who these kids might become, and striving to reflect Christ to them all through the process. What I've found is, this is a real ministry.
Some days my heart just overflows with thankfulness that I get to do this job. Today is one of those days. I felt it when I walked into my classroom this morning and was greeted with shouts of "Miss Andrea!" accompanied with big hugs. I felt it when I sat in chapel this morning next to two of my students as we giggled and sang and prayed together. I felt it when I handed back graded tests and saw kids' faces light up at their good score as they ran across the room to show their friends. I felt it when I found one of the boys in my class crying and after a walking chat together and a big hug, saw those tears turn into a smile. And I felt it when I checked the mail and found a letter from a former student who is now in 7th grade, writing to tell me "thank you" for teaching him and helping him to be a better reader and writer.
We teachers are so blessed. I mean truly, truly blessed. I hope we never take for granted this great calling God has given us. I know I personally am appreciating it more and more each day and looking forward to doing this for many years to come. Having almost reached that great 10-year mark, I'm happy to say I do believe I'll be "in this for life."
Here are a few updates from the first week of the 3rd term:
This week flew by! If things continue in this way, December 7th is going to be here before I know it.
School has started out great and I love having extra time to spend on teaching now that I'm no longer living in the boarding house. I have all my lesson plans done for the whole term (!) and have been able to stay pretty well on top of my grading. This is a wonderful change from previous school terms.
It's so much fun having some of my girls from boarding come by to visit me at the house. We've had great chats and girl bonding time. We sit around and chat, catching up on life and sharing memories, or we relax and watch fun girly movies together. Gosh, I'm going to miss these girls!
Bible study for the boarders kicked off well on Wednesday. I'm excited at the topics we'll be studying about and the guest teachers who will be coming this term. We're starting our series on "Sharing Christ with Others" next week, one they've been anxious to get started on for a while.
"Fire by Nite" (youth group service) was so great on Friday night! I really look forward to spending this time with the teens, worshiping alongside them and praying with them.
Kelly, Matt, and I met regularly over the break to pray for the teenagers and to do planning for the 3rd term. One of the things we planned for was a leadership training for a few teenagers we see in the youth group who have exhibited leadership skills and a heart for the Lord. We plan to have a lunch meeting with them twice a month where we pass on leadership skills we've learned and help them to grow stronger in their faith. Our first meeting went really well on Saturday. I can't wait to work with these guys the rest of the term!
Semakeleng (the deaf young woman I help sign for) has expressed an interest in helping with children's church, so every other week we help out in the preschool class. We were all shocked this morning when 40 preschoolers showed up! There were tons of kids at church this morning, an exciting testimony to how God is working!
It is really heating up here in Botswana. Summer has just started and our temperatures reached the mid 90's this week. I was quite discouraged when I looked at the weather for this week, which shows triple digit temperatures for most of the week. Oh goodness. How will we make it two more months until the rains start??
That just about wraps up week one. Looking forward to all the many blessings God has in store for this next week!
Now that I don't live in the boarding house but still see the teenagers around, I've come to a strong realization. I am going to miss these guys terribly. I mean seriously bad. My heart aches just thinking about it. Praise God for three more months with them because our time together is super sweet right now. I pray that He strengthens my relationship with them even more, so that it will stay strong across the miles. And thank goodness so many of them are so technology-savvy so we can keep in touch via Facebook! :)
Please pray for these kids with me. I love them so much and am so grateful I get to be a part of their lives. I believe in them and pray for God's absolute best in their lives. "Lord, draw these teenagers to You. Let them know You more. Let them seek You with all of their hearts and find You. Let your Word be life to them and a guide to each decision they make. Strengthen their faith, their perseverance, their love, their integrity. Please speak through me and all of their leaders to help them in this process of growing closer to You. Thank You, Lord, for loving these kids and for never, ever giving up on them."
I already have so much to be thankful for concerning my time here in Botswana, but I must say that I am feeling especially thankful these days. Here are a few reasons why:
I loved the month-long break I just had. Not only did I get to rest, I also had quality planning time for this last term, both for school and for ministry. I also met with my friends and fellow missionaries, Matt and Kelly, several times to pray for the youth and plan some things out. I'm very excited at things to come!
Also occurring during the school break was our annual church "Camp Meeting" here in Botswana. It was a powerful four-day conference with special guest speakers and visiting churches from many different villages. Kelly posted about the conference, along with some great pictures here.
There have been some recent logistical changes in boarding, resulting in me being asked if I'd be open to living in mission housing with another female missionary for my remaining three months here. Feeling that this would be a great transition for me (and the boarders), I packed up my little dorm room and moved across the mission plot to a beautiful house that I love! You can see the pictures of the house here.
Because I am now relieved of my boarding mistress role, I find that I am able to give so much more of myself to teaching. I have almost all of my lesson plans done for the whole term (that's three months!) and I am totally caught up on grading. This hasn't happened yet since I've been here! I also have much more energy and feel like I am able to do and give more with my class. Such a blessing!!
I am excited to continue ministry with the teenagers, with our weekly boarding Bible study starting up again tomorrow. We will be covering some wonderful topics and will be having some guest Bible study leaders coming in occasionally. I'm also thrilled with the new book study that will be starting next week with some of the girls in the secondary school. Additionally, I am loving my time with the boarders now that I don't have to be "in charge." I feel more freedom to just enjoy time with them and have already had some incredible conversations with a few of them. With this being my last term to get to pour into all of these kids' lives, I am praying it is a very meaningful and powerful one.
In my planning times with Matt and Kelly, we worked on planning a leadership curriculum for eleven potential leaders amongst the teenagers (boarders and non-boarders). We will be meeting with these kids every other week for a two-hour lunch meeting, working on teaching them leadership skills and helping them to mature in their relationships with the Lord. Our first meeting is this Saturday and we can't wait!
So much to be thankful for!! Please continue praying along with me for these teenagers and their openness to the Lord. I truly believe that this term has the potential to be the best one yet. God is up to something! I look forward to sharing many more praises in the coming weeks!!
My church back home is going through an incredible sermon series right now on the importance of confession in a Christian's life. According to 1 John 1:9, when we confess our sins to the Lord, we receive His forgiveness. But according to James 5:16, when we confess to each other and pray for one another, we receive healing.
Sadly, we've become a culture, especially within the church, where we believe, in Matt's words, that "it's not ok to not be ok." We want to keep our struggles to ourselves, hidden away from others, and often believe that we are the only one dealing with ....... (you can fill in the blank) and that people would shun us if they knew we were struggling with that issue.
The sermons from the past two weeks have wrecked me out. I can honestly say that my pride and insecurities keep me from being vulnerable with people about the things I am struggling with. And trust me, there's a lot. It's just that for whatever reason, we have this "best face forward" idea, where we only want others to see the good things about us. But honestly, how realistic is that??
The fact is, every single one of us is struggling with things, and probably every single one of us is wondering what in the world others would think if they knew we were struggling with those things. Can you imagine the freedom that would come with all of us taking James 5:16 to heart and humbly confessing to each other the sins we are dealing with while praying for each other, encouraging each other, and holding each other accountable?
I am hoping and praying that the truth of this scripture will become reality in our lives and we will begin to get real with one another, taking off our many masks. If we can do that, not only can we experience the healing referred to in James, but we can also destroy the hypocrisy that the world so often complains about when looking at the church, people projecting perfection while hiding a closet-full of hidden sins and struggles. Let's open those closets up and shed light on those things we are so afraid to let others see, knowing only in the light can we find the healing and freedom we so desperately want.
(Please find some time to go here and listen to the "And You will be Healed" sermon series. Also, read what some others are saying: Emily, Becca, Adrianne)
I saw this video recently from Emily's blog, showing one of my home church's worship leaders, Andy Melvin, singing one of his original songs, "Nothing Compares". This song is one of my favorites from Andy, so I was excited to see this video (plus it warms my heart to see a little snapshot of worship from The Stone. I love that place!) Just wanted to share it with you and I hope that you, too, are blessed by the reminder that nothing compares to the greatness of knowing Him.