I think the biggest difference is that I’m no longer doing homework for Cedarville. I can’t lie: it is wonderful to not be doing Cedarville homework right now. 🙂 There are many other differences between my time at Sahel last fall and my time right now, but the lack of Cedarville assignments is definitely an obvious blessing.
The people have changed. This community will forever be a revolving door of comings and goings. I had the chance to say goodbye to many people last December, but there are friendly faces that left before I returned. The friend groups and dynamics have altered slightly compared to last fall. Certain students have switched classes or gone on home assignment, giving our discussions and conversations in class a different vibe. Beyond that, though, people just change. We mature and grow and digress and stumble along through various experiences that impact, affect, change us.
I’ve also changed. I can’t always tell the difference between “faking it til I’m making it” and genuinely having confidence in the classroom, but I’ll take either approach at this point. With no Dietrich to back me up on teaching choices (except that he’s still great about responding to my emails) and no Jenn to bounce ideas off of (again, save through email), I have to gain some independence in the classroom. I will say, I’m learning to enjoy having my own space to teach, to facilitate discussions, to encourage collaboration and learning. I love listening to and engaging in conversations about Persepolis and religion, Nervous Conditions and racial equality, Silas Marner and the complexity of human character. I still have so, so much to learn about teaching, but I’m deeply grateful to Sahel for trusting me to teach, prepare, instruct, educate their students. I missed the young adults that I get to teach, and I’m so happy to be reunited with them.
“Becoming more adventurous”
Last summer, when Stephen and I had only been dating for about 2 months, he gave me a remarkable gift. He presented me with a stack of envelopes and gave me instructions to open one envelope every other day for the duration of his time working at the Christian summer camp Skyview Ranch. Each picture included a chalkboard sign describing something that he appreciates about me. (I know, right? He’s so great. :)) Those even-numbered days were a constant highlight through last summer.
In one of my favorite pictures, Stephen is hanging upside down on a set of monkey bars, his legs hooked on one of the bars. He’s sticking out his tongue, his hair is listening more to gravity than to him, and he’s holding the chalkboard that says that I am “… becoming more adventurous.”
Granted, he was partially mocking me in this picture, referencing past conversations that we’ve had about risk-taking, being brave, and seeking adventures. But I’m realizing that for me, becoming adventurous connects closely with listening to the Holy Spirit. You see, I hate failure. I’m a recovering perfectionist, and I sometimes can’t handle not succeeding. It’s an issue, for sure. So for me, listening to the Holy Spirit, being willing to make a fool of myself, and trying something new are all intertwined.
Here’s what this means for me right now:
- I used a sewing machine for the first time to hem a small headscarf—more like a big head band. (Kathy owns a sewing machine. :))
- I went jogging—twice. The second time, I initiated it. I’m finally trusting God enough to ignore my non-constructive self-talk and just start working out.
- I also attempted cartwheeling. I’m a 23 year-old girl who has never learned how to cartwheel. I’m still learning, but at least I’m trying.
- I played volleyball in the pool with some boys at the American Embassy Rec Center. I’m assuming that they were Nigerien. They were probably middle school-aged and we passed and set the make-shift volleyball in the pool for a couple of hours.
- This morning I ended up leading the teaching of a Kids’ Club in Kwarateji, a village just outside of Niamey. I was visiting with my friend April, another Sahel teacher, and the Nigerien believer leading the club asked if I wanted to teach the lesson in French and have him translate into Zarma. Talk about praying for the right words from the Lord! We talked about Cain and Abel and how sin requires a payment of death. Then we connected the Old Testament sacrifices to Jesus’ ultimate, final sacrifice for us. Why is it that I’m sometimes bolder about my faith in French than I am en anglais?
At least in the small things, I think I’m learning to be brave.
May is upon us, and school is getting busy. In some classes, I’m struggling to figure out how I’m going to fill every class that we have left. In other classes, I’m really struggling to finish up the units that we currently have going. Some of my students have taken at least 2 of their IGCSE exams. I have 5 more exams (papers) to prepare my students for. Each course has between 2 and 3 separate exams/papers that students must take. After next week, my 9th graders will be done with their English exams. Hallelujah!
Speaking of the amazing 9th grade class, they successfully completed their 4th Movie Night fundraiser last Thursday! They did an excellent job, and I’m so grateful for my co-sponsor Rachel and all of the 9th grade parents. We had a great time preparing and serving loaded baked potatoes while families from the missionary and Sahel community came to watch Big Hero 6. It does feel good, as a pseudo/stand-in class sponsor, to have this event over. More than that, though, it feels wonderful to have worked with such a great 9th grade class!
Another huge praise: we sent the yearbook to the printers!! Granted, I don’t have a hard copy yet, and that will make me feel much better when I can actually hold our finished yearbooks. But once again, I’m feeling so proud of and grateful for the yearbook staff this year. I’m also really grateful for Dietrich who helped them to get so much done during the first half of this semester! Thank you for your prayers for this task.
We have 3.5 weeks of school left. What?! How did that happen? Didn’t I just get here? Time flies when your “first year of teaching” is actually a fall semester of student teaching and then less than 2 months at the end of the school year.
Also, please keep in mind and in prayer the needs for Sahel Academy for this upcoming school year. We still need a 4th grade teacher, a high school English teacher, and math and science teachers for middle and high school. Additionally, the school really needs a new director so that the Administrative team does not have to carry that weight of responsibility. Thank you for praying with us and for us. We’re praising God and waiting expectantly to see how He is already planning to fill these needs.
I’m trying something new in my journal. In a conversation that I had with Mrs. Morris a few weeks ago, she mentioned that sometimes she writes in a journal in one color of ink for her thoughts and prayers, then a different color of ink for what God tells her. I thought about that quite a bit. I’m relatively consistent with my communications with God in that I talk at Him a good amount. I tell Him my anxious thoughts. I praise Him from time to time. I tell Him my fears, hopes, concerns, petitions. But how frequently do I seem to really hear from Him?
I’m starting to write in cursive when I feel like I’m hearing God’s words. (Yes, my wonderful elementary teachers at Grace Christian School did teach me how to write in cursive.) I don’t mean to be pretentious; I’m not getting specific messages from God. I’m not hearing an audible voice calling to me in the wee hours of the morning. “Yes, Eli, I’m here.” I just mean that I’m trying to quiet myself a bit more than usual so that I can receive whatever passages or phrases from Scripture God is trying to remind me of. I’ve also been reading Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot, which has been both encouraging and challenging, reminding me to truly wait on the Lord. It’s a slow struggle for sure, but I get the feeling this is one of those good struggles.
- Pray for 9th and 10th graders taking their IGCSE exams in the upcoming weeks.
- Pray for 11th and 12th graders taking AP tests.
- Pray for and end to the meningitis outbreak. Pray for quick, effective treatment for those who are sick.
- Pray for my family back home, for good health and great time with the Lord.
- Pray for Stephen and me, that we will continue loving each other well while also living presently where we are.
- The yearbook is at the printers!
- The Movie Night was a great success.
- We’re making it through hot season. 🙂
- God pursues us, and He is so, so good.