Wednesday, June 10, 2015

In Three Years

It's hard to imagine that 10 months ago, I was preparing to leave for Niger, West Africa.  The dream seemed so big and yet God proved faithful once again to bring me to a place of humble awe and  trust.  To say that I am grateful for the experiences of this past year would be an understatement.  Thank you for sharing this incredible journey with me.  It has had its fair share of tears, laughter, good friends, and hard moments.  The tough times make the good times sweeter and I can confidently say that I am not quite who I was when I left the States.

"God always ignores your present level of completeness 
in favor of your ultimate future completeness."  
-My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

God has taught me so much this past year at Sahel, through my students, other missionaries, Bible Studies, the people of Niger, friends, and strangers.  I think one of the lessons that applies most to my work as a teacher is "try, try again."  How tempting it can be when it's hot and the classroom's AC doesn't work and you bombed a lesson the day before to simply give up.  I struggle to keep fading students' attention, sweat soaks my shirt and my brow, talkers interrupt me (again), I repeat myself for what feels like the thousandth time, routine is interrupted by charts and band aids and tattles, and learning feels slow.

Sure, teaching changes lives and I was told that I can make a difference and that change is possible.  But all of that doesn't mean that getting there isn't difficult.  Man, it's just tough.  No matter which way you slice it, teaching is hard.  Even something I am passionate about tries my patience.  Even something God has clearly called me to leaves me feeling unmotivated and empty.

After graduating from college - 4 years of training, studying and experience in the classroom - I thought surely I am ready for my own class...bring it on.  But what they don't tell you is that teaching can be boring.  What they don't teach you is how to trudge through the hard days.  I was too busy pouring hours into a 45 minute lesson, using as many manipulatives and modes of intake as I could.  But when you teach 7 subjects day in and day out, the sparkle and fancy lessons just aren't always there.  Sometimes teaching is just hard.

"The proof that our relationship is right with God is that 
we do our best whether we feel inspired or not."  - Oswald Chambers

Partway through the year, I thought to myself, "I can't do this!  I can't do this today, let alone for the rest of my life!"  I was overwhelmed at the mere thought of retiring as a teacher, 35 long years under my belt.  The same thing for 35 years?!  How do people do this?!

And God whispered, "My child."  I was stressed about the years ahead, when the Lord said "Look to me today."

"The moment you allow yourself to think, 'What about this?' you show that 
you have not surrendered and that you do not really trust God."  - Oswald Chambers

I do not know where I will be in 3 years, let alone the rest of my life.  And you know what?  That's ok!  Today, I know that God has called me to be a teacher.  And I will push through the tough days and embrace the "successful" days the same.  May I always be prepared to serve God wholeheartedly in whatever he asks me to do.  Even if that means teaching 8 year olds at Sahel Academy in the desert of Niger.

When I left Pennsylvania last August, I never imagined Sahel becoming a new home for me.  But what I've learned during the tough days of teaching, as well as the people I have come to know and love, has given me reason to call Niamey home.  After much prayer, I have decided to stay in Niamey this summer.  God has been good to plant a desire in me to serve the people here.  I am looking forward to having time in which I will not need to plan lessons, but can focus on language learning, processing my year here and the year to come, and possibly teaching beginning dance classes to elementary girls.  This summer will be rainy season and I am happy to see the weather change finally!

While there is much to anticipate about staying in Niamey this summer, I know it will be difficult to be away from friends and family in the States.  Please pray for connections to remain sweet.  The longer I live here, the more distant friends seem to feel.  Please pray against loneliness for this summer, since many families and missionaries leave during the summer months.  Pray that God will give me wisdom in how to use my time and that I will truly find myself refreshed this summer.

"The spiritual life is the life of a child.  We are not uncertain of God, 
just uncertain of what he is going to do next."  - Oswald Chambers

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