High School Camp

How do I write about the last week?  There are about a hundred different angles to choose from.  With North Americans, Koreans, Bolivians, and more I could write a linguistic study on code switching.  A reflection could probably be written about the dark screen of hypocrisy found in Christians schools and the lights that shine through.  I could write an entire blog post on my joy in being able to play Ultimate Frisbee again.  

But I think I'll say that camp was a special time.  These students sit in classes together for months.  Students and teachers alike spend plenty of time together living life.  Something special happens when the regular living of life stops, though, and people retreat to spend time doing something different.  Something really special happens when that something different is seeking God's face together.

I counseled the eleven senior girls this week.  When they pulled their hard-cased, bright-colored, shiny suitcases into a dank, cement floored cabin with smelly foam mattresses on triple bunks, the divisions were glaringly obvious.  Two very different groups of girls with only a few sharp words spoken across invisible boundaries.  I began to dread the four days I had been looking forward to.  Until the specialness of being at camp to seek God began to work its magic.

The invisible lines didn't last long.  On Tuesday a few girls were moving from their self-designated lunch tables to sit by their classmates, by Wednesday there were only two girls on each spectrum of the group that weren't caving in, and by Thursday even they were laughing and chatting with the rest.  Thursday night they all sat in a circle crying, lamenting that this friendship had waited for the last three months of their school career to happen.

I shared the gospel this week.  I stressed the need for Christ's lordship in our lives.  I used a lot of words, and I don't know how God will use them, because the girls seemed pretty unresponsive to anything I had to say.  But this God did.  He brought the senior class of my school together, and I pray that they will serve Him with all they have.

So, overall, it was WONDERFUL for me to be able to get away from the routine of teaching this week, and I remember that I love being a camp counselor and many other things in life.  I pray that it was wonderful for the girls I counseled to come together, and I pray that they get serious about what they believe soon.


Packer Pride

I will be missing school this week to counsel a camp for the high school students in my school.    I am so grateful that God is giving me this little break in the middle of the semester to be able to serve him in a way I am used to!  Pray for the students that I will be interacting with, and pray that God's name would be made great through this time.  Pray especially for the siblings of my students that I will have contact with.

So, this post is to let you know that I will not be posting for a week, and to show you how I feel loved here.  This is Benji, one of my students, who found this shirt to wear during the Superbowl just for me.


When I'm Not a Teacher

Too tired for much of a post tonight, but I did want to mention how much I am loving life in Bolivia.  Highlights of the last 24 hours:
- Throwing a surprise birthday party for my friend's 13 year-old niece.  Only 23+-aged single missionary women and her, and she loved every minute of it.  There's something special about hanging out with the "big girls"
- Spending time with a gringa friend here.
- Taking her to church for worship practice and enjoying a snack with my Bolivian friends later.
- Watching a movie!  I maybe watch 2-3 movies a month here, and almost no tv.  Life is too busy as a teacher.
- Speaking Spanish.  Be still, my heart. :)

So often in this blog the truth of my struggles with being a fifth grade teacher here comes out.  I want all my readers to know that I really love being in this country-- just struggling with lack of snow and expectations that exceed my abilities (but not God's power).

Just letting you know that teaching fifth grade might not be my last job in South America...

Upcoming post topics:
Singleness on the mission field
High school discipleship ministry
Plans for my summer and beyond



Funny that at this point in the week I would rather write a blog post than sleep, but I think blogging for me is restful emotionally.  My mind is more tired than my body tonight.

Mr. Russell was my high school English teacher and cross country coach.  I respected him immensely for the time and effort he put into his students.  He coached three sports and always was telling us how late he had stayed up the night before to correct essays.  My respect for him (and every other one of my teachers) has tripled in the last six months. Teaching is hard.  But I'm wandering.  I also respected Mr. Russell because he commanded respect in the classroom and because he respected us as his students.

Once, he told me that something that I needed to watch out for was people walking on me.  "You're so sweet, so kind, that you let people take advantage of you," he said during cross country practice one day.

I kept that advice tucked somewhere in my brain, and today it came out again.  Six months into my classroom, I see how my tendency to be kind, for lack of a better word, makes my students walk all over me unless I put on my mean teacher face.  The sad truth:  I am a pushover.

How does commanding respect fit into who I am, who God has made me?  Since He put me in a room with twenty 5th graders for nine months, I know He must have put that capability for that somewhere in my genetic makeup, as a survival mechanism if nothing else.  But oh, it is hard to pull out the respect muscles when I have let them atrophy for most of my life.

Paul was a man who commanded respect.  You can read it in the way he talks to the churches.  He defends himself.  And he does it in a way that makes God great.

Teach me, Lord.


Get ready for honesty

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."  Ephesians 4:29

The verse above is my school's theme verse this year.  I preface my post with it to remind both you and myself that my purpose in writing this post is to build up others.  I'm thinking specifically tonight of those who might be in situations similar to mine.

Today during my lunch break I was madly correcting Spelling books, knowing I had just enough time, when I realized one book was not done.  I can't explain the reason, but the consequences that this one little half-done assignment would mean sent me into instant fear and tears.  I kept plowing through another book because of my time constraint, when I realized that God would probably want to be with me during this moment of frustration.  So, I stopped correcting for a minute.  

This is not like me.  "Plowing through" describes me much better than "stopped for a minute."  But God has brought me to a place by His grace where I'm seeing my minute-by-minute need for Him.  I opened my Bible to look for a psalm of lament (thanks Dr. Seevers) because I wanted to put my feelings into words.  There in my classroom, as I wept through Psalm 109, my eyes caught the words of 108.  "My heart is steadfast, O God!  I will sing and make melody with all my being!"  What a thing to read when feeling terrible-- it actually encouraged me.  I decided to be steadfast in God at that moment.

Good thing I did, because 45 seconds later, as my tears were still drying, my students came in unexpectedly.  To make a loooooong story short, I ended up being the gym teacher, not having my science lesson prepared, and sending a student to the office.  

I sent my students away at 3:00 wishing that I could run away for the next three and a half months.  Teaching.  I feel like I work "with all my heart, as working for God and not for man" and end up being pretty mediocre.  I feel like I use every spare minute working or worrying for school and in the end fall behind.  Is the enemy just attacking me? What do I do?

I'm not quite sure yet what I will do, but I know what I will not do.  I spent the last month and a half of last semester counting down every day until Christmas break, refusing to see how God was using me, complaining often, being angry at my situation, sometimes my students, and sometimes even God.  I will not do that this semester.  By God's grace and power I WILL joyfully teach each day.  I will see hope in even students who are making poor choices.  I will not give up on excellence for my classroom.

There are people all around me (and far away) who are encouraging me, praying for me, and willing to help in any way that they can.  I'm going to accept encouragement, stay grounded in God's word, and rest when God calls me to.

At the missions conference I recently got to sit in on, I got to talk to the director of my mission and told him that maybe God had called me to Bolivia just to be in one of his sessions that really challenged me.  He said, "God first called you to Bolivia to teach fifth grade this year."  My calling for this year.  My duty.  My joy.

Romans 15:13.  You will see this often.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.


Long Time Coming

I apologize for the absence.  I was teaching and a part of my mission's conference last week, so there was not time to write.  This weekend I was so overwhelmed with things that I wanted to say that nothing came out at all.  So, I'll do highlights of the last week or so, then I'll pick a few things that I really want to say and post longer posts about those, maybe even tonight.  I feel as though I could write forever right now.

- I feel like God has given me some direction for my future!  Not an exact path, maybe, but some fog may be clearing.
- Teaching has not been easy since I last posted, but God is sustaining me with joy and hope by the power of His Spirit (Romans 15:13) daily.
- I have decided to make Romans 15:13 the theme of my year.  See above for why.
- I gave my students valentines, and saw how if I were not single this year God could not have used me in the same ways that He has.
- I have been very encouraged from home.  Dr. Storm sent me Missing-the-Snow medication, a family from my camp made me a wonderful video, and my mom and dad both have been so supportive all year that I really just want to hug them repeatedly.
- God reminded me why I am so passionate about all nations hearing His good news.  
- The Packers WON THE SUPERBOWL!  I cried through the first quarter because I missed my dad and tradition, but then was blissfully distracted by activity around me.  I am blessed to have been able to watch it.
- After a wonderful Christmas break of kicking my coffee habit, I have grudgingly returned to daily doses.  One day last week I had three cups in one day (so terrible for me!).  I will be trying for more sleep and less coffee.

So much more to say, so little time.  Joyfully serving God here in Bolivia!


Fifth Grade

I couldn't wait for the story to post this picture of my class.  Too cute.

If You Can't Say Anything Nice

The title of this post is definitely what kept me from posting earlier this week.  Monday through Wednesday was a hard stretch for me.  Heather left on Monday to go back to our home in Wisconsin for six weeks.  Now, six weeks does not sound that long to me.  But six months does.  And I miss my family A LOT.  That's how long I have to wait to see them.  Knowing that my sister got to see my little sister in her new apartment couldn't mean anything other than lots of tears.

So I was not ready to write anything nice.  I was just pretty weepy.  And pitying myself.  Who has to go an entire year without seeing their incredibly sweet and adorable six year-old twin nieces?  Why would God do that to a person?

God would do that to a person He wants to show His glory and joy to.  Teaching fifth grade here has probably been the hardest six months of my life.  Learning curve.  New culture.  Mix of cultures in my classroom.  Searching for acceptance and finding that it doesn't satisfy.  Leaving the closest friendships I have known in my life.

But I have learned more in the last six months than I can yet put into words.  I can't even put it all into thoughts yet.  I mostly learned things that I knew in my head but clearly hadn't learned in my heart.

I still have to learn to live where I am.  My heart still aches for the places that I call home, the family I love in Wisconsin and the life that I was so looking forward to in Minneapolis.  But God is teaching me moment by moment how to find joy in Him.  Even when I stand in front of twenty eleven year-olds feeling like a failure He is my portion.

And so I no longer have nothing nice to say.  I can say that I am grateful for all that I'm learning.  I am grateful to be able to attempt to glorify God in front of young students.  I am grateful to get to preach the Gospel to them.  

And while I'm very excited about the future, I'm going to try my very best to live in the present.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
- Hebrews 10:23-24