Gil was set to work with Indian youth.
And I was given the job of teaching 5th and 6th grade at Haven of Peace Academy. I was 24 years old. I had two years of teaching experience and I definitely had no idea what I was doing.
But those students and I, we fell in love with each other. And those two years started relationships with many of them which have continued to this day. Some of them almost feel like my own children.
During those years, HOPAC recruited Gil to teach 7th and 8th grade Bible. Those were the days when HOPAC was desperate enough to recruit anyone who could breathe.
But Gil discovered two things: He was really, really good at teaching Bible. And he loved it.
We went back to California from 2003-2005 so that Gil could finish his master's degree. I taught kindergarten.
In August of 2005, we returned to HOPAC. This time, both of us working there full time. Gil became the first-ever chaplain at HOPAC. It was the first time that HOPAC had a full-time Bible teacher.
We had a lot of goals when we returned to HOPAC, but one big one in particular: Stay a Long Time.
The average HOPAC teacher stays for two years. I'm not complaining about those teachers--they meet a huge need and often have really good reasons for moving on. But you can imagine how that works as a school. Every single year, we lose about 30% of our staff. Every single year, at least 30% of the staff is new. The proverbial wheel is invented many, many times.
HOPAC needed their Bible curriculum developed. The students needed mentors in their lives who weren't going to disappear after a year or two. We decided that's what God was calling us to do.
The Beginning of the End
Fast forward 8 years, and we find ourselves today with 4 months left at HOPAC. Ten years might not sound like a lot of time, but in HOPAC's entire 19 year history, there has only been one couple who stayed longer.
The students who were in kindergarten when we started, are now in 11th grade. We've been through many graduations. Gil has taught, counseled, and coached hundreds of students. He has completely developed the Bible curriculum. We've started many programs. We've helped develop policy. We ran a youth group for 6 years. We've helped to put on 7 summer camps. We've accomplished almost everything we've set out to do.
(one of the many, many teams Gil has coached)
Now Gil's position is being divided into two: Full-time chaplain and full-time Bible teacher. The new chaplain and his family arrive next month, giving us much-desired overlap time. The Bible teacher won't arrive until July, but will be here a week in April to learn the ropes.
The End of the Beginning
Ironically, even though we poured our whole heart and soul into HOPAC for 10 years, it was never our ultimate goal. From our first term in Tanzania, Gil's goal has always been pastoral training in Africa. He was just pretty sure that a 24-year-old trainer of pastors wouldn't go over too well, and he needed to grow up first. So God led us to HOPAC.
So that's why our years at HOPAC, significant as they are, are really just the beginning for us.
In July, we return to California. We will spend July with our families. We will spend mid-August through September criss-crossing the United States, visiting friends, supporters, and former students (we've already got 58 people/families on our list....want to join it? :-)
From October through June 2014, we will settle down in an apartment in Santa Clarita. We will put our kids in school, re-connect with our home church, speak, speak, and speak some more. We will attend every missions conference, men's/women's retreat, and special event at our five supporting churches (and any other church who will put up with us!).
Lord willing, in the summer of 2014, we will return to Tanzania. To start the next season of our lives: Training African Pastors. But more about that later.