Saturday, March 11, 2017

Far More Than I Imagined

2015 was a tough year.

Our ministry was struggling as we tried to recruit students.  Gil hurt his knee and had to stay away from sports for nine months (at the time, we thought it would be forever), which was a huge loss in his life.  Gil spent most of his days in front of a computer, writing curriculum for our training program.  It was a very, very quiet life, completely different from our previously vibrant ministry at Haven of Peace Academy (HOPAC).

And I could not find my place.

For 10 years, Gil and I had served at HOPAC.  I had started out as an elementary school teacher, but when we began our family, I looked for part-time ways to serve.  Yet HOPAC was still my entire life:  My community, my ministry, the place where my children felt most at home.  I assisted Gil in his ministry as chaplain, but my love of education got me involved in a wide variety of other programs, from coordinating after-school activities to strategic planning committees.  For the most part, those were golden years.

My sixth grade class, 2003
We left that ministry in 2013 and I had determined in my heart to move on.  I had deeply loved HOPAC, but I was also passionate about Gil's new calling into pastoral training.  Our kids would still be attending the school, so I planned to be involved only as a parent.  Since we returned to Tanzania in 2014, I have been a board member and a parent classroom volunteer.  That's all.  Only stuff that parents would do.

I was surprised by how deeply I grieved the loss of HOPAC in my life.  A big part of that was because I simply couldn't find a place in our new ministry.  I willingly worked on the administrative and recruiting tasks at hand, and I absolutely adore our partners in this ministry.  Mark and Alyssa are some of our very best friends.


But I was incredibly restless.  The struggles of our ministry multiplied in my heart. (Of course, the difficulties didn't last forever and the ministry is now thriving.)  But at the time, I wondered if we should even be in Tanzania.  I wondered if I wanted to be here.  Ironically, though he was discouraged at times, Gil never struggled like I did.  He knew his place and his calling, so working through the challenges were not a problem for him.  Knowing that I am a teacher, Alyssa kept trying to convince me to teach in the training program.  But I have never had a desire to theologically train adults.  My heart just wouldn't be in it.

We brought home Johnny in there, so that was an enormous joy, and took up a lot of my time.  But I knew that I only had another year or so before Johnny would start school.  A new season of life was looming before me, and I had no direction.

I diligently studied Swahili during that time, hoping that would open up more ministry options for me.  But as much as I prayed that God would show me what the next steps would be in my life, there was nothing.

In early 2016--almost exactly a year ago, the thought made its way up into my heart:  Why not go back to HOPAC?  It was a thought I had pushed away for two years, because I had closed the door on that chapter of my life and I figured it was slammed shut.  I thought I was supposed to move on from HOPAC, and I was deliberately doing that.

But I eventually asked myself:  Why am I fighting this so much?  I am a trained elementary school teacher.  Education is what I love.  It's what I'm good at.  HOPAC is my favorite school in the world, and I am passionate about its mission and vision.  And they need me.

So it was a year ago that I made the decision that in August of 2017, I would go back on staff at HOPAC.  It was amazing how freeing that decision was, how my outlook on life completely changed.   It was still a year and a half away, but the thought of going back to HOPAC made my heart sing.

I figured I would teach elementary school, or maybe middle school English.  There were always needs, so it wouldn't be hard to find a place for me to teach.  But in September, all my expectations were tipped upside down when the (very loved) elementary school principal announced that her family would be leaving at the end of this school year.

And suddenly, I had all these friends whisper in my ear:  Amy, you need to apply to be principal!  

Of course, I was immediately intimidated by the thought, but I couldn't stop thinking about it.  I had played with the idea of administration before, but I figured that was still a long ways away.  Yet I remembered all the various times when I was able to have a part in decision-making at HOPAC.  How much I loved interacting with staff and parents.  How thrilled I had been to work on teams that were making the school better.  How much I loved not just teaching, but the broader picture of education.  And how all of those things would be wrapped up in being a principal at HOPAC.

So I applied.  I went through two interviews with five people.  And about a week ago, I was offered the job.

In three weeks, we leave for the States. In August, I will return to Tanzania and become the elementary school principal at HOPAC.  In the meantime, I am cramming every bit of information I can stuff into my brain about this position.

It will be a huge change for me and for my family.  (Though I'll probably be able to spend more time with my kids than I do now, since we'll all be at the same place!)  But I am incredibly excited (and occasionally pretty nervous!) at this opportunity.  Honestly, I can't think of anything I would rather do than this job at this place with these people.  

So when I think back to 2015, when my tears of discouragement would drip over my dinner cooking on the stove, when I wondered if we should even be here, I stand in awe at what God had in store for me.  It is far more than I ever could have imagined.

this year's HOPAC staff










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