Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"So...How's it going...over there?"

We can see it written across his face as soon as we make eye contact across the church foyer. He is thinking, “Oh, that’s Gil and Amy Medina. They are missionaries…somewhere….somewhere in Africa. But I can’t remember for how long or what they are doing there….” [Looks nervously at our picture on the wall.] “Don’t we get their newsletters? My wife reads them….I’m supposed to know!”

That’s when we hear the question: “So…how’s it going…over there?”

We translate: “Where exactly are you living and what are you doing?” Don’t worry; we don’t take it personally. We can’t keep track of where you work or everything you are doing either, even if we do get your Christmas letter!

So here is the answer:

Gil and I live in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, East Africa. Tanzania is directly south of Kenya. Dar es Salaam is a city of over 5 million people right on the coast of the Indian Ocean.

Our ministry is at Haven of Peace Academy (HOPAC). HOPAC is a school that was established by the parents of missionaries for missionary kids (MK’s) about 15 years ago. Why is there a need for HOPAC? Well, the only other international school costs about $15,OOO/year. Many Tanzanian schools, though many are in English, put hundreds of students in a classroom and teachers are often bribed for grades. Of course, there are exceptions, but very few meet western academic standards.

All the teachers at HOPAC are missionaries, from a few different countries. Elementary school uses a mixture of American and British curriculum, and secondary school uses all British curriculum.

HOPAC has 3OO students from 3O different countries in kindergarten through 12th grade. About 4O% of the students are the children of missionaries. About 4O% of the students are Tanzanian. The rest are children of businessmen who are working in Dar. HOPAC is a day school, though one mission organization has built a dorm next door which houses about a dozen students.

HOPAC is bursting at the seams. Every class has a waiting list. This school year, there were 6O applicants for the kindergarten class—which could hold 22—and that is without one speck of advertising. The school could easily double overnight if it had the space and the teachers. HOPAC has a fantastic reputation and is much more affordable for families than the other international school.

HOPAC is also a Christian school, firmly based on the Word of God. However, 3O-4O% of the students come from non-Christian homes. All of the students participate in Bible classes and chapels, but parents are willing to let their kids do this because HOPAC is such a great school. Which makes for amazing opportunities for us teachers to invest in such a diversity of students.

Gil is the chaplain at HOPAC, which means he is in charge of the spiritual life of the school. He also teaches Bible to grades 7, 8, 9, 11, and 12 and an elective photography class. He has often coached after school as well. I used to teach elementary school at HOPAC until we got Grace. Now I teach 6th grade Bible and help out in a few other ways.

We see our primary ministry as discipleship. So we do everything we can to spend time with students. We host youth group on Friday nights at our house, and we have students over for lots of other reasons as well. We take students with us when we go places. We spend a lot of time counseling. They have become incredibly dear to us and their sorrows and joys become ours.

And… "How’s it going?” It’s going great. We love it. More specifics to come in later posts.

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