Thursday, August 6, 2009

May Your Face Shine Upon Them

They walked into my fifth grade classroom in September of 2001. They were ten years old. I taught them long division and we read Where the Red Fern Grows and we all cried. Then the principal asked me to move up with them and teach them sixth grade, much to our delight.

We wrote to each other for two years, and then I returned just as they were starting 9th grade. Gil became their Bible teacher for the next four years. My role in their lives changed from teacher to friend/mentor. Many sleepovers, baby-sitting my kids, Youth Group on Friday nights, dinners, watching their basketball and soccer games, text message conversations late into the night, tears, laughter, questions. Staying with us for a weekend....weeks...almost a year in one case.

I have had many special students but none that I have known as long. They have come so far, accomplished so much, grown immensely in the past 8 years. I am as proud as a parent....will miss them like sisters....and just as worried.

Now they are off....three to college in the States...the fourth will join them after a gap year. Two are Tanzanian, one is Finnish, the fourth is a fascinating mixture. None have ever lived in the States before, one has never left Tanzania, all have spent the entirety or the majority of their lives in Tanzania. They've never been out of Christian school; all have spent all or most of their years at HOPAC.

So, of course I worry. I know what college life is like, what college guys are like....what college professors are like. I know what America is like.

So I pray. That they never lose their passion or vision for Africa. That they don't become too American, since that's not who they really are. That God will bless them and keep them and His face shine upon them.

And I praise God that I have been given the greatest gift a teacher can receive: the pleasure of seeing my students successfully finish. The greater joy of becoming friends.
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