Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Exceedingly, Abundantly

I wrote this piece for HOPAC's semi-annual magazine, which came out the last week of school.  

We leave tomorrow for California.  I am sitting in the midst of suitcases (and procrastinating, I must admit....I really hate packing.)  This piece sums up well our 10 years.

I remember the first time I stepped foot on the HOPAC campus.

It was August of 2001, and I was 23 years old.  I was to be the grade 5 teacher that year.  The campus had just been built, or rather, was being built.  It wasn’t finished yet, but I was expected to teach in just a few weeks.  My classroom had a pile of boxes in the middle of the floor and nothing else, not even any whiteboards on the walls.  Nothing in the storeroom.  There was no teacher orientation and the only administrator arrived just a few days before school started.  And the photocopier was broken until the day before school started.

It was beyond overwhelming.  I had no idea how I would make it through the first week, let alone the whole year.  I was more terrified than the students on that first day.  But from the moment those students stepped into the classroom, it was love at first sight.  Their enthusiasm, humor, inquisitiveness, and diversity set them apart from any students I had ever taught.  And it didn’t take me long to figure out that I loved teaching at HOPAC.  HOPAC students were eager learners.  I was given the freedom to build relationships with them and their families, outside of class.  And most importantly, I was allowed to integrate a biblical perspective into everything I taught.  

During that first year, a secondary Bible teacher was needed for terms 2 and 3.  Gil had come to Tanzania to work with the youth of a local church, but he agreed to take on the grades 7 & 8 Bible classes at HOPAC in his free time.  He had a Bible degree but had never taught before.  It was then that Gil realized he loved teaching Bible.  The HOPAC director starting actively recruiting Gil to come to HOPAC as the full-time chaplain and Bible teacher.  And the rest is history.  In 2005, we returned to HOPAC in that role, and that’s where we’ve been for the past 8 years.

Teaching at HOPAC has been so much more than just a job; it has been our life.  Gil has been coach, counselor, photographer, youth group leader, and mentor to HOPAC students.  We’ve had students eat with us, cry, laugh, and have parties at our house, and sweat all over my couch after playing basketball.  Our students prayed for us as we waited long months to bring home our daughter, Grace.  Josiah came home to us two days before the 2008 school year, and Lily joined our family the second day of the 2011 school year.  HOPAC was always the first place we brought our children.  They have grown up with 300 big brothers and sisters who have loved them from the very first day. 

God is leading us on now, though it’s hard for us to even imagine working somewhere else.  But God showed us a long time ago that one day Gil would be involved in training African pastors, and we know that now is the time.  This summer, we are headed back to California, where we will stay a year to re-connect with our family and supporting churches.  In 2014, we will return to Dar and Gil will join a team which is dedicated to theological training of Tanzanian leaders.  Our kids will still be at HOPAC and we will still be around. 

Haven of Peace Academy will always and forever be in our hearts.  God has blessed us exceedingly, abundantly during these 10 years.  We have seen the school grow physically, academically, and spiritually.  We have had the joy of worshipping God here with hundreds of people from around the world.  We have been embraced by an incredible community.  What more could we ask for?  We love this place dearly, and that will never change.

May you continue to grow in God’s crazy love, HOPAC.  May you treasure Jesus Christ above all things.  May He be glorified as His grace flows through you and into the world.  That is our prayer for you, always and forever.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

For Good

I first met Carley (in red) in 2005, when she came to HOPAC to teach kindergarten.  I helped her label books and gave her tips since I had just finished teaching kindergarten.  Later that first week, I hugged her as she cried at recess time over one horrible exuberant student.  Now she's assistant principal.  And in November, I got to witness her marry her best friend.  I cried there too.

Lauren (in gray) and her husband Ben arrived in 2008, both to teach at HOPAC.  They came with our mission, so Gil and I were in charge of their orientation.  They quickly became a part of our family.  I remember crying with Lauren that first year, in the principal's office, trying to convince him to allow us to plan a graduation ceremony for the seniors (which was totally inconceivable in British culture).  Now Lauren's husband is the principal and lets us do whatever we want.  Ha.

Two years ago, our journey to bring home Lily started Lauren and Ben on their own journey to bring home a  little girl.  It's still not over, and I have shed many tears with Lauren in her anguish.

Girls bond over tears, don't they?

Lauren and Carley were in our home every single Friday night for many years of youth group.  We've eaten countless meals together; celebrated numerous holidays together.  We've planned and organized and talked and conspired together over ideas on how to make HOPAC better and more wonderful.  We've celebrated and agonized over students.

And though both of them will be here when we get back, it won't be the same.  We'll still be friends but we won't be co-workers.  I won't see them every day and I won't get to plan stuff with them.

Both are incredible examples of perseverance and steadfastness in the face of despair, loneliness, and heartache.  Both love Jesus more than they love life.

At the graduation dinner, one of our students sang this song from the musical Wicked...."Because I knew you, I've been changed for good."

That's you, Carley and Lauren.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Your Friendly Neighborhood Missionary


My name is Amy.

I am coming to a church or a neighborhood or a coffee shop near you.

For the first time in 8 years, I'm going to have the time to do more than just hug you or shake your hand or comment on how much your kids have grown. 

I'm really, really excited about this.  But can I tell you a secret?  I'm also pretty nervous.

I am an introvert and initiating relationships is hard for me.  I've come a loooong way since high school, when practically everyone intimidated me.  The nature of my job has forced me to get better at initiating conversations.  And here in Tanzania, I'm pretty good at it by now, because I've lived here a long time and I am comfortable here. 

But the thought of living in America and getting to know American people?  Kind of scary for me. 

Because I know I will be the oddball.  I don't know anything about online banking or cell phone plans or what kids' programs are offered at the YMCA.  I'm terrible with fashion and make-up and making myself look American.  I feel strange using credit cards instead of cash and I haven't pumped my own gas in years. 

And I know from past trips home that people don't often really know what to do with me.  I'm not sure if it's because I am an oddball, or if it's because I am a missionary and therefore not really human. 

So can I just get a couple things out in the open right now?

I want to be your friend.  Promise.  And I am really going to make the effort, but if there are times when you are wondering whether or not I want to be invited to that women's event or baby shower or scrapbooking party or whatever, let me tell you this now:  YES, I want to come.

I want to connect with you.  We are missionaries to Tanzania, but we are not immigrants to Tanzania.  There is a big difference, because it means that California still is our home and we want to maintain a connection there. 

I love to talk about Africa.  But sometimes people seem intimidated to ask us anything about it.  I think that's because they don't want to seem ignorant or they don't want to admit that they actually haven't been reading our email updates.  But seriously, that's okay with us.  I don't remember everything from your Christmas letters.  I'll probably ask you for the names of your kids more than once.  We don't expect you to remember everything about us either. 

I love talking to kids about Africa, because they have no inhibitions.  They ask, Do you live with lions?  We love those questions.  Adults think it, but they don't ask it.  Go ahead and ask.  We won't think you're stupid. 

And if you don't want to talk about Africa, I'm okay with that too.  I just want to get to know you.  I've watched all the seasons of Downton Abbey and The Office and Modern Family.  I follow U.S. news and politics, so we can talk about those things.  Honestly, as I think about these last few years, the hardest part has simply been being a mom to small children.  I've got 16 years of Africa stuffed inside me, so I know that makes me different.  But we probably have more in common than you think.

So....will you be my friend?

Thanks.  Can't wait to hang out with you.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Drum Roll, Please.....

....and the winners are..... (picked out of a box by Grace and Josiah...and nobody peeked).....
Janet P.!
Since I know both of you personally and will see you this year, then I will give your prizes to you in person. 
to everyone who commented.  I loved reading your have no idea!  I wish I could send something to each of you!  (and this was so much fun that I will do it again sometime!)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Crazy Love

They came on Sunday afternoon.  So many of them; these people we love.

And they played the games that Gil loves to play and has played so many times.  And we laughed together and ate together.

And when the eating was done, they all sat down on the floor of the basketball court.  The place where we have seen so many assemblies and graduations and sports tournaments and International Days and Christmas programs and the place where our hearts have been exchanged with theirs.  

So it was a good place to sit.  

And we laughed and cried and they loved us, and the sadness and the sweetness intermingled.  
And then they surrounded us with their love and lifted us up to the One who loves us even more.    

 My cup overflows.  

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Thanks, Guys.

Dear Blog Readers,
Hi.  I really like you guys. 
I love writing.  And you guys read what I write.  So...thank you!
I have been doing a lot of shopping lately.  We have a lot of people to thank, and a lot of birthdays and other holidays coming up in America. 
But while I was doing all that shopping, I also thought of you guys, my readers. 

So I bought you these.  Do you like them?  They are boxes carved in Zanzibar style, which is my favorite type of carving here. 

I know, I know, there are only two.  And I think there are about 200 of you.  I couldn't buy 200 boxes. 

So......we're going to do a drawing!  Ooooooh...I'm so excited.

All you have to do is leave a comment.  (I'll tell you how to do that below.)

There are a couple of reasons I am doing this:

1.  I want to thank you for sticking with my blog.

2.  Because I want to know who you are.  If I have a real-life conversation with you in America, it really helps me to know if you are reading my blog.  Because, well, then I know that you know me.  It's kind of weird, actually, to think that you know me so well and I don't know you nearly as well.  But still good to know. 

So would you tell me who you are? 

This is the deal:

Leave a comment and tell me you are reading my blog.  You can do this one of two ways:

If you have a gmail account or blogger account, just sign in with that username. 

If you do not have a gmail account, then you can leave an anonymous comment.  How will I know who you are, you ask?  Well....sign your name after your comment!  Then the anonymous comment won't be anonymous anymore....crazy how that works.

If I don't know you, would you please let me know how you found my blog? 

And if the whole comment thing is just too technological for you, then just send me an email and tell me that you read my blog. 

I will wait about a week, put all the names into a hat, and let you know the winners!

I am willing to send these boxes anywhere in the world. 

Oh, one more thing.  If you live in East Africa and already have a half dozen Zanzibar boxes in your house, then if I choose your name, I will send you a bag of American candy of your choice!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Wonderful Life of Grace Medina, Part 2, and the People Who Make it Wonderful

Living in Tanzania is a pretty great place to grow up, but attending HOPAC....well, that really puts it over the top.  I am so thankful that my kids get to attend here, and Grace (and even Josiah and Lily) have been able to participate in such wonderful experiences.  

You'll see pictures below of a 1K Fun Run (part of a 5K race for older students) that Grace participated in...and won for her age group!   

You'll also see pictures of beautiful murals.  Grace got to be a part of this after-school group which spent a number of months designing and painting murals in front of each elementary classroom.  

And third, pictures of the The Legend of the Lion King, a wonderful performance that all three of my kids got to join.    

What's remarkable about all three events is that they were all initiated, coordinated, and staffed by volunteer teachers.  No one forced Rose to organize the 5K.  Sarah and Emily volunteered to teach a group of a dozen students or so to paint murals (knowing that there would be lots of small children and paint involved!)  And Sue and Jenny took on the ambitious Lion King project purely out of love.
They did not get paid overtime.  It was not part of their job description.  
They did these things because they love Jesus and HOPAC and our students.

Those are the kind of people I want my kids to be around.  
So, so blessed.  

The1K Race

The 2013 Mural Project

(Grace with Mikayla and Ellena.  They designed and painted much of this mural.)

The Legend of the Lion King

Rafiki with Baby Simba (aka Josiah)

Pride Rock

Timon and Pumbaa