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.

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