I’ve made it.
The end of the school year.
I don’t want to be over dramatic by saying “I didn’t think I would ever make it.” Obviously I knew June would eventually come, but there were scores of moments and situations throughout the last ten months in which I could not visualize how I would get to the other side, and do so gracefully.
But now I’m in the last week of my first year as a teacher. A week full of whole school send-off activities, students unwilling to focus on simple tasks, and teachers who can’t blame them.
After this week I will be flying home to America. There I will be reconnecting with friends, especially those whom I’ve had difficulty staying in touch with while so far away. I will spend time with my family who have supported me to no end, in the last two years especially. I will be working my fourth summer at Shine Summer Day Camp for the entire seven weeks I’m home, teaching kids about the heart of the Father and working with an incredible staff to give them an exciting summer. But most importantly to me, I will be removing myself from the stressful, demanding environment I’m currently in, to experience and learn from God in new ways. I’m excited to see what He will reveal to me about what I think I’ve learned in the past year, as I reflect on it from afar. I hope to renew, refresh and reconnect before returning to Uganda on August 17.
As to be expected, my first year as a teacher was hard. I had been warned in many of my education classes in college how hard it would be, but my God, until you do it, you just don’t know. I was faced first hand with the problems modern day schools face, but also additional complications that come when you put together students from nearly every country around the world, and challenges that arise when trying to run a top notch school in a developing country.
On top of simply being a typical first year teacher, I made the decision to do that first year in a foreign country—7,000 miles from home. Because of that choice, I have spent countless evenings alone in my house, wishing I had a community of other young women, or even one female Christian friend to work through life with. I have been confused over and taken advantage of because of cultural differences that result from being a member of a huge racial minority. It has been a year of calling out to God questioning why He seemingly dropped me in this strange country, in a job I don’t feel qualified for, where my co-workers are over worked and burned out and sometimes lash out at me over simple matters. It has been a year of growing in wisdom, patience, and self-control, while I attempt to teach affluent middle and high school aged students from all over the world. It has been a year in which I have often felt completely unsupported both professionally and personally.
In spite of, and ultimately because of, the challenges I have seen this year, God has done so much in me. All of that work deserves time to reflect on in order to really understand His heart behind everything that has happened. And to be honest, Uganda doesn’t yet feel like enough of home to be able to go through this reflecting process here. I need people around me who know my heart and make me feel grounded. I need separation. I need an ocean of headspace.
I know I need to go but In several ways, I am sad and afraid to leave Uganda for so long:
I’m scared to trust God to protect the the kids on my street whom I have built relationships with. Honestly, I’m afraid some of their families’ financial situations won’t allow them to stay where they are until I return in August to see them again. I’m fearful that this goodbye could be a goodbye forever.
I’m a little annoyed that I’m forced to put my long, pain-staking process of building a community around me here in Kampala on hold. I won’t be around for the first several weeks that some good friends of mine come to stay here in Uganda. I’ll be missing so much time with women who are only here until the end of the summer. I can’t help but think of all that could be done relationally if I were to stay.
I’m sad to leave my wonderful boyfriend, who is so often a peacemaker in my life, and be away from him for all those weeks. I’m filled with irrational fears that I’m not as strong as I need to be to sustain a long distance relationship well—even if only for two months.
But for every fear there is a whisper of peace from the Father.
“Yes, of course I will take care of those children, because they’re my children. Stephen, Nakayiza, Kabebi, Nakito, Nakato, Malcolm, Dan, Ashem, Aki, Azza—They all matter to me. I can’t promise I will keep them where you can see them, but I love them more than you do and I will take care of them anywhere they are.”
“I already know the women I have chosen for you to be in community with and you are not losing time with them. Focus on your relationship with Me and I will put you in the right place to meet these girls, when the time is right.”
“Michael will be just fine without you. I will watch over him. You will not lose anything. Remember, he is not your source of peace—I am. Your relationship will grow if you both lean on Me for strength. Look forward to the perseverance you will both gain if you abide in Me during this time.”
On top of all the important character traits God has been rooting in my heart in this season, the most important thing He has started growing in me is the imperative practice of Relying On Him. This is an idea that is thrown around often casually as a skill and mindset good Christians should have. But in the last 10 months, He has shown me more of what it should actually look like in my own life.
God has kept me isolated from close Christian community to intentionally teach me what it really means to rely on Him. He has allowed me to go through challenging situations so I can practice trusting in Him whether there’s something I can personally do about the situation or whether there’s nothing I can do but pray. While I’ve stayed in Kampala, my boyfriend continues to live two hours away at his job. The Father allowed my eyes to be shielded when a girl my own age tried to reach out to me for friendship. He stays with me when it becomes increasingly difficult to remain connected with friends back home and around the world.
God knows me well and He knows I’m way more likely to call up a friend to get together to talk or message someone online than I am to be still and call out to Him. He has shown me how important Christian community is and that it’s something that isn’t going to just come to me like it did in college, it’s something to fight for and be diligent in pursuing.
God doesn’t want me to be isolated from other believers but He knows I’m stubborn, and He has to speak to me dramatically in order for me to get the idea—I have to learn to come to Him first. Developing my relationship with God is why He created me. It’s God I’m going to spend eternity with. He loves me. He wants me to KNOW Him, and maybe I wouldn’t be able to do that as well if I had a plethora of people around to distract me. Maybe.
Clearly my feelings are divided at this point, but I’ve made it. I finished the school year and I can look forward to putting the stress of this year behind me. I am beginning to be at peace with the fact that this time next week, I will be home in familiar Michigan surrounded by family and friends. I’m excited to talk about all God has done and all I expect to see Him do in the future. I may be going home to reflect, but I still have another year to go at this job. I’m now half way done with this contract; It’s only the end of the first act. I’m excited to see what God has planned during this time, my intermission—a short pause in the activities to take a break, move from your seat, talk to the people around you, get some refreshments and prepare for the second act.
Rooted by Banning Liebscher