Raul’s Gift

I’m not in the classroom every day. And, boy, do I miss it. Those rotten kids have a knack for weaseling their way into my heart. Teaching is so hard, but I miss knowing what’s really going on in our students’ lives.

I’m thankful for the work I have now, though. By helping with sponsorship, I’ve been able to peek into classrooms. And I feel like a proud grandma observing all her sweet grandchildren growing up so quickly.

A few weeks ago, I walked into Miss Mery’s classroom, excited to find our 1st grader, Raul. His sponsor family had sent down a small sack of goodies for him, and I was eager to pass along a hug and spend a moment catching up with him. I scanned the room full of brown, little faces until I finally locked eyes with Raul.

Immediately, I knew something was wrong.  When I called his name, Raul dropped his head and averted his eyes. Uh-oh, I thought. Somebody’s not having a good day. I put on my best smile and called his name again. He slowly stood up and begrudgingly shuffled towards the door to meet me.

Suddenly, someone yelled out in front of the entire class. “You want Raul?! He doesn’t deserve a gift! He went to the office for fighting this morning! In fact, why don’t you just keep him for the rest of the day? We don’t want him back in here.” By the time the barrage of hateful words had ceased, Raul was by my side, eyes glued ashamedly to the floor.

He doesn’t deserve a gift. I was angry that someone would make such a spiteful comment about Raul in front of his other peers. The “mama bear” in me wanted to protect him. But instead of saying what I really wanted to, I calmly replied, “Well, I’ll be sure to talk to him. It’ll be fine.”

He doesn’t deserve a gift. The words kept ringing through my mind as we silently walked out of the classroom. How am I going to smooth this over? I wondered. We looked for a spot to sit down.

There were some folding chairs in the breezeway. As we set them up on the sidewalk, I was at a loss for what to say. Maybe I can remind him how important and loved he is. Or maybe I’ll tell him just to ignore the mean comments. Perhaps we can talk about how to “rise above” the hatefulness and “be the better person.” 

But on a whim, I decided to take a different approach.

“Buddy, did their words back there hurt your feelings?” Raul barely nodded. “They weren’t saying nice things, were they? But you know what? One thing they said was actually true.”

Raul just looked straight ahead, not making eye contact, but still listening. “Remember how they said that you don’t deserve this gift? They’re actually right! Do you know what it means for somebody to give you a gift? A gift is something that’s especially for you without any expectation of payment. You don’t have to buy a gift, do you? A gift is something that’s free. And if you’ll listen for just a minute, I want to tell you about Someone who gave the biggest and best gift that’s ever been given….”

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Sometimes I feel a literal ache in my heart when I think of how these precious little babes are running headlong into an eternity without God. What will happen if their lives aren’t supernaturally intercepted? God’s great wrath, which is so heavily hanging over their heads, will have to be satisfied. There is a darkness waiting for them that I refuse to dwell on.

Pray with me, please. Pray that our teachers would seek out moments to share God’s great love-gift with their students. Pray that they would be so filled up with Jesus that His grace just spills out through their every word and action.

And pray that our students’ eyes would be opened to the truth. Pray that their working minds would fully understand and that their hearts would not delay in accepting the precious gift of eternal life that’s so freely waiting for them.

It’s Crunch Time!

Wow. In less than a month, the school year will be over. (That’s not gonna be emotional at all. Ahem.) Summer will begin, along with the race to get our classrooms ready for the 2014-2015 school year. Since we’re moving to a year-round school schedule, there isn’t going to be much of a break. Just two weeks of in-service and preparation before moving our classrooms from Batey Lima to the Freedom property! Yowza!

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School in progress – February 2014

This is an exciting time in the life of our ministry. Classrooms are going up, academic standards and objectives are being developed, first-year teachers are preparing (and preparing some more), and new enrollments are being added. It’s easy for me to get caught up in the craziness of it all. I quickly become overwhelmed when I think of all that must be done in the next 6 weeks. I’ve been trying to stay focused on the bigger picture and remember that this busy time is only for a season.

My two goals for the next couple of months:

1.) Remember that it’s “people over program”. As I work with Mery in preparation for her upcoming year in first grade, I don’t want to forget about her. Each meeting about lesson plans is another opportunity I have to develop our relationship. And as I spend these last weeks with my kindergartners, I want to find time to just be with them, showing them how valuable they are in the Lord’s eyes.

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2.) Allow God to be glorified through every aspect of this process. When big “life” stuff happens, I often run to my Jesus for strength and comfort. But when the little, everyday annoyances come knocking, I generally tend to let the frustration fester. I know I’ll be up late laminating and planning lessons. I know I’m going to be frustrated at the scarcity of time. Through the coming days, I want to keep my eyes fixed upward instead of on the circumstances around me.

With that said… It’s crunch time, people!

Independence Day – Dominican style

Thursday we celebrated Independence Day here in the Dominican Republic. Mery (my Dominican co-teacher) planned the activities for the kindergarten class. She’s getting ever closer to having her own group of kids next year.

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The highlight of the day was the parade through Batey Lima. The kids were adorable in their little campesino and padres de la patria costumes. Several parents came out to watch as we marched through the streets of the village. It was fun learning a little more about this nation’s history and culture.

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Chrislin – PK3

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Vickiana – PK3

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Albel, Alfredo, Javier – K

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Rosa, Bergica, Sonia – K

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Getting ready for the march

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Pre-school cuteness

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Mery and her costumed kindergartners

The little stuff (or maybe it’s the big stuff after all)

Sometimes I feel like I only write about the big things going on in our lives – the difficult struggles, the huge joys, the deep pain, the answered prayers. I thought I’d just share some little stuff from the week – things that have made my heart happy in the midst of the ‘daily grind’.

The kids are starting to lead out in prayer! I almost cry when I hear one of their little voices sounding out the typical “Señor Jesús, Te damos gracias…” that starts their conversations with Jesus. Marcia, Sonia, Chiquito, Nika and Yeanny have all volunteered this week.

Yeifrey has been exceptionally “roller-coaster-y” recently. I feel like I walk on eggshells with him – that he may explode at any moment. This week, I’ve really seen him searching for some extra love and attention. Each day during writing practice, he grabs my arm and says, “Miss Angela, please just stay…”

Sonia led her entire small group during center time today! We were short-handed when we first started centers, so I just gave her the little worksheet and told her what I wanted. I asked her to explain to the others how to match the color names to the crayons. I’d look up every once in awhile to check on them, and they were staying on task better than any group so far – without a teacher there! Sonia is one smart little gal. So proud of her.

I’d be lost without my helpers in the classroom. Our Dominican teacher Mery seems to know the days I have no strength. She leads the kids with confidence and creativity and energy. Kurt interacts and plays with the kids – he’s recently taken on the task of helping struggling students learn to write their names. Gabe has been great about doing whatever I ask him to do. And Katie fills in all of the gaps to keep things moving throughout the day. Prepping notebooks and pouring juice and dishing out hand sanitizer and talking with kids in the corner aren’t the most splendid of ways to spend one’s time. But in my mind, those humble jobs are the very ones I imagine Jesus rewarding someday as we stand before Him.

Recently, I’ve just really felt the presence and closeness of the Lord in the classroom. I don’t know who all is praying for us, but I can attest that God has been helping me personally as of late. Days are still chaotic, emotional, and draining. But through the struggles, I can feel my Savior’s gentle leading. He is so very faithful – even in the little stuff.