Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Beginning

Months after setting up this blog, I have finally been stationary long enough to compose my first post.

So why does my life merit a blog? What I do isn't that interesting. And, come on, it is not 2003 anymore. It's 2012 and you actually need a reason to have a blog.

All of that it true. I am a teacher and, really, the only people really interested in the inner workings of your average classroom are your principal and, of course, your mother. But where I teach is worth writing about it. And if I say so myself, it's worth reading about.

My classroom may not look that much different than your average American classroom (although it's smaller than most), but it's in a different place than
 Tenwek MK
any other American classroom. It's not in America. I live and teach in Bomet, Kenya. The Tenwek Missionary Kids (MK) School is a school for the kids of American missionaries living and working at Tenwek Hospital and I am the teacher. Well, I was. And I will be again.

After graduating from Asbury College, I spent one unhappy year teaching 4th grade in public schools. And one was enough. I had never envisioned myself as a missionary in Africa. I had always thought God was calling me to serve in the American public school system, but God used that experience to pry me loose from the life I thought I wanted and plant me firmly in the fertile soil of East Africa.

Tenwek Hospital is a 300-bed hospital in the rural highlands of Kenya--one of the largest Protestant mission hospitals in all of Africa. Many of the parents work at the hospital--as surgeons, pediatricians, nurses, etc, their spouses have ministries outside of the hospital walls--leading womens' Bible studies, coordinating resources for local orphanages, hosting visiting doctors.

When there is not a an MK teacher, those ministries fit around the task of homeschooling their kids. That's where I come in. I moved to Tenwek in September of 2006 to meet that need. There was no way to do all the schooling for all the kids--20 kids from preschool to upper middle school-- so I focused on the elementary students and taught a few classes a week for the middle school and preschoolers to supplement what they did at home with their moms. Was it a lot of work? Yes. Was it mentally (and when it came to middle PE, physically) exhausting? Absolutely. Did I love it? You bet.

The Kenyan Highlands
It didn't take long to realize that I didn't feel satisfied in the US because that was not what God had wanted for my life. While there were certainly ups and downs, I loved Kenya. I loved the school. I loved the kids and families I worked with. I loved Kenyan culture. I loved the beautiful land. I loved my life. By December, I knew I was where I belonged. By March, I had agreed to come back for another school year.
I could tell you plenty of stories about those two years--the creatures we found in the classroom, the creatures we killed in the classroom (that one was mostly me), the rockets we fired, gingerbread houses, the angry chameleon. But that would take far too long. In fact, it took an entirely different blog (now long gone) to chronicle those adventures. (Although, if you ask, I'd certainly love to share!)

So we fast-forward to June 2008. Many of the families I had worked with were headed back to the US for a year of furlough--technically called "homeland ministry assignment" because anyone who has been on "missionary furlough" knows it's anything but a vacation.
After many tears, prayers, and more tears, I decided to head back to the US, too. I needed to work on paying off student loans before I took on any longer term commitments and the timing just seemed right. So I closed out the school year, pack up my house and boarded the plane. In tears. Did I mention that already? I did not want to leave, even though it was obviously the right choice.

My intention was to work for a few years, pay off student loans, and then head back to Kenya for good. After loving Kenya so much and the difficult transition back to the US, I never expected to enjoy living here in the US again. But, somewhere in the past few years, I have started to. Despite all my expectations, I love my house, my church, my friends, living near my family (well, that one I expected to love), and last, but not least, my job. I teach primary art at a wonderful school in Lexington, Kentucky and have loved every single minute of it.

But God does not call us to an easy life. Thankfully. And it would be far to easy to tuck in, settle down here in the Bluegrass, and buy that house down on the Kentucky river with a big yard for a garden. And just stay. Near my family. Near a grocery store and movie theatres. A teacher supply store. Little Caesar's Pizza. An auto mechanic. Paved roads. Need I go on?

But, again, that's not what God calls us to. He calls us to spread his Name all to all tongues, tribes, nations, and people. And my part of that task does not involve a lovely little cottage on the Kentucky River or living near my family. It involves moving (a lot), public speaking, strange foods, confusing customs, lots of bugs, living four hours from a grocery store, and an ocean away from my family.  It involves seeing people in poverty every day and deciding how to understand that. It involves changing thought patterns and cooking routines. It means seeing so many needs all around and having no clue how to help--or even if I can. It means being an outsider and never truly fitting in.

So I am following God's plans and I am headed back to Kenya.  If all goes as planned, I will be back in Kenya by fall of 2012. In the coming weeks, I hope to post updates on my progress and where I will be speaking. (I am currently raising my support.) I am also hoping to write about some of the ministries the families at Tenwek are involved in. Feel free to ask any questions or leave comments. If you want more info on Tenwek Hospital, what I do, or how to get involved please contact me. I'd love to hear from you.