I’ll just be honest; this month has been hard. God has taught me a lot in a short amount of time, and usually His lessons come out of some sort of struggle. Last school year I was able to observe a lot about the school in my periphery as I taught my classes and small groups. There were things I knew needed to change eventually, but for the most part I was able to just do my part and enjoy being around the kids. This year, several issues with the school have come into full view.
I began the term excited to step into my leadership role by planning and facilitating all the teacher meetings at the start of the year. There were a lot of really good and convicting conversations about the school vision and how we can intentionally share The Gospel with the students. Everything was well thought out, and I was certain that with the expectations being clear and having a united focus, that some of the problems I noticed from last year would be taken care of. In my head I was thinking “capwa,” which means “finished”. However, after those first few teacher meetings I realized that change is going to come VERY slowly, and will not be finished for a while.
Teaching in Zambia is done the same way at every school. Everything is done by writting on the blackboard, and there isn’t a lot of motivation to do anything differently. There are no critical-thinking or problem-solving skills taught, and social skills are completely ignored. There’s not much consideration of student engagement, learning styles, or relationship.
It’s hard to look at a ministry like the orphan school that has such potential for serious Kingdom impact, and see government teachers who lack integrity, ambition, and compassion. It’s even harder when one of your students explains that he’s being insulted by one of them, and then to hear from someone else that a different teacher is insulting the majority of her class. This is the main reason that life has felt a little heavy recently. I can’t stand the thought of these kids not receiving God’s love at this school. I’ve felt burdened for this school, and God is slowly helping me to give that to Him, and trust that He has a plan. It’s made me more desperate for daily guidance.
I’ve had to examine my own expectations and part to play here. I can do everything in my power to make this school better than it was. I’ve asked myself the question, “What if I leave Zambia and don’t make a difference?” Now, some of you might say, “But Sarah, you are making a difference!” And that’s nice of you, but not the point. The point is that God hasn’t called me to feel successful. He hasn’t called me to gain personal glory, or to feel like I’ve made a difference or accomplish something great. And He hasn’t called me to save anyone. He has simply asked me to be obedient.
The great thing is that He lets me be a part of His work for His glory. Even though it feels hard sometimes it is a privilege, and I can find peace in Jesus and the fact that He loves me. Instead of feeling frustrated at the teachers who aren’t united in Christ with us I’ve felt God speaking to my heart; so instead of always asking, “How can I make these teachers fit the mold we want?” I’ve heard God prompt me saying, “How can you serve these teachers, and through that be a light?” My prayers have mostly been focused on asking God to guide me as I lead the school, that He would help me to be a light to the students and teachers, and that He would help me to be bold in sharing The Gospel with these kids. I realized that I often use the excuse “actions speak louder than words” to not actually speak the words of the Gospel as often as I should. There is power in saying the words of The Gospel that will change hearts, and I hope that the Lord will speak to the hearts of the teachers and students.
And don’t you worry…There have been a lot of great things happening in the midst of the struggle. Let me tell you about a few…Seeing the OM missionary teachers love the kids, seeing one of the “tougher” kids become the most improved in my class this past week, finding encouragement through wise and prayerful teammates, Holly (missionary at the lake for 10 years) coming back from America for a visit, experiencing God’s grace in new ways, praise and worship with the kids, some of the girls opening up at Pure Girls, my weekly nshima lunch date with the grade 5 girls, and the crowd of kids that gather around my office at break time to play games.
One of my favorite experiences in Zambia so far though just happened the other day. I got to be the “soccer mom” for the boys. I mean that almost literally…I drove them to the game, cheered them on, held onto their stuff as they played, made sure to pack water for them, and drove them home. It started when a group of boys met at my house. We walked to the base so that I could drive them in the minibus through the bush to our field leader’s plot to play his team. I was the only non-Zambian in the village and felt totally comfortable. The game started late of course, and my boys played well, but lost the game. We all jumped back into the minibus so that I could drive them home (or close to home since I couldn’t drop off all 15-20 of them on the bush roads). They were all so excited to be crammed in the bus that they started singing; it didn’t matter that the lost. Then, as a huge truck passed us going the opposite direction we got stuck in the mud on the side of the bush road. Normally this type of situation would have been embarrassing or frustrating to most people, but I knew I was safe with boys. The kids all jumped out and immediately started pushing the bus. Some of the kids were telling me to reverse, some were telling me to go forward, and nothing was working. After a while I was about to give up and called someone for help. The kids wanted me to try one more time. I hear them all shout, “Everyone work together, it’s cooperation!” My heart filled with joy…Cooperation is our character trait of the month! I prayed that God would show them the value of working together. And He did! I drove out of the mud with the kids all screaming and shouting in victory. They piled back into the bus just as help arrived…We gave our would-be rescuer a thumbs up to let him know that we were ok, and drove off through the village and then town, singing even more elatedly because we saw God show up.
I cannot express to you how experiencing this “real life” moment, and small victory with these kids refreshed my weary soul. That’s what I want more of. Time with kids that isn’t focused around class and programs…just life.
-that God would provide the right teachers for the school, and work in the hearts of the ones that are here now.
-that I would hear and feel God’s guidance each day…and obey!
-that God would help the teachers and myself to share The Gospel clearly with the children through our actions AND words.
- for provision of more staff here at the lake…finance, field leader, teachers, etc.
-that the hearts of the kids would be open to receive The Gospel. There are so many cultural, spiritual, and traditional strongholds that keep them from experiencing Jesus. Pray that the Lord’s love would sink deep into their hearts.
Thank you so much for praying with me through all of this. God is at work here at the lake, and I’m so grateful to be a small part of it. He has a beautiful plan for the people of Mpulungu, and through the challenges and His redeeming grace I get to see it unfold.
P.S. The boys are saving for their own soccer ball, and somehow I became their treasurer. So now I have boys running up to me to give me one or two Kwacha at a time. It’s been really cool to see them all working together to save up for something that they care about.