Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Jesus Take the Wheel!

Jesus Take the wheel! I was driving on Saturday night at about 9:45 PM going maybe 70 Km per hour on the paved "highway" between Carmelita and Orange Walk. I had three children with me who I had taken to see their sister's new house. It was dark and there weren't many cars on the road. Just as I passed the road to the sugar factory, the right front wheel blew up. It exploded. Immediately the steering wheel was yanked out of my hand because I was driving on rim. But surprisingly, I didn't lose control of the vehicle. As I was saying "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus," as in "help help help help!" I was able to quickly pull the car off the road to a stop. In my mind, it was as if Jesus took the wheel.

I remembered that my jack and tools had been stolen from the van, so even though I had a spare tire, I couldn't change it. I turned around and said to the children ages 9, 11,13, "Now what do we do?" They looked at me like, "Hey, you're the adult here." So we prayed. We prayed for someone nice to drive by and help us. Someone we know.

We waited about five minutes and white jeep pulled up behind us. Immediately the girls jumped out of the van while I was saying... stay in the van. I couldn't see who was in the jeep. I didn't want them hurt. But they shouted, "We know him. He's our friend!" He was about 20 years old... and works with their brother-in-law at the auto mechanic shop across the street from their house. Amazing. So he got out of his jeep and he had tools and a mat to lay on and seemed to know what he was doing. Until... we couldn't get the spare off the rack under the van that holds it. It wouldn't come lose. I asked him to take the children home and me to my home where I could pick up my phone that was charging (and not on me) and call....TOMAS! He always comes to my rescue.

It was now 11:15...Tomas answered his phone saying, "wrong number" (smile)...then woke up enough on the second try to recognize it was me. He and his wife Roxanna picked me up and we went back to that dark, isolated piece of road. He knew how to get the tire off, but his jack was too small...it kept sinking into the soft, rain-soaked ground and couldn't lift the car high enough to accommodate the 15 inch tire. He tried to flag down a car hoping for a bigger jack...right away a van stopped and lent us one. But it still didn't raise the van high enough at the maximum that it would go. It was getting late and we all were yawning as we walked around van trying to figure out what to do. Tomas thought to get a board or cement block, something firm to set the jack on. He walked across the street and there was a thick 4 foot board. Amazing. Why would a four foot long, one and half inch thick board be lying on the highway right where I pulled over?! God is so amazingly in the details.

It was a few minutes later that we were rolling back to Orange Walk. I asked Tomas what would make the tire blow like that. He says the heat here is rough on the rubber. It just disintegrates them. Oooh. The tires were the ones that came on the van, making them 3 years old. I am definitely mechanically challenged...didn't know. How could I not know? ARGHH! Maybe I need someone to send me email reminders of what I should be doing to maintain the van besides regular oil changes. Anyway, it was an opportunity for God to remind me that he is in the details, and he's got the wheel.

Thank you to everyone who prayed with me about teaching next year. I got the courage up to visit the principal. When I told her that I am considering not teaching next year, she smiled and said, "Fine." Hmmm. Wow, that was humbling!

That afternoon at about 2:00 a child came to the classroom with a message that said I needed to go to the office immediately to talk about an important matter. I got the "sent to the principal's office" butterflies in my stomach. She said that she had prayed and prayed about my resigning and wants me to know that what she is going to tell me she thinks is from God.

She said she thought I was being selfish to quit now. That I came to train a Belizean. For reasons beyond my control, that has not happened yet, but she went through a variety of channels to get this job for me with that goal in mind and I need to fulfill that responsibility. She doesn't want the new teacher to re-invent the wheel. She likes the procedures and strategies that I use for teaching Language Arts and math and doesn't want the new teacher to reinvent the whole system. She says everything would be lost. It's not fair to the kids.

We went back and forth a little more. The principal had tapped into what I had also thought about...needing to train a Belizean, not walking away and dumping it in her lap, leaving her to sink or swim on her own.

So I started to try to visualize what it would mean if I was a mentor. I want to have a mentor role job description. I want to work that out in writing with the new teacher so that we agree on what would be the best way to transfer the system to her. In the past I had visualized it similarly to working with student teachers from Bloomsburg, I begin and gradually fade out all of the responsibilities to the intern. What Mrs. Briceno is talking about is more of a friend and coach. Some demonstration, lots of encouragement.

I was concerned about not having enough time for the Deaf Church, but this role will free me from having to write lesson plans that take a huge chunk out of my Saturdays. Maybe Olive and I can meet during the week to discuss and brainstorm where the lessons will go the following week without my spending weekends doing that.

So I've flip-flopped on this whole topic. I agree with the principal and respect that it would be good to teach Olive strategies for teaching deaf children, until she can do it on her own. Regarding having too much on my plate, this role will be considerably less paperwork and home work than if I was the teacher. So I think it is "do-able".

If anybody has advice about working in a mentor role, a job decription, or walking the fine line between giving advice and being bossy or controling, please send it this way. Thanks!

Hope to see many of you in Maine June 29-July 8 or Lancaster July 9 to 14.
Keep Praying!


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Random Thoughts

I'm thinking about not teaching next year.

There are lots of reasons:
  • Olive Martinez will be coming back to teach. She is the Belizean woman who was supposed to be the teacher of the deaf class, then her daughter was killed in a car accident. I replaced her. She is ready to teach again. Mrs. Briceno was thinking about putting us in the deaf classroom together. I think Olive needs some freedom to do her own thing, fly or fail. I could be available as a resource and a sub.
  • It's too much to teach and pastor. I give a lot of energy to both but when push comes to shove and I am out of time, the pastoring role gets the short end.
  • I want time to be able to do other things well. Things like: I would like to help the young deaf mothers start a CODA group. I want to write a children's story about Belize children that takes place in Orange Walk. Maybe an easy-to-read beginning readers' series with at least one story about a deaf child. I want to spend more time in prayer and I want to exercise more.
At our annual EMM Retreat last October Phyllis Groff asked me about budgeting my time between teaching, the children who live with me, church prep, prayer & study, Girl's night prep., and rest. I think I replied, "Everything seems to get done." It is a miracle to me how God helps me to accomplish all that...Jesus was busy, too...what would I rather be doing with free time? Everything else seems like a waste of time....watching TV, cooking more creatively, reading books, etc. Then Phyllis asked, "Is there something that you are doing that a Belizean could and should do?" It keeps echoing in my thoughts. With Olive coming back, she could and should teach the deaf class.

The hardest thing about considering not teaching next fall is not "missing the children". I will see them all in church. I will be at St Peter's probably at least once a week resourcing, helping voluntarily, substituting. And Sulmi and others will still be welcome to live with me. No, the hardest part is: I AM A TEACHER. I've been a teacher since my little sister was born and I was in second grade. Once I tried to be a "Maverick" at Holden Village in Chelan, Washington for a summer. The Mavericks do anything helpful from clearing paths in the forest to shoveling the compost pile. I thought it would be a nice break from teaching...a chance to socialize with adults while working. Yet, I gravitated toward the day care. I asked them what they were doing with the children. I played with some of them and subbed one day, then two days and soon it was a week and I never went back to being a Maverick. Hmmm. In reflection it spoke volumes to me.

I can't imagine not being a teacher. Considering not teaching is like thinking about NOT reading or talking. How can I not teach? The idea is, oddly, a little unsettling for me.

So recently, when I have a few minutes to think about something other than teaching or my sermon or what I will teach at girl's night, my thoughts turn to next fall. Please pray with me as I try to discern God's will. Please pray for peace as I loosen my grip on an identity (school teacher) that I have nurtured and clung to most of my life. Please send your thoughts and any direction that you think the Lord is giving.

With Love,

Monday, June 1, 2009

What's Love Got To Do With It?

I feel like I need to get some of these thoughts out of my head and onto paper so I can stop thinking about them.

One of my students and deaf church goers was caught stealing from his work on Friday night. This is the same boy who stole $100 from my wallet and never paid it back. We knew he had been stealing things from his workplace almost daily for at least a month. I had talked to him many times about "Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you." (Jer. 7:23) . I told him that if he got caught he would surely lose his job. Then what? About two weeks ago they caught him with one or two items. They cut his work hours and warned him. He didn't seem to register that there was a connection between his work being cut and his stealing. He apologized to the boss...not out of a deep conviction of guilt but in order to try and pasify him.

The boy continued to steal things. I was tempted to turn him in but knew that he would get the situation turned around and be mad at me instead of owning the problem so I waited until the boss caught him. Last Friday with his pockets full of food items, his boss caught him red-handed. The boss called the police and they hauled him to jail with sirens blaring. He stayed one night.

He rode with me in the van to pick up people for church this morning. He said the boss was mad and that is why he was fired. He knew that wasn't true. He was playing a game of denial. He said something about a girl...it's her fault. (That must of been the girl that told the boss to check his pockets.) Still a denial. In the course of the 2.5 hour drive he eventually confessed to me that he had filled his pockets with gum and candy and that was why he was fired. I asked him to share that and confess during church... to warn the other people that if they try to get away with lying and stealing that "things will not go well for them".

During church I asked him if he would share. He said he would and went up to the front. He confessed to stealing but no one understood it because he signed other things confusing everyone, like the boss was mad and he didnt know why, and he wants to quit working, he wants to ask Mrs. Briceno (the school principal) to beg the boss to let him work again. He said he hates the store and will quit.

He loved the store before Friday and wrote the name of the store on everything. He was so proud to have a job there.

It wasn't a confession. Hmmm. I was wondering if I should have asked him to share. I was hoping he would be contrite. At least as contrite as he was finally with me in the car when he found out I knew the truth. I was hoping he could use this bad turn of events to teach the others. It didn't work that way.

What concerns me more is when he talks to others about this, he does not yet own that the reason he was fired was because HE continued to steal from the store, that it was his faulty choice, that he chose a short term reward (stealing candy so he could give it to people and be popular) over the longer term goal of maintaining his job and doing what is right. I dont think he can mature from this point or learn from this mistake until he owns the problem.

So that's sad. His immediate supervisor is a wonderful man who was truly trying to give this boy a break, a chance. He was sad that the boy did not realize that and threw it away. It was an Indian owned store. There is no way this boy will ever be able to work in another one of the Hindu Indian run stores in Orange Walk.

Choices...It's hard to teach, verbally, that some of the choices these young people make have permanent consequences. They think so temporarily. Maybe knowing and seeing this drama play out will make that lesson stick, eventually. Maybe. I hope.