It was Thursday afternoon after school was done for the year, the graduates had all left, and I was walking back to my office. A friend came up and said, “You have done such a great job with the Grade 12 students this year. You should feel… well proud isn’t really the right word…” I responded, “Affirmed” I feel affirmed in my calling to Tanzania, to HOPAC, and to working with the upper secondary students at HOPAC.
The middle of April, I was asked to take over the Grade 12 Senior trip. As I said in my newsletter, the class had a reputation, and I didn’t feel like I had that strong of a relationship with the class at that time. So I started praying that I could get through graduation still able to respect everyone in that class. That prayer, ignited a passion for this class that by the time I said good-bye at graduation there were many tears (and not just mine!). Because of this class, I am staying in Tanzania until God says it is time to leave. Because of this class, I am moving to a home where I can have students over and cook together, just hang out and talk. They have taught me more about Tanzanian (and Nigerian, Malawian, German, etc) culture in two months than I had learned the six months previous.
From learning to cook lasagna to talking about coming back to Tanzania after University to James Bond impersonation competitions to snorkeling in Zanzibar to deep conversations over coffee, I am truly blessed to have been a small part of the preparation of graduating class of 2014 for their life after HOPAC.
While on the senior trip, I lead a short reflection time. Here are my parting words to the class:
I grew up in a small country church. The building itself was old and full of stained glass windows. About the time I graduated from high school, we tore the old church down to build a new one. As a fundraiser, a member of our congregation made the stained glass into crosses. I bought one of those crosses and I have taken it everywhere with me. It has been at my desk of every job I have had. I take to remind me who I am and whose I am.
Who I am– My cross reminds me of my small country community. I grew up a country girl, strong family values, strong moral values, a little slower pace of life, and appreciating the little things. It wasn’t until I was at college that I really understood and embraced being a country girl. I remember going to a rodeo one night and feel completely at home. I arrived back on campus and realized part of the reason I struggled feeling like I was on the outside was because other than one or two people, no one knew that part of my life or could relate to it. Once I understood that, I could better embraced who I was and my differences and therefore I could learn to love and embrace others differences better.
Whose I am– My cross reminds me I am first and foremost a daughter of the King. I grew up in a Christian home surrounded by a Christian community. I asked Jesus into my heart when I was 5, but was living my parents faith. It was more a cultural thing than a heart thing until I was 16. When I was 16, my first boyfriend and I had broken up. I was so hurt and felt like I couldn’t stop crying. A song I had learned at camp, the Cares Chorus, came to mind. It is based on I Peter 5:7 “Cast all your cares on Him for he cares for you”. I thought, what could it hurt. Ok God, I can’t handle this I lay this relationship and all this pain at your feet. Suddenly, a peace came over me. It was like nothing I had felt before. I was on my way to youth group at the time. I went running into church and said, “you guys this prayer stuff works!” I received many strange looks, but I didn’t care. It was when my faith became my own and I really understood a personal relationship with my Lord and Savior.
When I was in college, I worked at a camp as a wrangler. A few nights we would ride out to a wide open field and sleep under the stars. It was there that I really started to understand God’s love for me. I knew he loved me and that I was a Christian, but how much he loved me was put into perspective. Amidst His vast universe, I am smaller than an ant to God, yet, He knows me by name, he knows my heart better than I do. He knows my fears, my needs, and my passions and he doesn’t just know them, he cares! He loves me and sent His son to die on the cross for MY sins!
Finally, My cross reminds me I am loved. Not only am I reassured of God’s love for me, I am reminded of my church family that loves me and prays for me and my family that loves me. Even when we fight and have issues, I know I am loved.
So for my graduating class of 2014, find something of meaning for you. Something that grounds you. Something that reminds you who you are. You might not be able to answer that question yet, it is something you will figure out when you are in University, but something that reminds you where you are from. Each of you has your own story.
Find something that reminds you whose you are, and if you aren’t sure, you are surrounded by people who love you and would love to talk with you more about that.
and finally, remember you are loved! When you question that, know that no matter what choices you have made in life, God loves you! Even though you feel like you are at odds with your family, they still love you. Your HOPAC teachers and staff love and I love you! Even though we might not agree with some of your decisions, we still love you and are always here for you.
God reassures us in his Word no matter the situation, where you go or what you do, you are still loved:
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither present nor the future nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39
Please join me in praying for this class of amazing students. They will be attending universities in Germany, Netherlands, UK, South Africa, Canada, and US with big plans to come back and influence positive changes in Tanzania and I believe God has bigger plans than they can imagine.