Saturday, September 2, 2017

This is My Haven of Peace


So I'm the Primary School (Elementary) Principal at Haven of Peace Academy.  I officially started three weeks ago, and school has been open the last two weeks.

I'm still not over the weirdness of saying that.  Yesterday I was at the mall eating lunch with a fellow teacher and my two girls, and I introduced myself to someone as the primary principal at HOPAC.  The words still feel weird coming out of my mouth.

It's interesting how much our work defines us.  I remember when I left full-time teaching to stay home and take care of Grace, and how much of a crisis of identity I went through.  What was I anymore?  How would I define myself?  But time went on and I grew comfortable in that role.  I was a mom, but with a full-time housekeeper, so I had the time to do a lot more.  I volunteered for dozens of endeavors and had the freedom to fill my time as I chose, on my terms.

Most of that volunteering was at HOPAC, since for so long that was Gil's life, and then when he left, it was my kids' life.  So being at HOPAC daily is not strange for me--it feels like home.  For sixteen years, HOPAC has felt like one of my children.  I've seen it grown and stretched and go through really tough times--but I wasn't just an idle spectator, I sweat through it like one of its limbs, often right in the thick of the joy or the pain.

But I always hung around in the background.  And it was comfortable back there, because I could do my work and was under no one's scrutiny.  My responsibility was to myself alone, most of the time.

So this--this new official role--this is different.  Because now I have an office and my name on a cubby hole and I have people looking to me to tell them what to do.  So even though everything about this job feels familiar, the role feels strange, and my internal pressure to do it right has sent me down some anxious nights.  Once again, my identity has changed.  And I don't always do change well.

But God has been good--as he always is--and is teaching me much about my own desire for control and the absolute necessity of trusting him instead.  And when I am in that place of trust, I can't believe the huge privilege I have of getting to do this job.

I love the children.  Anyone who works with elementary school children knows this joy.  Oh Mrs. Medina, I love your skirt.  I love your shirt.  I love you!  The daily waist-high hugs, the light in their eyes, the tiny breakthroughs with the difficult student--ah, there is nothing quite like it.

I love my teachers.  No one goes into teaching for the money, but especially not at HOPAC.  Yet I've seen my teachers work twelve-hour days for three weeks straight--even on weekends, and their utter and complete dedication to these children is truly a sight to behold.  They've shed some tears but mostly their faces are brimming with joy, because they are called to this and they love it so much.  Who wouldn't want to work with people like this?

And then there's the larger staff of HOPAC.  I'm just one small piece in this puzzle--one of three principals--both of whom were already my friends--and under a director who is like a brother.  There's about a hundred staff at HOPAC, if you count the gardeners and the cleaners and the snack bar ladies--and we are family.  Over and over again, that's what I hear people say.  We love to sing together and pray together, and though we come from the full spectrum of the Christian faith and over a dozen nationalities, we are still a community--a family.

There's this sense of the sacred that runs through HOPAC.  Not just because we offer some of the highest-quality education in Tanzania, but because we're unified by Jesus in our diversity.  We all know we're part of something really special.  And it's a little dizzying to remind myself that I get to be a part of it.  To God be the glory.

First day of school for all of us!

Josiah's first day of 4th grade

Lily's first day of 3rd grade

Johnny's first day of kindergarten.  Oh, he was so excited!



Back-to-School Night

The newly renovated Snack Bar had its grand opening at Back-to-School Night.

Families could order a sampling of all that snack bar has to offer!


Those of you who know HOPAC can see in this picture that there's a second-story eating area being added to the (former) kindergarten building.  Exciting times!



Breaking ground for the new Performing Arts Building!

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