This page will serve as a documentation of the good works which the Lord planned for me in Honduras long before I could’ve ever imagined them. Read, follow, and share in my experience.
This page will serve as a documentation of the good works which the Lord planned for me in Honduras long before I could’ve ever imagined them. Read, follow, and share in my experience.
“Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you…” Jeremiah 1:5
I recently announced I will be returning to Honduras for the 2018-19 school year as a LEAD teacher at Good Shepherd Christian Academy! I’m wrapping up a year and a half of teaching first and second grade, and will most likely be the second and third grade math and science teacher this fall. Although this is my official title, there are many aspects to my personal ministry outside of school that I believe are a huge part of my calling and purpose here and I would like to take this opportunity to share it all with you.
Teaching at Good Shepherd Christian Academy is my primary purpose here in Honduras. If you are just now tuning into my ministry, I work at a bilingual Christian school in Zamorano, Honduras. The school is located on the property of Good Shepherd Children’s home, along with my housing; so I live and work here with my students. We also open our school doors to the surrounding community and have a number of students that attend from outside the children’s home. Like I said before, I’ve been both a first and second grade teacher here. I taught first grade for a semester and will complete a year of teaching second grade this May. I’m thrilled to be taking over math and science for second and third grade next year because not only will I have a whole class of new students, but I’ll continue to teach my students for a couple periods every day! If you go back and read my previous blog posts about teaching, you’ll find a good bit of self-doubt and recognition of how much there was/is to learn. I’ve by no means “arrived”, but at this juncture, I feel so encouraged in my classroom and like I’m finally on my feet! This place has given me a huge opportunity to step up and learn, and I’m excited to come back and continue developing my strategies as an ESL teacher. My passion in the classroom is to teach our children to love and appreciate their education in a safe, loving, and positive environment. Every day I chisel away at this daunting task, but am so happy to do so knowing that in this country, being in our classrooms will literally change their lives forever in every way. So here’s to year 2!
Over the course of the year I have felt a big tug on my heart pulling me towards our teenage girls here at the children’s home. I love our littles so much, but over time my desire to spend time with our big kids just skyrocketed and I feel like that is where I see God using me the most over the course of my time here. These older kids have limited time before they’ll be off into either the transition home or out into the real world, and there are not many people who have the opportunity to daily interact and truly mentor them through these crucial years and all the questions that come along with it. If you know me well, you know I’m a fan of long, deep conversations and bonding over life experiences. Although my life may look very different from these teens, there are so many aspects to human nature and just being a woman that remain the same across the board. I’ve always desired to work with women, specifically recovering from abuse or trauma, in some form of counseling or mentorship partnership, and I see God laying before me the perfect opportunity to begin following that path. The challenge for me in this passion can be the language barrier. Although I know quite a bit of Spanish, I am still often frustrated by my limitations in the language. God is speaking to me big time right now though that love is more about actions than words – being a listening ear, shoulder to cry on, or someone to just laugh for days with. I’m finding ways to build trust with these girls so that when they need someone to talk to, they have a safe place to go and receive wisdom and truth. Although all of this sounds really great, it is quite possibly the slowest process in this ministry. Building trust with these kids takes so much time. This is why coming back is so huge for me. This is a long term goal for me that I’m praying will have major long-term payoff. Please be praying specifically for their hearts to be touched by the Spirit: softened, open, and receptive, and that when opportunities arrive to answer questions, God will give me the wisdom to speak truth into their lives.
In a similar light, I have the same opportunity with these girls to speak the truth of the Gospel into their lives. I have recently been convicted of my responsibility as a Christian to make the message of Jesus known. I confess that I am too easily focused on my own personal relationship with Jesus, that I’ve neglected, more often than not, on looking outward and seeking opportunities to share the joy and peace that I’ve found in Jesus. Or I’m simply fearful of the rejection: they won’t get it, they’re too young, it’s too complex, they’ll think it’s weird. But the truth is, the gospel is simple and for all- and I’m tired of making excuses for why I shouldn’t share it with them. Our team of missionaries here often come to the conclusion in our conversations about whatever is broken, (a child, a family, a home, an attitude, a heart), is like so because Christ does not dwell there. I have a refreshed sense of the Spirit that is urging me to share with these kids every chance I get the life-changing power of Jesus. I want more time to do that. I want them to know.
Lastly, I’ve had the opportunity over the course of my time here to participate in our Sunday morning church service by assisting and leading worship. I love to sing, especially in worship, so this has been a great outlet for me and way to expand my community here. Not long after I had returned this semester, I was made aware of some big plans that will be taking place over the course of the next year. Some dear friends mine and fellow missionaries are working hard to plant a church here in the valley we live in. It’s called Valley Church. It’s a bilingual church that reaches all people in the surrounding area of the children’s home. I, along with a team of folks, will be serving on the worship team in this new church. This is the church our kids at the home currently attend, but the idea is to eventually move locations out into the community – reaching more people, while also getting our children off property and into their community every week! I am thrilled to be a tiny piece of the Lord’s work in this place. There are many stories already of how God is touching the lives of people here through Valley Church. I’m anxious to see how God will keep moving His kingdom forward here, and returning allows me to be a part of that.
When I take the time to write these posts, or gather my thoughts and simply reflect on this experience, I am continually left in awe of how much God is doing in the world and the lives of his people. He is a God that is very much ALIVE and on the move. This is a very tough environment to spiritually breakthrough – but He is doing it.
I’m headed home on June 3rd (and as always, really just can’t wait to hug my mom and dad!), but also with a full heart that feels certain that this is where God intended for me to be since the day I was born. Thank you to those who take the time to invest in my life, ministry, and well-being. We are one body together, and can’t do it all alone. I would not be here without you!
Knowing you, Jesus, knowing you – There is no greater thing
Before I came to Honduras I always thought that people who serve on the mission field, specifically in poverty stricken areas, always experienced some dramatic change of heart and were just okay with having very little for the rest of their life; a natural response after having experienced first hand the simple joy of people and relationships over things. After accepting my job here, I expected to have this extreme change of heart too. I envisioned no longer having a desire for a variety of things, simply because my priorities would be reranked. I expected to eventually be overcome with feelings of guilt, bitterness, and anger towards my own country that thrives off of stuff and more stuff. I also expected the kids here to want for nothing but my love and attention. But to be honest, those desires did not not magically vanish beyond the borders of the U.S. like I thought – for me or the kids. However, I think it can be said that anyone who has seen the very real, heartbreaking, and detrimental effects of poverty are called to repentance in the way they view their belongings and material blessings.
Things, no matter how much or little you have of them, will not quench the thirst for more or satisfy the longing in your heart. But Jesus will. I think it’s easy to assume that living here after living in the States is so hard because you lack so much. Conversely, the kids here think that living in the States is super easy because you lack very little. Both ideas are untrue and simply miss the point. No matter where you are, your need is for Jesus, and that does not change. Sure, there are many things I miss about living in the States. I’m accustomed to comfort and luxury. Being an American citizen is a beautiful privilege that I no longer take for granted. In the grand scheme of things I don’t believe our lifestyle is wrong, it’s simply a bi-product of our history and economy. So I still reminisce about my shopping sprees in Target, or having a million selections at the grocery store (after first having picked which grocery store I want to go to…obviously Kroger or the hallowed Whole Foods), clothes and styles that are trending, or being able to go to my favorite restaurants. But even without all of those things, I’ve realized that my life has lost zero of its meaning. In fact, it has only illuminated the true meaning of my life; which is to love people.
Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus, also known as The Minimalists, are a couple of guys I greatly admire for the way they have helped millions of people live meaningful lives by embracing a minimalist lifestyle. They are showing people that by decluttering your life, you pave a clear way for meaningful experiences and relationships. I think the thoughts I’ve shared above can be umbrellaed underneath their slogan which is, “Love people, use things. The opposite never works.” I love that. It’s so simple and true. Things in and of themselves are not bad, but they are meant to be used, not loved. Save your love for the people in your life. That’s where it’s really needed. I’m grateful for the little and big things that fill my life – in the States and Honduras. But the longer I live here, the more I realize that my heart’s true desire is to have Jesus, inside me and all around me, and the rest really doesn’t matter.
This is what I want our kids to know and understand. I want to help eliminate this illusion that happiness and peace comes from things. You can use them, enjoy them, miss them, and desire them, but we do not need them. Our universal need is for Jesus, and his profound impact on our lives. I opened this post with a line from Graham Kendrick’s song Knowing You Jesus. It’s one of my favorite songs, and having since moved to Honduras it has taken on many new meanings. That line… Knowing you, Jesus, knowing you, there is no greater thing. I just sit in it. There really is no greater thing than knowing Jesus. Whatever “stuff” is drowning him out in your life, I encourage you to slowly peel back the layers and find him again, or maybe for the first time. You will not be disappointed.
First and foremost, I want to apologize for such a long break in between my last post and now! A few months ago, my computer crashed and that has disconnected me in many ways from my sponsors and the “outside world”. I was doing what I could from my phone, but for me that is not the ideal way to maintain my blog. I am also trying to be more careful these days about what I share on Facebook, as to protect the privacy of our kids. So I’ve been posting less. I’m planning to put together a new photo album for this past semester so you can see everything I’ve been up to these last few months! If we’re not friends already, please find me on there so we can be friends! 🙂 All of that does not serve as an excuse, but rather a deserving explanation for my lack of communication and updates! I’m sorry for keeping you out of the loop! My laptop has been replaced – PRAISES!
Because it has been so long, there is an overwhelming amount to share and catch up on. I will do my best not to overload, but rather just share highlights and, as always, what I’m learning from them. What are life’s experiences without application, right? Here are my monthly highlights…
October: A season of frustration and wanna-give-up kinda tired
September was a VERY busy month with lots of holidays and celebrations, and as fun as those are to celebrate, it throws off our daily routines. I’ve said it before, but can’t emphasize enough how much our kids at GSCA desperately need consistency in order to thrive. So when we are inconsistent (even if it’s a nice day off or a celebration), the kids behavior, performance, energy levels etc. are inconsistent as well which can make for some very tiring days. My whole class was a little thrown off this month as we tried to recover from September’s craziness and settle back into routine. However, I had one student in particular who was truly struggling in a number of ways beyond just classroom expectations and behavior, and he was relentless in keeping me from having the upper hand. I have never been so tried by a student, or a child in general, and I spent most of the month bathing this student in prayer because he was in many ways beyond my control. I would wake up in the morning and the first thing I would think was “God, please allow __________ to be in a positive place today. Allow us to just start out having a nice morning. Soften his heart so that he would be open to my trying to help him when he becomes angry.” (And boy does this little guy get angry.) It’s a very heartbreaking thing to see a child be their own worst enemy. For a long time (and even now sometimes still), his anger levels would rise in such a way that he had tunnel vision and he couldn’t hear anything I had to say. On top of this, his way of dealing with something he doesn’t like is backtalk, refusing to do it, and running away. I was able to handle the first 5-10 episodes, but when it was becoming an every day thing, I was tired. I was tired of showing up and giving my best effort and him not trying at all – or at least me not feeling like he was. I was tired of finding new strategies that might work for him, calm him, help him, and he not even notice or care. I was tired of him draining all my energy and attention and having nothing left over for the rest of my students. I called my mom one day in tears telling her how upset I was and how truly confused I was that God had led me here to this job. I told her “I want to leave and never come back.” I felt like I was giving my very best and still nothing I was doing was working for this boy. After a good cry, I just had to surrender. Accept that I may never see the results of my efforts, and trust that God has control over his fugitive heart….and mine.
This sounds like a spiral into a bad place, and honestly for a while it was. But the Lord – in all His power and faithfulness – saw me and this boy through that tough season. He has whispered into my ear so many times that He is in control and will not leave me. And by His grace, I am on an uphill climb with this young boy. It is still a climb, but we are moving forward. I really struggle with believing that God is more in tune with these children, and loves them far more than I do because of how much time and energy we teachers put into our kids. But that does not make it any less true just because of my doubting faith. God used that month of October to show me His continued goodness and love for them, even through my heartbreak and hurt.
Also, that phone call to mom… wow. That was a tough day. However, I feel like God only held me all the more closely because of it. Because just hours later, he led me to the casitas to find a precious girl I love in distress. She wouldn’t allow anyone to console her as she cried and screamed. But for some reason, she let me in her room and let me hold her, bathe her, and feed her. I laid there on her bed weeping with her in my arms. I prayed over and over in my head thanking God for that momentary gift of showing me that he is using me. Showing me that I am there for the sole purpose of extending His love, even when it isn’t always returned by every child. And even with that sweet boy, he is showing me now in small ways. Before I returned home, he gave me a hug and I call that a major win!
November: A season of hope and joy
November was such a sweet, sweet time. I feel like this month was all about laughter and serious growth in my relationships with some of the kids. I spent a great deal of my casita time with the high school girls this past semester and that was just so much fun. Although there are so many sponsors, team members, and people who love them deeply out in the world, they don’t always feel like they are loved and appreciated as much as the younger kids. Regardless of that, the truth is that they desire to be known, loved, hugged, adored, and paid attention to just as much as the little kids. However, they really struggle with accepting and giving that love. They can often be sassy, stand-offish, or act like they don’t care but THEY SO DO. Because of their attitudes, they don’t attract people by the boatload. However, I have found myself naturally gravitating towards them and wanting to push through those awkward hugs and conversations to get deeper. GAH I wish I could convey the JOY I have found in my time with them because of that. It is not always easy, but pushing through their tough exteriors was the best thing I’ve ever done. We spent the semester having girl talk, watching movies, listening to music, singing, dancing, and just being girls. I’m closer to some more than others and I’m thankful God has allowed them to trust me even in the slightest with some of their thoughts or secrets. For others, I’m thankful God encouraged them to take a chance on me and talk to me at all. It is a sweet thing to feel like a friend to them and someone they can count on. This was such a gift after the month I had endured previously, and I believe God (as always) did it on purpose.
If you know of someone in your life who struggles to give or receive love, love them anyway. Push through it for them! We are all so desperately in need of love and approval, and as the broken record line goes, you really just never know how you could be impacting someones life even they never tell you.
I read Kisses From Katie this semester and one of my favorite passages from it said this:
“People are people. They all need food and water and medicine, but mostly they need love and truth and Jesus. I can do that. We can do that. We can give people food, water, medicine, love, truth, and Jesus. The same God created all of us for a purpose, which is to serve Him and to love and care for His people. It is universal. We can’t do it in our own strength or out of our own resources, but as we follow God to wherever he is leading us, He makes the impossible happen.”
PREACH IT KATIE. That’s all I’ll say about that.
December: A season of rest and recovery
Before heading home (I’m cheating, this part was in November) I went on a trip to Roatan! A beautiful piece of paradise in the Bay Islands of Honduras. It wasn’t too long before heading home, and I was so thankful to spend time there with my fellow Lead teacher friends simply taking a break from life after a hectic semester. Highly recommend it (Roatan, and/or taking a break).
Self care is so important, and often so neglected. All of us feel so caught up in our routines and lives that we don’t stop, but quiet time with yourself and the Lord, or play time, is hugely underrated. It brings peace and balance. Because we teachers all live on property with the kids and school is there too, we have a hard time separating personal and professional life. It all runs together! I do not take the time for myself that I need, but I’m working on getting better at that. I’ve said “I’m thankful” about a million times in this post but I truly am so thankful that I had that trip to relax and have fun and also a sweet trip home with family to take a break and give my mind and body some rest. I think God is delighted in our earned rest and recovery for our bodies, souls, and minds. Give each day everything you got, then rest and enjoy it.
To close this post, I will share my thoughts as I enter this new year. I am leaving in three days to fly back to Honduras for a second semester. As I reflect on 2017 I remember these things:
And so much more comes to mind. As I enter this new season of 2018, the apostle Paul’s words ring in my ears:
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” – Philippians 4:12
My word this year is content. I have no idea what’s coming, but true joy and peace comes from practicing contentment in every situation we’re in – believing also that God is there with us and will see us through it all.
Just a few days ago I passed the one-month mark of being back to work at Good Shepherd Christian Academy (!!!) making it a total of 5 months that I’ve spent here in Honduras! THANK YOU sponsors, friends, and family – for giving of yourselves and your resources to equip me in this work. Returning to Honduras has been so exciting, awesome, and completely different this second time around! I am grateful that God has made Honduras a second home to me. I truly do feel at home here. Not in the same ways I feel at home in the USA, but I feel much more familiar and comfortable here and know my purpose through my work. So much of my life here last semester was a mystery and a trail that had yet to be blazed. This time I don’t have to start from scratch, but rather just pick up where I left off (with teaching, people, language, etc.)! That has been loads easier in many ways. I’m just so happy to be back!
I missed the kids lots while I was home this summer and it was the best when I got back to be greeted with huge hugs and happy faces! We’re back in the swing of things for school and they are hard at work in the classroom. My second graders are learning to tell time, beginning to read stories on their own, writing simple sentences, and lots more! It’s exciting to watch them progress, and an honor to be their cheerleader when they’re discouraged. Whether it’s inside or outside of school, doing life with the kids again is by no means perfect, but it’s beautiful to experience giving and receiving God’s grace. I am not the perfect teacher, friend, role model, or mentor (some days, not even a good one). Sometimes my emotions grab ahold of me and I don’t respond the way I want to or treat them the way I should and I have to apologize to them; and other times it’s the other way around and I have the opportunity to extend forgiveness. Regardless, my relationship with each of them is growing stronger with time and experience and I’m enjoying so much growing with them and knowing them better – in big ways and little. Something about leaving and coming back has solidified a sense of loyalty and trust and that has been special to experience.
I don’t have anything super big or special to share, but just that returning to Honduras has shown me the importance of trusting God and obeying his commands and calls. The call on my life to live here and teach has not been an easy one, and there have been many times where I wondered why I was here or why God picked me. However, returning again has given me the opportunity to look back and see how God has blessed me in ways that only come through waiting, trusting, and obedience to His voice. God has a way of enriching your life unexpectedly when we persevere through challenging circumstances. I’m learning now to translate that idea into other areas of my life– and maybe that was what God had in mind for this experience all along! We may not always understand why He asks things of us or challenges us in different ways, but we were never promised an explanation. We are simply called to trust and obey, and allow our Sovereign God to take care of the rest. And in return He changes our hearts and brings about blessing.
I read a quote this week that said “Obedience is always worth it” followed by a prayer that said:
“Jesus, help me to choose obedience even when it’s hard. Help me to trust that you are good and you know what is best for me. Whatever you ask of me, I want to be quick to obey. Help me to live a life of obedience to you.”
This is my prayer. I hope it will be yours too wherever you’re at today so you can experience the blessing that comes from obedience to our Father!
*Why I’m So Excited To Be Back!*
In our weekly Bible study we have been reading the book of Romans and working through John Stott’s study book Romans: Encountering the Gospel’s Power (10/10 recommend). It has helped me thoroughly understand the gift of the Gospel in my life, as well as bring fresh insight to many passages that I’ve read many times before. Part of our weekly routine is memorizing scripture together. This is a new habit for me and I have found it incredibly beneficial to say the least. We’re making our way through Romans 12, and this last week we added Romans 12:16 which says:
“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.”
This particular verse out of the whole chapter really struck a chord with me. When something strikes me I think it’s for a few reasons: I know it’s something I need to implement or give thought to, it’s very applicable to my current situation, and the Spirit is opening my eyes to repentance. Each week we have a new phone wallpaper that has a cutesy, artistic photo and the verse down the front for us to set as our lock screen and help us memorize our passage throughout the week (side note: you look at your phone A LOT. It’s incredible/sad how easy it is to memorize scripture when you do this). I’ve really enjoyed memorizing this chapter and all the verses within it, but when we got to this verse, and I would check my phone to read it, I was just always so blown away by how often my thoughts did not reflect this scripture…particularly the “being haughty” and “wise in my own sight” part.
When we first started memorizing it, our group of girls joked about the middle of the verse and found it funny to stick an “a” in there so we’d say “Do not be a hottie” (if you don’t think this is funny, then I guess you just had to be there because we were laughing a ton!). We think we’re pretty funny anyways.
But in all seriousness, I have been challenged in these last 3 months with learning to live in harmony with other people and taking on a spirit of humility. Working on the mission field brings about lots of opportunity for learning to live in harmony. We see each other all. the. time. We teachers all live next door to one another, we eat together, we share one car together, we travel together, and we work together. We see other missionaries daily as well, but not as often as one other. We’ve all been pleasantly surprised at how well our group of 8 girls has meshed together and truly lived in harmony for so long with such a wide spectrum of personalities. But that doesn’t mean that personalities never clash, people are never misunderstood, they never say hurtful things, or take out their frustration on one another. We have our moments! So I think for our team that part was a wonderful reminder for us that is pleasing to God when we seek harmony and peace with each other in our daily lives together.
The second part of that verse I’m embarrassed to admit is where I need a lot more help. Internally I am often haughty and see myself as “wise in my own sight”. THAT is the struggle for me. I’m thankful that this job has shown me so many times how important it is to accept help, guidance, feedback, and sometimes failures. I hadn’t taken on anything in the States as big as this move and job that would teach me so much about myself. A huge part of this journey has truly been humility. Learning Spanish humbles me because I constantly make mistakes. Learning this culture humbles me because I don’t always understand it. Teaching children humbles me because I have never been a teacher before. Working with children humbles me because there are some kids that I just don’t know how to reach.
I have many days where I just want to figure everything out on my own to prove something to myself. What is that…that I can do it alone? That my way was better than whatever anyone else could’ve told me? That I don’t need anyone else’s input? Jokes on me. Because it always ends up that it was better to just recognize that I don’t have to do it all, have all the answers, or do it right the first time. I think for many of us, haughtiness and believing ourselves to be so wise is an occurrence in our minds more frequent than we’d like to admit. But I will go ahead and say, after I’ve memorized this verse I’m realizing I do it A LOT. So if that’s you too, then you are not alone. Also, even though you might surprise yourself by your sins, it’s no surprise to God. He knows you inside out, for better or for worse, and His grace and love for you still abounds. This is why I honor and serve Him. Because this God does not grow weary from me constantly messing up. Partnering with Him means that He sees you in your filthiness and embarrassment – all of your sin – and He still chooses you.
I was recently fortunate to have an open conversation with some friends/coworkers this week. We had a little conflict/resolution talk which boiled down to some mistakes and misunderstandings on everyone’s part. That conversation was a real life example of Romans 12:16. We were able to find our way back to harmony by being open and vulnerable, while also apologizing for our mistakes in humility and recognizing our wrongs against one another. How sweet it is when you experience the manifestation of scripture in your life in such a positive way. It showed me that God gives us His word for OUR benefit. Living in harmony brings peace. Humility brings joy and contentment, with yourself and others.
I don’t know where in the world you are today, but I challenge you to memorize this verse and reap the benefits of its application.
I’m sure many of you are familiar with the term “ESL”, but don’t entirely know what it entails to teach ESL students. I wanted to share some of my own personal thoughts and experiences around the term to provide some clarity to my approach with my ESL students.
First and foremost, let’s clarify that ESL is an abbreviation of “english as a second language”. Typically this term references teaching English as a second language in a country that predominantly speaks English. In areas other than English-speaking counties, the politically correct term used would be EFL, or English as a foreign language. However, in a bilingual school like ours, English is the language primarily used here, even if not primarily in the country of Honduras; so we use the term ESL.
Our school offers classes starting for preschoolers all the way to 6th grade. (It previously worked with high schoolers as well, but due to budget cuts had to scale back to sixth grade. The vision for the future is to bring the high schoolers back. Those students attend public school for the time being.) The first group of kids to receive bilingual education at GSCA will begin 6th grade in August, so they have received almost 6 academic years of English immersion after starting with nothing. They’re English skills are so good due to consistent years of language immersion (an overwhelming gift in this country), but even they had to start somewhere! Those kids are the lucky ones because they’ve had training since the beginning and received a foundation for the language at the appropriate age. However, many of our students are not at appropriate grade levels because they had a delayed opportunity to receive an education. So when they enter our school it’s a shock on two levels instead of one: understanding the academic community and how it functions, as well as being immersed in a second language. Sound overwhelming? It is. For both student and teacher. Think about it…the student is watching everyone around them act in ways they were not explicitly told how to act, and they don’t know what anyone is saying because they do not know the language. Then there’s me, the teacher, who is now working with students on completely different levels of education in the same room, and trying to catch up the behind student on foundational concepts. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve assumed a child should know something (a life or academic principle), and they don’t because my classroom is their first time exposure to it. Pair that with communicating the principle in a way that ESL students can understand. It can make for some long days. Here are some of the running thoughts in the average day:
Student: “I’m so embarrassed. They’re all looking at me.” — “I need help with everything.” –“Why does every other kid in here know what’s going on and I don’t?” — “I have no idea what anyone is saying.” — “The teacher is looking at me, saying something to me I don’t understand, and expecting a response. How can I respond if I don’t even know what’s going on?” — “Everyone knows their numbers and letters in order, I can’t even tell you what letter or number that is.”
Teacher: “I’ve said ‘sit down’ 4 times. How can he not know what I mean by now when I’ve pointed to a chair and shown him what to do?” — “Do I discipline this child for not asking for help when he didn’t understand, and instead chose to waste time drawing?” — “I don’t blame him for not understanding because he doesn’t know English, but my frustration level is through the roof and I don’t know how else to explain it.” — “Do I use Spanish? Or English. I mean this is an English immersion school, but he doesn’t understand. Find a balance of using Spanish to provide clarity, but not so much that it enables.” — “Tiny tiny victories. Mental note, my scale of success is dramatically changing because every little thing is huge for this kid. If we’re not moving backwards then it’s progress.” — “Is he confused? Or is he faking it because he doesn’t want to do his work?” — “Do I discipline him the same as the others?”
These are questions and thoughts that have gone through my brain over the last two months with a particular student of mine (and I know he has been thinking the same thing. He’s expressed it to me later on or in private conversations). However, with every passing day, I learn new tools for him tackle his challenges and find ways to meet him where he is in his confusion and uncover his desire to learn. It’s an ongoing battle of trying to figure what works, and I always have my work cut out for me. This is the experience of a child and a teacher, but the child’s experience is much like an adult learner’s as well.
I won’t make a blanket statement because there are always exceptions. But in general, adults operate on a level of extreme self-awareness when it comes to language learning. I’ve seen it in college with my former classmates, and I’m seeing it now as I teach Honduran parents here. My own personal experience is this: it was almost impossible to try speaking when I started because of my obsession with other’s judgment. It’s easier now, but still sometimes difficult to press through. Everyone wants encouragement and for people to recognize progress instead of mistakes. But all you can think about when you’re speaking is your mistakes or your inadequacies — more importantly, what other people think about your mistakes or inadequacies. I think for adults it’s such a difficult thing to tackle because the only way you learn a language is by humbling yourself and realizing you’re going to sound like a child at first. Adults struggle with the elementary-ness of their language mistakes.– “Seriously? I’m an adult and I can’t even remember the word “corn” in Spanish”.– Did you always know for every moment of your life that the word for the yellow vegetable that grows on stalks was “corn”? No. It was learned. So why would it be any different in a foreign language? It’s the first time you’re saying or trying to remember it.– “But it’s such a simple word, why can’t I remember?!” — There are few things that adults try and are simply elementary at best. We’re proud; we might not be able to do it, but we at least know how to do it. Languages you know neither at the start. –“Okay…so what now? I can’t just stop caring what other people think, that’s almost impossible to control.”– I’m not gonna lie, when you’re practicing a foreign language, you’re right, you can’t help that. Even though we shouldn’t, we’re going to care.
But “other people”: You can change what you think about those who are trying. Build a receptive, welcoming environment for mistakes.
Something I read in a textbook during my TESOL certification has stuck with me since the moment I read it. I’ll be honest, I didn’t memorize the exact words, but a paraphrase would be this idea:
Oftentimes, instead of respecting the effort or skill in knowing a second language, we consider ESL students to be ignorant, incompetent, or even belittle them by calling them “cute”, because they speak on elementary levels, constantly making mistakes and sounding funny with their broken English. It isn’t until you yourself have made yourself so vulnerable as to wholeheartedly attempt communicating in another language that you fully learn to respect the ESL student for their small attempts at something so big.
I can’t seem to let that concept go. As a language student myself, I feel like I can identify with my students in understanding the levels of anxiety, embarrassment, and effort that it takes to learn a foreign language; as well as the overwhelming joy when you get something right! When you remember that word! Or pronounce something with ease and fluidity. It’s truly a victory. (Other foreign language students, I KNOW YA FEEL ME!)
If you know anyone, let alone see anyone, who is attempting a second language, I implore you: do not laugh, mock, impersonate, or act in a way that does anything but encourage them. Every culture is beautiful in its differences, and making fun is only a sign of insecurity — you have to put someone else down for the sake of a momentary joke or smile. (I could get on a soap box, probably already have, but I think y’all get the gist.) Be the person who acknowledges their attempts and their success (even if it’s just in your head. Honestly, that’s the hardest place to do it! Change you attitude!)
With English as my native language, no, I can’t fully comprehend my students’ experiences, but I CAN lead with sensitivity. In my classroom, my students are individuals that are all at different levels of progress in their English. We invite mistakes because it means we’re trying. Ask anyone! If you ask them ‘would rather someone try and mess up, or not try at all and play it safe?’, it never fails, people want to see effort!
This is a little peek into my world this Tuesday afternoon after a long day of class. It’s the middle of my week, and you should know that even though I want to pull my hair out sometimes, your long days are worth it when you realize all the things you’re learning: Patience (with myself and my students- it’s okay if it doesn’t happen right now), Joy (in the little victorious moments – when you acknowledge them, there’s actually more of them in your life than you realize), Discipline (practice, mess-up, practice again – keep at it), Edification (point out what someone is doing well! They NEED to hear that! And if you’re a teacher, YOU do too! Your students are so much more than whatever concept they haven’t grasped yet.).
Grateful for all of you and the ways you encourage me through this process!
*For those of you praying for me, I would like to request that you pray that my relationship with my students would indeed reflect a sensitivity to the challenge of learning English, as well as simply learning how to be a student. Sometimes I get too caught up in my American-ness and want to see results right away, and expect a great deal from kids who may not have even been exposed to the expectation before. What’s obvious to me, is often new to them. As well as a specific prayer for my student (who will remain unnamed), that he would forge ahead and be encouraged in school. He is tackling so much in his life with the loss of a family member, starting a new relationship with his recently present father, a new school, a new language, and new friends. He’s 9 years old.*
Buenas from Honduras! I’ve enjoyed a relaxing weekend and am so thankful for a couple days to restore and gear up for the next week. In my last post I shared a lot about what God has been doing in my heart since being here, but I haven’t really shared what my daily life is like and just some of the adventures I’ve had thus far. I want those who are curious to understand what an average day here is like at the Good Shepherd Children’s Home and the school.
At Good Shepherd Christian Academy we are currently switching academic calendars from the Honduran schedule (February-November) to the American schedule (August-May). Understandably, leadership at GSCA did not want the kids to be out of school for 8 months (November-August) so they are using this 4-month period as a leveling time for the students. You can think of it as a summer school to give them any extra help they need and to practice their English until the new school year begins in August. We have school Monday through Thursday, 7:30am-12:30pm. I am typically at school by 6:45-7am to getting ready for our day! As you all know, I have first graders so we spend our morning time practicing the calendar items, counting, letters, and doing our bible lesson. The next few hours are spent on Phonics, Math, Social Studies, and English.
We have a theme of “Around the World in 80 days” for this special 4 months and it has been SO much fun! The teachers have been discussing how incredible this theme is especially for our kids because they need the exposure to other parts of the world. (In their minds, the world is made up of Honduras, America and China ha). With this theme, we get to show them not only how big our world is, but how big our God is. He’s the creator of it all! – the people, cultures, languages, big cities and small towns, animals – everything! Every two weeks we change continents. So far we’ve covered Asia, Europe, and we have one more week of Africa then it’s on to North America! They are soaking it up like sponges. One day my kids came back from Art and Music stood in front of me at my desk and a little boy counted them off “1, 2, 3” and they broke out into a chorus of a little French song. It makes me so happy to see the kids genuinely excited about learning; whether that’s a song or counting to 100.
After school we have clubs! The kids have options of sports club, GA/missions club, STEM club, drama club, piano lessons, work out club, and library club. I’ve been helping with sports and missions club. When we started sports club we introduced baseball first. That was hilarious because we are in the land of football (soccer) and for many of them it was the first time they had touched a bat and glove. We’re now on volleyball (another new sport for them) and that’s been a blast! For missions club, which is for our girls, we’re seeing spiritual transformation happen! We spent our first meeting discussing different historical missionaries and understanding the sacrifice of service. Our girls in the club (ages as early as 7 all the way to 17) are being exposed to looking to the needs of others before their own. Often times our kids here have a selfish attitude because they’re used to so many teams coming in and doing/giving things to/for them. God is working in their hearts week after week by challenging them to realize how blessed they are even considering their circumstances that put them in the Home in the first place. We’ve picked up trash in the local area (an idea they come up with on their own) and visited a village on top of the mountain to bring supplies to their school. That facility was a one room school house for 28 students (grades kindergarten-6th) with only one teacher who commutes over an hour and half every morning. We watched the girls stand in awe at the poverty and the grateful hearts that thanked them for their service. We let the girls pray for that school and many of them recognized in their prayers how thankful they were to have enough space and big classrooms in our school for every grade. Showing them that even for Honduras many of their needs are being met is so wonderful. It gives us hope that year after year here, they will recognize how faithful the Lord has been to them through this ministry.
A huge part of my week that I share with my fellow teachers is our bible study we have on Wednesday night. For those who are familiar with it, we’ve started the first D-Group to exist in Honduras! For those who aren’t, D-Groups is an international discipleship study group that focuses, as the name suggests, on making groups of disciples. I’ve found this to be such a huge part of my life because it’s pushing me in new ways spiritually that I needed, and it’s also time for our team to spend together in God’s word. This particular study is very much centered around accountability and weekly goals. It is a huge blessing to do this study with people who understand the everyday challenges of our kids, school, and children’s home.
This is a typical week without a mission team visiting, but hopefully this provides a little clarity as to what I’m doing every day! It’s a joy to be here. I especially want to thank my sponsors and donors who so graciously give to make this possible for me. I am learning so much about myself, others, and the faithfulness of our Father. Thank you to those who pray for me and also spend time with me on the phone and facetime. YOU are also helping further the Kingdom by equipping me emotionally to do this job. This post might seem a little dry because it’s nothing flashy, but the Lord uses our daily lives for his glory. Even the most monotonous days He uses. He can use YOU today wherever you are in whatever you are doing. We are his workmanship and the works of His hands.
I’m reminded of a song we used to sing in church growing up that says:
He is able, more than able // To accomplish what concerns me today// He is able more than able// To handle anything that comes my way
He is able, more than able// To do much more than I could ever dream,// He is able, more than able// To make me what He wants me to be.
Be blessed today friends!
I’ve been in country now for exactly 18 days and it’s been incredible! I hate that I’ve left you all hanging for this long to let you know how everything is going, but transitioning here really threw me for a loop! I finally feel like I’m in a good place to articulate the ways God has already worked on my heart. I think an appropriate image to encompass the initial transition inside me and around me would be the slow build-up of a big wave. It was building and building and building, and after reaching great heights, it came crashing down, washing everything away in its path. The anticipation of this trip built so quickly and now that I’m here, I feel like everything came at once, wiped my slate clean and made everything new. It’s finally calming down and I am settling into my new normal and loving it!
There’s no way to prepare yourself for an experience like this. I’ve done my best to come into this with an open heart and mind, but the Lord is renewing me with every passing day in ways that I didn’t even know I needed to be renewed. I’d like to think that even after studying Central America and the Spanish language for the last 5 years and having a heart for ministry that I was prepared for this job. I won’t belittle that, those are great things that have heavily influenced this choice and definitely made things easier, but it’s not everything. When I packed to come here, I brought many things that would supply my personal and professional needs. What I didn’t consider is that I also brought along with me my insecurities, personal challenges, and everything that makes me who I am. I came into this thinking “you’re strong, you’re ready, and you’ve prepared yourself for this moment”. That’s a fragile system to work with if you’re only putting hope in yourself. I learned very quickly that many of the parts of myself that have always been reliable and unquestionably there when I start something new, were very changed in this environment upon my arrival. For instance:
1) I love people: meeting people, talking to people, hanging out. I hate being alone.
Me in Honduras: I have never needed so much alone time in my whole life. Give me all the space and quiet.
2) It makes me sad to admit it (especially because Drake Bassett is my father, and that man loves his books), but I am not a reader. I’m really good at starting books, but not finishing them. Always been an aspiration!
Me in Honduras: I read a book in 2 days and loved every second of it (the alone time and the book). I’m already halfway through another. Who. Am. I.
3) I studied Spanish for 5 years and I’ve been so excited to practice speaking here.
Me in Honduras: Terrified to practice with native speakers. (I’m finally starting to come out of that and it feels so good!!!)
4) I always have a plan in my work along with a plan B.
Me in Honduras: Very much struggling to get one cohesive plan together for the first week. I felt so out of control.
These are just a few, and they may seem like little trivial things, but when you add up all the little trivial things, it starts feeling like a) a mini identity crisis, or to be honest, in brief moments, b) I made a mistake.
After having an ugly meltdown last week over all this and more, my director, Brooke, reminded me of a couple things. One, it’s important to cut yourself some slack. I hold myself to some high expectations and when I don’t meet them, the pressure piles on. For those of you who can relate, you know that “overwhelming” doesn’t cover it. It changes my whole attitude and stress drives my day until I fall apart. That first week and a half I had to take a lot of alone time for myself and start small by setting some daily goals. The more her words, “give yourself some grace”, really started to sink in, I realized that sometimes you’ve got to give yourself some credit when you try to do something new or difficult. And just because you can’t operate at the same momentum you thought you could, does not mean you are not moving forward.
Second, she reminded me that “apart from God, I am nothing”.
Apart from God, I am nothing.
A humble reminder that’s full of so much truth. It brought me some sweet relief to remember that the only reason any of us are able to do anything is because of God’s goodness. He grants us the gifts, talents, abilities, whatever you want to call it, in order to do daily life. That could be lending a hand, cooking a meal, singing a song, or teaching a child. It all comes from Him. So I can rest in the fact that even if I find myself changing in ways I didn’t expect, it doesn’t matter because God is made perfect in my weakness. When I feel weak, or not myself, He is then so strong. Because if I only ever feel strong, (aka I have everything figured out and I always know what to expect of myself) then I have no need of Him. Feeling so out of control in the beginning immediately led me to complete reliance and faith in Lord’s plan for me. The things I’ve been struggling with the most are all things that develop with time. Building strong relationships with the tías, children, and team, Spanish language fluency, acclimating to a new lifestyle and schedule, understanding my new role as a teacher and how I operate my classroom, developing new habits and ways to renew myself, understanding Honduran culture, and so much more… it all takes time.
So although in many ways this is a dream come to life (and I truly mean that, it is so wonderful), it is also still real life. I am broken and in desperate need of a Savior who will show me that I don’t have to put hope in myself to always be who I expect myself to be. I can rely on the One who is never-changing, and it’s enough to have a willing heart that looks to Jesus for help. Thank goodness the Lord takes what we have to offer, no matter how big or small, and uses it while still pushing us to be even more because He knows all that we can be!
It’s like I was telling myself “Go! Learn of the world! Be transformed! Embrace the new!”. Then as soon as I started showing any signs of change, and life began to transform, I was freaked out. Isn’t that a sure sign of not trusting in our Father. A dear friend wrote me a note upon leaving for this journey and reminded me of the verse found in Isaiah 64:8. It says this:
“Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”
I want to be moldable. Teachable. Changeable. Someone who doesn’t rely upon the goodness of myself, but rather the goodness of my Father – knowing that He knows what’s best for me. He knows my truest self, and all the ways I want to be known and understood. So even when I feel like I don’t even know myself– or know anything that’s going on around me – it’s okay. Because He does, and that’s enough.
I thank you all so much for your continued prayers and words of encouragement!
Some things I couldn’t include, but want to tell you because SO much has happened already:
On January 30th, very early in the morning, I’ll be flying on an airplane to begin my life’s newest journey of teaching English to precious children in Honduras for four months. I feel a wide range of emotions as this is my first time leaving the country, but the overarching feeling I have is honored. I feel honored that I’ve been chosen.
I haven’t had very long to reflect over myself and this opportunity yet because, as many of you know, I was hired not long ago on December 30th – leaving me with exactly one month to plan, fundraise, and prepare myself for this life-changing experience. It has been a non-stop process since that day, but WOW, the Lord has shown up for me. In 2 weeks, He provided the funding, in its entirety, for me to make this move (Thank you to those who generously gave and prayed for me). He has moved countless people to share advice, encouragement, care packages, and love with me before I head out. He has given me a peace which truly has surpassed all understanding, because I have no idea how I feel so calm right now (doubt and anxiety are close friends of mine). All of that to say, I could not feel more equipped to handle this transition, and I know it’s because of the way God is working on my behalf.
As I gear up for this new job as a teacher (by the way, an occupation I told myself I would never do….HA), I’ve been overcome with this sense of honor that I’ve been deemed fit and capable to participate in helping shape the future for some of these children. Why me? How did this happen? How can I..? What can I…? – But those questions do not matter. God picked me. The beauty of life with Jesus is that He sees the sinner and looks at the weak and says “I can use you” and “You are more than capable to do this!”- even when we do not feel it or believe it. THANK YOU to all of you: my friends, family, coworkers, professors, church family, and loved ones who have been Jesus to me by encouraging me with those very words and motivated me to go do this. May God be glorified in the good works He has planned for me through the joys and challenges of this experience, and through all that Good Shepherd Christian Academy offers these children this semester.
The next you’ll hear from me will be on the other side! ¡Hasta la vista América!