Thursday, April 12, 2012

True Confessions of a Missionary Teacher; Mid-April 2012 Update

This has been a very different kind of week.  First, Vaughn leaves with about 35 others (mostly high school students) to travel 6 hours south (?) of La Paz to minister in 4 different villages doing various things; building, playing with children, music, etc. firs thing Monday morning for the entire week.  I stayed here and worked at the school.

The week has flown by as much of our time here in La Paz has.  One of my responsibilities is to substitute teach when a need arises.  Well, it arose Monday-Wednesday.  Monday and Tuesday weren’t too bad; I was substituting for the computer teacher and had elementary classes on those two days.  Then came Wednesday and I had Middle School; all three grades in the same day.  Sixth and Seventh grades – really no problem just a lot of talking.  Right after lunch I had T H E M.  The most dreaded class in the entire school, the class who doesn’t care and actually enjoys having the worst reputation.  The class that I “embraced” when I first came to Highlands, even going as far as having the girls over to our apartment to make pizza together, study for a huge math test and having a sleep-over.  I think that is where my problems with this class really started.  I began as a friend, not having taught them, it didn’t click that I was not starting out on the right foot (so to speak).  There is a line between being a teacher to students and a friend to them.  The line should not be crossed.  It is there (even though invisible) so that a certain amount of decorum and professionalism be observed.  Wednesday was not fun; I was in tears twice – once during the class and once immediately afterwards.

What ended up happening a few months ago is I subbed for the 8th grade class and they felt they could take advantage of our friendship.  It was a disaster.  I say that because they were all saying, in effect, what happened to you?  You USED to be nice and now this monster has appeared!  Not only did a number of the students in the class take advantage of our relationship, but they even went further than that and displayed blatant disrespect; even to the point of mouthing back, arguing with me and choosing to totally do “their own thing” instead of what was expected from them in the classroom.

That’s where I blew it again.  I was so appalled at 3 of the girls and their actions towards me one day when I was subbing, that I got “back in their faces.”  I lost control of my emotions and, even though they deserved to be sent out of the room, I raised my voice – yelled - at two of them.  Thankfully the Director of the school was in the classroom at the time and other students observed the actions of these three or I might have chalked it up to “old lady who just completely lost her mind syndrome.”  I had not sent a student out of the classroom at all until that class.  It is a tactic that many of the teachers feel is necessary in order to maintain some sort of order when one (or more) students decide to “act out.”  I had been able to handle things inside the classroom before that class, by other means of discipline.

The fact that these three girls were among the ones who had come to my home a few months before and were friends on Facebook (since then I have decided THAT was not a smart move, either and have had to make it a policy not to be friends with current students) made it all that much harder when two of the girls wrote mean, hateful things to me via Facebook email and then promptly “un-friended” me (blocked me) so that I could not carry on a conversation with them really “pushed one of my buttons!”  (And without me realizing it, I had gotten on their level and was acting like a middle-schooler instead of the adult professional that I am supposed to be).  So, a day soon after at school, I felt it necessary to discuss what had been going on with two of the girls.  That was a total fiasco and something for which I had the entire weekend to digest and because of what had occurred, I realized that I owed the girls an apology.  That has been harder than I ever imagined it would be to accomplish.  Not hard in regard to me not wanting to do it; I looked for opportunities first thing that next Monday morning - I have tried over and over, especially with one of the girls.  I was told a couple of days ago by this particular young lady, “Okay, I forgive you, but I will not forget.”  OUCH!  Cheap shot right to the gut.

I learned a lot of things these last few months with my interactions with this particular class.  Hopefully, I will not make the same mistakes with them or any other students again.  I have done everything humanly possible to restore relationships with the one gal, in particular (the other one forgave me the first time I talked to her about it, but has kept me at “arm’s length”).  I am not trying to restore the relationships that we once had – before I became their substitute teacher (over and over and over).  I am trying to get us to the place of mutual respect; one where the teaching that is to be done is not hindered by unresolved issues.

Being classified as a missionary does not magically or instantly transform one to some higher level of spirituality.  In fact, I have observed that my “rough edges” are actually magnified while on the foreign mission field.  I am not exactly sure why this is, other than I am in a totally different culture than I grew up in and I am on display more in these settings than when I am simply a church-going volunteer in the states.  I see so clearly things that I need to work on; things that I wasn’t aware of – blind spots, I guess you could call them.  I am thankful that I am aware of them, but also a bit overwhelmed at how far I still have to go.

There is a saying, I think it is even in a song or two - "I am not all that I should be or what I want to be, but thank God I am not what I used to be."  That is my prayer tonight. 

  P.S.  Vaughn gets home tomorrow!

~ Kathy

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Hello March!

If this is SUMMER, then I am a bit worried about what WINTER will be like!  For the most part, this summer is colder than Phoenix' winters. I have been told by numerous sources that the Rainy Season is longer this year than usual.  Having no heat in the house (other than a propane heater that scares me when I try to light it!) and no heat at the school doesn't help one to stay warm.  Most of the time recently my toes have been so cold I was afraid to walk in case I bumped into something and one of them broke off!  LOL  But, the rains have brought green to all of the mountains around us and I am awed every morning by a different landscape due to the rain and clouds and sun.  It is gorgeous and I have enjoyed the multitudes of different varieties and birds.
 I was able to catch on my camera, photos of a mother sow and her four piglets (sowlets?) eating trash at a nearby corner where dogs and birds usually gather.  It was quite funny to me to look up on a wire and see about a dozen large birds watching with anticipation - maybe anger (angry birds - ha ha ha!).  Sorry I can't transfer pix from my phone to my computer.  Sheep and pigs (boars) frequently visit the land around our school.  Dogs are EVERYWHERE.  SO far, we have not encountered any aggressive critters when we have been out walking.

Some praises:
*  We have had some more elementary students become Christians, and some 9th graders!
*  Kathy has finished her 5th of 8th classes (and has started on her 6th class) needed for her to earn her Bachelor's degree and graduate at the end of July in Ft. Oglethorpe, GA (very close to Chattanooga, TN)!
*  Vaughn has had some great talks with his students grades 9 - 12 regarding having a personal relationship with God.  It is SO cool that the kids here are so open and not intimidated or offended by discussing spiritual things and they are so honest.  It's a youth worker's dream!
*  Kathy's knee is doing MUCH better and things are progressing with her middle back.  Dr. Karola Guzman de Rojas has been a god-send!  Also, we have, for the much part been healthy.

Prayer Concerns:*  We have a number of students for which we have had wonderful conversations, but who as of yet not made decisions to become Christians.  Please pray for Alejandro (left), Diego (right),    Saba (a Muslim; not pictured), Paulina (below) and Andre (not pictured).  
There are others, but these are our "Most Wanted" at present. 
 *  We need to move by the end of May (before we leave for the US for June and July).  Please pray that our needs will be met by location, price, having it furnished and having at least a washer (but also having a dryer would be a MAJOR blessing).  Also, we do not have ANY household items whatsoever and because our support has been low, we have had to use the money that was designated for moving into an apartment for our regular needs and bills, we are a bit light on finances.
* Kathy will be teaching 5th grade next year (Aug. 2012 - June 2013).  Once she finishes her college classes she will need to start looking at lesson planning and also arranging and decorating her room at the beginning of June (before we head back here).

We would LOVE to share what is going on with the ministry here in La Paz with you at your church or at an informal, small gathering in your home.  We will be in the Eastern US in June and the Western US in July - please let us know if we can schedule a time for you.

Blessings to you and yours!

Vaughn and Kathy

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The end of January ALREADY?!?!?! WoW!

Hello!  MY, what a whirlwind the past two months have been!  Last semester ended well and off we went to visit our children and grandchildren in the U.S. during the month break we had from school.  We also had some business to take care of; trying once again to get the visa needed which is needed before we could apply for the one-year visa.

We flew into Birmingham and spent almost a week with Bethany and Joseph and their 3 kids.  We celebrated Christmas on the 23rd, as we flew out early the next morning for Arizona.

We spent two weeks in the Phoenix area mostly spending time with family.  Adam and Amy were close to the end of Amy's pregnancy and Ariana Michelle Van Liew made her debut two days AFTER we flew back to Alabama!  We were glad to hear that Amy and Ariana were doing well and we have really enjoyed frequent pictures on facebook of the Ariana and her big brothers and sister loving on her.

Isn't this picture of Ariana just the cutest?!  Smiling while she is sleeping.  3 weeks old today.

Our daughter and son-in-law are also expecting their fourth child - early June - and we should get to meet him as he is born or soon thereafter.

This semester has started off well.  We have had many opportunities to make God "real" every day in the lives of the students at Highlands.  I meet with many different students who need help with their reading and/or writing and I try to relate what we are working on in some way to our Lord, by either pointing out something from nature and how creative our God is or explaining how God has given each of us different gifts and that makes each of us special.  It is really a joy to get to work with the students here!  I am really looking forward to teaching 5th grade next year.

However, there is still a lot of hard work to be done before that; not just at Highlands but also as I finish up my degree program.  As of the the end of December, I had 8 classes to finish in order to graduate from Covington Theological Seminary on July 27th in Fort Oglethorpe, George (right near Chattanooga, Tennessee)!  I am finished with 2 of the 8 and am working on my third class.

I have been asked to help with the after-school drama club and decided that I could fit that in and think I will really enjoy working with the kids from 2d grade - 7th grade who want to participate.

Vaughn is busy planning for the upcoming Spiritual Emphasis Week (March) and the High School week-long mission trip which is the week right after Easter/Spring break in April.

We have a very full semester and almost every week has something different from the regular schedule to keep things exciting!

Well, I volunteered to bring the devotions to our staff meeting tomorrow morning, so I need to go prepare that now.

I will TRY to update our blog more often, but if you don't hear from me (or Vaughn) it's because we are busy doing what we feel the Lord has called us here to La Paz to do.

Abundant blessings to you and yours!
Kathy, for us both