Stepping into 4th Grade

I can’t believe we haven’t written since Christmas. Well actually, I’m not surprised as my one track mind has been fixated in one direction over the last few months. Perhaps Daniel’s Facebook and Instagram posts are about all that we have shared recently.
At the beginning of January I stepped in to substitute teach for the KICS 4th grade teacher who was taking maternity leave. I loved being back in the classroom, though it was a bit all consuming at times. Being in 4th grade was quite a shift from my previous middle school and high school teaching roles. However, I enjoyed the challenge and learned a lot along the way.
KICS started a J-Term this year. For the primary kids, each grade had a different direction that they focused on for a few weeks. In 4th grade we had the opportunity to dive in to discover Rwandan culture, history, geography, dance and language. It was a fun start to my three months in 4th grade.

The 4th grade class learning Intore (Rwandan traditional) dance

I also had the privilege of shepherding the kids through their second student-led conference of the year. It was so fun to see the kids take responsibility for their learning, set goals for their final quarter and articulate to their parents areas that they have grown and where they are struggling.

Student Led Conferences

On a daily basis I was the 4th grade homeroom teacher and taught Math and Science to both 4th and 5th grade. One major highlight for me was the first 15 minutes of each day. After greeting the kids as they arrived, we would begin each day with a brief class community time. We shared and discussed a passage of Scripture, sang a song or two and prayed – something that is so rare nowadays in typical American classrooms. I treasured those kids’ hearts as they lifted their voices in praise and as they prayed for one another and for the world.

I am so thankful for my time back in the classroom with these kids and once again reminded of what a joy it is to serve in this community in Rwanda. My time filling in as the 4th grade substitute came to a close at the beginning of April. The kids showered me with kind notes and hugs, though I will still be close by.  As the kids adjust back to their “real” teacher, I’ll now begin the transition to a different, more longer-term role as the Director of Teaching and Learning. Thanks be to God for this beautiful, yet short, season – for the challenges that came, the lessons learned, and the precious learning moments with students.

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Kids and Christmas Crafts

Josiah and Norah are at a fun age for messy play. Crafts aren’t quite crafty, yet. Their “crafts” are more of an exploration of color and texture and the products are a little-kid kind of beautiful. As we prepare for another Christmas in Rwanda, we’ve had some special moments together – so far we’ve done some baking and decorating cookies, finger painting a “Christmas tree,” and lots of coloring and cutting. We’ve also shared some lovely mornings with friends. In a few of the pictures below Josiah, Norah and I are decorating cookies with Katie and her kids who are new, dear friends. We have another big batch of cookies to make this afternoon for some special guests coming to visit for a Christmas meal. I can only hope they turn out as lovely as the first batch!

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Jay’s Visit

Jay, a friend and the pastor of our sending church in Illinois, just left after a week long visit to Rwanda. We are so grateful for the time we had with him.

Jay has been coming to Rwanda for about 12 years now.  He started coming in the early days of AMiA when the Rwandan Anglicans reached out to American churches in a time of need.  He has continued to come, building and deepening relationship here, both personally, as well as through our sending church.  Jay has been pressing in and he has been welcomed in, being made a canon (a person of leadership as well as counsel for the bishop) of the Shyira Diocese.

This trip, Canon Jay was invited to participate in a ordination retreat, a time of teaching and encouragement for those about to enter into full-time, ordained ministry.  Jay presented on the topics of worship and clergy self-care, subjects near to his heart and interests, to the almost 50 men and women following God’s call to ministry.  You can see his own reflection on the time here.

Jay also made a point to spend time with our family.  To some this may sound intimidating: the sending church pastor come to check in on the far-flung missionaries.  We have missionary friends here who would not enjoy the experience.  On the other hand, we’ve known missionaries in Rwanda who never received a visit from their sending church.  It really means so much to us to have Jay come visit.  He encourages us, offers perspective on challenges, he gives pastoral counsel, and helps us feel connected to those he represents at “home”.

Jay has personally witnessed a lot of the development in Rwanda over the past years of visiting.  We were able to check out two Kigali establishments, newly opened since his last visit.  Jay and I had coffee at the big new Kigali Marriott in the city center.  This will definitely be one of the premier places to stay in Rwanda.  Then on his last day, Kari and I took him to the new Kigali Convention Center and Raddison Blu hotel complex.  It was fun to explore some of the new sites in our city with Jay.

We felt really blessed to have this time with Jay.  There was a lot of good conversation and catching up.  Two things stand out for mention.  First, I think Jay’s time teaching helped him see some of the challenges of cross-cultural Bible teaching and training.  He may not feel it, but it means a lot to me that he can identify with my own work here by his experience.

Second, Jay spent time with our kids. Josiah and Norah know him as “Papa Jay” and obviously feel a sense of closeness to him.  Having been a Third Culture Kid, Jay seems able to relate to them in a way that most of our friends and family at home won’t be able to.  I think he takes that seriously, which means so much to us as parents.  Jay wrote a little on the kids here.

Jay has recently celebrated his 10th Anniversary as the pastor at Church of the Redeemer and we have known him as our pastor for the last 8 years.  We are thankful for his ministry to us and the time we had with him.

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Thanksgivings Continued…

I’d like to share one more thanksgiving, though this blog topic could continue with endless thanksgivings and praises. In mid-October, I returned to work full-time at KICS (Kigali International Community School). Josiah and Norah transitioned to being in a morning Montessori preschool very well, and in time we all transitioned to the new schedule.

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Josiah is in the red shirt… 🙂

That is a thanksgiving in itself, but I want to share more. I guess you could say that I had joyously agreed to step back in at KICS as a pinch-hitter – filling in where there were gaps. This semester I worked to “investigate” the current primary curriculum. Basically, I spent my time asking teachers and administrators questions – lots of questions, observing classes, digging around in old documents, inventorying resources, researching what’s out there in the realm of standards, curriculum and resourcing and working with the Primary principal to state concerns and suggest “next steps”. It was challenging, invigorating and I hope helpful for the school in the long run. Pinch-hitting again next semester, I’ll be jumping into another role – to teach 4th grade while the teacher is on maternity leave. I’m looking forward to the time in the classroom again and working more directly with kids.

All that said, in the way of thanksgivings, I thank our loving God and father that I have this opportunity to be back at KICS. I thank God for this school, for the privilege to serve alongside others with a similar desire to know Christ and to make Him known within this community and ultimately the world. As I “investigated” the curriculum, I was encouraged to witness many instances of teachers sharing the grace, truth and love of Christ with kids. I even had the opportunity to hear the Junior class share what they learned this semester in Bible class, and was personally encouraged by their testimonies and the Truth that they articulated with deep conviction. I praise God that He is at work in each student’s life as they hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ and “are rooted and built up in him” during their time at KICS.

Last week, I was also offered the opportunity to continue serving at KICS next year in the role of the Director of Teaching and Learning. Humbled by the opportunity and acknowledging that I have a lot to learn in order to fulfill this role well, I’m thankful that the Lord has given me an unshakable love and commitment to the people that make up this school community and that he has called me back to more fully participate in the work that He is doing at KICS. I’m so grateful for this opportunity, and I trust that He will be with me and will be my ever-present help.

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