Cheers and Tears

On June 20, we got to watch as all our seniors graduated. It was such a great feeling to realize that each of them had become so much more than just a name to us. My heart cheered for them, sad to see them go but eager for them to experience all God has in store for them next.

We’ve now been back in the U.S. for 5 days. We ate at In n’ Out, had several salads without having to wash the super tender spinach, breathed easier at sea level during a few runs, threw Doug’s parents a surprise 50th anniversary party, and hugged our adorable 2 year old niece. But more on all those things later! Doug did a great job summing up the end of the school year at AAI, so I thought I would take a few minutes to do some reflecting of my own and invite you into my thoughts as I do so.

It was a bit of a rough ending as exhaustion set in and students and teachers alike were counting the days and weeks until the end of the school year. As I met with students and teachers in counseling sessions and as I walked through the halls, I sensed a collective weariness in the people around us. It became more challenging to hold others through that weariness as I could feel my own encroaching as well. Looking back on it though, of course it feels like time flew by – it always does in retrospect, doesn’t it?

Reflecting on the year as a whole, the things that stand out to me are the individual students and families I was blessed to cross paths with. The events and activities were certainly memorable and unique parts of our first year there, but its the individual moments and journeys God placed in front of us that made our own challenges, culture shock, and homesickness worth it.

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I wish I could give you a direct window into my thoughts as the faces and names flash across my mental year-in-review. You would see the tentative glances of a blonde sophomore girl who started the year hating school and dreading coming to my office every week and ended it saying that life maybe isn’t so bad and that our times together were hands down the highlight of her week. You would see a small, dark-skinned 2nd grade girl walking with her arm around me, saying “please,” “thank you,” and “good job,” after spending much of the year alienating all her friends with her lying, lack of boundaries, and cutting remarks. You’d see a clever, charismatic senior boy who many teachers dreaded having on their class rosters and who spent his high school career in danger of expulsion coming to Doug weekly to talk about life, parents, girls, and faith, and miraculously walking across the stage to receive his high school diploma. You’d see an 11th grade boy, crushed by the pressure from family and from himself, daring to start asking tough questions about the god he thought he believed in that may actually be a false god altogether. You would see a first-year teacher bravely forging her way through her own history of pain and abuse with unwavering determination to be and do something different with her life, eager to keep delving into our work together some more next year.

I have had the privilege of creating a safe space in my office for people to come and share their lives with me. From the moment that door closes until it opens again about an hour later, there’s no telling what brokenness will be revealed or what healing God will do in each person’s life I encounter.

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But I, too, have also been blessed by people willing to create a space for me in their lives as well. I have never been one to make lots of friends quickly, but rather to gradually develop a few friends deeply. I am so thankful for coworkers at AAI who have started to become those friends. Thankful for coffee dates, girls’ nights, trivial stories, and deep conversations that are becoming the fabric of our “family” in Ecuador. Some we had to say goodbye to as they moved away at the end of the year, and others we will be eager to reconnect with in the fall. We are incredibly excited and grateful to be spending the summer with loved ones in the U.S., but it is also a great feeling to know the people and the places we get to go back to in August. For now, though, I think it’s time for another spinach salad and a peaceful walk around the neighborhood.

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angela June 30, 2013 Ecuador, United States