It is now May. How did that happen?? I feel like it was just March and I turned over my Charlie Brown calendar to April, and now it is May and we have less than 3 weeks left of school. WHAT?? Seriously. How did this happen??
The whole month of March, I was so exhausted every day. I don't know why. I don't know what from, but it really got to me. Then, once I kind of felt like it was getting better it was April and some very special visitors came. With their presence here, I felt like I needed to be with them as much as I could. But I knew when I needed to be by myself and I made sure to take time to rest while they were here. This is something that God has taught me during my time here. When I first came, I felt like I had to be doing everything with everyone. As time went on and visitors came and went, I slowly learned that I needed to be by myself at times. I learned how to manage my time when teams and visitors came, spending time with them when I wanted and hiding away in my room when I needed. I thank God for that. I hated to be alone before I came here, but now I know I need it and sometimes I enjoy it. ;)
So what happened to April? With me being so tired in March, was April just me getting back into the swing of things? Maybe... Actually, I had to get adjusted to my new duties after Easter break with the start of me teaching Yajaira. So much went on in April, too. Maybe that was part of the reason it seemed to slip by? I don't know, but now it is May, and I am still not sure how that occured. Time goes by so fast, everywhere really, but here it seems to go by faster. There is always so much going on, things planned and changed, things coming up at the last minute, etc. I just go with the flow. Many times that means I don't really pay attention to the days and they just slip by... I don't know if that is a good thing or not!
Anyway, there are only 12 days left of school, but really less than that since we have bell performances and end of the year activities planned. I'm kind of feeling rushed to get done what I planned for my reading class. With the way things come up, I am praying that the things I'd like to do get finished before May 19. I also feel pressed for time with Yajaira. I feel like we do pretty much the same things everyday in math, but I am praying that what I am teaching her, she retains, and next year when she comes back, she just has to be reminded of things and can pick back up pretty quickly. Sometimes I feel like, "what's the use?" with her. But God has really given me the desire to keep on teaching her, even if it is the same things over and over. I am trying to be persistent and trust that what I am doing is making a difference in her life. I have seen improvements, but it is still especially hard since it is the end of the school year. In just 2 weeks, the students pack up their stuff and go home for the summer. For most kids, summer break isn't a problem. But for a few of the students here, summer break is more of a hindrance than a help for their brains. Yes, they need a break just like everyone else, but many times deaf children aren't getting much stimulation or learning done at home. Most times, at least for these children, they sit at home in front of a TV and watch endless hours of nonsense or play video games which causes them to totally backslide. So by the time August comes and a new year starts, we have to re-teach everything that was taught the last few months of the year before, and then by the time that is re-taught, it is Thanksgiving and the Christmas season begins and not much is learned around Christmas time. They are all excited and thinking about what 'Santa' will bring them.
Deaf children, especially in Puerto Rico, are already at a disadvantage because they can't hear. But not being able to hear isn't really the issue. The issue is that language isn't being learned. And with 90% of Deaf children having hearing parents, their language development is, in many cases, very delayed because 1. the parents don't know their child is Deaf until a bit later in life, so their child isn't exposed to language for the first few years of their life; 2. many parents don't take the initiative to learn ASL, causing their child to not be able to communicate at home, therefore further delaying their language development. And if they can't communicate at home, what else is there to do except for sit in front of the television?
Pray for our students. That as they go home for the summer, their minds would hold the things they learned this year. That when they come back, there is less time re-teaching and more actual teaching and learning that happens. As I said, I am a bit concerned that all the stuff I am teaching Yajaira now, will be gone in August when she returns. Pray with me this won't be the case and that when she returns, she will remember all the Spanish words she learned this year as well as how to count money, tell time, and trade/borrow when subtracting. These seem like very simple tasks for anyone, but for her it takes time to explain how to do something, and then even more time of repetitious practice until she finally understands it on her own. And if it isn't practiced often, she forgets it again. We wonder if there is something else going on in her brain that is causing that delay. Or is it just that she has lived all her life up until recently without having to use her brain the way she is now? We probably will never figure out the answer. But she has shown such a desire to want to learn over these last two months and the progress that she made proves that. Many times she asks me if she can have math homework and she is always wanting to do the workbook that goes along with the reading program. I pray this desire continues and that the work we gave her to do over the summer, she completes and even goes over a few times to practice more and more.
I have been enjoying teaching her as time goes on. She makes teaching fun because she is always doing something silly and making me laugh. And with her desire to learn, she hasn't had many times that she complained or has said, "This is hard. I can't do this." When she has said that, I would encourage her and tell her the things I was teaching her were things she has done before and I know she can do it. Sometimes a little reminder of going back to work and not being a student helped too. ;-) So please pray for her. Pray for next year too, that whomever teaches her would have more knowledge and wisdom to get the point across so she understands easier.
I praise God we are able to teach the five students we do. If they were in the public school system here, they would most likely fall through the cracks. Puerto Rico is very uneducated about Deaf people, and lack services for proper communication for them. In the states, there are agencies with well educated interpreters for the Deaf to call and request when needed for doctor visits, conferences, court hearings, etc. Here, there is one, maybe two, agencies that I know of. And from what I have seen, there are only a handful or two of people who are skilled in ASL and able to interpret properly. Many of the university students that I have meet over my time here don't have a good knowledge of ASL, but yet they are able to become interpreters for the Deaf in PR. So many of the children that are mainstreamed (in public schools) sit in class with an interpreter that isn't skilled nor well educated about Deaf people trying to learn, but many times are just told to copy what the teacher wrote on the board and actually don't learn at all. To be able to have the students we do, educating them on how to read, write in English, learn Science, S.S., Math, and many other things, is awesome. I am so grateful that this school exists and that I am able to help disprove the myths that so many people here think about Deaf children/people.
So with all that said, pray for the people here. That they would be educated properly about the Deaf and would realize that Deaf people are just like everyone else. They can learn to read and become great assets to their communities. Pray also that our students can grow up to become successful people and are able to educate Puerto Rico on Deafness and show that they did what many have thought and said they couldn't.
There are three days left, but actually one day of actual school. Tomorrow is a field trip to a University for a performance done in Sign Language. Thursday is the last day of school celebration and lunch with the students and their families. Wednesday will be filled with finishing up class work, tests, cleaning their desks, and probably some fun games or something if there's time. So this is it. It's over, done. I can't believe it. I feel like I just came back from Christmas break a few short weeks ago, like I just celebrated my birthday which was in the middle of March, and now it's the end of the semester. Seriously. Did someone push a fast forward button on the remote of life and not inform me??
After this week, comes the week of staff thoughts and input on things we've noticed that may be helpful for teaching the students next year, major cleaning, and the time of the dreaded 'goodbyes'. This year will be different for sure. The Yoders are moving back to the states, so things around here will definitely change. No more calling Brendan when something is broke, clogged, out of whack, not connected (i.e. the internet), etc. No more random new doohickey placed somewhere by him offering a wonderful help and leaving us thinking, "Why didn't I think of that??" or "Wow. That was surely creative." No more wonderful food, both sweet and not so sweet made by Rebekah. No more conversations with her that normally uplift my soul and bless me after they happen. And certainly no more children's screams of either being rebellious, in pain, or most of all, joy and laughter. Those will be the things I will miss most without them around.
Also leaving are Abby, the Jr. missionary that has been here from the beginning of the semester, as well as my wonderful roommate, Christie. She has been here since August and will be returning to Canada the second week of June. And then there's me. Yes, I will be leaving too. So not only am I saying goodbye to those leaving, I will also be saying bye to those staying. This is going to be hard. For the last three years, I've called this place my home. For the last three years, I've grown to love each staff person that has come through here, as well as each student. For the last three years, I've been involved in my church, serving on their worship team and participating in the women's ministry and other activities, growing to love my pastor and the people in the congregation. For the last three years, I've been able to drive about 10 miles to the beautiful rainforest to view part of the awesomeness of our God, and only 4 miles to see and enjoy the gorgeous beaches that have an array of blue ocean waters to swim in. And even in the tough times of the last three years, those times when I wanted to be home and not here, I knew this was the exact place God wanted me to be because I always saw and felt His blessings and for that, I've been grateful. This is going to be difficult, have I said that already?
So what next? I don't know. Honestly, I have no clue. All I know is my time here is up. God has made it very clear that this be my last semester and I should return home to PA. As far as what is to come when I get there, I have not a thought in my mind. It's so hard to see my life outside of here. I don't have much sense of what life back home looks like. Obviously, it will be filled with seeing friends and family more often than when I was here, but as far as a job, where I will live, what I will drive, etc, no clue. I can't see much past the first few days of June, because that is when the last things written on my schedule are. I will be staying a bit longer here to clean up, prepare things for the next teacher, and take some, hopefully, quiet, relaxing days of rest and processing before heading home.
So with all that said, I ask that you pray for me. Pray the Lord shows me exactly what He wants me to do. Pray He speaks very clearly what His will is next for my life. This is one of those 'fully rely on God' situations, and I honestly don't have any other choice but to do that. I mean, I guess I could worry myself sick, but why? He is the One that called me here and had me stay for the last three years. He's the One that has been faithful throughout those years. And He's the One that has called me to leave. Why would He fail me now?? He wouldn't, because I am His child and He loves me. He will work everything out, I have no doubt about it. I am a bit concerned about what is to come though, only because I don't know yet, but I know He will lead me in the direction I am to go. But I ask you to pray with me as these next few months happen. Going home without a job lined up and no source of income is scary. Not knowing what my next thing will be is a bit daunting. Transitioning from life here to life back home will be overwhelming, to say the least. Finding my place there again is going to be interesting, and will probably take some time. Knowing me, it will take longer than I expect. So again, I ask that you pray for me through this time.
I know it is not going to be easy to say goodbye to here and all the wonderful people I have met and now are a part of my journey. I do plan to come back and visit as God allows. This place will always have a special place in my heart, but I know it is up to Him and His plans for my life as to whether or not that will happen. I hope it does so that I am able to see how the students will grow and mature, how they will change, how they will allow God to work in their lives.
I have said this before and I'll say it again- I am grateful to our Father for allowing me to live the life I have here. He has blessed me so much during my service here and I am so very thankful. How many people can say the Lord called them to serve Him in a beautiful place such as this? How many people get to enjoy warm weather, beautiful wildlife, nature, and beaches pretty much whenever they want? How many people have the privilege to work with other Christians toward a common goal, being uplifted, encouraged, and prayed for by one another through life's trials and chaos? My time here wasn't all hunky-dory, fine and dandy, enjoying God's beautiful creation and other things whenever I wanted to, though. There were some days I thought I was in 'hell'. But God used those days to strength me into the person He wanted me to be and I am grateful He did.
So again, pray for all this. For the Yoders, as they leave next week to a new place and home. For Christie, as she goes back to Canada and her old job. She has things on her heart that she wants to do, so pray for a clear vision of those things, and the opportunity to do them. Pray for Abby as she heads back to PA also, wondering the same thing I am-what's next? Pray for the staff that will stay-Betsy, Lora, and Tess. Philip also, when his six months in Canada is up and he is allowed to come back. Pray for the next workers that God will bring here. That He will already start to work in their hearts for their time here. Pray for His Spirit to be so powerful on this place, that every person that walks onto the school grounds would know that this is a place that serves God above all else. Pray for the student's families, that they would see the work the Lord is doing in their children's lives and would come to accept Christ, or recommit their lives to Him. Pray for the students, not only for their summer break, but for their future. That their eyes and hearts would be open more to who God is and what He has done for them. Pray for future students, that they would find this place and while attending here, they would grow in knowledge of Jesus Christ and the wonderful gift of salvation He gives us.
Heavenly Father, what else can I say but thank You? You are just so wonderful and sometimes I feel as though those two words aren't enough. But because I can't think of any other words that would even begin to bring You glory and honor, I say thank You. Thank You for my time here. Thank You for Your blessings. Thank You for Your Son. Thank You for my salvation. Thank You for Your love. Thank You, Father. Amen.
UPDATE: The last day of school came and went, and was such a lovely day. The Yoders left Monday and are now setting into their new home in a new town. Abby has flown back to Pennsylvania and is now being challenged with life there. Christie, Lora, Tess, Betsy and I are focusing on a Silent Workshop coming up this week, as well as one of the student's 15th birthday. After that, Lora and Betsy will fly to their home town's to spend a few weeks with family and friends before returning here for the rest of summer preparing things for the new school year. Christie will fly in about 2 weeks, leaving me and Tess here until I fly closer to middle/end of the month. Lots going on, so remember - please pray! :-)