"Life is an opportunity—benefit from it; life is beauty—admire it; life is a dream—achieve it; life is a challenge—face it; life is a duty—complete it; life is a game—play it; life is a promise—fulfill it; life is sorrow—overcome it; life is a song—sing it; life is a struggle—accept it; life is a tragedy—confront it; life is an adventure—dare it; life is luck—make it; life is too precious—do not destroy it; life is life—fight for it. Be blessed." ~One of the teacher here in Etago
These words were heard being read by Loren as Gretchen and I were in the middle of an interview with one of the teachers. They fit so perfectly with the things we had heard about the lives of some of these teachers that my heart couldn't help but be humbled by the things surrounding me. These last two days have been especially humbling and eye opening, that I thank the Lord for the privilege of having spent them. ~Life is an opportunity; life is beauty.~
Thursday noon, Gretchen and I interviewed all of the teachers, asking them different questions about their lives, and there was one that especially pulled at my heartstrings as I listened to the selfless love that he poured out. This teacher, Nicholas, is twenty-three years old, has been teaching here at the school for two years, and teaches 7th and 8th grade science; 7th grade Swahili; and 5th, 6th, and 7th grade Christian Religious Education. He lives in a small, poverty-ridden house with his six brothers, four sisters, and his father who had a stroke that is causing much difficulty. Nicholas is the 4th born child, but the oldest son, so he takes care of the family for his father. Almost half of his monthly wage, which is less than 30 American dollars, is used to pay for his father's illness, while the rest goes to his siblings' school bills and what they can afford for food and other needs. Nicholas is also a very intelligent man—having gone to "computer college," driving school, school for plant operation and road construction, and two years of school for teaching. Seeing his accomplishments, it is obvious that Nicholas is smart and could be working for more wages—but he chooses to teach here at the school. He chooses to work for 11 ½ hours Monday through Friday for 10 months of the year and make far less than what a person making minimum wage in the United States would make in a month, and he chooses to use all of that money for the rest of his family. What a selfless, respectable, Christian example. Nicholas has chosen to use his talents to help the children at this school get an education not only for their lives here on earth, but for their eternal lives. Nicholas has chosen to put the needs of others before his own, and to do the Work that the Lord has set out. Philippians 2:3 "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself." ~Life is a challenge; life is a duty.~
The 7th and 8th grade children have school from 8 am to 4:30 pm (like the others), with a break of 2 ½ hours, only to come back for class from 7pm to 10pm and stay overnight. The 5 male teachers here teach all of these 11 ½ hours, and some stay overnight with the children. For many of the children here, it is a wonderful blessing to be able to stay at the school. Many of them come from extremely poverty-ridden homes and families that cannot feed them or support them in their education, so the school allows these underprivileged children to live at the school for all ten months. The teachers selflessly allow these children to live here for free and go to school here for free, and they even provide them with what they can afford for food, which is more than their families can do; and the other school children who come from more privileged families and who are able to pay for school and live at home, bring what they can of food in order to help provide for the other, less-privileged children. This love for one another that is shown so abundantly here at the school is extremely humbling and heart wrenching. ~Life is a tragedy; life is a song .~
Gretchen and I also interviewed the 8th graders today, who will be graduating at the end of this month after taking a test in the coming week. Some of these children are those who live in struggling families, and are unsure of how they will be able to pay for secondary education after this. Another story that especially pulled on my heartstrings was that of a boy who is 13 years old and living with only his mother. He has no siblings and no father, due to the fact that his mother had him out of wedlock; and the two of them continuously jump from rental house to rental house when he is not living at the school. The teachers told us that this boy has very much potential—aspiring to be a doctor—but sadly after graduation, he will not have the funds to move on to secondary education since he has no father and a struggling mother, barely getting by on rent. If this boy's mother dies, he will have nowhere to go—no one to support him. He would be alone completely in the world, and as we found out from some of the other children, sudden death is not uncommon here. A few of the children's parents have died of malaria, and another's parents died in a car accident. ~Life is a struggle; life is a dream.~
These children are so determined and driven for their education and to make their lives better that it makes me look at my life and appreciate it so much more. God has blessed me with the opportunity to go to high school easily, when these children look at secondary education as a goal. God has blessed me with a home and a family that provides me with food and clothing, when some of these children don't have a home or parents, food, shoes, or many clothes. I looked at one of the children's feet today and saw toes popping out of the front of what used to be tennis shoes; and when we handed out those baseball uniforms, the smiles and excitement in the children's faces was unreal, just like when they were given toothbrushes. They all gripped their toothbrushes so tightly and waved them around in joy, that I was afraid they might lose circulation in their hands. God has blessed me with so many things in life and has given me so much more than I deserve. I thank the Lord for the opportunity he has given me to come on this trip to learn what I have and join in fellowship with these strong believers in Christ. The blessings I've received on this trip have been more than anything I could ever want or need—more than any physical blessings I could hold onto. I have surely learned more here than I have taught, and I will miss these children all the more for that. ~Life is too precious. Be blessed.~
Today was our final day with the kids, and after their beautiful morning songs and a few devotions from Loren, Matthew, and another teacher here, it was spent fully on playing with the children, talking with them, tickling them, letting them pet our hair and make it look "smart," and taking picture upon picture with them. Many of the children and teachers told us not to leave—to live in Kenya, get married in Kenya, raise a family in Kenya, and the like. It was so hard to say goodbye, especially when one of the teachers had some of the children from each class say a pleasant goodbye to us and had each of us say one to them. When all of the children were dismissed, another teacher—one that we worked with for much of the time we spent here—came up to us and gave a very wonderful goodbye speech, thanking us for the messages we have brought, the fellowship we have shared, and the work we have done. He ended his speech by saying, "let this be a beginning, but never an end." ~Life is an adventure; life is life.~
God's light is clearly being shown through these people and their selflessness, and I can assure you that they have done much more for us than we have done for them. Please pray for these beautiful people, that they may continue on with their work here, and that these families may be blessed, not only with earthly blessings, but especially with the grace of God and a strong faith so they can smile out any storms they may face.
Matthew 6: 25 & 34, "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? . . . Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." ~Life is a promise.~
"Never regret a day in your life. Good days give you happiness, bad days give you experience, and both are essential in life. Keep going."