Monday, January 7, 2013

all my children

Today my family shrinks a bit... at least for the next three months. Every December, April and August, we become "camp parents" to about 20 kids at our farm. During these months that these students live with us, we provide food, housing, devotions, discipleship, work opportunities and fun to students in our school assistance program. Different from other child sponsorship programs, we provide an opportunity to students and their families to earn the money needed to go to high-school while also granting scholarships to students based on their orphan status and/or school performance. We have found that something for nothing actually doesn't benefit these kids in the long run. Making school possible, feasible and affordable has the ability to change their future. These students matter to us, and we pray that our impact on their lives makes a real and lasting difference for each student, their future families and the communities which they will go on to lead.

Somewhere along the way, the students started calling Jeremy and I "Ba Daddy" and "Ba Mayo" (Mother) respectively. It was kind of funny and cute at first, but gradually we have gotten into our roles more and more. I hear myself go all parental on them sometimes and its a little weird...

"Abby, hold your sister Bronwyn while I go to the bathroom."

"Memory, your skirt is way to short, go put some clothes on girl."

"Emmanuel, if you poke your eye out doing that, I'm going to cry. And then I"ll take you to the ER."

"Gershom, you have so much potential. Keep working hard! And stop flirting."

We've gotten a taste of what parenting teenagers is like. Sometimes they are totally attentive and responsive and I feel like I am speaking to their soul. Other times they look back at us blankly, as if to say, "you are so out of touch with my life right now." I find myself scouring the index of all of my Dobson books and wondering, "In 12 years when Bronwyn is a teenager, will I be ready for this?!?!?!"

These kids really are wonderful and we are thankful that we get to be a part of their academic and life education. We trust that the activities we run for them and the words we speak to them will matter now, next year and into eternity.

Perhaps the most important feature of our program is the evening discipleship. We emphasize to the kids that we don't want them to just finish school, get good jobs and be successful people. We start everything with a discussion of "gaining the whole world but losing your soul. We care about the kind of people these kids are becoming, and we say that over and over. It has been hard for me this past month to have to outsource a lot of the girls discipleship to our short-term volunteers. Since this time happens later at night, I'm usually found with Bronwyn, safely tucked under a mosquito net. Which is important for both of us right now. On a few occasions I wrapped Bronwyn up so that only her little nostrils and eyeballs were showing and I led the discussions. Those times were fantastic! We talked about witch doctors and giving all of your life to God, about why sin is so easy and why doing the right thing is so hard. Being out there with the kids was both invigorating and stressful as I wanted to stay forever, but also felt like I needed to take care of Bronwyn first. Each time I would say that I needed to get inside with the baby, the girls would counter, "Please teach us more!!!" Oh the ongoing tension of needing to mother my own baby but wanting to mother others as well! 

For now I take what I can get and look forward to opportunities in the future. Until April, dear ones, study well, focus on school and God and we'll see your shiny, ridiculous, precious little faces soon!

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