When I we returned to the States, I expected that sense of kinship to be left behind on the front lines of the mission field. And indeed, at first it seemed to be as I had expected. Here in America the teachers’ lives weren’t defined so much by their work at the school. We had families of our own, lives quite divergent from the school, and we rarely crossed paths outside of CAA. Here most of the teachers were veterans in their own right, and if anyone was the newbie on the team, at least that first year, it was me. It seemed to me that each of us was in our own world, occasionally hailing to one another a brief word of encouragement during staff worship or while passing in the hallways. Like ships in the night, we shared the same space, but were essentially alone.
But this year, something has shifted. What I thought was reserved for the mission field has blossomed right here—a sense of camaraderie and closeness, and the rewards of a shared struggle. Once again, I have sisters in the fight (sisters because, as in Saipan, my fellow colleagues are entirely women; for those that assume such fellowship belongs only to men, I can attest that a man can find solidarity among sisters as well as brothers). We’ve talked about it some, and we all sense this new unity, though we can’t put our finger on exactly what brought it about.
As I reflect I see a couple of things that might have brought us together in a special way this school year. First the enrollment at CAA has skyrocketed, and with the blessings come the challenges of increase. And as the challenges have increased, so has our individual and corporate sense of need for the grace of God to meet these challenges. We are all praying more, and sharing our struggles with one another and lifting each other up in prayer. Lately, morning staff worship has become a lifeline. On the days that I miss worship, I always feel the weaker for it. For a little more or less than ten minutes we have church in that circle. The spiritual insights shared, the words of encouragement, the Spirit-soaked prayers, and just that sense that we’re not alone, that we’re in this with each other and with God serves as a morning pick-me better than any cup of coffee and fuel that keeps me going throughout the day. Despites the recalcitrant students and the jam-packed schedule these moments of morning watch together remind me that God is on the move in our school, moving in us and through us to reach our students with His love.
Another thing that has bound us together this year is our decision to start gathering on a regular basis outside of the school setting. On the first Sabbath of each month we gather with our families at one of our homes for Sabbath lunch and an afternoon of relaxed conversation and time together. Sure, we end up talking about the school 90% of the time, but it’s an agenda free gathering marked by lots of laughter and absence of workweek pressure. We’ve only had two such get-togethers so far (we’ll be hosting the December gathering), but they’ve become a highlight of the month for me already.
It’s a nice feeling to once again be in the company of sisters; to sense that someone has your back. I know that I can depend on my sisters to let one of my students sit in her classroom when a kid needs to not be in my room for a while. I can count on them for a wise word of counsel and an “I’ll pray for you” that I know is not merely a courteous expression but a promise that whatever burden I bear she’ll help me carry before the Lord. I know that they will be patient and flexible, always willing to make changes to accommodate the crazy classroom contingencies that are forever popping up. I know that they’ll understand what I’m dealing with, what I’m rejoicing in, what I’m anxious about, because they are going through the same things I am.
This week when I jump back into the fray come Monday morning, I know I won’t be going into battle alone. I’ll have Ms. Minisee, Mrs. Gray, Ms. Thomas, Mrs. Lavlas, Mrs. Lee, and our big-hearted, passionate leader Mrs. Arthurs right there in the thick of things with me. In the heat of the struggle to liberate my students, to help them live, learn, love and grow, I know my band of sisters will be right by my side.
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer. . . .Bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfill the Law of Christ. . .Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you are also doing.”
---- Romans 12: 10-12, Galatians 6:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:11.