Friday, September 6, 2013

New Roles: Dorm Parents in Africa!

Many of you know that for a few years, our kids have attended high school at Rain Forest International School in Yaounde, Cameroon (3°48’07.04 N, 11°33’15.09 E) while we've been working in the
country to the south, Gabon.  When we first came to Africa, we had made a deal with God that there would be no way we'd send Joe, Meg, or Sam away to a boarding school.  Well, after two years of home schooling in Gabon and becoming good friends with a family with kids at RFIS, it became clear that, for their best, this would be the next step.

What does this say about "making deals with God"?  Hmmm.... it seems that, graciously, the Lord worked with the faith that we had in trusting him for the first step in living and working in Africa.  When the time came to take a bigger step of faith, the Lord graciously, again, took us through that most difficult step.

The former "UBAC Hostel"- Joe & Meg lived there 1 year.
So, for the fall semester of 2010, Joe and Meg moved into our friends' house and thus began our journey as a family separated- by far the toughest part of international work.  The next year, Sam joined them and the three of them found a great home at a dorm home with several other children of international workers. We investigated the dorm home and had many great conversations and visits with the dorm home "parents" at the time.  Our kids loved it and really thrived there.

Sam- captain of the JV
soccer squad.
Having spent over a decade in mentoring youth in the US prior to our work in Africa, it seemed a cruel trick that we come to Africa and, at the moment our kids become teenagers, our time with them is limited.  There were many tough "au revoirs" throughout those years- dropping them off or putting them on an airplane and then Alace and I would head back to Libreville to try and get over the painful seperation.  Let me tell you right here- you never get over it.

As bad as it was, there were some good things.  The average time between seeing the kids was only about 8 or 9 weeks and, when there was a school break (fall, Christmas, spring), they were longer than the breaks we had in the US school system, so that was cool.  Additionally, they were thriving and growing in every way at RFIS, so we were so thankful for that. Also, seeing the parenting styles of 3 other Christian couples gave them insight to the creative ways that people are living out their faith- I'm sure this has impacted them for when they may have their own families.
Megs with some "hostel" sisters.

But even with these positives, and the fact that we tried to make the most of each and every moment together, there was nothing to make up for the deep loss we'd feel when apart.  It was very hard to really focus on being "in the moment" with Joe, Meg, and Sam, when you couldn't help by dread the upcoming goodbye.

So, Alace and I couldn't help thinking how cool it would be to either convince RFIS to relocate to Libreville, Gabon (where we live), or that, perhaps, one day we could be dorm parents- a more plausible scenario.  Not only would we be able to hang out more with our kids, but we could get back into the fun business of working with other parents to see their kids grow and mature into young adults.

New "UBAC Hostel" to left. "CMF Hostel" to right.
View from our front gate.
So, here we are!  Dorm parents for the 2013-2014 school year in Yaounde.  Through what I can only call "God's Providence", we now have 12 children- 2 of our own and the other 10 we are "co-parenting".  The Lord provided a pilot/mechanic to give me a break from the "front lines" of the work as well as a developing partnership with the SIL (JAARS) flight department located RIGHT HERE in Yaounde!  How cool is that?!?

The parents of the students that live in our house do some pretty amazing things- from mission aviation to literacy/translation work, to digging water wells, to helping train locals and get them involved in sustainable businesses.  Here's a link to a story about what one parent is doing:  "Chadian Cheese Wiz".  Three of the children's parents have been involved in being interpreters with the UN's international crimes tribunal that dealt with the Rwandan genocide victims and criminals.  In all these cases, the parents would love to have their kids with them full time, but the situation where they are doing their important work prohibits it in one way or another.

So, we have all been blessed by the dorm house, known as the "UBAC Hostel"- one of two dorm houses that sit adjacent to the school property.  So, the homes are run by organizations independent of the school, so really they are not a traditional dorm.  We are already into the 5th week of school and are really enjoying it.  Here is the normal schedule:

5:45   - Alace and I wake up and start prepping breakfast (until 6:45)
6:00   - 1st ringing of the wake up bell
6:30   - 2nd ringing of the wake up bell
6:45   - Steve plays music REALLY LOUD to let students know they can come eat.
7:15   - Students out the door for school and clean up begins
8:00   - Our staff arrives to take over in the kitchen prepping upcoming meals
          - Alace and I go for a 3 km walk/jog and I run an additional km.
9:00   - Shopping/errands in town/visit airport hangar
Noon - Back at UBAC to unpack
13:00 - Rest/study/admin work/visit airport hangar
         - Alace assists in "Foods" class at school
15:00 - Set out after school snacks
         - Alace leads a mentoring group of 5 girls
15:30 - Students get back; "how was your day" chats; sports
17:30 - Dinner
18:30 - house meeting/Bible study
19:00 - homework; quiet hours
21:00 - Middle schoolers lights out
          - Lock up house
22:30 - High schoolers lights out

So, that's an example of a day, but that is hardly all that happens.  Today, for me, there have already been employee meetings, furniture repair, light bulb replacement, filtered water refilling, and catching our dog who got onto the school property 4 times in 20 minutes.  Of course, when our cook gets the house smelling really delicious, I'm obliged to "check up" on her work!

Each Wednesday evening, we get a date night as well, and once a quarter we are to take a weekend away- all this in an effort to maintain sanity.

We really do miss our friends in Gabon and the work there- we remain a resource available for them and the emails and phone calls are regular.  However, this year's new post in Cameroon has come at just the right time and we are really enjoying it.

No comments:

Post a Comment