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Monday, July 29, 2013

In their own words

We talk an awful lot on this blog - maybe it’s time you heard more from some RVA students!  During the last week of the term I gave my classes an open-ended writing prompt (impressive for a Math teacher, eh?) and told them we were hoping to post a few notes from students on our blog. 

Although many of the notes they wrote were flattering to us personally, that wasn’t the point.  We hoped to give you a glimpse from the students’ perspective of what we do here, and how the prayers and finances many of you graciously provide are impacting this side of the world for Christ. 

Here are a few things they had to say:

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“Schmidt family, thanks so much for coming out here to serve!  I’ve really enjoyed you as my Algebra teacher!  Thanks for being a great example and an encourager in my spiritual walk with Jesus.”  Suzann

“Mr. and Mrs. Schmidt, I just want to say that you guys are really cool.  I love being with you and your kids.  Thanks for having us over to your house for popcorn sometimes, and thanks for always being so friendly.  I am so happy that you guys are gonna be our class sponsors!”  Heather

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“I have known the Schmidts since the day they got here!  I love their family and it means a lot to me that our families could be such good friends.  God has lately been teaching me that I should put my trust completely in Him, especially because I am going to America and it is up to God what happens…thanks for a great year.”  Hannah

“Hello Schmidt family! I am so glad that God has called your family to serve here. Believe it or not, you ARE making a difference!  You have wonderful kids, and are raising them to be a godly, shining generation. You have no idea how much you have blessed me.  I loved being in your class this year because you make learning so much fun.  Thank you!  I’ve never enjoyed math as much as I did this year.  I’ve grown to respect you so much and I am thankful for your family’s friendship! :)”  Haley

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“I moved to Africa at the age of 5 and have been here for 12 years of my life.  God gave me the amazing chance to board in Kenya at RVA just a year ago.  My family has been teaching people to copy the Bible by hand.  It helps you slow down and see the story more clearly.  God’s blessings to ya’ll!”  Namon

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“Thank you for all your help this year, whether it was coaching soccer or during 5th period you have inspired me to press hard for God to the best of my ability.”  Evan

“Thanks for always encouraging me”  Katie

“Thank you for giving my parents the time and ability to continue their work for the Lord, which includes Bible studies with the people in our community and making long trips to the Pokot people.  Living here at RVA and meeting spiritual people helped me to discipline myself in my own walk with the Lord.”  Benji

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“My parents work as church planters.  This is my second year at RVA.  Things here in Africa are not as ridiculous as it seems.  Living here teaches me to look at the whole picture of the world and something the Lord has shown me is that we should not be afraid or discouraged, no matter how nervous we are to share God’s word.”  Abby

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“Thank you for making Algebra as entertaining as I think it will ever get! Thank you for showing Christ’s love to us through your patience and general funniness.  You and Mrs. Schmidt are awesome Caring Community leaders”   Sarah

“I am 14.  I was born in Louisiana but have lived in Africa my entire life.”    [Always one to be the class clown, she went on to say] “I enjoy riding elephants to school and petting my awesome cheetah.  Oh yea, and swinging on vines while yelling like Tarzan.  I also speak African and live in a hut.”   Claire

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We are thrilled to play a small part in keeping these missionary families out here on the field, sharing the Gospel with the 900+ unreached people groups in Africa today. As the missionary family shared in the RVA video, “we’re here for you.  We’re not called to your ministry. We don’t know how you do it, but we’re here so you can do it.” 

Thank you for praying, giving, writing, and caring.  We are abundantly blessed by our faithful support team at home. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

This is why we’re here

If you’ve read our blog in the past, you’ve probably picked up on our reasons for leaving the States, hauling our young family overseas, and serving at RVA.  If you need a refresher, please read this

God had given us both a heart for missionaries in Africa who work tirelessly to spread the gospel among the least reached peoples, specifically missionaries with children. 

We knew coming out that RVA’s mission was to provide a safe, quality, Christ-centered education for the children of missionaries.  After one year of being immersed in this ministry ourselves, we continue to be impressed with the mission of this school and those who help carry it out. 

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There has been a real push recently for discipleship and mentoring relationships between staff and students, challenging kids to go deeper in their walk with the Lord.  The relationships these kids build with dorm parents and teachers are extremely important as trusting in Jesus Christ moves beyond their parent’s faith and becomes their own, though not all of them have a relationship with the Lord.  Being the child of a missionary in no way guarantees salvation and there are those here whose hearts have not yet been opened. 

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One of our favorite parts about being here is meeting the families we are serving.  We continue to love learning about what our students’ parents are doing and where; how they are sharing Christ in some of the hardest reached places, corners of the continent where it’s not easy or where tribes have been overlooked.  At one point in the year Dan asked his students for exactly that information, wording it as “Why are you at RVA?” 

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Here are some of their responses, in their own words :)

“[RVA] is the best schooling option for me.  My parents live in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and drill and repair boreholes in rural areas.”

“God has led my parents to work at Kijabe hospital (my dad is an anesthesiologist and my mom works with the Maasai.)”

“My parents hold seminars that train young people for missions.  They both work in Mozambique.”

“My parents are missionaries to Cairo.”

“There are no good schools where I live.  My parents build churches out in the villages of Mwanza, Tanzania.”

“My dad is a missionary in South Sudan and Ethiopia.”

“My parents are working in Malawi.  They work with AIDS orphans.”

“My parents are missionaries in Uganda.  My dad is a pastor so he preaches and my mom is a nurse.”

“My parents work in Tanzania and they are working at an orphanage and in the national schools.”

“My parents run an orphanage in Maai Mahiu [near Kijabe, Kenya]”

“My parents work in Madagascar as missionaries.  My dad’s a surgeon.”

“My parents are missionaries in Kenya and Tanzania translating the Bible into different languages.”

“My parents travel all over Africa helping people with disabilities.”

“My dad is a missionary, a member of Parliament and an assistant minister of environment.  My mom teaches and they’re both in Kenya.”

“My parents [run] an orphanage, a baking school, do soccer team support, and my mom is a nurse.”

“My mom is an author and my dad is a pastor.”

“My dad is a pilot in Kenya.”

It may be Ethiopia, Egypt, or Madagascar.  It may be Bible translation, orphan care, or church planting.  The roles, responsibilities, and missions organizations look different, but the motivation is the same.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”  Revelation 7:9-10

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Teaching in Africa (Part 3)

One year at RVA is under our belt.  It was a great year.  God has blessed me with the chance to do something I’m passionate about (teaching math; I know, what a nerd!) and enjoy it immensely at the same time.  I can’t say enough about the students here.  As one staff member puts it, RVA is like teacher heaven.  So what has teaching for a year in Kenya taught me? 

DSC_0406One student’s attempt at my caricature for his art class. It was an honor to be chosen as his subject…I think. Could’ve been worse, right?

If you haven’t read part 1 and part 2 of Teaching in Africa, be sure to do that.  I’ve tried to point out a few of the blog-able aspects to teaching and serving here, things people back in the States may find interesting or unique.  Below, the list goes on, starting with a brief introduction (I realize that the end of the year is a bit late for an intro) to each of my classes.

DSCN693321.  1st period Algebra 1.  It was my pleasure to wake up to these crazies each morning ;)  Probably my quietest class, which was ironic considering it was also my largest – I think it had something to do with the nature of mixing Algebra with teenagers too early in the morning!

DSCN694822.  2nd period Algebra 1.  Lots of 8th graders.  Too entertaining to be considered a legitimate academic course; the most common response on year-end surveys was something along the lines of never having had so much fun in Math class :)

DSCN685623.  3rd period Math 7.  LOTS of energy in this room!  Brought back memories of student teaching in Beaver Falls Middle School  - gotta love that age group.  SOOO thankful that we had chapel and chai break immediately following this period ;)

DSCN695324.  4th period Algebra 1.  My smallest class and probably one of my favorites.  The perfect mix of studious-ness and silliness, if that makes any sense.  Love these kids!

DSCN685825.  5th period Algebra 1.  Mostly 9th grade students; this group was a big part of the reason Courtney and I decided to sponsor their upcoming sophomore class.  If there was a challenging class in my day, this was it, but it’s often the hardest ones that reap the most fruit and best relationships overall!  Great kids :)

26. Not that I couldn’t have done it at Beaver Falls, but I never bought a yearbook as a teacher.  The cost was probably the biggest reason.  But here, for about $15 you can purchase a yearbook (and they are really nice). RVA holds a great ceremony and class night when they pass yearbooks out to the students and any staff that are interested in purchasing one.  For the first time since high school, I found myself passing around my yearbook to be signed while signing many of my students’.  Kind of fun!

27. Alumni – Here at RVA we have a specific weekend at the end of term 3 set apart for alumni.  Aptly named Alumni Weekend, people from all over the world flock back to RVA to visit and reconnect.  There is a certain camaraderie that can be sensed among those that have lived and gone to school here.  The bond between classmates, regardless of the years gone by or miles between, is very strong. Lots of sports competitions between brave alumni and the current high school team are scheduled throughout the weekend.  Most of the time the students won, although in men’s basketball, the alumni had their way (and I got to be one of the referees!) 

DSC_0602Psyching up for the Varsity vs. Alumni rugby match.  This year the young fellas were too much for the old guys to handle; it was a great game though!

28. Goodbyes are much harder here.  Part of this is what typifies the life of a third culture kid (TCK), but on the mission field, farewells are frequent and sometimes very permanent.  Several students, whether graduating or moving on after this year for another reason, are leaving RVA and not returning.  Many tear-filled embraces take place on a regular basis here, with the understanding that the world is a big place and paths may or may not cross again this side of heaven.  It is extremely hard to watch and even harder to imagine watching our own kids do it one day.  Goodbyes are hands down the hardest part of being here. 

29.  Along the same vein is the staff turnover here.  We may have mentioned it in the past, but serving at a school where most staff members are volunteers relying on support from friends and churches back home ends up being a very transient vocation.  Probably 20 family units have left campus in the past 2 weeks.  Some have left for good after serving 3, 5 or 15 years or more here at RVA.  Others will be on home assignment for a term or for the next year.  Some were short term folks just passing through, filling in a position for someone else who will return in August.  When we came last August, the turnover was close to 50%, one of the highest in recent memory.  This year is close – many more goodbyes were said last week and staffing will look quite different as school begins in a month or so. 

30.  We’re not just here to teach them Math.  The opportunities to minister and pour into the lives of these students are endless.  I’ve had the privilege of starting two mentoring relationships with young men seeking to grow deeper in their walk with Christ, looking for accountability and encouragement from someone who’s been there and walked in their shoes (or at least in similar shoes – I was never in Africa as a teenager!)  As a family, we’ve connected with several students from this year’s freshman class through Caring Community and just inviting them over for popcorn on Sunday nights.  Because of the nature of a boarding school, as many times as you’re willing to keep your door open, you’ll have chances to invite students in – and they love it.  A home cooked meal is one of the best gifts we can give them.  Or maybe it’s a chance to wrestle with one of our boys or simply give Evie a hug (every 8th and 9th grade girl on campus ADORES her).  Living life with these students is a pleasure and an honor!

DSCN6852Our Caring Community group enjoying a rousing game of duck-duck-goose with our kids :)

DSCN6686“Hold on, Evie!”

DSCN6691Nothing like home-made pizza at the Schmidt’s!

Thanks for reading.  And we probably don’t say this enough, but a special thanks to all those who give so generously so that we can be here and love on these kids.  We can’t really describe in words how grateful we are for your support.  THANK YOU!!!

In our next post, you’ll get a chance to hear directly from the students.  Stay tuned!

 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Family Fun :)

As third term and the 2012-13 school year wraps up (graduation is in 2 days), we are so excited to have Courtney’s family with us!  Oma, Buddy, Aunt Bri and Uncle Brandon arrived safely last Thursday and have been reading to, playing with, hiking, laughing, wrestling, and hugging us ever since :)

We are so grateful they could come to visit and have been cherishing this time with them.  Although too short and they will be on their way at the end of next week, we are soaking up every minute and taking advantage of the cuddling and the face-to-face smiles and kisses while they lasts.  God is good and we are thankful for family!

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Thanks so much for praying them here safely. 

We hope to post more updates soon; lots to share – sorry for the long hiatus!  Love to all “back home!”

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