I’ve been looking forward to connecting with you all on this my birthday weekend, giving myself the luxury of spending the whole afternoon in self-expression. Birthday greetings fill my inbox and here is my favorite, written in adorable English by a French woman who attends our LAM cell group:
Sorry for my late! I hope that it was a great day for you, yesterday!
Thank you for who you are! Thanks for your giveness …your joyce, your faithfull, your fire! You’re so precious for France and for the church!
One hundred kisses!
PS : All my family say to you : "Happy birthday, Angela!"
At our Sunday dinner table today, I was struck by the wide range of European delights represented: the main course was an Alsatian spaetzle hash with veggies and sausage. My birthday gift from David supplied the cheese course – a Dutch-made cheese curler made especially for my favorite Swiss cheese called Monk’s Head. On the box, it states: Enjoy life~Explore cheese! Will do.
On Friday, Anna had made me Emily Dickinson’s Coconut Cake, so we had a slice of American history on my English Wedgwood plates for dessert. This was accompanied by a cup of instant German chocolate cappuccino mix served in the matching English tea cups with some French dark chocolates on the side. I am feeling VERY European as I embark on my 52nd year!
Now that I’ve got you salivating, let’s talk about my job… I haven’t mentioned school since September and it’s time for an update, esp. since this was the theme of this year’s supporter thank you cards. (We wanted to mark our ten years of volunteer ministry at Daniel Academy that will come to an end this year for me with Olivia’s graduation.)
To be honest, it’s been a very rough ride for us middle school teachers. The question comes up every year: Are we a MASH unit for the wounded or a bomb shelter for the healthy Christian kids? This year the scales tipped toward those who have no fear of God or man at the tender age of 14, and have even scared away two healthy kids from our school! Out of 65 middle schoolers, we have had to expel 2 students, and had 3 pairs of kids leave campus without permission for hours at a time (since they go outside between classes and during lunch break, it’s easier to run off here than in the US.)
So in essence, we are operating a hospital without qualified staff – our Christian volunteers are only comfortable with happy, motivated students like they once were. They react with shock and anger at the rampant disrespect, but punishment only adds fuel to the fire. This is the first year where the kids are expressing strong resentment towards the teachers and the school. (Thankfully at the high school level we only accept soft-hearted kids that want to be here.)
I am teaching 7th-8th graders who lack motivation to tackle the 2 mandatory foreign languages demanded during these squirrelly years. (I was given the privilege of starting French in 7th grade as a good student – what a difference!)
So I end up doing triage with my inner healing tools from the moment they walk into my classroom, bleeding all over everyone. To cleanse the atmosphere, I play worship music and bind spirits before they even enter. I celebrate good responses with high fives, kisses and smiley faces. I hand out candy for good behavior and play lots of games. I deal with bad behavior by looking them straight in the eye and addressing their spirit and soul, calling out their best rather than using shame and anger. I pray for them before every test and have even given a few private sozos to one student.
I even reduced my class size: two girls moved to a higher level, one student was expelled, and my Oceane had to return to her local public school when things went downhill with other host families. I have also started sending weekly emails to parents with attached homework assignments and behavior concerns so there is no excuse for lost homework and warning slips that need to be signed.
That leaves me with nine students who do not hate me or my class. Half of them have even spent time in my home. But they still don’t do their homework and I still have to send an unruly student out of the room every week. I have been reviewing the same limited set of vocabulary all year and only 2 students passed the last test. Ouch.
I have told the director that the best use of my energies in supporting the school in the future will be to focus on inner healing and marriage ministry. And I hope our administration will start insisting that families applying to the school get counseling if their child is struggling, rather than looking to the school to make up for poor parenting. Christian French families need a new paradigm and Danny Silk’s book on child-raising is something I want to start promoting. Thank God it willl be released in French next month!
But let me close with an encouraging testimony: A shy Christian girl transferred to our school as a junior this year in hopes that smaller class sizes with believing teachers would help her with her lifelong struggle with school. When nothing had changed by Dec., she started spiraling into depression about her future. When we were asked to "keep her in prayer" during a teacher meeting, I got mad. Learning that neither the family nor learning disabilities were the main problem, I hunted her and her mother down and asked if they would be interested in a sozo session. They eagerly agreed. It felt like a light 45 minutes of forgiveness, but a week later, she was beaming. Olivia and the director both testified that she had become an outgoing class participant. (Tho’ Olivia just reported that she may be ready for a second one, and I hope we can go a little deeper!)
The spiritual climate over France isn’t helping with intensifying attacks on traditional families and private education options. However this persecution has motivated Christians to start primary schools in record numbers this year, but we are still only one of two Christian middle schools in the country and it feels like we suffer alone. But we can do more than weep and gnash our teeth.
Are you ready to pray for France? Well, it just so happens that the annual 3-week prayer initiative has just started and PrayforFrance.org is ready to send you a daily e-mail that includes all the above issues and more in English, that David helped translate!
Believing for breakthroughs, Angela