Tuesday, June 16, 2015

I Am a Miracle


    It is so hard to believe more than one whole week of school is behind us already! Talk about time flying! I can only praise the Lord for bringing me through, and not just that, but also making one of the most fun weeks of my life! It was one miracle after another…
    Sunday, July 7, was a little (OK, more than a little!) stressful, but exciting as well. Not just for me, but for a lot of the staff here at S.O. (stressful especially Hannah Steck, who is like everyone’s personal assistant since she can speak Karen. No joke). With school starting on Monday, there was a lot of preparation that still needed to be done. People were running to and fro all day.
    I didn’t find out until I think it was that afternoon that on Monday there would be no classes, but rather we would be giving the students their notebooks, pens, and pencils, taking attendance, as well as getting their picture, height, and weight. Sounds simple, right? Perhaps so, but it isn’t at all!! Trying to accomplish this in one morning for about 265 students between the ages of 5 and 21 is…well, chaotic to say the least! That’s not mentioning going over all the school rules and other important information with the students.
     Monday morning I had butterflies in my stomach. Even though I wasn’t going to be teaching, I knew that I was going to be the class teacher for grade 9, so I had to give them their school supplies, take their attendance in their classroom, and make sure they all got back to the chapel for the height, weight, picture taking process.
    The way they work things here is whatever teacher teaches the first class period of the day will be that class’ “Class Teacher.” This is the one who takes class attendance each morning, organizes any class outings/activities, etc.
    So, yes, I was a little nervous--afraid of making a mistake and fearing what the students would think of me mostly. T’was silly of me, but I am slowly overcoming it by God’s grace.
    I wasn’t just nervous though. I was excited too. You see, I knew most of the students in my classes to some degree, and I loved each one very much. These kids are so funny and special! I was greatly looking forward to being with them every day.
    The chapel bell rang at 7:50, and we all hustled off to find our places on the wooden floor. When Thara Joko (Mr. Steck--this is the Karen term for ‘principal’) had finished his very short worship talk, he went over all the school rules. After this, he called all the teachers up front to introduce them and explain what classes they would be teaching. My heart was beating hard as I walked up there to stand in front of nearly 265 students, all with their eyes fixed in that direction. I awkwardly stood there, trying to not look too awkward, as Thara Joko introduced each of the teachers. When he got to me, I couldn’t help smiling, as I was just so happy to be teaching the grades I had.
    “And this is Tharamu Haley. She will be teaching English to grades 6, 9, and 10.” I happened to look at the boys’ side while he was speaking, and I saw two of my 6th grader boys, who I had taught last year in grade 5, trying not to smile too big. I smiled even more, but I was amazed too. They were happy I would be their teacher again? But why? I thought I had failed miserably as a teacher… I didn’t see what there was to be happy about. Oh, how my heart sang though! God was showing me once again… I am loved. I am useful. I am appreciated. Not just by students, but most importantly by God. He took my feeble, and what I thought were failing, attempts to teach and made some good come from it all. This gave me more courage and joy than anything else! Praise God!!
    After all this was finished, the classes were dismissed with their class teachers to go to their classrooms. As we walked to the grade 9 classroom, several of my 9th and 10th grade girls talked with me a little. “Good morning, my class teacher!” “Teacher Haley--my class teacher!” “Good morning, Teacher! How are you?” I couldn’t have been happier.
    Once in the classroom, I called out their names and marked the names on my paper as present or absent. This being finished, I asked two energetic boys to go and get the school supplies for all the students. While we waited, they all chattered away in Karen with me listening and trying to pick up a word or two here and there.
    School supplies being received, we all headed out the door, either to the dorm to “quickly” deposit said supplies before going to the chapel or straight to the chapel. On my way back, I heard, “Teacher Very Tall.” Now, there is only student who calls me that and also only one student with a voice like that, so I knew who it was before I turned around. As Saw Eh Soe came up alongside me, he asked something about whether or not we could continue violin lessons that week. Then he asked, “Teacher, this year you will be grade 9 class teacher?” I replied with a smile and a “yes.” His response? “Oh…” I couldn’t quite tell what that meant, but it sounded of at least a little pleasure. :)
    Back at the chapel, I was pulled into helping with measuring the students. How it worked at first was like this: students sat around on the floor until Sharon or Hannah called their name to get their picture taken. Then they moved over to me to have their height taken, then to Thara Joko to get their weight taken. Not much later we asked Thara Lar Bweh to do the weight, with Thara Joko writing down the height as I told him what it was. Then Hannah and Thara Joko swapped places because it was easier for Hannah to understand and find the names of the students as they came through.
    We wrote down the last height and weight around 12:00 p.m. That was one set of stressful 4 hours that we were thankful were over with! We collapsed onto the floor for a bit, and then departed to rest before lunch at 12:30.
    Tuesday morning I had butterflies in my stomach again. But I was too excited to care. Oh, how different this time of beginning teaching was compared with last time! Last school year, I walked to class my first day full of fear, nervousness, stress, and doubts. This year I walked to class my first day full of a little nervousness, but mostly unspeakable joy at the opportunity to teach such amazing students and at the mercy and grace of God! He has taken a shy, fearful, doubting, weak young girl and given her courage, confidence, hope, joy, and peace! I cannot praise Him enough!!
    That first day in class could not have been better, praise the Lord! The students were spunky and fun, and overall it was a wonderful experience. I loved their reaction when I told them my “rule” and the punishment if it is disobeyed! The rule is simple, but not easy for Karen to follow: you may not speak in Karen in class. The punishment? Forty squats for the first offense in one day, eighty for the next offense, etc. It adds up the more times you disobey. When I told them “40 squats” they all asked with some surprise, “40 squats?!” When I assured them that is what I had said I got many an, “Oh!” Saw Ku Hsee in grade 10 informed me, “Forty squats? Teacher, we will die!” Oh, you won’t die. You just won’t speak Karen in class, right? One can only hope… hehe
    Monday, June 15, was the first day I really enforced my “rule.” I told my students that last week I was giving them a break to get used to the rule, but this week I would be serious about obeying it. I was reminding them all the time last week about not talking in Karen. Monday before we began class in each classroom, I told them again that this week I am going to be serious with my rule. The result? Three boys in one class and one boy in another are a little healthier than their classmates due to exercise of their legs. Oh dear… Those precious boys! I asked each one if they would talk in Karen tomorrow in class. All except one replied they would not. That one other boy said, “Maybe.” I told him if he did, that means that he wants more squats. Lol
    God has given me special memories all week. Like the day that a sweet 10th grade girl carried my bag to class for me. Or the time that Saw Eh Soe kept trying to take two of everything when I told him to only take one. Or the time the row of boys just couldn’t start reading from the board all at the same time and had to start over who know how many times. Or the time that Saw Eh Shee drew a heart around the phonics word on the board instead of circling it. Or the time Htee Nay Htoo walked into class and said, “Teacher, this evening… Uh, last night! I dream you teach grade 10 new song.” (Was that a hint? Lol) Or the time Has Khu Htoo wrote for a sentence, “Tun That Win’s wife alone.” Or when Saw Ku Hsee wrote for a sentence, “If we cut our hair like Thai students our teacher admire very much.” (And also wrote his name as “JK2” on his paper, informing me that was his new name.) Or when Dee Aung Shwe wrote, “I don’t adopt anyone because I don’t have money.” Or when Eh Kaw Ku wrote, “Me fat man abdomen is very big.” Or when Saw Eh Shee wrote, “I am adult so I will help my teacher to work.” All little things that help so much to brighten my day even more… :)   
    Let me tell you something in case you didn’t know it already… I am not naturally a teacher. I have never been what I considered to be good “teacher material.” I have always been shy, awkward, and not nearly as friendly as I wanted to be. But I have always loved very deeply, even though I’ve had a difficult time accurately expressing my love.
    So, it is all a miracle. A miracle that I am teaching. A miracle that I’m not afraid anymore. A miracle that I am excited to teach. A miracle that I have courage, peace, and joy. A miracle that my students learn anything. A miracle that they love me. A miracle that I am doing any good at all.
    No one can say it is me…because none of it is. It is only God doing all this through me. I have so much to learn yet…but I will not give up because I know that God still loves me and will help me every step of the way. He has shown me this time and time again. Over and over I have seen evidence that there really is a God in Heaven. There really is a Love that will not let go. There really is a Power stronger than anything that has existed or ever will exist. GOD IS LOVE. This is the message that rings out clearly throughout all eternal ages and has found a place in this tiny human here. And it has turned a curse into a blessing. I am a miracle. Praise the Lord forever and ever!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

These Chains Can Be Broken!

    Oh, how my heart aches as I write this! One of our precious students, Naw Lah Moo, who was just baptized this past school year, is suffering greatly right now. Allow me to explain…
    Last school year, Naw Lah Moo failed grade 9 and was talking about not coming back this year. People talked to her though, and she decided to stay for the whole break and then go into grade 9 again this year. I believe one of the main reasons for her staying for the whole break was due to her baptism and not wanting to face her parents’ reaction.
    As I have found out this morning, there is more than failing her grade that has brought this on though. There is a young man who graduated from grade 10 last year who was here for most of the break. We had some difficulty with him pursuing a 10th grade girl during the school year, which continued during the break. Apparently, unbeknownst to anyone, he was also pursuing Naw Lah Moo and had both of them as his girlfriends at the same time. I am not sure exactly what all has happened with that situation, but it was enough to set off a chain of events that has affected all of us here at Sunshine Orchard.
    For weeks Naw Lah Moo has not slept at all. Yes, weeks! She has been all over campus to various people’s houses early in the morning, trying to apologize for something. Then yesterday morning, she was talking to absolutely everyone that she could, telling them she was sorry, etc. Most were just very confused and had no idea what to do. She was also saying things like she couldn’t stay here anymore, she could live in the house where she was, and other things that no one had told her. Hannah Steck said it seemed like she was in a daze. We were concerned with all this, but we did not fully realize yet the enormity of the situation. This we learned last night during worship.  
    Worship began like normal. We sang, had opening song, and then knelt for prayer. During the prayer, we began to hear crying. It was fairly quiet, and I thought it was one of the little children outside. But the crying became louder and louder. Prayer ended quickly and I saw that it was Naw Lah Moo. Hannah and Mrs. Steck had gone over to her. I couldn’t see well from where I was though. Mr. Steck immediately began praying with Thara Eh K’nyaw translating. The crying turned to shrieking and occasionally screaming a sentence in Karen.
    He prayed until Naw Lah Moo was quiet. Then he stood up and talked to the students for a while. He talked about surrender to God, of God’s power over Satan, appealing to the young people to give God their all.
    Then we prayed in groups of two or three. We prayed for Naw Lah Moo and ourselves as well. When nearly everyone was finished, we heard her voice rise in prayer. Oh, how my heart rejoiced with thanksgiving to God for His miraculous power! When she was finished, one of our male teachers prayed and then we were dismissed.
    After worship, she seemed happy and fine. It was decided that she would stay with Sharon and Hannah in their house that night.
    As for my own heart? It was changed. I saw more clearly than ever before the power of Satan, but also the power of God. I realized with great seriousness how close I had been to the devil and His angels. They had possession of one of my dear students, in the same building as me! Of course, I had known before that Satan and his angels are all around. But never had I seen it so obviously as last night. I now see more clearly how short time is and how earnestly we must work, watch, and pray! We cannot afford to lose a single second, to waste even one minute. I praise God for this blessed opening of my eyes!!
    The next morning, I went up to the Steck’s house for breakfast and learned that Hannah and Naw Lah Moo had not slept at all that night. As a result, Hannah has been sleeping all morning, I believe.
    As for the girl, it was still obvious there was something wrong with our poor girl. She came into chapel late and sat down quietly, but said something loudly in Karen, then walked out, looking like she was lost in a daze.
    She came to class this morning, but was very out of it and hardly responsive at all. Her precious classmates have had a time of it keeping her in class all morning. They have persistently brought her back and tried to talk to her, etc.
    Please keep praying for this precious student! The devil really is working on her, but I know that these chains can be broken! I can only hope that some good can come of all this… That students and staff will be awakened and their hearts changed!    

Friday, June 5, 2015

God is So Very Good... ALL the Time!

    Wow… It has been so long since I have written a blog post! I really intended to write sooner, but life just goes, and it is easy to forget about such things. :)

 So, as you might remember, shortly before the school break Mrs. Adams asked me if I would come to help in the children’s home once school was finished because they would most likely be going to America in April and could use my help while they would be gone. (By the time I moved though, they weren’t sure if they would go, and they eventually decided to not go at all.) I prayed about it and agreed. I was excited at the opportunity, as I have always loved children, and also, this would be a way for me to keep busy during the lonely months of no school.
    After school finished, I hung around and didn’t really do much for the short time the Stecks were still here. By this time, I had already said “good-bye” to Hannah Powell with many tears, and I was not looking forward to another good-bye, especially not the people who had become my “second family” and who I loved very much. The day that they left was one of the worst days I have had since being here. It was the first time in quite a while where I was able to really cry. I felt like my world was falling apart…again. I questioned what God was doing. It seemed He was taking one person after another until I would have no one left. But even though I felt so lonely and lost, God kept whispering to my heart that this too would pass and it would be for the best. I chose to believe this for the most part.
    The Stecks left on a Sunday morning, and I got busy almost right away, packing my things and cleaning the house so I could move down to the children’s home. It took pretty much the rest of the day for me to accomplish this task. But by evening, I was ready to move. Well, outwardly anyways. Inwardly I wanted to move too, but I was scared to death of walking down there by myself with all my stuff and just going into the house. That is what you do around here though. How I dreaded actually doing it!
    Sunday evening came and went… Monday came and went… Tuesday came and went… I just kept hoping that maybe someone would talk to me and ask me if I was going to come down… I wanted some kind of conformation before just barging in. But it didn’t come. The only effort I made was praying that God would please open an opportunity for me to talk to one of the gullowahs from the children’s home.  
    Wednesday morning God answered my prayer. I was walking back from worship, and as I passed the children’s home, I saw Emily (the Adams daughter) just about to go inside. Without even thinking (I know God must have opened my mouth to speak) I called her name and walked over. I asked her about my moving, and she replied she hadn’t heard about it! Oh dear, I thought. Mrs. Adams didn’t talk to anyone about it apparently. But Emily told me I was more than welcome to move down whenever I wanted to. (She is so sweet. You just have to love her.)  I told her I would probably do it that day sometime.
    Yes, I know this is ridiculous, but it still took me all the rest of that day to get up enough courage to actually go. I don’t know exactly what I was afraid of, but that’s the way it was. I finally moved down just before evening worship, acquiring Moo Koh Paw’s help to carry my stuff down. It was awkward, yes, but I got over it soon enough.
    It just so happened that the day I moved, Mr. and Mrs. Adams left for Chiang Mai to be gone for a week and a half. I felt even worse about that, thinking they would think that I had waited until they left to move, which wasn’t the case. I didn’t mind it though, as it made it not quite as awkward.
    Was it easy to adjust? No. Not at all. But God has never promised life to be easy, only that He would give enough strength to walk through every difficulty. I felt very out-of-place for maybe the first week. I tried to help wherever I could, but I really felt pretty useless. I didn’t feel like I could tell the little kids what to do. It was hard even to just sweep the floor. But by God’s grace I made it through, lonely and strange as I felt. It really helped that Lauren (the girl who has been helping in the children’s home) is so friendly and Emily is so sweet.
    When the Adams came back, I was ready for the new adjustment of having two more people around. They had taken Chu Chu Paw, the youngest little girl who is nearly a year old now, with them. I really enjoyed making friends with her when they returned. She warmed up to me quite quickly, and now is to the point of willingly going to me from even Mr. Adams. She really loves her Mo Mo Doh and Pa Pa Doh (Mrs. And Mr. Adams Karen names which means “Big Father” and “Big Mother,” big as in status, not size) and does not usually go to anyone willingly while in the arms of either, especially Pa Pa Doh. Chu Chu Paw is a happy baby, except when the other children are grabbing on her and trying to take her from each other, which happens often. Then she can get quite upset, which is totally understandable.  
    I eventually got to the point of being almost completely comfortable living here. I can sweep the floor, wash the dishes, do the girls’ hair, and tell the kids what to do.
    The older kids  in the children’s home have warmed up to me too. With some it took longer than with others, but more or less they all seem comfortable around me. Of course, some are far more friendly than others, so I am better friends with those ones.
    One of the boys who is maybe around 12 years old has nicknamed me “Mommy,” and will occasionally say something like, “Mommy, where are you going?” or “Mommy, you go take a bath?” His English is quite good because he has lived in the children’s home for several years now.  
    Another one of the boys who is around 14 is always making funny faces at me and calls me “Teacher Aley” instead of “Teacher Haley.” No, it is not because he can’t speak English properly. He lived in America for something like 5 years, so he of all people has no excuse. He just enjoys having something to tease me about (as if he didn’t tease me about enough other things).
    The majority of the kids in the children’s home are boys. Of the ones older than 5, only 4 of them are girls. There are maybe 20 or more boys. J
    So, I was just to the point of being quite comfortable, not feeling so lonely, like things were good, when the devil brought a temptation that I, sadly, was not prepared to resist. I was not making Jesus my everything. I knew I needed to, but I wasn’t sure how, and therefore was not doing it. This was my first mistake which opened the way for a multitude of others. 
    A boy who I taught last school year started flirting with me a lot. Then he became very pushy and touchy. Because of my lack of a connection with God, I gave in, and the situation carried on for much longer than it should have. True, it wasn't that long, but it never should have happened at all. 
    By God's amazing grace, I am not in this situation anymore. Through many miracles and acts of divine love, I am a better person today. 
    In many ways I wish this experience had not happened… But let me tell you the good that God brought of it…
    One night after receiving a letter from him (I’m not sure if it was the first or second letter), I went to bed feeling horrible. I felt like I had been used again… Like maybe that was all I was good for. Perhaps this was my destiny in life: to be used, never really loved.
    I woke up feeling bad too. I tried to pray, but it seemed my prayers only stayed in my head, never reaching God’s ears. I looked at my phone and saw I had an email from Mr. Steck. He said that while they were staying at my family’s house in America, my mom had shared about some stressful situations I was going through and asked if I would like to share more with him. My first reaction? Yes, I was angry. I had talked to my mom and she had encouraged me to email Mr. Steck. I said I would do it, so to now hear from him that she had told him already, I was not happy. I chatted my mom asking “WHY?!” She replied, trying to calm me down, which thankfully worked. She shared how it really seemed God had opened the opportunity for her and Daddy to share with Mr. Steck. I wasn’t angry anymore, but still felt ashamed and awful.
    I then saw that I had an email from Heidi. My mom had asked for permission to share with her, which I had granted. So, she was emailing me in response to that.
    I think it was the longest email I have ever received from someone. It was full of exactly what I needed to hear. As I read on and on, something completely broke inside of me and I cried it all out. For the first time, I was able to completely surrender the situation and my feelings to God, and for the first in my life I could confidently say, “God’s love is enough. He is ALL I need! I do not need a person to love me… Not when I have a God that is bigger, more loving, forgiving, amazing, and powerful than anyone or anything else.” All my life up until this point, I knew God’s love needed to be enough, but I always felt that I “needed” to get married someday, that I “needed” at least some person to love me. That was gone now though.
    That day was the best day I think I have ever had. True, there were still temptations and reminders of pain, but through each one God brought me, one step at a time, holding my hand the whole way.   
    So, this is what has happened in the last three months. I am still living in the children’s home and plan to stay here indefinitely for now. I love the fellowship with the students outside of the classroom.
    I have been having headaches when reading, so I went to get my eyes checked yesterday and ordered new glasses, which should hopefully be in in about a week. I am so thankful God allowed my glasses to be 50% off, so they cost only $370 instead of $740. Tharamu Lorna went in the same day after me, and she had to pay the full price for some reason. I praise the Lord He knew that I couldn’t afford to pay so much and provided a way!
    School will start on Monday, June 8, and I will be teaching English to grades 6, 9, and 10. I am looking forward to it, praise the Lord! I am nervous and a little stressed, but I know God will carry me through if I trust Him.
    Please continue to keep me in your prayers, as I know the devil isn’t finished with tempting me. I know I am so weak, but I have a God who is SO much stronger! And I am seeing more and more each day that God is so very good...ALL the time!  :)


    Here are some pictures from the end of last school year and during the break.

A friendly "hello" from all the students and staff at Sunshine Orchard!! :)

Most of the teachers/staff here at Sunshine Orchard. A few are missing.

KGB class with class teacher, Thara Nay Kaw Htoo, back right.

KGA class with Tharamu Suh Pweh, back right.

Grade 1 with Tharamu Hazel, back left.

Grade two with Tharamu Ida, back left.

Grade 3 with Tharamu Sheba, the back left.

Grade 4 ("my kids", because I taught them for one term ;) ) with "Thara Cha Gu Gu", who now goes by "Thara Jerry," back left.

Grade 5 (my other kids) with Thara Saw Dih Yay, back middle.
Grade 6 with Thara Lar Bweh, back middle.
Grade 7 with Thara Su Meh Oh, back left.
Grade 8 with Tharamu Lah Htee, back left and Tharamu Hannah, front right. Because of the class schedule there are two class teachers for grade 8.

Grade 9 and Tharamu Marie (Hannah Powell), middle left.

Grade 10 and Tharmu Jonalyn, back right.

Some of the grade 5 students.
Me teaching grade 5.

Me teaching grade 4.

Some grade 4 students.
Dee Noh, Grade 4.

Law Ray Htoo, Grade 4.

Grade 4 and I singing Isaiah 40:31 that I taught them for Friday evening worship.

The children's home......... I'm sorry they are a little out of order, but I am running out of time and it takes a very long time to try to rearrange them. Blogger is being a little silly today. ;)

The majority of the younger kids in the children's home.

The room upstairs in the children's home that Lauren and I share.

Some boys playing downstairs.

Saw Kweh Leh and Lay Wah Say.

Koo Koo Paw and Lay Wah Say.

The view of the chapel in the middle, Anna Adam's house on the left, and Thara Po Peh's house on the right, as seen from our balcony.

Maung So Aung and Htee Nay Htoo splitting bamboo outside the children's home.

Lah Lah Moo mixing "mud curry."

The view of the children's home garden, as seen from right outside the kitchen door.

The children that stay with Anna right outside of her house.

The hammocks in the children's home are a very popular source of amusement around here. Sometimes people occupying them will be swung dangerously high, much to our concern and worry. The ropes have broken a couple times, but thankfully no one has been seriously injured.

This is how we hang up wet clothes during the rainy season. Pa Pa Doh hung these bamboo poles from the ceiling not too long ago, and they have been a great blessing!

Naw Mu Chi, Koo Koo Paw's sister. You can't tell they are related by their looks or the way they treat each other.

For some reason they were being camera-shy.

The swing on the left and slide on the right that the kids play on all the time.

The children's home from the front.

Timothy has problems with asthma and has to use this machine every now and then.