Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Last Day

Thursday, Nov. 19, 10:48 p.m.

I think we're all ready for it to be the last day. And yet, as we passed out of Maniche this afternoon for the last time, I think we all were leaving with some sadness because we've become, in some small way, a part of this community. As Chris and Kathy both said, we recognize individual kids by this point – some we'll miss and some we'll be just as happy to leave behind, frankly, as would be the case if any of us spent a week at any school in Kansas City. We've enfleshed the connection we remember every Sunday as we offer prayers for “our partner school in Maniche, Haiti.” Now, that connection has been lived out through time in the classroom, time playing volleyball, time walking home with students, time meeting with parents and teachers. So we'll miss our extended family once we're gone.

Today was relatively easy, as far as work goes – which was a good thing considering how tired all of us have become. We got there in time to watch the flag ceremony in front of the newly painted school, which was very satisfying given the pieces of our souls we left there scraping and painting and running down supplies. Then we worked with the students in each class to make Christmas cards for the people of St. Andrew's. As in past years, we'll offer parishioners the chance to sponsor kids in Maniche by purchasing Christmas cards during the four Sundays of Advent. The difference this year is that the cards will have been made by the child being sponsored, will feature his or her photo, and will include a little biographical information. So look for some seriously cute drawings in the Jewell Room this year.

We also gave each child a dose of de-worming medication. Among the challenges the kids face is intestinal parasites that consume many of the scarce calories the kids consume. These parasites come from infested water, contaminated hands, and through the sole of the feet from the dirt. We left additional pills for two more administrations later in the year.

Late in the morning, we facilitated a meeting between the parents and the teachers. We had notified the parents about the meeting during church on Sunday, and we'd mentioned it on our walkabouts to the kids' homes. But we had no idea how many parents might actually show up. Last time a team attempted a similar meeting here, a grand total of one parent came. Today, we had more than 50. The teachers got to voice their frustrations about kids not doing homework and coming to school out of uniform; the parents got to voice their frustrations with being unable to track homework (because the vast majority are illiterate!) and with their scarce resources for paying for uniforms, school lunches, and tuition (about half the parents pay at least something toward the cost of their kids' education). From the meeting came a pledge to work toward having a teacher stay after school for a study hall. More important, the parents wholeheartedly agree they want the school to offer middle-school classes, too. Even if they can't support the schoolwork like many American parents, they too want their kids to have a better life than they do. We ended by sharing a cake – and hearing a number of comments from the parents about how deeply they appreciate the education that St. Andrew's makes available to their kids. They also really appreciated the fact that the team of missionaries came to work for a week. Nothing says “I love you” quite like showing up to do the work.

Late this afternoon, the MN team and our group headed off to the beach for a final evening of relaxation. The water (and the lobster) was nearly as glorious as the sunset, and we prayed the Phos Hilaron again as the sun passed over the horizon. The only damper on the evening was the flat tire on the way home, but several of us pitched in and, praise God, the spare actually had air.

Tomorrow we head out at 5:15 a.m. for the long trip home. Please keep us in your prayers for safe travels and for something approximating timely departures.....

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