Hello! May I tell you a story? And may I invite you into it? It is a story still being told. The Main Character is incomparable, both Protagonist and Author. I am in the story, though I play only a supporting role. Many of you, too, appear within the narrative, which is why I thought it appropriate to write you.
You are probably familiar with the story up to the point of January, 2010. I was teaching at Three Angels Children’s Relief, a Christian orphanage in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. God shook the earth and within 60 seconds time 300,000 souls stepped into eternity. For reasons I do not know, I was not among them. I, and the 26 children at TA, came home to the US, to our parents and families without a scratch. God was our Protector, Provider.
God is also the opportunity Giver. He then gifted me with a 22-month time-out and reset at a residential treatment center in Lafayette, IN. I checked myself into Vision of Hope with the goal of walking free from an eating disorder. God, the soul-Restorer, graduated me from VOH last June with gifts of even greater value- a thankful affection for Him and a delighted curiosity in discovering and participating in His plan and work in the world.
The Questions I have put before God in my hunt for His plan and work are How? and Where? can I be involved? Last year He responded to the former question with a word: teaching; with this answer I then embarked upon the journey to determine Where. My thought: I will land within a Francophone African nation. So that is where I focused my search. But God’s thoughts are not my thoughts and He offered a very different opportunity.
In March of last year an NGO called Servant Group International lost a seven-year veteran teacher to the bullet of one of his former students. WorldMag delivered the news story to me and immediately a strong desire was conceived in my soul to go. Fool-hearty? My parents thought so, when I casually mentioned SGI to them at home one weekend. Daddy’s reaction (“You would be stupid to do that”) to my scheming to teach with SGI shocked me as he is not a man led by his emotions. But he is an informed man and an authority figure in my life. If he disapproved of the Where to which teaching with SGI would lead me- to northern Iraq- then I would acuiesque. I abandoned the mid-eastern dream and resumed my search. Perhaps God was not calling me to such a foreign land. But I kept the news article.
For seven months I searched. Then in November God arranged a meeting. He orchestrated a weekend trip with my parents to Nashville, TN, to visit our family friends, the Farris’, in celebration of their daughter’s wedding. We celebrated Friday, observed my birthday Saturday, and went to worship Sunday. Around the breakfast table Sunday morning Mrs. Farris had inquired, “So Abbey, what do you want to do with your life?” Dramatic foreshadowing: “I’d like to teach in a third-world country.” At the small country Presbyterian church that morning the minister introduced a guest speaker: Dave Dillard, the founder and executive director of Servant Group International. I wept. What was God up to? From Dave Mom and Dad heard the SGI story, and on the drive home to Indiana Daddy declared, “Ab, if you still have an interest in that, you should do it.”
SGI serves the Kurdish people in Northern Iraq by staffing a series of English-speaking primary and secondary schools. It offers a classical-style curriculum which, amazingly, is biblically-based. Students earn a diploma upon the completion of their studies which makes them competitive in the international market. Because of the demand for English acquisition and the opportunities a Western-style diploma opens to graduates American Christian teachers –and their gospel message- are welcomed by the Kurdish Muslim community. Teaching is the medium through which Christians live out and speak of their faith in Jesus to their Muslim students and neighbors- an unprecedented opportunity as it occurs on Muslim turf.
In April God responded to my Where question. I applied, and have been invited to teach with SGI this fall in Erbil, Iraq (also spelled Arbil and Irbil). The term is a traditional school year: August to June. I will be assigned four teaching blocks, have approximately 80 students, and instruct most probably at the high school level. (I’m praying that my subjects are neither math nor science but nothing is guaranteed until my boots are on the ground!) My home will be an in-town apartment shared with two other single American women. Our team will include one or two other couples, their kids, and perhaps a single guy or two. Our boss is an Iraqi Christian, the visionary and founder of the Classical School of the Medes, the school with which SGI partners.
How will you enter this story? Will you pray for my preparation spiritually, physically, financially? CSM will pay me $8,000 for the term; my expenses to get to/return from Iraq (tickets, med insurance, orientation/training) and live there will be $20,000. The difference between income and expense is $12,000. Will you give to help me reach this goal by July? When I am in Iraq will you follow my blog and offer encouragement through email? Will you remind me then that the story is not finished and ask God to perfect the work He began?More to come!