One year ago we stood on the campus of Colegio JET trying to process the decisions being made around the world. We had to abruptly close the school without any preparations. We were immediately concerned about food for the majority of our children. Our teachers wasted no time searching for beans, rice, flour, vegetables, etc to feed 100 families. Since everyone was living in a state of panic, it was very difficult to find vendors who were willing to sell in bulk. In my mind, the problem was very temporary and everything would soon return to normal.
In January 2020, we tested grades 5th through 8th in math using the MAPs standardized test. All of our children tested 2-3 levels below their grade level! We were going to have to work hard to fill in the gaps with normal instruction, but only giving out homework packets could’ve been detrimental for our children. Virtual learning is simply not even an option for our families. (I do have an opinion about virtual learning for elementary children, but I will keep it to myself). In May, our teachers voluntarily went to the houses to offer small group tutoring to the children. You can only imagine how grateful the parents were for the extra help. Again, it was 100% voluntarily!
Honestly, I put a lot of focus on changing the lives of children. I never dreamed that God would use the chaos to show me the heart of the teachers. I never dreamed that I would watch teachers lose the formality of “church” and choose to start seeing people the way God sees them. I never dreamed that some of the part time employees would volunteer to work as much as needed in order to serve the families. The teachers could have chosen to let fear overtake their lives. They could have chosen to sit comfortably inside their houses and wait until everyone feels safe again. Instead, they walked the streets, knocked on the doors, and handed bags of food to the single mothers, the hungry children, and the elderly.
We had 40 teams on the calendar for the Grace mission house. This little bit of money from using the mission house is used to help pay the operational cost of the mission house, church, and Grace employees. All of the sudden, we watched the calendar change from 40 teams during 2020 to only 9 teams. I can remember sitting down and analyzing every expense for the school, mission house, and employees. I counted how many months we could operate without receiving another dime. I knew the finances with churches, individuals, and businesses would be greatly impacted. This could impact our ministries as well. Someone asked me “Did you not trust God?” Hmmm, do you want the spiritual answer or the honest answer? We began to make some difficult decisions in order to prioritize the salaries of all employees. The cute wrought-iron fence that I wanted in front of the school became a row of small bushes. The chain link fence needed on the cliff behind the school became a row of trees (cut from our land) and barbed wire. Instead of using sod to prevent erosion, we used a lot of cheap grass seeds and transplanted flowers. Instead of paying someone to clear our land for a soccer field, the fathers and mothers helped us cut and clear the land.
And reality began to set in that our normalcy was not going change anytime soon. And it was only April….