The road to get to the community has been under construction for months. When most of the labor is manual, things take a lot longer. Piles of rocks block parts of the road, and gravel is moved around, leaving dirt that quickly turns to mud when it rains. Even with my snow tires, it makes for an interesting drive!
The class meets for one hour, two nights a week, in a small, one-room building which currently houses the community’s church.
Because photocopying is expensive, each family shares a copy of the textbooks, which are themselves recycled schoolbooks. Just getting the copies required someone going to Jarabacoa. By moto this takes more than 25 minutes each way (and remember the condition of the road!), and gas here is over $6.00/gallon.
Our students range in ages from around 10 to more than 50. They squish into the small space, sitting on old plastic chairs, each with their notebook and pencil ready. They collected money to buy chalk and a blackboard for us to use. We started last week with around 15, but yesterday there were more than 20.
Instead of listening to a tape recorder, they get to hear a real, live, Americana (that’d be me!). Since English has sounds that don’t exist in Spanish (like the ‘short-i’ sound in ‘it is’) it can be a challenge (and pretty funny!) to pronounce words right. They all have a great sense of humor about it. Carlos is a great teacher, and the hour just flies by.
Last night I gave a few of the girls a ride home. I told one of them to tap me on the arm when I needed to stop. I started driving. And driving. And driving some more. I got an arm tap. Here? Yes, I can get out here. But, is this where you live? No, it’s a bit further down this other road.
I turned and we drove some more. Up hills and down, at least as far as we’d already come. The sun was beginning to set, the rain threatening again, the girls only in their teens. When I finally got another arm tap, we were another mile away.
These young women are willing to walk almost an hour - each way (again, remember the road!) for one hour of English. Sure, they might be able to catch a moto ride for part of the trip, but they typically start out not sure if one will come past or not. Nearly two hours of walking for one hour of class.
The truth is, I may be helping teach English, but these girls are teaching me, too. You see, I have something these people cherish, something they are willing to spend hours pursuing. Through no skill, no hard work, no sacrifice of my own, I speak English. I read it, I write it, I pray in it, I dream in it.
As I dropped of the girls, one by one, I started to think (in English!) of the things I say I value. What am I willing to give for a deeper relationship with Christ? For a fuller understanding of those I am here to serve?
How often do I measure out my cost, deciding that 2-to-1 is simply not a good investment? Oh, to be one who ignores the muddy road, long miles, dark clouds, because what is before me is so valuable, so precious!
Oh, Father, I am humbled. Again. I say I want to seek You, and yet I complain when it gets hard. Thank you for the lesson of these precious teens.
Teach me, again, Jesus, to press ahead, persevering in spite of obstacles, frustration and pain.
Holy Spirit, strengthen us to continue to pour into these students, even if it stops being fun and rewarding.
Thank you for the privilege of serving. May it be to Your glory alone!