Today marked twenty-seven weeks since the earthquake. (I don't keep count in my head any more, and I had to count weeks on my calendar to come to that conclusion.) Twenty-seven weeks from the day that I wrote "January 13th" on the board and left the room with my lesson plans on the desk for the next morning, I went back to my classroom to start getting it ready for students to show up in under four weeks.
I honestly didn't get much done today. I was overwhelmed by how much there is to do, and also by emotion. I got to talk to several friends today and hear their stories. Everyone has a story, and we need to tell them to each other. I also spent an unbelievable amount of time trying to guess the password to the wireless network. Several people gave suggestions, all wrong. (Congratulations to the IT department and their sterling security procedures. Our IT person is out of the country right now, or he would have helped me right away.) Right before going home I was finally able to get on the wireless. So basically, I talked to people, freaked out about how much I have to do and felt paralyzed and couldn't do anything, and tried to hack into the network.
But the main thing I did today was clean out the desk that is now in my classroom. It's not my desk. Yes, I am aware that I do not own the furniture in my classroom, but I get pretty attached to it, and I did look around some for "my" desk. But when I opened the drawers I saw who this one belonged to, and then I had to stop and cry for a little while.
While we were on our way back to Haiti, our high school librarian, Kreyol teacher, and my good friend and prayer partner died. I knew I would face many losses upon returning to Haiti, but I did not expect this dear friend to be one of them. I can't believe she is gone; I can't believe we won't be able to talk about the earthquake and what happened afterwards. She and I met every week for prayer, and I saw her every day, since she worked right next door to my classroom. She was one of the first people I met when I came to Haiti, since she taught me Kreyol. I have many memories of talking with her and hearing her theories about slavery and history and what could be done to cure Haiti's problems. She was a role model for me of a committed Christian woman who trusted God and who prayed constantly. She was also funny and feisty.
When I opened the desk drawer in my classroom this morning, I saw her handwriting on the papers in there. I saw words she had written in English, French, and Kreyol. I saw her notes from devotions, Bible verses she had copied down, notes for the business and professional women's club she belonged to, committee work for the library.
I spent a lot of time sorting through the things in her desk, putting photos and letters aside for her family, organizing the library information for the people who will take over her job. I thought a lot about her and about how beautiful she was and how much she loved her husband, her children, her grandchildren, and how much she loved her colleagues (including me) and her students. She prayed for all of us every day.
One other thing I did was to take "before" photos of my classroom and the surrounding area. I'm not going to share most of them, partly because my kids are in some of them, and partly because it takes so long to upload photos on my internet connection. I'm going to show you two photos I took, and these aren't even from my room but from another one on my hallway.
Just look at that. Scary, huh?
(There's some background information here about why these books are all thrown about.)
But look closer. When I zoomed in on this heap, look what I saw:
God still has surprises for us. The earthquake was a surprise, and not a pleasant one, but so many of God's surprises are joyful ones. I learned that during the last six months. So often in the worst times, God has beautiful gifts to give us.
Upstairs in the secondary building, there is a memory wall posted. Kids were given the opportunity to write their memories from the school year on a huge sheet of paper. One of my eighth graders wrote a lovely paragraph about how people had become closer after the earthquake, comforting one another as they grieved, and how they had discovered riches in one another that they had not known existed.
There is joy ahead in this school year, even as we mourn our losses. I'll go back to my classroom tomorrow (Lord willing; I don't leave those words out of my plans any more) and make more progress. Bit by bit I will get ready to meet my students, and step out into the adventure of the new year.
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