Saturday, February 27, 2010

Renee our Beautiful Belair-ian!

Because so many ask......

When Americans come to the island for missions experiences the first question most ask is, "Renee, what is your Jamaican School like?" She is the only "missionary kid" that is not home-schooled here in Jamaica. I am going to use this blog to give a description of her school where she spends most of her time!

Belair School is located in Mandeville and currently has 600 students. The catalyst for the schools beginning in 1969 was the multinational corporations, Alpart and Alcan. Alcan established its alumina plant in the 1950's, however, because of the strain the new families coming to town put on the existing schools,they invested in the expansion of Manchester Prep School. When Alpart came to Manchester Parish in 1969, there was a big thrust to upgrade the Manchester Prep School even more to facilitate the new families moving in. Alpart also accepted all responsibility for the salary and accomodations for the headmaster from the United States.

The first headmaster was Perry Bendicksen. His greatest concern was the fact that the parents didn't want their children to have to go through a huge shift after being in Jamaica for a few years to then returning back to the states for college. The educational system here was British. So to accommodate that, Alpart funded the construction of a secondary school. It was called Belair Secondary School and was actually planted in the location it is today.

As headmasters changed and shifts began to happen in Alpart, "Jamaicanization" began to happen. It became totally Jamaican in 1984 and Dr. Dudley Stokes became the first Jamaican headmaster.

In 2007 when we were determining if Jamaica was the next step for us as a family, Renee's school availability and access to continued Susuki violin training was at the top of our priority list. Now 3 years later we look back and can only rejoice because of her development. Belair was the right place for Renee. She started 7th grade in 2008 and today she is almost finished with grade 9!

I will never forget our first tour of Belair when we were simply here to investigate. The differences between Belair and Carver Middle School in Springfield, MO are monumental. There were more questions than answers back then for sure. How would she acclimate to the huge changes that were coming? How would she make friends? How would she understand the dialect? How would she continue on this high academic standard she had already set for herself? How would she be able to feel successful rather than punished? How would the teachers react to her being a different race and color? How would her classmates react? How would she MAKE IT, basically was the question.

I don't think I can ever forget the look on her face when we began the tour with the principal leading the way. At times it was a look of terror and at other times a look of adventure. There were moments of sheer fright and other times big smiles. I knew that if any kid could do it, Renee could. When we actually moved here 3 days before her 7th grade began, we had to believe that indeed God had directed our steps but in looking back it was a step of faith to even believe that!

We arrived on the island to actually live here the night before Hurricane Gustav. We found ourselves at the Mandeville Hotel for the first 3 nights. There was a skeletal crew at the hotel with limited food choices of course due to the suddenness of the storm. We thought that the sound of the generator was just a norm! Very quickly we realized that the budget would not maintain hotel living so we went searching for a place to lay our heads. Our home was not going to be available until our shipment arrived by boat. We were in a little bit of a limbo just waiting. The problem was Belair was going to begin school very quickly! We had to get uniforms made and the correct socks found. We knew from the information they sent to us in the States that everything had to be exact. So fortunately we found a seamstress and began the process. I remember it was a really crazy time because the uniforms were not ready and I went pleading.....WE HAVE TO HAVE AT LEAST ONE UNIFORM!!! She has to go to school in the morning!!

Thank God those days are over! It was really crazy along with our living arrangements, getting a car registered, teaching, visas, everything was NUTS! The only thing that was calm was Belair! God orchestrated even her homeroom teacher, the one she would spend time with, the one who understood the most where Renee was at emotionally, the one who gave her time and even her first official lesson speaking Patois....Miss Mead. We will forever be indebted to this most wonderful and gifted teacher.

Here are some photos of the school entrance. As most places in Jamaica there is a security guard on duty and he allows or doesn't allow people onto the campus.

The school building is built around a courtyard,most if not all schools in Jamaica are built that way.The courtyard is in the center and the classrooms are around it. An interesting difference is that the students don't move from class to class. They have one or 2 classes per grade and the teachers go to them. There is a small staff room however a teacher doesn't have their private desk or own classroom, etc. except for art, music and PE.

Here in Jamaica a snack shop is called a Tuck Shop. Belair's "Tuck Shop" is where the students buy lunch, and snacks. Interesting tidbit, this is an area that we tell Renee she may struggle with when we go back to the States for her senior year. The Tuck shop is open all day long. Whenever you have a free moment you can stop in and get what you need. It doesn't close as the American school cafeteria does.It doesn't have tables or even much space to get in a line to order. The students have access to a couple of round cement tables in the courtyard but Renee typically eats her lunch in the art room or the music room where she hangs out with some of her favorite teachers and subjects! Here are some photos, standing in line at the tuck shop,her music teacher Mr. Anderson,eating in her classroom with her friends,and the art room.

A year long event happened in Renee's first year at Belair and that was the 40th year celebration. Renee, even though a brand new student, was asked to play her violin for many occassions. It was a wonderful honor. A student passed away this year and she was asked to play at his funeral. So along with playing in churches where her daddy preaches she has many opportunities to play for special events, even those that have been televised. I am sure that this gift was part of God's plan to help her acclimate as well as she has.

Because of wanting to be sure Renee was in a safe place, worried mommy that I am, I began volunteering at the school right away. I found myself in the library assisting a wonderful teacher that has been employed at Belair for 20 years. I help Ms. Volaitis process the books along with shelving them and assisting her with varied tasks and classes. I love it! It is an honor to bless the school that has invested so much into Renee's life and I will hold dear to the personal memories I will take from the school as well.

Another adjustment that Renee had was PE. I remember the first Parent/teacher conference that took place. Incidently they happen after the term is over. Her grade in PE wasn't a "Renee" kind of grade! We were concerned. Mind you, every sport takes place outside, on the field, in the blazing sun, in the afternoon, without a bubbler nearby, etc. So in speaking to the PE teacher I told him that she is not used to the heat and when we pick her up on PE day, there are some days she can hardly get all her stuff in the car, she is so exhausted.There were a few PE days of tears. He said to us, "Oh don't worry, by next semester she will get it!" I have to say now in her second year of Belair, PE is becoming a favorite! She did get it! Netball, extreme heat, running like Usain Bolt....well almost!, cross country, football (soccer), sprints, she is getting it!

In Literature class Renee portrayed Juliet. Here is a photo of her with her teacher, Mr. Sinclair and Belair's wonderful principal,Ms.McCathy.

I could go on and on about Renee's friends, her achievements, her special awards and her wonderful life. Of course everything is different, but she looks at life through the eyes of wonderment and excitement for what her future holds. Belair is part of God's plan and although different....significantly wonderful...

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Sisters......Precious Gifts

My Sister is a forever friend
As we to each other extend
A hand, A hug, A look of love
Serving the Great Lord above
We laugh, We joy, we smile together
Sometimes our love is light as a feather.
But then at other times in life
We cry, We pout, We have our strife
At times we are so hard to please
But God alone gives us His peace.

My sister is like a pearl rare
Together we make quite an interesting pair
We are sharing, loving and full of care
To me you are someone I hold so dear.
When around you, I have no fear
You accept me, faults and all
When in trouble, you I call
Our friendship is a fragile flower
And then again, a tall, strong tower.

My sister is a golden treasure
We thrive on giving each other pleasure
When in the dark, you are a light
Full of direction, used by God's might.
Your life is like a shelter
Peaceful, guarded, not wanting to falter
Sister, accept my deepest devotion
You are precious, You are love in motion.

My sister, Janis, was a guest soloist last Sunday in a Missionary Alliance church. My sister, Janine, leaves tomorrow for a week as a missionary to Nicaragua. I am so blessed. I am honored to have 2 sisters that mean the world to me.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Happy Birthday Ryan!

Norwood Hospital 2-2-90 Friday 7 pounds 1 ounce 20 inches long Dr.Prout

It is amazing that today at 12:31 p.m. you turn 20! You are no longer a teenager! I can't believe it. When you were born, we lived in Walpole, Massachusetts. Daddy was on staff at Christian Life Center. We had been married 12 years and were so desirous to have you! You had been prayed for, for many, many years and we had yet to feel your life or see your face. We longed to have you, little man, in our lives.

Ryan, your name dates back to the third century and is derived from a Latin word meaning "the laughing." Although most commonly heard as a surname, from the Irish Rian, "little king," it has gained popularity as a given name in America.

Still today, Ryan is the most beautiful name to my ears. You are a Ryan, when people don't hear your name well and say Bryan, I always think, no Bryan doesn't fit! He is a Ryan. Reading the definition of your name, I am reminded that you have always been a person of laughter and certainly you have always been treated like a king!

You were the most precious baby, toddler, little boy, young man! Everybody would tell me that! From the church nursery workers to your mema, from Mrs. Canterbury to Miss Starla. You had a gentleness about you that was part of your personality. Even today you are a "gentleman."

You went on your first missions trip in 1993 to Puerto Rico, then in 1994 to the Dominican Republic, 1995 to France, 1996 to Mexico, 1997 to Paraguay, 1999 to Russia, 2003 Costa Rica, you were the youngest student to be in language school with daddy and at the graduation even recieved a certificate! 2005 and 2007 you were back in Mexico with daddy. You had a lot of ministry in Jamaica in 2009. You have always been a great travelor! I guess you learned you had to be if you wanted to be with Dad! I wish I had the car and air miles that you logged through these last 20 years!

Ry, you have brought so much joy to our lives and you are your sisters hero, example, idol (in a good sense!) and friend. Thank you for investing so much time and energy into her through the years. You are a terrific big brother!

I remember the first time I allowed Renee to take a spin with you in your first car. I was so nervous to have both of my babies in the same car with a new driver! I stood on the porch interceding for safety until you came around that corner on Leisa and Jonathan! The joy on your faces, the wind blowing through your hair, the smiles so huge, I was put to shame that I would worry so while you both were having so much fun! You have brought so much joy to your sister.....thanks!

The hardest thing we have ever done honey was leaving you, our "little king" at VFCC on August 27, 2008 to fly to Jamaica the next day for a 4 year missions term. It was and is such a struggle to leave you alone. It is absolutely essential for us as parents to let you learn how to fly on your own but it is not something we enjoy! We have watched your development close up and personal for now 20 years and you will never know the depth of how proud we are of you. Your desire to make music, your desire to worship, your desire to please, your desire to keep moving and not get stagnant, your desire to do your best, your desire to keep healthy friends, your desire to be a pastor, your desire to LOVE God and to make HIM known is something that brings your daddy and me, and your grandparents great joy.

When I was in the hospital on February 2, 1990 Pop Pop and MeMa came to the hospital and her devotion that morning was something appropriate to read to me anticipating the delivery of my first~born. I want to share it with you.

Fear not, I will help thee. Isaiah 41:13.. Sunlight glistens on his whiskers as Mr. Groundhog cautiously pokes his head above his earthy burrow. He eases to his haunches, twitches his fuzzy ears and listens for signs of danger. Then...horrors! He sees this big, black, spooky thing looming in front of him. Whoosh! He's gone. His shadow has sent him fleeing back to the safety of his den. This means, according to legend from Great Britain and Germany, that winter will last another six weeks. I, for one, like a sunny day---especially in February. How silly to let a shadow spoil it. But, I wonder, how many times have I retreated from opportunity because I was frightened by a shadow called "uncertainty" or "inadequacy"? Perhaps my fear is as unfounded as the groundhog's. I have an idea. This Groundhog Day, despite the scary shadows in front of me, I'm going to take one small step toward something I want to accomplish. Dear Lord, this Groundhog Day, give me the courage to confront my shadows. (Terry Helwig)

You, my little groundhog, born on Groundhog Day, are now 20 years old. You know how to live uprightly. You know what makes the world tick, you know so much about ministry life. As you follow HIS call, don't be afraid of your shadow!