And I’m realizing that you didn’t have to funk with me, but you did, now I’m going all out kid and I got mad love to give, you my…

Source: liberettemag.com

When people ask me “how’s life in Georgia” my response is usually “life in Georgia is interesting to say the least.” I think that the reality that I am half way around the world, living in a completely different land, with people I don’t know and whose language I don’t speak is finally starting to set in. Today was a tough day, not because of any one thing in particular but rather a compilation of many very small things. Although beautiful and chock-full of immensely hospitable people, Georgia is, in every sense, a developing country. The need here is great.

I’ve finally begun teaching and now that I am in the classroom, I realize just how much work is needed in Georgian public schools. The system is broken and the needs far exceed anything that one volunteer can match. As an educator by vocation, I’ve learned the importance of the condition of the physical space where learning takes place to children’s motivation to actually learn. I teach at a school in the rural village of Simoneti here in Georgia. The building is in very poor condition with no running water nor indoor plumbing, cracked walls, broken windows and floors with loose and broken tile. No posters with inspirational messages nor bulletin boards with content relevant to subjects studied in classes adorn the walls.

Many students do not have school books and even a considerable number of teachers lack the necessary books to teach their classes and regularly borrow books from one of the few students who bring books to class. Teachers regularly fail to thoroughly plan lessons prior to class and although homework is sometimes given, I have yet to see a teacher collect completed homework to take home to actually evaluate and grade. Students frequently come unprepared to class with neither books, paper, nor pens- seemingly without any consequence. I work with English teachers who are native Georgians and speak very little English but are responsible for teaching students a language that they themselves do not have command of. The situation is quite daunting.

I’m American and to many Georgians that means that the things that I can do are boundless. Everyone who knows me on any real personal level knows that I have a difficult time saying “no.” This is really problematic, as I am asked to do a lot in Georgia. The school where I work asked me to teach 5 different grades- 6th grade, 7th grade, 9th grade, 10th and 11th grade- facilitate two after-school clubs that meet for an hour, each twice a week, totaling an additional 4 hours after school a week, and create and facilitate a club to teach the teachers English. Last week, I was asked by a teacher whose daughter is permanently bedridden due to a car accident if I have any friends in America who work with bad brains, her words. When my answer was no, I was asked if I knew how the teachers might go about finding someone who does. Days later, I was asked if I could go to this teacher’s house and sit with the daughter and bring my computer so that she can play with it. Today the teachers wanted to know if I could devote another day a week after school to help the English teachers prepare for national teacher exams. Additionally, I entered the staff room after my lessons today and the teachers were waiting for me to ask if they could use my laptop to go onto the internet and find the preparation materials for teacher exams and if I had some way of copying the material for them.

Everyday, there is something that someone wants me to do and I obviously can’t do it all.
The feeling is overwhelming. Although I’m a grown woman trying to make grown-up decisions, at heart I’m just a big girl trying to live out the dreams of a little black girl to one day see the world and to do her share of good in it. I just want no longer to stifle the dreams of a little pig-tailed caramel child whose imagination forced her to believe that the world the Lord created was vaster than her reality on the west side of Chicago, even grander than all that glitters in her country of America, and full of people beautifully different from herself but remarkably similar when it’s all said and done. There is so much that’s needed, so much that’s desired of me and the reality of it all is a bit heavy for the little girl looking out at the world through my eyes.

And so, today was tough- not because of any one thing in particular but rather a compilation of many very small things.

As I began the 20 minute walk home from school in the Georgian sun, I talked to the Father about it all. And step by step, I thought of the God who tells his children to cast their cares upon him because he cares for us. I’m just one person, in one section of one very small part of the world and I am being pulled in so many directions because of the amount of need in this place alone. As I continued to walk, I became overcome with the thought of the vastness of the God I serve. He exists everywhere and at the same time and is connected to each of us, able to number the very hairs on our heads. Can you imagine the enormity of the need of the WORLD? I just barely can; I’m exhausted thinking only of the need of Georgia, a very small place in comparison to the world at large. And, I know how overwhelmed I am when a few people ask me to help meet the needs they have here. Can you imagine tallying up the needs that everyone who exists in the world has. We ask God about things that we need on a daily basis but rarely stop to think that everyone else is doing the same thing, and amazingly God is able to handle that. Wow, he absorbs the needs of us all and tells his children not to bother being worried about how to meet our own needs. The book of Matthew waxes poetic in its concession that God says to us if he could take lilies and adorn the grass more splendidly than Solomon in all of his glory, would he not do much more for us. Imagine that.

So, as I walked home feeling a little beat down, reflecting upon my day, as I thought more about the God I serve rather than remain overwhelmed by the needs I obviously can’t meet I became overwhelmed by the new realization of just how dope God really is. And you know, none of us really deserve that kind of love nor consideration from him but he still doles it out. Now I might lose some of you here (we all should communicate with God according to our own personalities), but God’s love and immense concern kinda remind me of the iconic Meth and Mary collabo “You’re All I Need.” I find myself thinking, man, he didn’t have to mess with me but he did and because he did, I gotta go all out. Now there are some words I just don’t use, but there are sometimes when such words are so inappropriately appropriate, lol. With that, remember when everybody was claiming that Jesus was their homie? Well…my heart says to him “I got mad love to give, you my…” Y’all who know the song, you know the rest 🙂 Peace!

Simply She

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‘Cause I wonder sometimes about the outcome of a still verdictless life…

So some time ago, like the great poet Whitman, I embarked on a journey to sing a song of myself. I decided to take the unexpected twists and turns of life’s scattered pavement and welcome the self discovery and actualization that its detours certainly bring. It has been such a pleasure to take a step back and watch what can happen when one adds an amalgam of zesty, and tangy, and savory, and piquant spices to the flavor of a life. I’m just 27 years old and life has already been such a journey, often taking me places I had rather not venture. Well, while traversing the places not desired but necessary, I figure it’s time also to build in space to rove the places desired but never dared.

Just recently, I began to sing an even newer song. Two weeks ago, I boarded a plane and headed to Eastern Europe to volunteer to teach English for a year. And boy has it been a ride since then! From the onset, there have been challenges. The day I was slated to leave my great love, Chicago, was also the day I moved out of my Hyde Park digs that I have so come to love over the years. I packed all the way up till leaving for O’hare.

I arrived at the airport later than I had originally anticipated and much later than I desired. When I got to the counter, I was sternly told that my flight was closed and that I would not be allowed on the plane, although boarding hadn’t started and there was some time remaining before takeoff. I headed toward the door, despondent, to call my ride to return to pick me up. Minutes later, an attendant found me, told me the flight had just been delayed and reopened and I was issued a boarding pass. I headed toward the gate and a short time afterwards we began boarding. When it was my turn, I handed the attendant my boarding pass to scan. The machine made a buzzing sound and I was told to step aside. Evidently, the flight was full and I had been given someone’s seat who had already been issued a ticket. Obviously, we both could not occupy the seat. It appeared that I might not be able to make the flight after all. Eventually a seat in business class was located for me and away I flew.

When I arrived in Georgia, my entire group’s luggage had been lost. I was horrified, because in true Sheena form, my carry-on was filled entirely with fly…SHOES! No shirt, pant, panty, brassiere, nor toiletry of any kind was present in that bag. It was Wednesday and the forecast for the arrival of luggage was Saturday. I waited patiently for our luggage to arrive the days that followed and when the rest of the group’s luggage arrived several days later, it appeared that mine alone was still floating someplace in oblivion. My luggage eventually came and I was ecstatic and everything about the world seemed brighter, then volunteers were given the specific areas they would be placed. Rather than being placed in a city, I was informed I would be placed in a rural village- precisely where I had been having deep conversations with Jesus about graciously not wanting to end up, great.

My host dad picked me up the next day and brought me to our house where I realized no one in my family spoke English, there was no resemblance of an internet connection, nor running water, nor indoor-plumbing. Yep, that means that I’d have to bring my obsessive-compulsive self to use an outhouse, and not one with a deep hole that refuse disappeared into forever, but rather one with a shallow hole where large clumps of decomposing poop could be seen quite easily and DEFINITELY smelt. And, I would have to shower in a cement room built onto the outside of the house with a makeshift shower that I’d often share with an assembly of bugs.

I didn’t last very long there and am happy to report that I have since found suitable housing with quite a lovely family. However, it took the traumatic experiences at my first house to really appreciate the comforts my current home offers. There is still an outhouse, but a much more bearable one. And believe it or not, I’m managing to use it without hyper- ventilating and fainting directly upon entry; go figure. There is an indoor tub, satellite television, internet access, a bedroom with a private entrance and an amazing view. I can see the Caucasus Mountains from my balcony. My backyard is a vineyard where my host parents grow their own grapes and make their own wine (I know some of you would be much more appreciative of this tid bit than I am, lol!) There are cows, chickens, lambs, turkeys (and even an occasional pig) everywhere and I actually like it. I’ve never felt so connected to the earth that the Lord created. While life is so simple here, I am taken with the grandness and beauty of sheer creation each day. My host parents are fabulous people; the father tells me that I am his child and that anything in his house, I can have (sounds like these could be words from another Father).

I don’t know what the end of this leg of the journey will bring, but I am excited. I know that there will be difficult days ahead but believe that those days will pale in comparison to the great days that surely lie in wait. I’m learning new things about myself most days and fortunately for me, some of those things I quite like. Those I don’t remind me of my fallibility and perpetual need for a Savior.

Life hasn’t always dealt me the kindest hand, but I’m so grateful that God has granted me the privilege of having a life wherein hardship and heartache do not exist alone but where there are great adventures with the lover of my soul at every juncture also. As the Georgia adventure progresses, I promise to keep you posted.