A New Kind of Normal

Well, we really have settled here in Costa Rica. Our home is becoming more homey, our  town is becoming more familiar, and our roles at La Palabra De Vida are becoming better defined.

The Science Department. In order to graduate from a Costa Rican high school, each student must pass a national standardized test in either Biology, Chemistry, or Physics. Up until this year, La Palabra De Vida has only had students graduate with Biology. This year there will be 4 students taking the Physics exam, and the school is hoping to have students taking the Chemistry exam next year, which is where I come in.

For our first two months at the school, I have been teaching science in the 7th, 8th, and 9th grade (Chemistry, Physical Science, and Biology, respectively). However as we entered the third trimester, Matt Befus swapped me 10th Chemistry for 9th Biology – a happy trade for both of us. This is the first year that the school has offered 10th grade chemistry, and for the last 3 weeks it’s been a fun challenge to develop the curriculum. I’ve been using the government annual plan as a back bone and some materials from STES via my mom to flesh them out. The most fun part of it all has been putting together the lab component. On Thursday, we’re doing our first bonafide lab as the 10th graders burn Magnesium to find the ratio Mg to O in the oxide.

La California. In order to graduate from high school, each student must complete 30 community service hours. La Palabra De Vida has a history of focusing its community service days towards La California, a local elementary school in a rough part of town. Weekend before last, we went with the current 10th graders to do some much needed maintenance and grounds keeping.  As we have mentioned here before, Savanna and I have been trying to find a ministry to serve at risk children in our area. We think we may have found it.

10th grade La Palabra De Vida students after a long day of manual labor at La California.

Our vision is to develop a weekly after school program that will use LPDV students to tutor La California students. As we’ve been brainstorming, it looks like the program will involve Math and English tutoring – from helping with homework to activities and communicative activities – followed by games, Bible time, and a meal. The goals being to help the kids, build relationships, and eventually scholarship some so that they can attend La Palabra De Vida for high school.

We’re hoping to have a kick-start day soon where we will have fun, lay ground work, and diagnose the academic level of the students. We are excited to begin the process of serving this community, but equally excited to see Palabra De Vida students grow through this service. Please join us in prayer as we work with others in both schools to build this program.

Chilling with the Little Ones. Savanna here 🙂 As many of you now know from Facebook or talking with our families, I have a new job here at Palabra de Vida. Unfortunately, a common trend since we arrived here has been for teachers to quit (often with less than a week’s notice) when a better paying opportunity arises. It is just a reality that a private Christian school cannot offer a competitive salary, so teachers who choose to work here and stay here are doing it because they believe in this place. Since we arrived in June, four teachers have quit. And several more quit earlier in the year. The worst part is that this turnover creates a lot of instability and confusion for the students.

So how did I get a new job? The preschool English teacher left and I was asked to substitute for “a few days”…which turned into two weeks without a replacement teacher. My first few days in preschool were definitely a challenge. I knew how to play with four and five year olds, but I did not know how to teach them. I am still learning. It is amazing to look back and see how God was moving, though. Substituting in preschool really made me appreciate the kids and my job in the elementary school. (It was a job that I had not been extremely happy with before…It was a very undefined position which caused some respect issues with a lot of the students.) It was almost like God needed me to be at peace with that work before He could give me something new to get excited about. Two weeks later, I was really starting to enjoy working in preschool and slowly figuring things out. And I did something bold. I offered to the Elementary School Director that I would stay on as the preschool teacher for the rest of the year if they were interested in that. It hadn’t exactly been a smooth start in preschool, but I felt a sense of peace that God could be giving me a gift through working in preschool.

Savanna’s four-year-old class on Independence Day

Therefore, as of two weeks ago (sorry for the late update!) I am the official English preschool teacher. Honestly, I do believe that God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform. I am loving it and I feel like God was aligning this for me even during the initial hard weeks here.  It has been so fun to get to watch these kids get excited about Bible stories. It has been a challenge to deal with tears and boogers and throw up (three times already) and poop on the floor (twice already). Needless to say, I still feel a little out of my comfort zone and it is only by God’s grace that He is able to make me “Mom” for a few hours each day and fill me with His love for these twenty-eight little guys. Thank you to those of you who have prayed for me through the struggles of my job and praise God for the gift of having a job that I enjoy!

A lot of other fun/exciting/funny things have happened over the past few weeks, but we are going to update you with pictures rather than words. Also, check out our new page coming soon, “Provecho,” to find out more about how Costa Rica is treating our appetites.

Playing “Ninja” with the Befus girls at James’s birthday party

Our first package in Costa Rica!

The enormous caterpillar I saw on Community Service Day

All dressed up for Semana Civica (Civics Week)

Sixth graders’ traditional Costa Rican dance for Semana Civica

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4 thoughts on “A New Kind of Normal

  1. Loved reading the blog! So glad things are falling into place for you both! I can just see that sweet mother of yours beaming as she reads about you teaching those children….hummmm wonder who you learned that from? You had a great teacher. Praying for you both of you. Remember to wash your hands often after dealing with all the icky stuff….Ha Ha
    Blessings,
    Melinda

  2. You guys are just awesome. It seems like a new “adventure” for you guys every day. I guess it really forces you to live Biblically (one day at a time). Hang in there and keep on doing your thing. We love you and are praying for you often. Love the pictures, too. 🙂 P & L

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