26 March 2010

Hooray - the week is over

It's Friday afternoon. The children have all gone, and the cleaner has come in to clean the room. It's not total peace, as the PA system announces the names of children for whom parents or drivers are waiting, and there's a basketball game due to start sometime shortly, but basically peace is beginning to settle on the school. Now is when I could turn the air-conditioner on, and not feel guilty, except that today I don't really need it! Yes! Some time in the early hours of this morning the heat gave way to thunderstorms, followed by rain. There have been just 3 degrees between today's minimum of 24 and the maximum of 27 at 3pm. Humidity has however not dropped below 83% all day. Thanks Lord for a cool day, and for the rain which settles the dust (and create's mud instead!!!).

So does this mean I'm free to relax? Well, maybe I can watch a movie tonight, but I do still have research reports to grade, and other assignments that need to be reviewed and/or graded. I also need to plan for the coming week. It will be an easy week to plan for, since we are going to do lots of "test preparation". Starting on Thursday next week, and continuing for about 5 days, the children will complete the Stanford Acheivement Test (SAT) for their grade level. The results of these standardised tests allow us to see how our students are doing in comparison to other international schools, other Christian schools, and simply how different classes are progressing. To give the children the best chance of doing well, I spend about a week working through practice tests with them, that have similar types of questions, and a similar answer form.

As well as doing this, I also need to spend some time completing some additional application forms for positions for next year. I know that God has good things planned for me, but unless I put in application forms, and keep making an effort to find another job, it will be very hard for Him to show me what that plan is. Unfortunately, writing applications is a very time-consuming process, and even though I have completed several now, every form seems to word the questions slightly differently, and so even though I have a lot of the thoughts down, they have to be worded so that they answer the question being asked.

Then on Sunday afternoon I will be leading worship at the ICF. The songs are chosen, but I still need to finalise how I am going to make these flow together so that they form a smooth time of worship of our great and wonderful God. Each time I lead worship, I pray that God will simply use me as His tool to lead others in a meaningful time of corporate worship. I pray this will happen on Sunday this week too!

It's Friday! Hooray! Now I'd better get down to those Research Reports and that planning.

25 March 2010

God will make a way

God will make a way, where there seems to be no way.
He works in ways we cannot see,
He will make a way for me.
He will be my guide, hold me closely to his side,
with love and strength for each new day.
He will make a way, he will make a way.

By a roadway in the wilderness he'll lead me,
and rivers in the desert will I see;
heaven and earth will fade,
but his Word will still remain,
he will do something new today.
by Don Moen, Copyright 1990 Integrity's Hosanna! Music.

This song, together with the old hymn "I surrender all" were on my mind as I rode my moto across town to an interview at HOPE International School yesterday afternoon. I'd dashed home from school to have a shower and return my hair to it's normal state of chaos following Crazy Hair Day, and then headed down the dike road to the other Christian International School in Phnom Penh. God had blessed me with an opportunity to meet with the Director and the Secondary Principal. It was a good meeting, and I answered their sometimes challenging questions as openly and honestly as I could. I think the hardest question I got asked was "what are your strengths?". It's not because I don't have any, but more because I find it hard to "sell myself". At the end of the interview I had the opportunity to ask them what positions they were looking to fill that I might fit. As it turns out, there was no specific position, since they have recently filled or had staff extend to fill the positions they were previously looking to fill, but there are some possibilities that may open up, or may not. Whatever the outcome, I'm content to leave the situation there in God's hands. If it is God's will for me to stay on in Cambodia, then I know that He will provide the right position for me. I know I still have much to learn as a teacher, and that I need to continue to grow in my relationship with God, and as a person, but one thing I'm learning through all that has happened is that God is in control, and that I can trust Him to provide what I need, at just the right time, and in just the right way.

Well, that's it for the serious stuff. Here's a picture of some of my students and their crazy hair!
And the 4th grade winner was "Toothpaste girl"!

20 March 2010

The end of a long week

It has definitely been a long week. After achieving only a fraction of what I set out to last weekend, although I'm sure most of the things I did do were important, I had much to do to get the report cards finished on time. That meant some very late nights, and by Wednesday I was physically exhausted. I took a half day to catch up, and OK, I didn't get them done on time, but they were done in time for the students to take them home on Friday afternoon.

One highlight this week was receiving an acknowledgement of a preliminary application to the other main Christian International School here in Phnom Penh. This school has many more Aussies on staff than Logos (that wouldn't be hard) and teaches a different curriculum, which is more compatible with the Australian/NZ/British systems. They are looking for Elementary and Secondary school teachers, and so I put in a preliminary application last week. In the covering e-mail, I was very honest about why I'm leaving Logos, and was subsequently warned (not by anyone at that school) that maybe that wasn't a good idea. Despite the advice, I'm still glad I was open and honest about it, and I believe God has rewarded my honesty. My application and my honesty were acknowledged, and I was given the opportunity to submit a formal application if I believed that God led me to do so. I decided this was appropriate, and I'm now waiting to see what happens next. Hopefully an interview. I've also been invited to put in the second stage of an application to an organisation which recruits teachers for Christian schools in a number of countries around the world. It's an on-line application, and it will have to be done in one sitting, so I'm holding off until I've got a little more planning and preparation done for the coming week before I get down to doing that one.

One thing about having to write job applications is it really makes you think about where your priorities lie, and why you do what you do. This job may not pay a lot, but the non-financial rewards can be amazing. I'm continuing to work through issues, and this will take some time, but I know that God is in control, and that He is working in my life. He is breaking me, molding me, and making me into the person that He wants me to be. I pray that I will not forget the lessons of the last five weeks, but will grow as a result of them, and that I will continue to surrender daily, and even hourly to Him. I love you Lord!

Friday afternoon I decided that I'd done enough work this week, and invited two friends over to watch a movie with me. We shared fried rice, and then watched "Old Dogs". If you are looking for a great comedy movie that you can show to your teenagers (and even pre-teens) then this one is definitely OK. We laughed and laughed. I'm not going to tell you any more. You'll just have to get hold of it and watch it! Tonight I watched another movie (on my own this time) called "my sister's keeper", and while I won't say I enjoyed it, it was definitely a good movie. For teachers who are looking for a movie for high school students that raises moral and ethical issues, this one is definitely worth having a look at.

The weather here is hot and humid, and the rainy season hasn't started yet! We have been watching the slow progress of the installation of the transformer necessary to get an adequate electricity supply in to the school. It's definitely happening. Let's hope things keep progressing. It would be good to be able to teach in air-conditioned comfort again (although until Cambodia has enough power in it's grid there will still be load-sheddng at times).

The other major progress on the new campus this weekend has been the installation of rubber tiles under our playground equipment (swings, slides and climbing frames). We (several of the elementary teachers & definitely some of the parents) are praising God that this has happened. We're not sure whether it was going to happen this weekend anyway, or whether an accident after school one afternoon this week (which could have been a lot worse than it was - and it was definitely bad enough - praise God that He kept his hand on our student and that the injury that occurred wasn't worse) has resulted in it being fast-tracked. Whatever the reason, we are very happy that it is happening.

How to have happy students for the afternoon

Feed them chocolate icecream!
Trust me there was not much chocolate left in those bowls when some of the students were finished with them!
I was almost tempted to have some myself! The office staff enjoyed the left overs, but there wasn't much!

15 March 2010

God is truly at work

Since I last blogged last Thursday I have experienced God's work in my life in a very special way. On Friday evening, after I had been working through some of the reasons why I'm not returning to Logos next year, as well as having my formal evaluation by the elementary principal, and also being challeged greatly by a book that I was reading, I was feeling very down. I knew that I could not keep going under the burden that was pressing down on me, and so I sought the prayer support of three friends here in Cambodia. I sent a text message to one, and her immediate response was to pray that God would send someone to be with me. She just knew that I needed someone and wasn't able to come herself. As I was about to send the same message to a second friend, who I knew would pray, another number came up on my phone first, and I know now that it was God's prompting that resulted in me sending the message to another single lady here in Phnom Penh. This lady is part of the home group that meets in my place, and our friendship has been slowly growing over the past six months or so. Finally I sent the message to the third person, who was originally going to be the only other person I sent it to. Well, the second lady responded quickly with her own text message, and when she didn't quite like my reply, she phoned me, and told me that she would be over as soon as she could get there. We spent the evening together, and as she reached out to me, I was eventually able to reach out to God in complete brokenness. God showed me that evening that while He loves us to be fully surrendered to Him, and this is His desire for us, He still loves us, even when we want to be in control ourselves, and fail to trust Him fully with all aspects of our lives. I know that I'm still a work in progress, and that I need to consciously surrender each day to Him, but am once again secure in the knowledge that He loves me no matter what. In the words of a song by Russell Fragar that I enjoy singing:

"Before the world began You were on his mind.
And ev'ry tear you cry, is precious in his eyes.
Because of his great love He gave his only Son,
Everthing was done so you would come.

Nothing you can do, could make him love you more.
And nothing that you've done, could make him close the door.

Because of his great love He gave his only Son,
Everything was done so you would come.

Come to the Father;
Though your gift is small,
Broken hears, broken lives,
He will take them all.
The power of the Word
The power of his blood,
Everything was done so you would come."
© 1996 Russell Fragar/Hillsongs Australia

Since Friday night, I have had a peace about where God is leading me next, and while I'm still uncertain where that is, I'm learning to leave it in His hands. That doesn't mean I'm sitting back doing nothing - quite the opposite - I've put in more applications in the last two days than in the previous four weeks - but I have a greater confidence that He is in control. I'd still love to know what His next plans are for me, but I'm learning to surrender those to Him on a daily basis, and to leave them with Him.

Now I've got 17 more persuasive essays to grade this evening, so I had better get on with the job. Report cards are due by midnight Wednesday, and I'm starting to wonder if I'm going to get them done in time! No more procrastinating, blogging or facebook until they are done!


11 March 2010

Waiting, hoping, praying

Well, I know one thing, and that is that I won't be teaching at Dalat International School in Penang, Malaysia next school year. The waiting on that opportunity finished today with an e-mail thanking me for my application, but sorry, for economic reasons they will not be proceeding any further with my application. Unfortunately this is a situation where being single goes against me! Life's like that. So what next? I need to follow up on another application, and also to submit some others to other places. Time is moving on, and it's not easy being uncertain of your future. Meanwhile, God is at work in my life, and I know that ultimately good will come from this situation.

So the priority for tonight! Get some grading done, and think about what I'm going to teach tomorrow. Well, I have done some of that, but there's more to do. So it's time to stop procrastinating and get on with it.


09 March 2010

Enjoying a break

It's been great having a few days off school. Yesterday was less productive than I hoped, mainly because by the time I got to school at 9am we had no electricity and it didn't come back on again until 7pm last night. I went for a swim, and then got some maths papers graded, and a little planning done, but by 2.30pm I decided it was time to head for home, where at least I could put a fan on. I had a pile of Social Studies portfolios that needed to be graded (at about 15 min each), and they were at home, so that was the plan. Instead I baked a cake, surfed the internet, wasted time on Facebook, and eventually got about 4 done before I went to bed.

That's it, I decided. They have to be done, and I'm not going anywhere until they are. So I set up a table in the bedroom (air-con in there), and by 12.30pm they were all done. I had some lunch and pottered around a bit, and headed out to school by about 2pm for 3 hours. Checked e-mail, and eventually did a little planning. Tomorrow is going to be a busy day. Fortunately I only have two days to plan for, but I've really got to get some stuff ready for writing report cards this weekend as well. Hopefully we'll have power for most, if not all of the day, and I'll be able to be productive. Not much I can do about that.

This evening I met up with a friend who is visiting from Poipet for a few days of meetings. Lucky her. She's not that excited about the meetings, but it's a good chance to catch up with folk in Phnom Penh. We enjoyed dinner at a coffee shop across the other side of town, that I wouldn't usually go to, but where I'd been given some gift vouchers for by a grateful parent. We both enjoyed our meal, and I even came home with some dessert treats for tomorrow. We travelled by tuk-tuk, as I just couldn't face the peak hour traffic tonight - wanted to enjoy myself, and enjoy conversation on the journey, so that was good too. I arrived home just 3 minutes before it started to rain! Thanks Lord. Unfortunately it didn't last long, and the humidity is now about 90%, well it feels like that anyway. However, it's official. Today was cooler than yesterday and the day before (by 1 degree!).

Last night, as I sat peacefully at home, I kept hearing lots of sirens. I wondered what was going on, since that many sirens usually means either someone really important is around, and they are closing roads and moving them through as fast as they can, or ??? It turns out it was the ???. There was a big fire in an area along the railway line, and near one of the temples. According to news reports 158 homes plus 5 or more monks rooms were destroyed. It seems that one of the recent traffic calming strategies created a big headache for the emergency services, as the direct road into the area is now only accessible from one side of the main road. There is another route into the area, but it is very round about, and narrow roads. To access from the main road required road blocks a substantial distance away in order to create safe passage for the emergency vehicles.

So why was the access route blocked in the first place? I'm not totally sure, but it does mean that traffic now has to continue in one direction without trying to turn left across traffic, and so it does make things flow more smoothly. Previously a number of drivers, like in any big city, would take the back route to avoid an intersection that regularly gridlocks, and then created a new headache about 200m from the gridlocked intersection as they either crossed the main road, or tried to turn left onto it (for those Aussies reading this, think right hand turn on Australian road). I've taken 30 minutes to get through the intersection that no longer exists at peak hour! And that's on a moto, so it might be 60 minutes for car drivers.

Well, the night is progressing and it's time I went to bed, but I want to finish by mentioning a few of the things I'm thankful for today.
  • E-mails from friends
  • Electricity
  • Internet
  • Air-conditioning
  • Finishing the Social Studies portfolio grading
  • Good food
  • Friends to share it with
  • A safe dry place to live
  • Fans
  • A God who cares for me, every minute of every day. He knows everything about me, and He still loves me! He has every day of my life planned, and is in control, especially when I feel like things are out of control.
  • Refrigerators
  • Thunderstorms
  • Rain in Toowoomba's catchments - Dam levels area up to 16.1%. That's the highest they've been in a number of years.
  • Family
  • People who pray for me, and enourage and support me in many different ways. Thanks guys.
Good night.


07 March 2010

"Green Leaf in Drought" & Transitions

The title of this entry is the title of a book I have just finished reading. Written by Isobel Kuhn, from original letters & transcripts, it tells the story of the missionaries with CIM (now OMF) unable to leave their station in the early 1950s. The story was both encouraging and challenging. One of the challenges was that God showed this couple that He didn't just want them to "get through" the difficult time, submitting to the will of God, but to delight in His will.

So what does that mean for me. Well, as I face an uncertain future, first I need to remember that it's only uncertain for me. God knows exactly what is going to happen, and I can trust Him to do what is best for me, and for His glory. The second thing, is that I still have about 9 weeks of school days to get through before I move on, and I need to do that in a way that brings glory to God.

As I attended church this afternoon, this message was confirmed through the message brought by our guest speaker who spoke on "Transitions". In considering the model that she used, along with a passage from Numbers 11, I know that I am at the beginning of a major transtion, and that's not an easy place to be, especially when you do not know what/where you are transitioning to. The good thing is that I am confident that God knows what I'll be transitioning too, and that I can trust Him to provide for me. I am also confident that God will be with me through every step of the transition, and know that He will give me the physical, spiritual and emotional strength to finish this school year to His glory. I cannot do it in my strength. If it were up to me, to finish the year on my own, I'd be quitting right now, but it's not up to me, and so I continue on, knowing that it will be His strength that gets me though and desiring above all that He will be glorified through these last weeks and days at Logos.

As I consider this transition, acknowledging the hurt that I've experienced, and the growing that I need to do, I'm seriously considering attending a retreat in Thailand to help me work through some of the issues surrounding this transition. It is 10 days at a "resort" just outside Chiang Mai, and is run by Christians, specifically for Christians serving in cross-cultural ministry. To find out more about it, have a look at the website: http://www.heartstreamresources.org/index.php and go to Refresh Thailand. God has put this in my heart, and I believe that He is leading me to attend. He has already provided a substantial part of the registration cost, and I'm trusting Him to provide the rest. The plan would be to return to Australia in early June, for about 4 weeks (maybe a little less), and then fly back to Thailand to attend this retreat, and from there to go to whereever God has called me next.

It has been great this weekend to be able to relax, do some shopping, spend time on the internet & reading, all without feeling guilty, because I know I have 3 days to get done the things that need to be done for school for the rest of this week, and the beginning of next. Quite frankly that's huge. The quarter officially ends on Friday this week, and that means report cards have to be done to go out the following Friday. In order to write the report cards I absolutely have to get a stack of papers/reports/portfolios graded. Oh boy. Is three days going to be enough. Then on Thursday or Friday this week I have a formal observation by the Elementary Principal, which means that I need to do a more detailed lesson plan than I might otherwise. In addition to that, I'm supposed to have observed 5 of my colleagues during the course of the school year, and completed an "observation" form on each of them. I've done one! So next Monday, I have a very special lady coming in to teach my class for the morning, while I get all those observations out of the way. Thank you JB.

On that note, I think it's time I closed this post, and started thinking about bed. The air-conditioning will be welcome. Typing on this computer is a hot job, even with the ceiling fan on. Thanks to those who are reading this. I'm sure I've given some of you plenty of fuel for prayer as well.


05 March 2010

It's Friday - Hooray - It was a long week

Hooray for five days off! Yes. It's been a long time coming, but I'm really glad it is finally here.

Officially it's a public holiday on Monday, but Logos has taken two other Cambodian holidays and given them to us this weekend instead of on the actual official day. That means I can really have this weekend off, and then spend Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at school getting caught up on grading, writing report cards, and planning for the coming week or two. Please pray that I will be disciplined to achieve what I need to achieve.

Meanwhile I am waiting to hear about job applications I have placed with different schools, to see where God is leading me for the future. Will it be Malaysia? Will it be Indonesia? Will it be ??? I know He has a place for me, and I'm hoping and praying that it will be somewhere in Asia, but I'm not definitely sure yet. I have also been invited to apply for some positions in China and Bangladesh, but don't have the strength of feeling about them that I have about Malaysia. I hope I hear soon. I'm not very good at waiting, but God is helping me with that. Please pray for God's clear leading on this matter too.

It's been a difficult week this week, and I've been just plodding along, one day at a time, but God has been very good to me. He has provided me with the right people at just the right times, as well as a sense of His presence. He has also continued to remind me of His loving care in the various scripture readings in my devotional booklet this week, as well as through music. One morning I selected a CD at random from the few adult worship CDs I have in my classroom, and the words of the songs were just what I needed. If you are struggling and in need of encouragement, get hold of Michael W. Smith's Worship albumn. I know it's fairly old, but the songs were just what I needed at this point in time. In addition to that, this break has definitely come at a time when I very much need it. God is good, and His ways are way beyond our comprehension.

Well, with the temperature still 30 degrees Celsius and humidity back up to 62%, having peaked at 36 degrees & 37% humidity at 1.30pm and stayed there for two hours, I think the time has come to retreat to the bedroom and turn the air-conditioning on. The temperature will probably drop to about 25 degrees overnight, but humidity will climb up to around 90%, so the air-con is as much about reducing the humidity as about getting cool. I continue to praise God that the area that I live in is also home to some very rich/powerful people, and as a result we very rarely lose power for any length of time, which means I can usually get a comfortable night's rest.

So what am I going to do with my "free" time this weekend. Hmmm! Let me think about that. A haircut is overdue so I might get extravagent and spend $1 on a haircut. Then my backpack is dying, so a trip to Russian Market is probably on the agenda. Some groceries would be useful, although I do have some yummy ginger chicken in the fridge tonight. It won't last long tho. Then I might do some baking. I think I've got enough ingredients to make a batch of Anzac Biscuits, or I could buy some dried fruit and make a boiled fruit cake. Now that would be delicious. Maybe I'll do both! Oh well, tomorrow will tell. I might end up doing none of these things. Praise God that He gives the strength for each day, just when we need it! God is good, ALL the time.

Resting in Him.


01 March 2010

Not a good start to the month

No electricity at school from about 9.30am to almost 5pm was not a good way to start the month. With the temperature at 30 degrees and 62% humidity, it was not going to be a good day. By 11.30am it was 33 degrees, and by 12.30 it was 34. The temperature peaked at 35 at 1.30pm, and stayed there until after 4.00pm so I was very glad to get into the pool at 3pm and do a few (20) laps. I felt better for a little while.

Fortunately it was not the school's fault this time, at least as far as we know it was a general area outage, so we can't be in trouble for using too many fans or air-conditioners. The hot season is just beginning, so please pray that the electricity situation will stabilize very soon! Kid's really can't learn well in these conditions, and teachers find it harder to teach. OK. I've got my electricity free lessons planned for tomorrow, although hopefully I will have power for Language Arts because then the CD gets to read the story instead of me.

In addition to that I was down four students today. Two didn't even come because they were sick, and two that got sent home by 9am. There's a bug going around. I hope and pray that I don't get it.

Well, I'm off to have a cool shower, and turn the air-conditioner on!

Good night.