This all started when my friend Laura from college sent out an e-mail, asking for school supplies for a school that she was going to be starting in Nigeria. I had been praying about ways that I could give, and two things on her list were Post-It notes and Scotch Tape. Since I work at 3M, I can get those really cheap. My husband Stephen and I met up with Laura on April 4th, 2012 to give her the supplies.
Laura’s church (Grace Evangelical Free Church in Fridley, Minnesota) started a mission in Fiditi, Nigeria, 12 or 13 years ago. It has been a place for training and encouraging the pastors there, as well as other leaders in the church. They also have a farm, growing many tropical fruits. The current public schools have 60 kids in one class – 5 kids sharing one desk. As you can imagine, that is not an ideal learning setting for any child. Some children are able to learn and grow, but the majority of them just make it through the system. There are some good private schools, but they are so expensive that only the very rich can afford it. The education system in Nigeria is also based on route memorization, instead of encouraging creative thought and thinking outside the box. It had been a dream of Laura’s church to start a school, and this fall that dream will become a reality with the Bethel American International School (BAIS). The dream at BAIS is to start a school where children are taught to think and come up with solutions and ideas. It will start out for the “middle class,” with the plans to start a scholarship fund so the poorer children are also able to attend. They are starting the school this fall with 7th graders and their intention is to add a grade each year.
While talking with Laura, she mentioned a need for dorm parents for the school. Most of the high schools in Nigeria are boarding schools, so this would be as well. It crossed my mind that it would be fun to go.
I first became interested in missions as a Senior in high school. At that point I was set on a path to want to become a Hollywood movie star. One Sunday we had a missionary come to our church. That day I felt God tugging on my heart for two things: First, I needed to look into a career that was helping people. I could still use my acting, but I needed to help people in a more hands on way. Second, someday I was going to be doing overseas mission work. Stephen first started thinking about missions in high school as well. There was a missionary from Africa who came to his church. Since then he has dreamed of the possibility of going to Africa and doing missions. He has always had a heart and a desire to help people.
When we talked about getting married, part of what we talked about was serving God together – in full time ministry. I worked as the children’s ministry director for three years at Faith Lutheran and also organized family fellowship and mission opportunities, as well as a family mission trip. Stephen served on the sound and IT team, running sound for worship services (indoor and outdoor) and other special events.
When we were in the car heading home from our meeting with Laura, Stephen asked, “Do you want to go?” We talked about it some, and dismissed it, not sure if Laura would want dorm parents with kids. I had to work that night, and I couldn’t get the school off my mind. Stephen asked me questions about it when I arrived home for work, so I e-mailed Laura and asked if dorm parents with kids would work. She said that would be great! The kids (7th graders) coming to the school and being away from home for the first time would probably be missing younger brothers and sisters at home, so it could help for them to have other kids around. Also, we would have the ability to home school our own kids, while the school kids were at BAIS. The job of dorm parents would work for our family. We decided to go.
As the dormitory parents for the school, we will be responsible for the children when they are not in school, planning activities, helping with homework, morning and bed times, doing devotions, and encouraging and uplifting the children. We will also be supervising the dorm staff in making sure cleaning, cooking, and laundry tasks are completed. Stephen is looking forward to using his handyman skills as well, since much of the mission village is still under construction. The school is asking for a year commitment to start, but we are hoping that God leads us there long term. A salary will provide all of our basic day to day needs over there. We will need to raise some support for medical insurance, airfare, training, and some monthly bills we have here (life insurance, student loans, etc.).