Steadfast Hope - What 2020 has taught us
We launched AMI International School in 2020. It was daunting to launch a Christian international school in a remote and underdeveloped area in Guatemala. There were so many things we weren't sureabout, such as, could we train local teachers to be able to teach US standards? How were we going to attract students to a brand new school? How would we evaluate their progress? How would we be able to teach enough English to have all these kids be bilitreate by 5th grade? Where would we buy books and bookshelves here?
Then 2020 threw us a curveball. The country, including churches, schools and the airport was completely locked down which brought us a whole host of challenges. We had to pivot our school to provide 100% virtual classes. The classrooms, libraries and facilities that we had spent so much time preparing were put on hold. Instead, we bought Zoom licenses and learned a slew of applications to teach virtually. We then had to train teachers, students and their parents to use these applications in an area where the average family does not own a computer, and we upgraded the WIFI to fiber optic cable.
Now that we are five months into teaching, Jon and I have logged hundreds of Zoom teaching hours and have filmed over 150 teaching videos (Jon teaches 1st grade math and 1st/2nd English, while I teach PreK and Kinder English). Each week, every student receives 3 live whole-group classes, 1-2 small group classes and 9-12 instructional videos. Needless to say, it has been a rocky and unexpected start, and once again, we weren't exactly sure how well our students would learn.
However, all our students came in for their mid-year evaluations last week and we are blown away by how much they have learned and how motivated they are to learn more. Every single student has improved their reading level and just about every single student wants to return to school. Just look at our reading results below! Most of the students are well on their way to meeting their end of year reading goals, which is quite an achievement considering they are learning two languages and 100% virtually.
While we know there are SO many areas we could have had these students improve on if classes were in person, our hearts are warmed by the fact that these kids, teachers and parents, have overcome so many challenges and are well on their way to achieving their academic goals! If they continue on this path and we are able to continue to provide an excellent education, then there is no doubt that pathways to international universities will be wide open to them in an area of the world where that pathway does not exist. We pray and hope that the future leaders of Guatemala are in our classrooms right now.
Obviously, 2020 was difficult for many of us in SO many ways and the only thing that has kept us afloat has been God's steadfast presence in our life. We completely gave AMI International School and 2020 to God (what else could we have done!?), and honestly, that was the best decision we could have taken. In my prayer times, God's voice has been speaking into my ear, "stay steadfast, keep trusting in me." And over and over again the passages about steadfastness keep coming up:
"He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord." Psalm 112:7
"Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain." 1 Corinthians 15:58
"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." 1 Peter 5:10
And while it was difficult to see the light during the dark times in 2020, we feel we are nearing the end of the tunnel (maybe we will be able to have in person classes soon??) and we see so much hope in the future of these children entrusted to us. But most of all, we are so grateful for this experience. We are so grateful that God used these trials to really grow and renew our faith in Him. We have learned that giving this grand challenge to God, remaining steadfast, and trusting in Him, truly does yield amazing results.