A Second Journey: Sunrise Christian School

It was an early start yesterday as we left at 8:00 Am for Sunrise Christian School, where we would be working most of the day.  I say working, but it wasn’t really work at all.  I have immensely enjoyed every day that I have spent in Scotland, but I think Sunrise has been one of my absolute favorites so far, at least with regards to the actual work we were doing.

For the first hour, the team retreated to a separate room to do team and personal worship, and allow the students to get their morning lessons finished.  The school is very small.  There were five girls there yesterday, and there are only a few more students in the school that are not there on Wednesdays.

We met the girls during their first break time at about 9:30 Am.  They were very chatty and full of energy.  After a few minutes getting to know them a bit, the students took their seats again and we started our presentations.  Similar to our  Buchanan presentation last Friday, we started with psalm singing, then performed our Good Samaritan skit.  We sang a bit more after the skit, and I got the opportunity to teach the girls a new psalm!

My team leader asked if I could give my testimony, so I told my story and the way God had used my blindness to bring me near to Him.  The teacher (who is our friend and a member of the Airdrie congregation) had also requested that I talk a bit about Oleta, despite her absence.  Sunrise is sponsoring a guide dog puppy for her traininG!  I know, how perfect!  She is a yellow lab called Angel!  I explained a bit about what exactly a guide dog does and showed the girls two videos of Oleta, one with her booties on working in the snow, and the other of her playing hide and seek in one of our music buildings at university.  They loved her, which only warmed my heart further.

After our bit, we sat down in the girl’s chairs, they stood up at the front, and showed us some of the things they had learned over the year.  First they sang a version of psalm 25, “Unto You Oh Lord”, then recited at least 20 questions of the Presbyterian catechism by memory.  They were so earnest, and I was absolutely enchanted.  I know it took work to get there.  I know teaching is a difficult job, especially when you are not only teacher but administrator, secretary, disciplinarian, finance manager, and occasionally transportation, but after seeing some of the things they have accomplished, after witnessing first hand the way a teacher might guide their pupils along a path of faith, I want to be a teacher myself.  I never thought teaching would be the life for me, but my heart longs for nothing more than to be back with those little girls, guiding and instructing them to develop their talents, and live a life full to bursting with prayer, fellowship, song, and the Joy of Christ.  I suppose I may experience something similar as a mother, but who knows… primary school teaching may be in my future as a profession.

We spent lunch with them, which was wonderful, and then went to a park for a sponsored walk to raise money for the school.  We played in the park for a bit before the walk.  I got to be a train conductor and save several of the girls from certain destruction, ride a zip line, and be a pirate in the crow’s nest of a flying ship.  We were going to Las Vegas, so the ship had to be flying otherwise we would have a really long walk to get there.  Our ship was actually a rope pyramid, that one of the girls and I climbed to the top of and wove our story as we swayed in the breeze.  I also built a sand castle with another of the children in the park’s giant sand pit.  Seriously, I am 20 years old and this park was epic even for me, and playing pretend with these precious girls was just amazing.

For the walk, I linked arms with one of my team.  A student walked on either side of us, one to my right and another to my team member’s left.  We sang psalms, marched to the Ant’s Go Marching, picked flowers, commented on the geese and dogs and ducks we saw, and when it started raining near the end of the walk, dreamed of tea and a hot meal when we got home.  It was cold, but I’d be hard pressed to think of a more enjoyable afternoon.  At the end, we hugged the sweet girls farewell.  I gave one of them the flowers others had picked for me along the way, and we climbed into the car to a chorus of goodbyes, well wishes, and hopes that I would say hello to Oleta for them.  How my heart swelled to hear them, and to hear them speak of Oleta, whom they haven’t even met.  That’s it, I decided, I have to bring her back to see them next year.

I don’t know if a third trip to Scotland is in God’s plan for me next year, but I am praying about it, and hope to make a decision much earlier this time.  Already I long to return, and I’m sure that will not change.  Still, it is not a decision I wish to make lightly.

Ponderings With Oleta Renee: Saying Yes to Less Stress

Shea is worried about her visa, and it’s proving very distracting for her.  She was too busy Thursday morning sending an email to the British consulate to give me breakfast at the proper time… (And for your future reference, when stress gets the best of breakfast, it’s become much too serious and there must be an intervention… or at least some kibble).  In any case, while I was waiting for my food, I thought I’d explore this topic of stress a bit further.

Being a guide dog can be stressful.  I’ve got a lot to worry about.  Why?  Because the entire success of my job depends on my ability to keep my mom alive and uninjured on a daily basis.  That’s a big responsibility!

And the thing is, it’s not like we’re dancing through fields of daisies every day kind of protection.  It’s like, “there is a giant bus coming straight for us and I have to get us out of the way now!” kind of protection.  Yeah!  And you thought you had worries!

Still, traffic checks have been so drilled into me that I deal with those situations with pure instinct.  I don’t have time to worry.  It’s a split second decision to figure out how to keep us breathing, and whatever that looks like, I do it.  There are other aspects of my life and career that worry me more.  It’s those times when Mom is on the floor sobbing hysterically about the horrors of sophomore year (and they are horrifying.  We’ll tell you about them sometime), or when she is on the floor comforting someone else sobbing hysterically about the horrors of sophomore year, or when she ends up in the hospital for two and a half days for emergency surgery (yep, that happened)

On a slightly less catastrophic scale though, there are those moments when Shea and I are traveling in an unfamiliar area, and Shea gives me confusing directions (because she doesn’t know where she’s going.  If she would just let me take the leash I’d be where we needed to go in no time)… or when she tells me to find the piano in a room full of people watching us (for juries and other performances.  Seriously, you have no idea how much pressure that is).

Of course, in all of those situations, it’s not just me that’s worried… it’s Shea as well, and with a relationship as close as our’s, it’s a given that her emotions are my emotions, and vice versa.  That’s two times the stress, folks.  In dog therapy circles that’s called “unhealthy”.

But there is Good News.  Amidst all this worry, there is a God, a sovereign King, the ultimate pack leader who cares deeply about us, and our stress levels.  In the book of Psalms (Psalm 55:22) God’s Word tells us to “Cast your burden on the Lord , and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”

In First Peter 5:6-7, we are reminded to, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

Whether you are guiding your blind owner on a busy city street, overwhelmed with school work, fretting for a loved-one in the hospital, performing on a stage, waiting for a decision on a visa application that will decide the fate of your mission trip, your worries have not gone unnoticed.  God knows our troubles, and He wants us to place them in his hands, because He loves us.  He does not want us to be burdened with the cares of the Earth, but focussed on the joys of Heaven.

So God’s asking us to trust Him.  He wants to bless us with the gift of less stress… and I guess it’s time we said yes.