I’ve sat down six times in the last two weeks to write what I knew needed to be written– this. My semi-annual support update. And yet each time I’ve deleted my words and walked away from my computer feeling defeated.
This update has been tougher to write than most.
By this time in the school year, I wanted to be able to write beautiful stories about all of the great things God is doing in the school right now. I wanted to write you and say that students are coming to know the Lord in droves, that they are making wise choices, and that they’re all working furiously to finish their high school educations… but unfortunately that’s not where we are right now.
The state of the school is difficult to put into words. In fact, the only metaphor that I can use to explain what’s happening within these walls is that to say that we are walking onto a battle field every morning… No. Actually we’re in the middle of a full scale war.
Last semester was heart breaking. I watched as students walked away from God, throwing classroom doors through walls on their way out.
I listened as my co-workers sat across from me, crying out to God, begging Him to please give us a bit of relief from the onslaught of spiritual and emotional attacks we were experiencing.
I cleaned up shards of glass and furniture that was broken and wiped a student’s blood off of a concrete wall.
I stood frozen in time at a student’s candle light vigil and watched as bandanas were pulled over faces and war cries were made to avenge Johnny’s death.
These images and sensations washed over me every time I pulled out my laptop and tried to explain what I am doing in these walls everyday.
But to be entirely honest, on most days I don’t know what I’m doing anymore.
I feel unqualified. Confused. Weak. Ineffective. Exhausted.
I feel like we’re losing battle after battle and somedays when my faith falters, I can’t help but wonder if we’re going to lose the war too…
But yesterday God reminded me that it’s not what I’m doing within these walls that matters– It’s what He’s doing. And even though I may not always see it in the midst of the fight, He is doing great things.
Yesterday when I walked into our Thursday afternoon staff meeting, one of my students was sitting in my usual spot. No one else in the room seemed phased by the fact that Raul* was joining us so I pulled out a chair and took a seat.
“Now that you’re all here, I want to tell you something.” He proceeded as soon as I sat down. Thinking he was joking around, the majority of our staff let out a little giggle. “God’s been talking to me.” He said, unphased by the laughter.
Confused, I glanced over at my principal whose eyes were fixed on the small 18 year old boy next to me.
“He’s been saying things… Telling me that I need to talk to the kids in this school and show them that they can stop doing what they’re doing.
I get it; I used to be just like them. They don’t care if they do their homework. They don’t care if they hurt people. They don’t have anything to lose. But God has been telling me that I need to tell them my story. The story of how He saved me from myself. “
As the words came out of his mouth, I sat there stunned, mentally cataloging the change I’ve seen in him over the last two and half years– specifically since he gave his life to Christ the summer before last.
This is kid who threw his binder at my head his first year and came to cooking class kicking and screaming. (Literally.) The kid who tried to throw a computer at me when he got frustrated by his writing project. Wait, wait, wait… The same kid who literally had to be carried out of my classroom IN HIS CHAIR because he refused to leave the room when I tried to send him to the principal for threatening another student. The kid who has probably made me lock myself in my classroom and cry more than anyone else in my teaching career.
Yes, this was the kid sitting next to me, telling my peers and I that God had changed him and that he wanted others to experience that kind of change.
I could hardly believe it.
Yet there he sat, requesting a day in chapel to speak to his peers.
“I know you guys have had it hard lately.” He continued. “I don’t say much and neither do you, but I can see it in your eyes. You’re tired and hurt and need backup. And God has called me to back you guys up– to shine light into this school through the trials and tribulations He’s brought me through. So if you need me to set someone straight, let me know. God’s given me a pretty good story and I’ve got your backs.”
As he slumped back in his chair and carefully folded his hands on the table in front of him, he started to get blurry.
Per usual, tears were welling up in my eyes– but for the first time in a long time they were tears of joy and relief, not of sadness or fear.
I could tell you a million different stories about Raul’s time at DSS, but the thing that struck me the hardest (other than the obvious calling that God had put on this kid’s life to draw others to Him) was the fluidity with which he spoke.
Three years ago, Raul came to us as a 15 year old with a second grade reading level. He struggled to communicate basic ideas, and yet there he was next to me using the word “tribulation”… in the right context… in a complete thought… that actually made sense…
That, in itself is literally a miracle.
Not only is God working in my kids’ lives spiritually by drawing them to Himself, but He is working miracles through the rigorous, individualized academics provided within our walls. And that is why I continue to walk onto the battle field everyday.
Thank you to everyone who continues to support my students and I as we engage in this crazy fight. Sometimes it’s dark and difficult, but the fruit is always beautiful.
If you are interested in learning more about how you can get involved at the Street School through prayer or volunteer work, feel free to shoot me an email at KacyLouLeyba@gmail.com and I will gladly get you in the loop.
Again, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for making life change possible.
*Students name has been changed to protect their identity.