Backup. [Jan ’15 Support Update]

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 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.

Raul.

This is the 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 has put on his life) 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 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.

Or if you feel called to partner with me financially as I continue to walk in faith and raise a chunk of my own salary, you can do so by clicking here and simply writing Leyba Support in the comment section.

Again, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for making life change possible.

awards2012

*Students name has been changed to protect their identity.

Advertisements

Anticipating in our own Nazareth

The last three weeks have been an absolute explosion of emotion.

There’s been intense grief and sadness revolving around the murder of one of our Denver Street School students.

There’s been the guilt that comes with the what-if’s– What if Johnny had just been in school that morning? What if we had loved him more practically? What if we had shared the Gospel more explicitly with him? What if…

There’s been an overflowing of love in my own heart for the community that God has put me in for such a time as this– An inexpressible gratitude for the marvelous people in my life who have checked in on me, texted me, prayed with me, cried with me, and kidnapped me on the weekends simply to bring life back into my withered soul.

There’s been laughter at the thought of memories, rejoicing over small moments of justice, and the heartbreaking sound of screaming and tears as teenagers have sobbed in my lap simply asking, “Why, Miss? Why?”.

It’s been an emotional heyday, but I can honestly say that the one emotion I haven’t seen much of is anticipation– which is a gut wrenching shame given the fact that all throughout this time of mourning, we have been in the season of Advent preparing for Christmas.

Advent… the season entirely devoted to anticipating the coming of sweet Baby Jesus in that manger so long ago and the second coming of our Glorious King in the days to come.

Advent… the season in which my high schoolers should be asking questions about Jesus while baking Christmas cookies in my kitchen after school. They should be studying for finals and wrapping presents, not raising money for their friend’s funeral…

You see, I think I’m stuck on this anticipation bit because before all the emotional ish hit the fan, I had some big dreams.

I had resolved that this year, things were going to be different. For the first time in my life I was going to look forward to Christmas with my own wild family and by-George, I was going to inspire my students to see the good in their own less-than-awesome situations. We were going to anticipate and adore and sing praises to the King while we baked and giggled and looked at the forecasted snow.

So that Wednesday morning, before the emotional fiasco began, I gathered my girls around the dining room table in my classroom and we read through Isaiah 9, appropriately titled “For to us a Child is born”.

We sat around that table and were brutally honest with each other; we admitted that Christmas was hard for all of us and because of that, no one was really excited for the holidays. But together we made a pact to think on the good things this year; we would think about Jesus as our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. We would think about how that little Baby born in a manger changed everything for us.

A mere six hours later, everything HAD changed, but in a way no one was anticipating.

At 6 pm, I sat sobbing on the front steps of a coffee shop, making the calls that no one ever wants to make– the phone call letting the rest of our staff know that they would be seeing a familiar face on the 10 o’clock news that night, one of our own– the victim of a triple-homicide that had shocked a quiet neighborhood in north Denver.

That night and for several days after, I simply existed. I did not adore. I did not sing. I did not bake, nor giggle, nor wrap gifts. And I certainly could not figure out how to anticipate Christmas or Jesus’ arrival.

Everything just felt broken and foggy and wrong.

As my students sat in my classroom the next day and begged to know why and how this was happening, I hugged them and sobbed, wondering similar things: I know in my mind that God is Sovereign. I know that He works all things for His ultimate Good and Glory. I know all of these things, but how? How on earth could anything good or glorious ever come out of this? This brokenness, this darkness, this despair of Your people. YOUR PEOPLE who should be celebrating YOU right now! How the heck is goodness supposed to come out of this?

That Sunday, much to my slight annoyance and mixed relief, one of our pastors at Park Church stood up and began to preach out of Isaiah 9. As Gary spoke, I doodled, “mmm”-ed, and choked back tears when he read verse 6– that same verse that I had read with my girls not even a week before. But when he looped back to the historical aspect of verse 1, he got me:

Historically, the tribe of Zebulun that is mentioned in verse 1 of Isaiah 9 had been looked on with contempt by the other nations. They had been the first to compromise their beliefs. They had been seen as the most deluded in terms of their worship of God, and because they were from the North, they were often seen as the place where destruction came from. Yet this promise in Isaiah 9 says from that same place, Light will come. From a place of darkness, Hope will come.

There’s a little town in Zebulun named Nazareth– you might have heard of it. Something amazing happened in Nazareth. Someone amazing came from Nazareth. You would have heard the people in Jesus’ own day say, “Can anything good really come from Nazareth? From that much darkness?”

Yeah. Yeah, it can. A man, our Jesus, came from Nazareth. Hope came through that darkness and Hope is coming still.

It’s been three weeks today since Johnny was taken from us, and part of me wants to think it’s a shame that a reminder of this tragedy is falling on Christmas Eve.

But this morning I was reminded: I may not be able to see it yet, heck I may not see it for a long time, but Jesus came out of the darkness of Nazareth when people questioned whether anything good could come from such a janky little town, and goodness will eventually come from this.

Someday. Someday Good will come from this mess and I can rest in that Truth because my God keeps His promises. So that is what I’m anticipating now this year– seeing His Goodness and Glory in the midst of brokenness (once again).

~

Merry Christmas to all. Yes, to the cheery stocking stuffers and the mourning, drippy mascara wearers alike. Jesus Immanuel has come to be with us in it all. For He is our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace and He will reign forever… Advent2014AnticipateFor to Us a Child Is Born”

But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.

2 The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
    on them has light shone.
You have multiplied the nation;
    you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
    as with joy at the harvest,
    as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
    and the staff for his shoulder,
    the rod of his oppressor,
    you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
    and every garment rolled in blood
    will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”

(Isaiah 9:1-7)