I've been saying a remarkable number of good-byes in the last week or so. I said my temporary good-byes to most of my students during class over a week ago (I didn't have to teach at the school during the last week due to myriad non-classroom school events happening, such as a track and field day, etc.). This past Monday I said good-bye to my preschoolers, 5 or 6 of whom will be my first-graders in the fall.
On Monday I also said good-bye to my dear Eliska in Navsi. She's the only member of the English conversation club which Pr. Chodura and I started at the elementary school there. It may have been a permanent good-bye, I don't know. What a dear girl. She was a ninth-grader, and so next year she's going to high school in a different town, and in fact, her family is moving there so she doesn't have to commute. I'm sad to have to say good-bye to her, because I want so badly to be able to continue to tell her about Christ. She claims not to believe that God exists. When we said good-bye, in our final "club" meeting (just the two of us :) ), I had a teacher from the school take our picture together, and I gave her an English Bible as a gift (Contemporary English Version, a not great, but easier-to-read translation). I had spent time highlighting several passages that I hope the Holy Spirit will use to open her eyes (though He can certainly use whichever passages He wants!), and I told her that, in spite of the fact that she doesn't believe God exists, there are many good reasons to read the Bible. I explained that idea to her, and talked to her about which book she should read first (The Gospel according to St. John, of course). I sincerely hope that she will read it and continue to wonder about that crazy American who came to speak with her every week, to be her friend and to introduce her to the love of Christ.
On Monday and Tuesday night, I had an end-of-the-year party with my evening classes. We ate fabulous ice cream and played games. It was, for me, a very wonderful way to wrap things up, bring them to a close until the fall-- probably October-- when I can start up again. It warmed my heart that so many of my students asked when we'd start again, and when I told them, they balked at the word "October" and asked why it would be so LONG before they could have class with me. Many of them told me that they loved my classes and that they would really miss having English every week. What a wonderful thing to be told.
On Wednesday evening, there was a party for the 9th-graders, their parents, and all the teachers from our school. These kids are going to all go their separate ways in the fall (two of them to bilingual Czech and English high schools!). It was a lovely evening with clever skits, presentation of gifts and flowers, and even a quiz game competition between the three groups present (parents v. teachers v. students; the teachers won! right on!). There was no shortage of emotion on the part of the 9th-grade homeroom teacher, Mr. Heczko. He was working hard not to cry as he said "thank you" and "good-bye" to his kids. It was even sad for me, though my contact with the 9th class this year was somewhat limited (this year the Czech government decided that English conversation shouldn't be required for 9th graders, because they already had too many classroom hours).
On Friday afternoon, there was another going away party with the school, as the vice director of the school is retiring after 40 years of teaching. I'm going to miss this lovely lady next year. She doesn't speak more than a few words of English (thank you, you're welcome, hello... you know, the basics), but her tender, precious heart came across even to me.
Of all the good-bying, Thursday afternoon was the most significant for me. The three other LCMS girls in this area got together for "tea time" to chat and to say good-bye to Stephanie, who is leaving now after two years in Cieszyn, Poland. Thinking about her departure is really a sad thing for me, as she's been my closest friend here. I can't imagine what it would have been like to come here and not have her only 30 min. away from me. From the first time we met, we really hit it off, already being able to joke around with each other and relate well to one another from the very start. I'm so grateful for the listening, sympathizing ear that she gave when I started to experience my culture shock, my thoughts of "what in the world have I done in coming here?", and all of the adjustments that I had to make. Without her already culturally adjusted influence just across the Polish border, ready to laugh and to listen and to share words of wisdom, I probably would have gone crazy. It was so precious to me during my first months here to meet with her nearly every Friday afternoon to just talk about what was going on and to have our Book of Concord reading club (however short-lived :P).
-for Eliska, that the Holy Spirit will work through His Word, to open her eyes to the Truth, and to mercifully give her faith in Christ Jesus, who has died for her.
-for all the students and teachers, that they would have a safe, happy, and restful summer
-for Stephanie, that her last few days in Poland would be productive, that her return to the States would be safe, and that she would quickly and joyfully adjust to life in America without too much heartache over leaving her beloved Poland.
-that our dear Lord Jesus Christ would continue to make His Word known throughout the nations of the world, and that He would continue to use us, His small, weak instruments, to do the eternally majestic and glorious work of telling of His wonders and mercies-- His Cross-- to all He's pleased to put into our path.