Elastic Basket for my Peaches

I also have a website: www.lizhightower.com

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Right now I work/volunteer with children of various ages. I am about to start a new chapter in my life where I will no longer be around kids frequently. This has caused me to think about my involvement with them a little bit.

For the past two years, I taught at a school with low-income kids. I did this on purpose. I didn't want to teach rich kids for a variety of reasons. The main reason being that their parents tend to be overbearing and too involved. As a teacher, this can be intimidating and stressful. I also think wealthier kids often have many people in their life to care for them while many lower income kids have single parent families or parents who have two or three jobs to make ends meet. These kids need positive adult role models in their lives.

Despite all my reasons for wanting to teach low income students, I have decided that if I come back to teaching one day, I would prefer not to be at a low-income school. This may sound strange given my heart for these kids, but I found a lot of things about teaching at a low-income school to be very frustrating.

Low-income schools are expected to achieve the same passing rate on standardized tests as their higher income peers. This is fairly unrealistic given the struggles these kids face and the home environments they come from. I had kids whose siblings were in jail, dads were in jail or even moms were in jail. One kid's older brother told him a story about being involved in a high speed chase with the cops and having to decide if he wanted to live or die. Who tells this to an 8 year old? Some of the mothers of kids in my class were 14 or 15 when they had them. Some of the kids have been taking away from their families by CPS. Most live in single parent households and several live with relatives other than their parents. Some have been abused emotionally, physically and sexually. They've had some pretty rough things happen to them in their short lives.

All this is what made me want to work with them in the first place; to love them and take care of them in a way they deserve. Unfortunately, being a teacher didn't let me help them the way I would of liked. It may have just been my particular school but I have a feeling that it is a problem in a lot of low income schools. There is so much pressure to get them to pass the tests, that their feelings and emotional well-being are not taken into account. I felt like I had all these hurting kids but I couldn't do much about it since I had to spend so much time cramming for a test. Our school doesn't have a counselor who they can talk about their problems with. It's really a shame. If I go back to teaching, I've thought about becoming a counselor. Then I could help these hurting kids instead of cramming them for a test.

With Young Life I was able to be more of a counselor/mentor/friend to my high school students. I could listen to their problems and try to help them through situations that were achingly similar to those experienced by my third graders. I loved being able to be there for them in the hard times and I wish I could have done as much for the kids in my class. I hope they knew how much I cared.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Support Raising

I have recently started support-raising for a few upcoming missionary projects. For those of you not familiar with the lingo, support raising in this context is when you ask people for money to help fund your missionary work. It's an interesting concept in this American culture where everyone is conditioned from birth to have the desire to get a job and work hard and make as much money as you can. Support raising doesn't really fit with that way of thinking.

When I first start a support raising campaign for a particular project, I am filled with self-doubt. Is this really what God's called me to? Who should I send letters to and who will feel like I am annoying them or begging them? Will I be able to raise what I need? The funny part is that God has been extremely faithful to me in the past. I would estimate that I have probably raised about $25,000 for all the missionary work I've done in the past. And yet, despite the amount of money I've raised and the amount of times I've done this, the old doubt comes back.

This time, I am struggling a bit with the whole idea of leaving everything behind that I have built these last two years in Houston. I am going to miss my friends, family, students and the Young Life kids I mentor. These feelings combined with anxiety about support raising cause me to doubt what God's called me to. As of Friday, I'd only raised about $300 towards the almost $6000 I need. That afternoon, I went to the mailbox and the only thing I saw was what looked like one of those checks that credit card companies send you to try to trick you into becoming part of their identity theft program. I opened it up just to see what scam they were running this time. To my surprise it was actually a check for $1000 from some friends of mine. I was shocked. I actually jumped up and down. This little boost of confidence went a long way in assuaging some of my self-doubt. It felt like proof I was on the right track. All of this made me really think about support raising in general.

When I was teaching, I really enjoyed having a steady paycheck. There is a certain feeling of security afforded to one through a paycheck. Living on support does not provide that feeling of security. This is both a good and bad byproduct. It's bad because it is hard to plan things in advance or feel justified in buying things that are not simply daily necessities despite their overall usefulness to yourself or your mission. It is good because it is a tangible way to experience God's provision. You have to rely on God to supply what you need. This can be scary but also liberating.

One less obvious benefit to support raising is the bond created between supporter and suportee. I have found that people give for two main reasons. They either support you as a person or they support what you are doing.

I sent out support letters recently. My aunt gave me some money towards my projects. When I asked her if she had read about my mission trip this summer, she looked at me blankly and said she hadn't even read my letter. This is clearly an example of someone who supports me more for who I am than for what I am doing. This implies a level of confidence in me and my decisions that I find humbling. These are the kind of people who will stand by me and support me no matter what I do.

Another kind of supporter I have found is one who wants to support my particular cause more than they want to support me personally. My best example of this is when my mom's friend from work became a monthly supporter when I was working with YWAM full-time. I had never met this woman and yet she wanted to support me for a significant amount monthly. I think that is just so amazing! Since I have been out of the missionary field for the last two years, I have gotten to give financially to my friends who are still missionaries. It has been really fun to have money to give away. But, I do enjoy giving the money partly because it is to people I know and have worked with. It seems to me that giving to someone you don't even know is a much bigger deal and takes more faith in God.

Most supporters fall somewhere in between the two categories mentioned above. They are both supporting me and my cause. I love the connection I feel between my supporters and myself. If your money is where your heart is, than I know that I am near and dear to their hearts. They pray for me and I pray for them. It really is something special.

There are some missionary organizations that pay their missionaries. Sometimes this seems preferable as far as having a feeling of financial security. No one in YWAM is paid including the founder, who has been able to teach and preach in every country of the world while living on support. In the end, I am thankful for this policy and wouldn't want it any other way. I have learned so much from living on support. Never once has God failed to give me more than enough for what he has called me to. In fact, he usually directs people to give me more than enough so that I can tithe what I get to other missionaries around me. I consider it a huge privilege to represent my God and my supporters in my missionary work.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

On a bus

I am about two and a half hours away from Houston. I've been on one of those big charter buses with about 50 high school students for about 19 hours so far. Luckily I have been blessed with the ability to sleep for far longer than the average human on these bus rides.

I've been riding on these type of buses for long distances since high school. I've come up with some coping methods along the way. Seat claiming is crucial. When I was in high school, we'd try to sit near the back as far away from the adults as possible. The back of the bus has the unfortunate consequence of being near the bathroom. This can be a serious problem depending on the bowels of the bus's occupants. Now that I am the adult, I try to sit towards the front of the bus to avoid the dreaded bathroom smell as well as the inevitable noisiness of high schoolers.

I must have a window seat. This is crucial for sleeping as you need something to lean your head on. I usually try to run onto the bus as soon as I can and claim my seat using a pillow (a crucial piece of equipment for bus sleeping.)The more you sleep, the shorter the bus ride feels. This the key to surviving one of these rides. Some people will sleep on the bus floor. I used to be willing to do this but I have seen too many weird things spilled on the bus and I am afraid of getting stepped on.

To survive a long bus ride, I also do everything in my power to not use the aforementioned bus bathroom. This usually involves being slightly dehydrated for the duration of the trip; something I consider a small price to pay for not going to the restroom on the bus.I hate having navigate the maze of bodies sprawled in the aisle. I hate the bathroom smell and, god forbid, I had to poop, the idea of the whole bus smellling it. Ick!

I don't know if this post was coherent or grammatically correct. Please cut me some slack, I am still on a bus.
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