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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Goodbyes Ahead

The departure of the Bartkovich family, though mentioned in the last post, deserves a fuller story and picture. We have lived with the impending reality for some time, but have honored the Barts’ request to delay disclosure because of their concern that public awareness of their plans could negatively impact the school. However they told the teaching staff on Friday, and today Pat reminded me to tell the church. So I’ll repeat here on the blog what I said in front of the congregation (though you won’t read my tears which came in spite of all efforts to focus them away this morning).

Kevin and JD moved to Uganda ten years ago to start Christ School, at the invitation of the mission. I will not even attempt to sum up that decade of effort, except to say that we now see the fruit as several hundred students per year receiving a solid grounding in Biblical discipleship and the best education in the district. They planned to stay six or seven years, then that stretched to 8 as the process was more complicated than they anticipated, and their own hearts became so tied to the team and community that the “next steps” they assumed their career would take looked less attractive. At the 8 year mark they told the team they would definitely need to leave by the 10th year, so we should pray for their replacements. Soon after that meeting, in one of our more frequent trips to the US due to my Dad’s ALS, a member of our main supporting church heard the need for a new future school administrator and called her daughter and son-in-law, and a few whirlwind months later the Pierce family joined out team. For the last year and a half they have been coming alongside the Bartkoviches to learn and partner. But now the moment of transition is upon us, and even though we can see God’s hand and thank Him for His provision, it is hard for all of us. Hard for Kevin and JD, for the Pierces, for the team, for the school, for the community. Taking the Bart family out of the Bundibugyo team is like tearing off a piece of our body, a real wound, that will take time to heal.

I asked the church members to take time to say thank you, for many of them have had children who were blessed by the school, and even if none of their children have yet attended we know that the long-term impact of CSB will bless their families for many years to come. And many people who read this blog will have the opportunity to meet the Bartkoviches in the coming year, and also thank them face to face. They will be on “HMA”, Home Ministry Assignment, a time to rest and reflect, to be nurtured, as well as a time to thank supporters. As they thank you, please take the time to thank them! They will be based initially in Charlotte and then in Durham NC. They do not know what their next step will be, only that they will not come back to Bundibugyo. They are leaving by choice and by plan, but after a very stressful and draining year. They would appreciate your prayers for their renewal, and for vision.

I ended with the most frequent command of the Bible: Do Not Fear. That needs to be said so often, to all our hearts. It is important for the community, who see missionaries come and go, to put their trust in God not in a particular person. And important for them to be assured that WHM is still fully committed to CSB, and that David Pierce will be in place as the new headmaster as Kevin goes. The elders prayed not only for the Barts this morning, but for the Pierces in their new role, and for all of us missionaries in our grief. It feels like a long week ahead, culminating next weekend as the entire team escorts them out as far as Fort Portal where we’ll spend a day and night in honoring them and saying goodbye.


bethy31 said...

I've been trying to figure out why I have been so draw to your blog this last year. It is incredibly well written and you are sharing the heart of what God is doing in Africa - both compelling and engaging in their own right. However, I have felt this heart connection with you from the beginning - as if God led me to your blog for some specific purpose.

In this post I had a God moment. As you talked about the Barts leaving, you said it was like a piece of your body was being removed (which it is). It reminded me of leaving a ministry team myself and describing myself as 'wounded and bloodied' but never ministered to by the body of Christ I was engaged in.

When I read your blog and the Pierce's blog, I learn about a Christ-like fellowship of believers. You feel each other's pain. You literally function as one body. When one part is weak, the whole team feels it. This is something I'm missing on a daily basis here. Part of it could be my own inability to really open up but part of it is the sense that it wouldn't matter if I did.

We are made in Christ to be parts of these bodies. We are made to function together. When a part is missing or wounded, we are weaker. I see that type of deep and Biblical fellowship in your team. It makes me hunger and thirst for it - to stop being satisfied with less than God's best - and that may be in the most uncomfortable of places.

I hope this makes sense and you are encouraged. Though life is very difficult, you are bearing much fruit - both in UGanda and here in the States. Thank you for being transparent. Thank you for sharing your lives with us.

Joanna said...

And thinking of all the ways we are thankful for the Barts and their work is especially poignant in the shadow of the story of your neighbor's abuse and the apathy of the schools. I am so thankful that Christ School has a reputation for protecting it's girls and the teachers actually have consequences for inappropriate behavior. Thank you Lord, for the ways we can measure your goodness and some of the change you've brought to the district in this last decade. We pray for a time when the schools will be safe for our children, a time when male and female, slave or free, Babwisi or Bakonjo will be treated and protected as your children who you love.

And thanks, Jennifer, for actively pursuing justice in the name of a Holy Lord who hates to see his daughters shamed and denigrated.

And thanks, Bartkoviches, for the myriad ways you empower students, teachers, and parents to have a higher standard for themselves, their students and their families.

We love each of you and we pray for you daily from here in Prague.