Friday, February 15, 2008
The Bartkovich family drove out in a convoy this morning: first a truck of CSB teachers, about half the staff, whom Kevin invited to hike over the mountain trail with him and spend the night in Fort Portal. Then JD and a few team mates in cars, who will drive instead of hike to Fort. The rest of the team was asked to wait and join them in Fort Portal tomorrow at the newly renovated Mountains of the Moon Hotel for a final day of goodbyes. God has really answered prayers to make their week between announcing their resignation and driving out a great time of honor and closure. In spite of the abrupt timing, the students, the staff, and the team have all had significant opportunities to spend time thanking the Bartkoviches for their sacrificial service. We were privileged to be allowed to attend both the final chapel time for the all-school goodbye on Wednesday, and the staff dinner last night. At chapel the girls sang a few original compositions with words like “goodbye is the saddest word, I shake my body to you” and a chorus naming each family member with dramatically acted tears. Kevin recounted the challenging history of the school, remembering days of anxiety over the ADF rebels, months of evacuation to the safer side of the mountains, riots after football matches, locking wills with the corrupt sports administration, the pain of firing teachers who had abused their position to take advantage of young girls . . . And also the triumphs of four consecutive trips to the national football tournament, of ever improving scores on national exams, of the emergence of the school as the top academic institution in the district.
Last night the staff room was lit by candles (low solar weather these days), we sat on hard wooden chairs and benches in a big circle with tables of amazingly delicious food prepared by the school’s new caterer Pamela in the center, with crates of lukewarm sodas, toddlers running until they fell asleep in their parents’ arms, friendly chatter. After dinner about a third of the staff stood up to make speeches which lasted for a couple of hours, thanking Kevin for his work and JD for her behind-the-scenes advice to him. Several spoke of getting to know Kevin over the last couple of years in a deeper way, getting beyond his intimidating persona and becoming his friend. Others were grateful for what they had learned about leadership or teaching, grateful for opportunities to do new things, to get feedback on their teaching, to improve. Others were pleased that the school’s success had lessened their embarrassment among their Kampala colleagues over being from Bundibugyo! And several mentioned that they know all missionaries will leave here, and that this is THEIR school, their work now to carry on.
Scott is chairman of the board, and the Pierces attended as the incoming headmaster; we came in that official capacity, but for deeper reasons too. We wanted to be part of honoring the Barts, to bear witness to their accomplishments, to stand with the staff in their grief, to embody the reality that the mission remains even when key people leave. I found it harder than I expected. Of course the last hour retrospective comes in rosy colors that make us all question: so why leave? In many ways it is harder to see someone go after watching the Ugandans they work with speak so highly of their service, after getting a rare glimpse of the connection Kevin has nurtured with the staff. And the more their accomplishments are lauded, the more panic I feel about what we will do without them! Afterwards I found the school secretary on the porch in the dark alone, and though I couldn’t see her well I suspected she was crying. So I put my arms around her and she broke down in convulsive sobs. Like my kids, she wonders, why do people have to leave? How many more missionaries can these kids or these Ugandans give their hearts to and then say goodbye?
After it was all over, at nearly midnight, Kevin quietly gave his office keys to David. So as of today, the transition in leadership is official. Please pray for the school, for the Pierces, for the CSB leadership team, for us. We will all make some grave mistakes that the Barts would have had the wisdom of experience to avoid. The students, and some less mature staff, may push the limits to see what they can get away with now that Kevin is gone. Yet the reality of the story of this world is that God takes things that are hard, painful, wrong, deathly . . . And makes them new, brings good out of sorrow. We need hope to believe that a year from now we’ll be able to look back and praise Him for the new things He will do at CSB, and in all of us.