June: End of School Year Reflections, New Beginnings in NYC, & Next Steps
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June 2015

"Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him." -Psalm 34:8

Dear friend, 
My two years in the Philippines has come to an end. Our last month of school included a lot of talk about building RAFTs in 5th grade to transition. What is a RAFT? 

  • Reconciliation
  • Affirmation
  • Farewell
  • Think Destination 

Each of my students was given a RAFT booklet to fill out and to get friends' autographs. This newsletter will contain my RAFT reflection. 

God is teaching me that in every season, He is always good. If the Philippines was a race, it's finally time for me to rest in North America.

Maraming salamat po (thank you) for your prayers, financial support, encouragement, and walking this journey with me. Without the backing from friends and family like you, I would have not been able to serve at Faith Academy. It's truly been an amazing two years.

Grace & peace,

Angela (3rd Grade), Leo (4th Grade), Me (5th Grade)
Reconciliation- Ask any teacher at Faith Academy, May is HARD. Last year a friend said, "I wish I could skip all of May."  Hot season with temperatures of 40°C (104 °F), contributes to extra crankiness.  Craziness of end of school year activities and report card marking. Goodbyes in to colleagues and students, many of whom return "home" to far away countries. 

In an emergency staff meeting in the first week of May, the Elementary Staff was informed that the administrators of Faith Academy admitted an additional 40 students, who were previously waitlisted. Wonderful news...except, we were informed that we did not have adequate staffing. Back in February, the administrators had promised us to cap our class sizes at 26. This decision was hard to swallow. Next year's 4th grade class would be 38 students and 5th grade would be 37 students. 

It caused an enormous rift between elementary teachers and school administrators. "Don't they (admin) know how hard it is to teach a class of 25, with over 50% of the kids being ELL students?" "Don't they know that switching to the new common core curriculum was a challenge this year?" "Don't they care?"  For about 3 weeks, Angela, Leo, and I shared many conversations (sometimes while shedding tears), about our frustrations with the decisions. 

Further exacerbating the logistical stress of class size and staffing, our elementary school principal resigned mid-May, a decision that shocked parents and deeply saddened teachers. 

The second to last day of school, I scheduled a face to face conference with our school superintendent. God reminded me again, that "a house divided against itself, cannot stand" (Mark 3:25). I left that meeting knowing that God would honor my conscious decision to submit and trust the school board and administrators of Faith Academy for their direction, guidance, and decisions. 
Esther, HaEun, Samuel, and Cameron finish 6th Grade!
My students from last year :) 

Farewell- I didn't cry during graduation. I didn't cry at my last Sunday at church. I didn't cry at my 5th graders' promotion ceremony to Middle School. I did unashamedly ugly cry on the last day of school when a big group of 6th graders ran towards me and mob hugged me. "You're why I came," I told them. "I'm so glad we met each other." 

Goodbyes are so hard. I said goodbye when I sold my clunker of a car a 2002 Toyota REVO, affectionately referred to as "Blue Whale" because it help me "swim" through flood waters in rainy season. I said goodbye to Ollie and Oscar, the two dogs that belong to the family I lived with this year. I said an enthusiastic goodbye to the Manila traffic. I said goodbye to my bible study ladies, colleges, students, and friends that became like family. I said goodbye to the last class that will know me as "Miss Tam." 

By the time I boarded my plane leaving Manila I was "full" in every way---full of relief that I made it through 2 years, full of grief for the goodbyes, full of anticipation for returning home and reunions with Dennis and family, and full of thanksgiving that God was always by my side. The goodbyes are important, because they allow me to remember the importance and "good" in leaving well. 
Bookmark gift created by my hilarious 5th Grade Class
Affirmation- I received this thank you note from Charity Graff, director of an orphanage, Gentle Hands, IncHer daughter Sarah Joy was in my 5th grade class this year. In May I visited their home, which currently houses 95 children. Sarah Joy gave me a tour of her house and we spent the majority of our time in the baby room. 

Miss Tam- "Thank you" is not enough for the influence and blessing you have been to Sarah Joy this year. She has grown in every way and has had such a positive year to end her elementary experience. Your commitment & dedication to missionary kids is never to be belittled. I could not serve the kids I serve without your heart for my child. May God richly bless you. LOVE & PRAYERS xx Charity Graff

28th Birthday on June 14th
Think Destination- I returned to Canada on June 9th. I spent almost a month with my family and then flew to New York City on July 6th.

These are some things I'm looking forward to in the upcoming months:
  • Marrying Dennis Chow on July 18th
  • Honeymoon in Colorado 
  • Reconnecting with friends and family
  • Visiting supporting churches
  • Working full time as a mobilization coach with TeachBeyond
And I've saved the most exciting news for last: Dennis and I have decided to returning to the Philippines! We began to sense God leading us back to the mission field in February of this year. The past few months have included multiple conversations with God, family, and close friends, to confirm our calling. 

We are in the process of applying to a new missions sending organization, One Challenge International Missionaries. OC has strong roots of church planting in the Philippines. We want to increase our involvement and ministry in the local Filipino church. God willing, we will return July 2016, just in time for the new school year at Faith Academy.  

Meeting Manila Culture:
Mango Madness

My house had 3 mango trees. TOO MANY unlimited mangoes during peak season, March-June. We hired a gardener to come and pick them. We probably harvested over 4-5 buckets each week for months. I wish you North American friends could have helped us with eating them!!!!
Miss Tam and Miss Heidi's (my amazing teacher's assistant) 5th Grade Class 2014-2015

Prayer Requests 

1. PRAISE GOD for the opportunity to love and disciple my class. I recognized a greater level of maturity and spiritual growth in many students. PRAY BOLDLY that God would provide a perfect Language Arts teacher (yes, still open position) to continue nurturing this class in 6th grade

2. PRAY for my walk with God and that I'd rest more in Him. My first three weeks "home" in North America were very lonely and the confusion of reverse culture-shock is still difficult. ASK that God would teach me how to trust Him even when I feel like a foreigner in my own culture and communities.

3. PRAY for my transitions (Mrs. Chow, life as a pastor's wife, mobilization coach, living in NYC) this next year. I have a cocktail of excitement and anxiety about the future. Ask that I would ground myself in God's unchanging nature as I face these life changes. 

4. PRAY for the Philippines as June signaled the beginning of typhoon season. In my 2 years, I experienced numerous power outages, excessive flooding in Manila, grieving Filipino lives lost, and cleaning up after storms damage property. Ask God to protect the most vulnerable and poor people from the devastating effects of typhoons this rainy season.    
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