First Day of School

His first day of school. I always imagined his first day of school, but not like this. It wasn’t supposed to be in Africa, it was supposed to be in Colorado. Dropping him off at school was one of the hardest days of my life, but we knew it was what was best for him.

I’ve dreamed about his first day of school and how exciting it would be for him to start. He loves learning and making new friends...

Our whole family would walk together through our quaint town in Colorado to the small elementary school nestled on the mountain side. We would drop him off and all be back to pick him up and hear how his first day went. 

It’s one of many dreams I’ve had of the future of our family that will now look so different. His first day of school isn’t in Colorado, it’s in Tanzania. We got to drop him off, but we won’t be picking him up.

It’s boarding school and it’s one more step for us in this process of letting go of what we thought our lives would be. Though one may anticipate excitement, it was instead heart wrenching. A day we will never forget. 

 We woke up early to make sure we had everything ready before we went to pick him up. I cleaned his metal trunk and neatly organized his supplies inside, picking outfits we brought for him to wear before his uniform comes in; after I already set aside his outfit to wear for the first day.

We triple checked everything, loaded up the car and headed to the orphanage directors’ home to pick him up. When we arrived the sound of worship music filled their home as the many children were finishing their breakfast and giggling as they saw us approaching the house.

He knows he’s going to school today and he’s excited. So are his friends. They quickly help him get changed into the clothes we brought and help him slip his new backpack on. His friends all grab at it, smiling and speaking to him in Swahili, seeming to give him their approval. More kids from the orphanage begin to arrive at the home to see him before we leave.

 It’s time to go, so the orphanage director and his wife gather all the kids into their living room. We form a circle and grab hands. One of the older boys begins singing “We love you Jesus forever… forever, forever, forever” everyone else joins in, the voices now filling the entire room, “We love you Jesus forever… forever, forever, forever”.

We repeat this several times switching between English and Swahili. The song finishes and the kids begin taking turns praying for him and his time at school. The lump in my throat grows as the tears begin to fill my eyes. I try to hold it back. The love this family and these children have for him is undeniable and moving.

They end the prayers by saying the Lord’s Prayer all together. Then he walks through the circle hugging each friend goodbye. When he gets to Derrick and I, I’m no longer successful in holding the tears back. We are holding his brothers and set them down to say goodbye.

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This has been his home and his family for the past 2 years and now he has to leave.  He’s only 4 and this is the second time he has to be separated from his brothers. It breaks my heart. The transitions he’s had to experience in his short 4 years of life are so much more than I’ve ever had to go through. I can’t even imagine. The weight of the unknown in what their future holds rests heavily on my heart. 

 He sits on my lap as we drive to the school. There are no car seats or laws for children in the car, so my lap seems to be the safest place. My arm is wrapped tightly around his tiny chest, holding him as securely as possible as we bounce along the dirt roads.

*Permission has been received to share photos *

*Permission has been received to share photos*

We approach the gate to his school, and I can feel his heart beating through his chest faster and faster. Silently, I pray for him. I wish I could know what he was thinking and feeling. I wish I could tell him everything was going to be ok, but the language barrier still remains. I just hold him tighter. As we park the car and get out, he squeezes my hand like he doesn’t want to let go.

While we wait to find the Headmaster to check him in, one of the matrons of the boarding school comes and greets us. She takes his hands and kisses him on the head. He looks uncertain and comes back to stand between Derrick and I.

While we continue to wait Derrick kneels beside him and teaches him how to whistle through the buckle on his backpack. It seems to soften all our nerves a little as we laugh at his surprise when he whistles for the first time. 

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 Now it’s time to bring his things to the room he will sleep in. Derrick grabs his trunk and we begin walking up the stairs. His hand still clings tightly to mine as he stomps up the stairs, playfully trying to make his footsteps louder than mine. We get to the bunk room and the inevitable feels more real than ever. It’s almost time for us to leave him and he knows that.

I see tears beginning to fill his eyes. He tugs on my hand and points to a bag of cookies and soda on the near by bed. We all laugh as it seems to be an attempt to distract us all from what’s coming. The distraction doesn’t last long as the matron comes over and takes his hand from mine, indicating it’s time.

His eyes full of tears now, he avoids eye contact, knowing whats coming. They motion for us to leave and just like that we have to go. We hesitantly walk away as his cry echoes through the empty cement buildings. I’m crying now too as Derrick puts his arm around me and we quietly walk back down stairs. His cry still echoing.

This didn’t feel right. This isn’t what I imagined for his first day of school. Why did it have to be so hard?. Questions flood my mind. Is this really what’s best? Why did it have to go this way? Why did our plans have to change? I have to trust God has his best interest in mind… I can’t see it, but I have to believe it.

 Our hearts are heavier than they’ve ever been. We drove away from the school and were at a complete loss for words. Tears slowly ran down each of our faces. This was our next step in getting things in place for his future. Now it’s done.

They tell us we shouldn’t come back and see him for at least a week because he will just want to leave with us, making it harder for him to adjust. We agree that’s best, but I just want to know he’s ok.

We had to go back the next day to fill out more paperwork and drop off a couple more supplies he needed. It was so hard to be there and not be able to see him. I asked the headmaster and the matron if he’s ok and they both assured me he is doing just fine and has already made two friends.

As we walked through the school grounds, I tried peaking through the windows just to catch a glimpse of him to see that he really is ok. Derrick laughs as I’m unsuccessful in my attempts. I just have to continue being challenged in letting go and trusting that he will be ok. 

 Even though it was such an emotional day, we are both very thankful that we got to be involved in picking his school, buying and preparing his supplies, and dropping him off. Through this we got to experience the love he receives from the kids at the orphanage and from the orphanage director and his wife. They so graciously display the power and depth of love that can come out of brokenness. 

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