Preparing for Transitions

In exactly one month, we will leave Macha and say goodbye to the life we have known for the past 5 years. A few days later we will arrive in Canada and begin another phase of life for our family. In recent days I’ve had several friends check in and see how we’re doing, for which I’m grateful. And while blog posts are certainly more rare these days I thought it might be a good time to let you know how we’re doing.

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Our boys and many other students have competed the multiplication challenge.

Knowing this is our last term at MICS, we are trying to make the most of it. The twins are rarely home as they are often with the boarding kids or other friends. I’m glad they are thoroughly enjoying  this outdoor life and they are old enough to realize they will miss it. Emotions come out in various forms and we are trying to talk them through and be okay with whatever we’re feeling. It’s okay to feel sad because it is sad to leave here. It is okay to be a bit scared of what’s to come as it is filled with many unknowns. And it’s okay to feel excited because there is a lot to look forward to… the top of my list currently include being closer to family, grocery stores just minutes away and feeling cold again. We are just at the tail end of our dry and very hot season and I dream of sweaters and boots and hot apple cider.

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Lots of dirt and as little clothing as possible.


Although he’s visited many times Nathaniel’s view of Canada is still very narrow, in that he basically only associates it with Canada’s Wonderland. The other day he told me that it’s probably better for us to live in our own house instead of Grandma and Grandpa’s because he thinks it’s closer to Wonderland. I’m curious how he’ll handle it when, despite constant reminders, he realizes his favourite thing occurs one day out of the year and he starts to experience concepts such as winter coats and pants and socks. It should be quite a ride!

Joel and I just had a glorious week away with good friends, getting some much needed rest and time together. In my head that trip was always the turning point, in that when we returned, the real packing would begin. Our house has certainly been a point of anxiety for me, where everything I’m surrounded with requires a decision of what needs to be done with it. And this weekend the process has begun. Purging and packing while still trying to live in a space has its challenges, including making sure I’m not always dealing with stuff and actually still engaging in the life and community around me.

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Some kid-free time by the Indian Ocean.

Knowing we are down to a month, a new wave of sadness has hit me with the realization that we really will be leaving here soon. On the extra hard days it’s easy for my mind to go to all the things I’m looking forward to about life in Canada and all the things I find challenging about life here. And that’s okay, but five years in I know it’s easy to romanticize the “other home” and that there are plenty of hard days wherever you find yourself. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in recent years is that sometimes we just need to sit and feel the hard stuff. Both light and dark make up a whole day and I don’t want to miss out on its fullness.

My goals for this month besides reducing our belongings to five 50 pound bags, are to do my best to be present, help my family (including myself) sit with whatever emotions we find ourselves with, reinstate the practice of gratitude in my life to help me find joy, and make as many more memories as possible. We know how important it is to stay connected as a family while also feeling the pull of other relationships. The other day I got out a puzzle just to keep my kids in the house for a few hours when they’d usually be gone. Our family is one of the very few constants we have that bridge our two homes.

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Our grade seven class before their graduation gift of a flight around Macha.


The last term of the school year is always busy here. Our grade sevens write their national exams next week and this is the first time they are doing it on our campus. We have always joined a local government school because of our small size, so it’s exciting that we are finally at a place to have our own exam centre. With it has gone in a ton of work from our staff to prepare and make sure we are following all the proper guidelines. Graduation will follow and I’m leading two choirs again because despite the large to-do list, music is something I love and feels life-giving. We will be testing students to see if they can go to the next grade as well as editing final report cards. We will have our Christmas program, something that I used to be heavily involved with and is now being run by our teachers. I’ve been stepping out of a lot of areas and will do my best to pass off the remaining things I have left. That part excites me as we have an amazing team at MICS, ready to learn and take on new challenges and I have full confidence in them.

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Mr. Miyanda (deputy head), Mr. Munsaka (computer teacher) and Mrs. Mweene (head teacher), learning new things.


This isn’t an easy time of life. It is stressful and hard and busy and full of emotions that zap my energy. I’m sure many of you could say the same about whatever life circumstances you find yourself in. I’m thankful to those of you who continue to track with us and are supporting us right up to the end and into the next phase as we land in Canada. Your friendship, messages and prayers are valued. Endings lead to new beginnings and we are excited for what is to come. We don’t doubt this is still the right decision for our family and the school and we knew it would be hard. For now I’ll take a few deep breaths, shed some tears when I need to and do my best to stop and notice the beauty in the remaining moments we have here in Macha.

“…new life starts in the dark. Whether it is a seed in the ground, a baby in the womb, or Jesus in the tomb, it starts in the dark.”

― Barbara Brown Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark

Packing Up The Dreams

Change. We have had lots of experience with it over the last 5 years and we have more to come. Our original plan when we moved to Zambia was to stay for 3 years. We extended that twice as we weren’t ready to leave Macha or our work at MICS. Since January, Joel has stepped out of his role as director and we’ve been fortunate to have a wonderful local leader take over. Joel meets with him weekly to help mentor him as he’s been learning the role and I’ve enjoyed having a new boss who has been a pleasure to work with.

With all that said, we’ve made the difficult decision that we will return to Canada after the school year ends in December of this year. There are many reasons behind our decision which we are happy to share in personal conversations. But one of the main ones is that we have seen the transition through to becoming a Zambian-led school, we are confident in the team we have set in place and feel it’s the right time to step out of the way. We are excited to see how MICS will continue to grow and thrive, led by people who best understand the culture and context.

But our transition back to Canada also comes with a big dose of sadness. Macha is home. Our kids love it, they have good friends and are all doing well at MICS. I love my role and the incredible team I work with.  We have a dear friends and the pace of life suits us perfectly. As soon as we made the decision, I felt like my heart broke and pieces of it will forever remain on two sides of the world. We are embracing all the feelings that come with the anticipation of such a huge transition and a lot of times it feels hard. There is some fear of how we’ll all do in a life that in many ways feels foreign to us, but we don’t want to let fear dictate our choices and what we feel is best for our family and the school. We know we can do hard things, we have each other and a support system to help us along the way and a God who goes with us.

We have spent the summer in Canada, a trip we had booked before we made the decision to come home. While we normally wouldn’t have made the trip so close to finishing, it has ended up being a good time being with family and friends re-imagining our life here and making some decisions that will help with us with the transition… one of the big ones being that we will return to our home that we are thankful we’ve been able to rent out for our entire absence. While someday we envision a bigger yard a little out of suburbia, for now we need the familiar and can make more major life decisions down the road. 

A few months ago I read through my most recent journal, many pages filled with a longing for our children to experience life in a part of the world that is so dear to us. With many ups and downs (and surprises!) along the way, I am filled with gratitude that our dream was fulfilled and we’ve had the opportunity to call Macha our home. In a few days, we will get on a plane and make our final trip (for now) back to our home. We are all ready to get back to our house and routines and school and friends. We are ready for one more term at MICS, making more memories and not thinking too much about the coming goodbyes. Thanks for continuing to follow along as we once again, choose to mix it up!

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Our family at the Macha Dam

On your last day as Director of MICS…

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Dear Mr. Director,

For just over two years you have been leading the school where we work and call home. Today is your last official day as the director and I have a few things to say…

When our little crew got on a plane almost four years ago you didn’t have a very clear idea of what you’d be doing.  But you jumped in and did what you could to help with strategies and budgets and systems and all things important to keeping a school running. And then you were asked to take over. It wasn’t something you were planning or wanting but we felt like it was the right thing and again you jumped in. From corporate retail life to leading a little school in the bush, you could hardly have two different jobs, but you used your skills and leadership to keep MICS moving in the right direction.

You led meetings, you hired people, you made hard decisions, you taught in chapel and grade 7 math, you helped make budgets, you met with community leaders to learn from them. You had the hard conversations that scared me and also challenged me to do things that weren’t easy. We didn’t always agree but you always listened to my point of view and we always ended up on the same page somehow. You were calm and wise when I was stressed and reactive. I’ve learned to become a better leader because of you!

I will miss having our desks a foot apart. I will miss the little things you say throughout the day to make me laugh while I plough through the administrative work I don’t love. I will miss our musings between interview candidates and seeing if our first impressions were in alignment.  I will miss walking home together at break time for a snack. I will miss watching you teach because few things make me prouder.

But we are both ready for a new phase and I’m excited to see you use your gifts in new ways, while still getting to enjoy life in a part of the world we love. I look forward to missing you a little when we don’t spend almost every minute of the day together and missing you a lot when you travel. I look forward to sharing about our days because they are different and we haven’t been constantly updating each other on every little thing. I look forward to  watching this little school continue to grow and thrive under new leadership and the ways you’ll give guidance in that process. And I still look forward to your advice as I come to you with all the changes and challenges that a new year brings.

I am so proud of you and grateful for your willingness to lead and the ways you have impacted MICS, along with the amazing team we’ve worked with everyday. I’m just sorry for you that you no longer get to boss me around 😉

With love,

Mrs. Director (as you affectionately call me) xo

 

 

 

Big Changes

It is pretty quiet here at MICS these days. Report cards have been handed out, classrooms are closed up, and students have gone home for term break. But even though it is quiet right now, it has been a busy month at MICS. In fact, we want to share with you two big pieces of news.

First, we are thrilled to announce that after a long search, we have found a new Director to lead MICS. Mr. Sinamwenda is currently a teacher and boarding master at Macha Girls Secondary School. He is also a leader in the local BIC church here in Macha. On January 1st, he will join us at MICS as our new school Director. We are so excited to have him join the team and know he is going to make a great contribution to MICS.

Second, we have decided that as a family we are not quite ready to leave Zambia. So even though we have a new leader to replace Joel, we will be remaining here in Macha for another year or two. Julianne will continue in her role of mentoring teachers and helping with curriculum development. Joel is going to be making a transition back to the corporate world and doing some retail consulting working remotely from Zambia. This will allow our family to become self-supporting — we will no longer require donor support for our work here. Joel will also remain available to coach Mr. Sinamwenda as he learns the ropes in his new role.

We are feeling great about what these changes mean for our family and for the school. 2019 is going to be a great year at MICS. 

One of the impacts of hiring a new local Director is that the school needs to find additional funds in the budget for his salary. We are seeking to raise $24,000 over the next 2 years to assist with this cost. To make a contribution online please click HERE and select “CE-104 MICS Salary Increases” when prompted to choose a project from the drop-down menu. Or to learn about other ways to donate email joelpercy@gmail.com.

Thank you to all of you who have supported and encouraged us over these past four years. It is a true privilege to serve here at MICS and it would not have been possible without all of you.

Grade Seven Exams This Week

Grade Sevens

It’s that time of year again! Tomorrow our grade sevens will begin writing their week-long national exams. The curriculum has been covered, countless hours have been spent studying and reviewing, mock exams have been written and questions have been answered. Hopefully they are all heeding the director’s advice to just sleep and rest this weekend.

If you’ve heard us talk about MICS, you’ve likely heard us talk about these exams. Their scores are crucial in determining their future, not only in moving on to secondary school but the quality of school they get into. We are extra thankful that these exams are even happening this year. Just a few weeks ago all exams had been cancelled due to the leaking of one of the grade nine math papers. But by the middle of last week we received word that they will continue and we all breathed a big sigh of relief.

If you are the praying type, we ask for your prayers this coming week. Please pray that our students would have clear minds, calm spirits and healthy bodies as they tackle eight different exams. This is the largest grade seven class we’ve ever had at MICS, with twenty students writing. In comparison, our first year here in 2015 we had only five students writing. We are so proud of all the hard work they’ve put in to get to this point and know they will do their very best!

August Dessert Night

As promised, we are holding another dessert night during our time in Canada where you can learn all about the work we are doing a Macha International Christian School. We hope you can join us! The details are below…

ZAMBIA DESSERT NIGHT

Date: Tuesday Aug 21st

Time: 7:30pm

Location: 1068 Harcroft Court, Oakville

Host: Derek Finch

If you plan to attend, please RSVP to joelpercy@gmail.com so we know you are coming. 

 

Our home away from home away from home…

Tomorrow we get on a plane and make the 24 hour trek to spend the summer in Canada. It’s been a full month or so for us as we started term two,  completed teacher evaluations, a staff meeting, PTA meeting, board meeting, an inspection from the ministry of education and all the little details we have to take care of being we go. We are happy the to-do lists are finished and we can focus on what’s next.

Having lived here for over three years, this time our trip home comes with a few more mixed emotions, at least for me. And that’s because Zambia truly feels like home. It is home. I feel comfortable here and on most days, I really love our life.  Canada will also always be home because family is home. But Zambia is where we are doing life in this season. We are so excited to arrive in Canada on Thursday and spend some much-needed time with family and friends. We are looking forward to eating food we have missed, swimming in pools and lakes, experiencing overnight camp for the first time, riding roller coasters, sleeping in tents and mostly being with people we love. The last time we were all there, we had a baby who couldn’t walk and could barely talk, who now runs and tells elaborate stories. We have boys who have grown and matured and are somehow 8 even though they were only 4 when we arrived.

But despite all that I am looking forward to, I admit it feels a little different this time. A little more bittersweet as we leave one home for another. Having two homes I have learned to do my best to be fully present in each one but also acknowledge and accept when I miss the other one. And I am realizing I will miss my home. I will miss Macha and life at MICS. I will miss the slower pace of life while enjoying the benefits of city living.  I will miss the beauty of the African bush while enjoying the serenity of Muskoka. I will miss eating nshima while I eat steak and ice cream and strawberries and bagels (Okay, I won’t really miss nshima but I’ll miss the company of the boarding kids we share it with!). I will miss joking around with the students while I have fun with my nieces and nephews. I will miss dear friends here, while I catch up with others there. I will miss inviting friends over for last-minute games of Settlers, while I enjoy the plans I have made months in advance…and also hoping for many spontaneous last-minute get-togethers, if I’m honest!

I am leaving home for home. It is beautiful, and complicated and exciting and challenging. It is a privilege to have two homes and I’m grateful for both the anticipation of arriving and the sadness of leaving. We look forward to reconnecting with many of you very soon! xo

 

Zambia Dessert Night

In a few short weeks, our family will be climbing onto a plane in Livingstone and starting the long journey to Canada. We are excited to be coming home for the summer and looking forward to connecting with many of you.

As we have in the past, we will be holding a dessert night for people who want to hear updates on our work and ask any questions. We will also be sharing an opportunity to support the work of Macha International Christian School financially.

Below are the details on the dessert night. (Can’t make it to this one? Don’t worry…we are hoping to hold another event in the Oakville/Burlington region in mid-August. Stay tuned!)

ZAMBIA DESSERT NIGHT

Date: Wednesday Jun 27th

Time: 7:30pm

Location: 57 Bay Street, Mississauga (Port Credit)

Hosts: Bruce & Gael Miller

If you plan to attend, please RSVP to joelpercy@gmail.com by Tuesday Jun 19th so we know you are coming. 

We are looking for the next Director of MICS…

Early next year, Julianne and I will be wrapping up our term at MICS and heading back to Canada. At this point, we are still looking for someone to step in and fill our shoes in providing point leadership for the school when we leave.

Do you know someone who loves kids, has a background as a teacher or school administrator, and might be interested in coming to serve in Zambia for a few years? If so, we would love if you could pass this opportunity on to them.

Our hope would be to have someone start in January 2019 so we can have a bit of overlap and make the transition as smooth as possible.

For a full role description click here: MICS Director Role Description

And if you have any questions or know someone who might be a good fit for the role, you can contact joelpercy@gmail.com.

Thanks!

Back in Business

The government recently announced that the outbreak of cholera seems to be under control and that schools are free to open. This is the news we had been waiting to hear, and it came sooner than expected.

The announcement has meant a flurry of activity this week, including a busy week for our cleaning staff, a visit from the health inspector (we passed), and a busy day yesterday organizing new curriculum materials for the year.

But we are happy to say that we are ready to welcome our teachers back on Monday for a training day, then open our doors to begin classes on Tuesday.

Below, Julianne and the crew get things organized for the start of the year…