Teacher Exploration - Heather Hiltsley, Bandung, Indonesia

January 01, 2005 | Harvesters
By Heather Hiltsley

Hello Loved Ones of all ages,

Sandwiched between recess and an afternoon of swimming lessons off campus, the Grade Two class endures Music Class on Wednesday afternoons and I do my best to engage 17 squirming boys and 4 reticent girls in the art of singing. Wow! That’s a task-eh? So, second graders stood in rows today on my tiled floors and I practiced the Fruit of the Spirit, particularly Gentleness and Patience, “Kendall, please stay on your tile, hon . . . Nathan, turn around, please look at me. . .Cameron, kiddo, stand tall please. . .” You can imagine the rest. We’re preparing for the anual spring musical drama and as the days become fewer between NOW and THEN (performances are scheduled for the 27th and 28th of May), the classes begin to feel less like a lark and more like work for all of us. But we pray at the beginning of each class: “Come Lord Jesus, be present with us. Inspire our creativity and be blessed in the practice of our praises.”

I think He grins.
I know He does.
I do.

How can one not love these little guys, all wiggles and distractions, humming and whispering when I’m giving instruction—but so quick to make amends when I remind them of proper classroom behaviour?! And they sing with abandon, “Amen! Praise the Lord. . .I’m gonna jump down, turn around, touch the ground, and PRAISE MY LORD!” With energy enough to convince the most lethargic person that the JOY of the Lord is truly strength and life.

He grins.
I grin.
And by His grace we’ll be ready to share our practiced praises with an audience of parents, siblings, friends and teachers in a month.

Then there’s my homeroom…
If only you could have seen my Grade 8 kids Monday morning as they staggered into class—all much earlier than usual since they didn’t have the energy to stand around their lockers and chatter before the bell. “Ms. Hiltsley,” they moaned, “we’re so tired!” I smiled, sort of giggled (hoping they couldn’t hear the fatigue in my own voice) and said, “And I was going to have us go run around the upper field to get us started this morning!”
In their exhausted state, they were more gullible than usual and stared panic-faced up at me. . .

I do love these kids: so much!

This past weekend we had our middle school youth retreat—through a series of events and circumstances, I ended up being the worship leader (something which I had never done before). My team was made up of all middle schoolers and two other adults.
- WOW: what an experience. Mind you, it wasn’t perfect musically: but my heart is so full in remembrance of how the Spirit flooded the hearts and lives of our little team and really drew them to Himself thus allowing them to facilitate His presence with the larger group: it was beautiful!!!

There’s a story to accompany the experience:
I had been asked to lead the worship and worship team for this particular retreat b/c our general leader wanted a “campy” feel. And so as I began to think through that and invite others to join me—I really had to question, “What is a campy feel anyway??”
I decided, for me, it was silly songs with motions to begin each session and a sort of “unplugged” feel to the music: not so much microphone and electricity.
It was working out that the kids who volunteered to participate were excited about this different approach (usually we are all amped up, here at BAIS) and so in our practices we’d just sit around the piano and drums and strum a few guitars, play the violin (one of my students, not me) and sing, sing, sing.
It was great!!!
I loved practicing!!

We had a bit of difficulty nailing down a keyboard to take on the retreat with us, but our pastor’s wife graciously lent us hers and so with drumset, keyboard, one electric guitar, two acoustic guitars and six fresh middle school voices—we were set!

Problem: the keyboard wouldn’t work! and the electric guitar (first session. . .) was terribly hard to keep in tune.

So: Saturday morning as I was praying about it all, asking Jesus what He had in mind, He said clearly: “Worship Me in Spirit and in Truth.” And being Queen of Abstraction, but being rather tired that morning, I asked Him to clarify His meaning and intent. He said, “It’s not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit Heather.”

Indeed: not even by electric power apparently!! (minus one keyboard and electric guitar, the microphones were not picking up, so we had turned them off too—down to drumset, two acoustic guitars. . .me being one of the players; aduh!. . .and a violin)

But as we began to pray for the Spirit to come and take over our practicing and make each session glorifying to Him: something incredible began to happen with our team—and by the big Night of Worship (where we were responsible for facilitating an hour and a half of worship. . .a brand new middle school praise team, mind you)—the team was tight in spirit and music and as we led worship that night—even our “tough” grade 8 boys were singing with abandon, hands lifted high: worshipping: truly worshipping: it was beautiful!

He grinned.
I grinned.
I saw many others grinning over the weekend too!

I was talking with a couple different dear friends in the last week or so: we can smile and mask disappointment, hurt, frustration, anger, sadness, grief—the list of ailments can continue ad nauseum! Smiling is something expected in our societal pleasantries. We can turn smiles on and off at will. Grinning however, wells up from within. A grin happens spontaneously out of joy, peace, excitement, hunger for truth, celebration, love—this list is equally long, yet for some, perhaps a little less familiar.

We sang a song at the retreat, “I’m trading my sorrows. . . my shame. . .my sickness. . .my pain. . .[all] for the JOY of the Lord! And we say, ‘Yes Lord! Yes Lord! Yes, yes Lord! Yes Lord! Yes Lord! Yes, yes Lord!”

He grins.

The trade is not even—the deal we cut is not fair—the price is high! But the exchange is in our favour! We can say, “Yes Lord!”
and grin—in the freedom of His love in the strength of His Joy.

I hope you grin today,
with love: Heather Elizabeth

P.S. I grin, too, because I anticipate seeing, hugging, talking with many of you this summer: I can’t wait!!!


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