silent night

December 24, 2018

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Are we gonna be ok? Yes. But this? This is most definitely not ok.
Over the course of three days last week we were to find out that we most likely, and then, finally, that we definitely would be losing our jobs. Immediately. This, considering our lives as foreigners here, means that we are also losing our homes, our community, and our country. We are being instantly uprooted. While this process was in place, we had to go about business “as usual” in our classrooms. I had to cheerily give my normal “See ya later!” as the children filed out of the library, choking on the words and fighting back the tears.
Tears flow readily these days, as I waver wildly from one emotion to the next: gushing a weepy goodbye one moment and snapping argumentatively over a minor complaint the next.
We are in a frightening no mans land, knowing that no one who cares about us is in control anymore. We don’t know when our homes will be repossessed, or whether we will be allowed back into our offices or classrooms on any given day to clean up, and clear out.
Today Peter and I decided to try to get into the school one last time, so that we could consider it done and walk away. I witnessed the library ransacked. I saw the ravages of a space in which anything considered valuable is carted out; all that I had spent years thoughtfully arranging has been left picked over, and strewn about. Shelves I used to agonize over, trying to make all the books fit, are now bare.
I used to remind students each day to use their “spot-a-books”: “Now it’s time to get your spot-a-book, & choose your book. If you decide not to check out that book, your spot-a-book is waiting right there to show you where it goes!” Tell-tale signs of forgotten spot-a-books now litter empty shelves.
We did not linger long. A few possessions collected, then it was enough. We walked back out and told ourselves we’d done what we needed to do, seen what we needed to see. We returned to our home, grateful to be back but too aware of the precarious nature of this respite. It is time to purchase one-way flights, give away possessions, and pack the suitcases that have claimed closet space for years now. It is almost time to say goodbyes. Almost.
But first we stop. First we acknowledge this particular night—this holy night.
On Sunday I closed our opening worship by speaking the words of the song we had just, as a congregation, sung together. I asked that we all let the words be our prayer. Tonight I ask the same of my own heart. Tonight we push pause on it all, celebrating with a dear friend. Our table is laden with fried plantains and jollof rice, big bread buns and (only because it was requested!) ketchup.
Tonight, It’s a Wonderful Life.
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Silent night, holy night
Son of God
Love’s pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord at thy birth
Jesus, Lord at thy birth

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