It's hard to believe that in just 12 hours I'll be on a plane to take me home. What's even harder to believe is how difficult it's going to be to get on that plane and leave Adelaide. I would never have imagined how truly life-changing this trip would be and how many amazing people I would meet. Leaving home six weeks ago was hard, but this may be even harder because I know that I won't be back in a few short weeks. Everyone from year 2's to year 10's to the principal of Blackfriars have asked me when I'm going to come back, and I hope that I will have a chance to return here. It's been my home for six weeks and has meant so much to me that, as excited as I am to get back to the US, I will leave a part of my heart in Australia.
Today, though, was really a great last day at the school. Christian and Adam came in to see me first thing this morning, and Christian kept hugging me and saying how much he loved having me here and was going to miss me -- I know that I've loved getting to know him and will definitely miss him too. I went in with my year 5's for the first three lessons after this (longer than I intended, but I just didn't want to leave), and had some really good chats with the boys. During prayer, a bunch of the boys mentioned me again in their intentions, and it really meant a lot. I hope that I was able to make a lasting impact on them because they certainly have on me. Of course, there were still plenty of questions about American food and what our money looks like, and I was happy to answer them all. Near the end of the lesson, I got a visit from Tommy and Anton, who had both been out sick for the day. Tommy proudly showed me the cross I gave him, and both of them wrote letters for me and put them in envelopes covered in scratch-n-sniff stickers. Tommy asked for my address, my home phone number, and my mobile phone number; they both seem intent on staying in touch with me, and I hope to keep in touch with them too. I've had a blast getting to know them, and will be sure to follow up with them once I'm back home.
|This picture tells all the difference between the two boys|
During recess, I went up to the staff room, where Maria mentioned me in front of the staff, thanking me for what I've done here and presenting me with some gifts. It was really nice to hear her talk about me like that -- I have such a respect for her and all that she's done for me here, and so her words really meant a lot to me. There was only an hour of school left after recess, so I made sure to visit the year 4's and 2's before the end of the day. In the year 4 class, the boys all clapped for me and shouted out "Three cheers for TJ!" followed by three "hip-hip-hoorays". They are great! I stopped in with the year 2's for a bit afterwards, where I watched "Cars" and helped one of the boys color in football flags. A great relaxing last lesson with them. Before the day ended, I stopped back in with the year 5's to say good-bye. As they were getting ready to head out, a few of the boys asked for my email address, one of them running across the room to get some paper and grinning from ear to ear when I gave it to him. It really will be great to stay in touch with them!
Once the day ended, I said goodbye to Gregoire and got my last look around the school before we headed off for the staff lunch at a local pub. It was nice to sit around with the people I've gotten to know so well these past weeks. Saying goodbye to Maria, though, really made it hit home that I'm about to leave. She hugged me twice, and told me that she was going to be the mom and make me let her know when I get home safely. I will really miss her! And everyone else I've come to know -- staff, students, and friends. They've been so great to me, and it will be nice to know that I've got a group of people back in Australia who mean so much to me.
Looking back, this trip has been nothing like I expected and yet everything I hoped for. I didn't do the work I thought I would with the chaplain, but through Learning Enrichment I made my way into so many great classes and formed close bonds with some really great boys. I didn't end up living in the priory and instead got to become a part of two separate families as they welcomed me into their homes. I didn't see any kangaroos hopping down the sidewalk, but I did get to hold a koala (possibly one of the highlights of my trip). And I have been able to see God guiding me along this whole time, taking me halfway across the world and helping me to discover His will for my life as I met so many great people, discovered some amazing places, and had countless experiences that I'll never forget.
Reflecting on these past six weeks, it is hard to believe that my time in Australia is over; but it's easy to believe that there's a reason I came here and that God will continue to help me learn from all that I've done and all the people I've met. At the end of this all, I can only look forward with hope and know that this is just another great beginning -- and that I am truly, truly blessed.
|So long, Blackfriars -- until next time!|