Yesterday I Tumbl-ed some news about staff vacancies at the secondary school in India where I spent six years. This seemed to draw a little interest, so I thought I should share my thoughts on what a staff member at Hebron (potential or current) should know.
This is easily done, because when I returned to Hebron four years after graduating I was actually asked to speak at the Staff Meeting! And this is what I said when given the opportunity to stand before the staff of my much-appreciated, sometimes-hated, yet truly-loved Hebron School…
Wow. As a student I would have loved to stand in front of you staff and tell you a thing or two. And now’s my chance! But actually it turns out that the things I feel you Hebron staff need to know aren’t all the things you have done wrong.
Instead I want to encourage you. This is my prayer:
May my words drop as the rain, my speech distil as the dew,
Like gentle rain upon the tender grass, like showers upon the herb.
So, here are three things I think you need to know:
#1 You need to know the Importance of what you are doing here
Because of what you are doing here,
the gospel is being preached to people who have never heard the name of Jesus;
because of what you are doing here,
the Bible is being translated into languages which have never heard God’s Word;
because of what you are doing here,
doctors are providing medical treatment to the poor and needy;
and orphans are being cared for and widows are provided for;
because of what you are doing here,
missionaries are able to do the work that God has called them to do,
and the kingdom of God is advancing,
and people are being saved.
What you are doing at Hebron is very important.
Before I came to Hebron I was at school in Malaysia, at another school for missionary children. Many of the friends that I had there returned with their families to their home countries, because they felt that was the only viable educational alternative. But because of what you are doing here at Hebron, I was able to come to school here, and my parents were able to continue working as missionaries. And because of the high quality of what you are doing here – I should in particular thank Miss Smith for helping me through the STEP exams with which I just about scraped my way into Cambridge University – because of the high quality of what you are doing here I have suffered no lack in my education.
And because of the high quality of what you are doing here, not only do you allow Christian parents to do the work that God has called them to do, in some of the most difficult and least reached parts of the world, and send their children here – but you also cause Hindu parents, and Muslim parents, and Sikh parents, and Parsi parents to send their children here.
You need to know that what you are doing at Hebron is very important, because here is a demonstration of the kingdom of God, here is a community of people who have heard the call of Jesus and are trying to follow him.
And when Hebron successfully points people towards the grace of God, then these Hindu and Muslim and Sikh and Parsi students, who have been sent here for a good education, find that in Christ are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge and become followers of Jesus. And the Christian students, those children of pastors and preachers and medical workers and missionaries, see the reality of the God of their parents and – more often than not – themselves become missionaries and medical workers, and are able to continue and surpass the work that their parents have done.
But when Hebron fails to point people towards the grace of God, then Hebron fails.
Because when Hebron fails to point people towards the grace of God, then those who do not come from Christian families become inoculated against the gospel, convinced that they have seen what Christianity is like. And those who do come from Christian families become convinced that their parents’ faith is a hollow lie and lash violently back against Christianity, against religion, against authority, against God.
That could have been me.
You need to know the importance of what you are doing here.
#2. You need to know the Influence of what you are doing here
Sometimes you will see the influence of what you are doing.
Sometimes you will see students’ work improving as a result of your teaching. Sometimes you will see people settling into life here and becoming more confident, as a result of you coming alongside them when they were homesick. Sometimes you will see people beginning to understand the gospel better, as a result of the Bible Study that you’re leading. Sometimes you will see people becoming Christians.
But sometimes you may not see the influence of what you are doing for a long time. In fact sometimes you may never see any influence. But you need to know that what you are doing does have an influence.
If you’re new here and you have no idea what sort of influence this school has on people, then I would encourage you to go and ask someone who has been at Hebron a little longer, maybe Mrs George (and while you’re at it, make sure she treats you to a snack from her kitchen), and I’m sure she’ll be able to give you a few examples.
And if you’ve been here a while, then I would urge you to make sure you remember those people who have been influenced for the better through being at Hebron. Let them be an encouragement to you.
“Look what God has done for us, over all the years we’ve shared…”
Because there will be times when you might feel like your work here is in vain. But it’s not.
And I stand before you this evening to testify that I am someone who by the grace of God had his life transformed while he was at Hebron.
And I want to say Thank-you.
#3. You need to know the Impossibility of what you are doing here
Some of you may have just arrived at Hebron. Maybe you were told that the school needed a Geography teacher, and you’ve done some teaching before and you know a lot about Geography – and so you think you’re well prepared to teach Geography here.
Maybe you’ve been told how much better behaved Hebron students are, compared to kids in other schools where you may have taught, and you thought this was going to be easy.
And now you’ve arrived here, and someone’s just told you that as well as the Year 7 Geography class you were expecting to teach, you’re also going to need to fill in as the A Level History teacher, as there’s currently no-one to do that job – and surely you know that you’re also dorm-parenting the Standard 10 Boys? And directing the Standard 7 Drama Week play? And coaching the girls’ football team? And maybe you’re thinking, ‘Hang on a minute, this is crazy. What I’m being asked to do here at Hebron is impossible.’
If that’s what you’re thinking, then you’re right. What happens at Hebron is impossible.
And you need to know the impossibility of what you are doing here at Hebron.
Because when it comes to academic results, the international schools we are competing against have a much higher budget with which to entice all the teachers they might want – while at Hebron there is usually at least one key teaching position that is not quite filled. (And I won’t mention the budget).
And when it comes to sporting competition, the schools we are competing against have a far greater number of athletes to draw upon, and plenty of time to practice – while at Hebron, we are usually scrambling to get a team to to participate within a week or two of arriving back at school.
And when it comes to more important things –- you know there is something more important than academic results, right?– When it comes to people’s hearts being changed, when it comes to the power of the Spirit of God breaking into the life of a Hebron student and transforming them into the likeness of Jesus, only God can do this!
But – here’s the good news – God does do this! And in the 100+ years since Hebron began, God has done this in more ways than you or I will ever know.
For although what you are trying to do at Hebron may be impossible, the Bible says that with God nothing is impossible. And the Bible says that every prayer prayed in the name of Jesus will be answered. And I’ve prayed a lot of prayers in the name of Jesus for which I haven’t yet seen any answers. But I will keep on praying, because I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is faithful.
So let’s pray:
I thank you for the work that Hebron has done for so many years.
I thank you for the privilege that it is to be a Hebronite.
And I pray in the name of Jesus that you would encourage the staff here,
and that you would continue to bless the work that they do,
and I pray that your kingdom would come in this place,
and in the lives of everyone working and studying here.
And I pray, O Lord, that your love and your power and your wisdom
Would flow forth from this place like a mighty rushing river
And would transform Ooty,
And the world.
In Jesus’ mighty name I pray,
What would you say if you had the chance to speak your mind to the teachers at your old school? Blame them for their mistakes?
Thank them for their hard work? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
And what about those of you who were actually at Hebron? What would you say to our staff if you had the chance?