Refocused and Re-Purposed

March 2022

By Emily

Next month will mark a year and a half since we arrived in Mauritius. So much has happened in the last year and half, but as always with the passage of time, it’s hard to believe it’s been that long and that we are almost halfway through our initial three-year commitment at Lighthouse. Last year at this time, things looked a lot different as we were in the beginning of what ended up being a three-month, nationwide lockdown. This year, we are on the verge of completing our first trimester of school, which has been fully in-person with the exception of the first two weeks. Although covid is still present and has led to rolling absences of both students and staff, all in all it has been both exciting and gratifying to have all of the students back on campus. The past few months have been full, but they have allowed us to learn, laugh, and grow in relationship with students and co-workers in a way that was not always possible during the 2021 school year.

The entire secondary school gathered for assembly.

Some of the most gratifying experiences for me have been seeing students smiling and enjoying each other’s company as they play together during free time or during any of the many school-sponsored events, such as a sports, clubs, camps, Pi day (in honor of March 14th…3.14), and National Day (in honor of Mauritius’s independence). By the end of any given school day, students are often covered in sweat, dirt, or mud from the various activities and excursions on and around campus. Don’t get me wrong, students complete academic learning as well. But this unique mix of academics and experiential learning contributes to making Lighthouse such an unusual place. Students learn not only how to succeed academically but also how to explore and engage relationally and physically with the people and the world around them.

Student singers and performers with Mauritian teachers who performed for National Day
National Day student musicians
Our Head of School and a teacher who got pie in the face for Pi Day

I admit that on paper this sounds too good to be true. I will also admit that sometimes things don’t always live up to these ideals. That said, I can attest that when I talk with students one on one, again and again they say that they like Lighthouse because of all the fun activities. They also talk about liking the green campus with the space and opportunity to be outside. And for some, especially those who come from difficult home situations, they say that Lighthouse is a safe haven. They talk about being able to just relax and be happy with their friends in a way that they can’t be at home. They talk about feeling cared for and supported by individual staff members and peers in a way that they don’t always experience in their personal lives. They talk about how nice the teachers are.

The Lighthouse staff dressed in the colors of the Mauritian flag (red, blue, yellow, green) for National Day

As a counselor, I have spoken with many secondary students, and I can assure you that there are many students who are carrying heavy personal burdens. These burdens are the things they don’t talk about—the things you don’t see behind their smiles. Although I am generally good at drawing professional boundaries that allow me to sit with people who are hurting without becoming overwhelmed myself, sometimes I am still overcome by the magnitude of it all. A few weeks ago was one of those weeks. I found myself coming home mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted in the evenings, and in the mornings, I just prayed for the strength to hold whatever was shared with me that day. Despite it becoming overwhelming at times, I am grateful for the trust that these young people are willing to place in me as more and more of them have started to seek me out voluntarily for support. Within the past week, I had one young man admit that he hasn’t told anyone else about his struggles while another young man said that I was only the second person he had told. Often these same students avoid eye contact when they pass me on campus, but every now and then I catch a glance in my direction or a slight nod as I walk by. Other students have gotten more used to my presence on campus and openly greet me or smile and wave when they see me.

When I reflect back on where I was at the beginning of 2021—struggling to find purpose and not knowing what I was doing here, it is amazing to see how things have changed. As I have mentioned before, I think the confinement period last year was important because it reminded me to focus on our family and to assure that my own children were receiving the care that they needed as they adjusted to a new school in a new place. This year, I feel like the doors have been opened for me to focus on serving others by using my gifts and talents to care for those outside of my immediate family. And with this renewed sense of purpose has come renewed energy. Even during the times of overwhelm, I take rest in knowing that this work is bigger than myself. I take time to recharge and refocus knowing that the students who have come to trust in me count on me to be a safe and stable presence in their lives. This sense of purpose keeps me focused and determined to keep going and keep giving in whatever way I can.  

Who knows what the next few months or the next year will bring, but for today I am grateful just to be here and to have the opportunity to help students on their journeys. Before we came, we were asked during our TeachBeyond orientation to pick a verse or verses that had meaning for us related to our call to serve in this way. I chose Isaiah 61:1-3, with the most meaningful part for me being, “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted” (NIV). If nothing else happens here, I pray that I have been or will be able to bind up at least a few of the brokenhearted people I will encounter during our service. I know I won’t be able to help everyone, and I won’t get it right every time. Nevertheless, I press on, confident in my path and purpose, and thankful for every day and every opportunity to connect.

Other news and updates…

On February 7th, students finally had their first day of in-person schooling for 2022 after a cyclone delay. Our favorite students wore their uniforms proudly, including the youngest who was in uniform for the first time.

Also in February, we celebrated Eden’s 6th birthday! It is amazing to see her learning and growing into her own person, and we had fun celebrating her birthday with a unicorn cake, of course!

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