This Thanksgiving, we were invited to celebrate with a missionary couple, Barry and Desma Abbott who work among the Baka people. We piled into our car and drove along bumpy, dusty, dirt roads for hours. When large trucks would pass, the dust was so bad, we had to pull over until it cleared up so I could see the road. We drove, and drove, and drove, and then we started to feel…lost.
We pulled over several times and asked people where we could find the Abbott’s village. We knew we were in trouble when they started to look at us with puzzled expressions. Their faces read, “I have never heard of that village.” Finally, we found a man who was from their village and, with his help, we pulled into the Abbotts driveway a couple hours later than expected, hungry and ready to eat.
It was a joy to hear about all this couple is doing among the Baka people. They are teaching them how to read and write in their language and the local church they helped plant is growing rapidly and is even attended by the village chief who wants to know more about the Lord. The people are writing songs based on the Bible stories and they have started reaching out to other villages with the Gospel. I pray that the Lord would bless our ministry they way he is blessing theirs. I was tremendously encouraged. Not only was I encouraged by the missionary couple, but I was also happy to meet the 10+ high school students who were visiting the Abbotts for Thanksgiving.
However, in talking to the missionary couple, as well as the high school students, I learned that there was a problem far more serious than our little escapade of getting lost on dusty, dirty roads. I learned that the high school that the students were attending was in danger of shutting down. If this school shuts down, people like the Abbotts would possibly have to return home from the field, putting the breaks on their fruitful ministries. Because of conversations with the Abbotts, I felt led to write this blog as a call for help to teachers in the States. I’d like them to consider coming to Cameroon short term or long term to ensure that Rainforest International School (RFIS) remains open for families like the Abbotts and for families like my own.
From Barry and Desma
I conducted an informal interview with the Barry and Desma. When I asked them why they thought RFIS was so important for their children, they said that they themselves were not able to provide their kids with a quality education through homeschooling at the high school level. Desma said, “We are spending a lot of energy to live here and if we also had to educate our kids, then there would nothing left for ministry.” Because living in Cameroon takes about three or four times the amount of time it takes in the States, parents that are homeschooling their high school aged children have little time for ministry. The Abbotts’ children now attend RFIS and are thriving there. Not only are they thriving, but their parents’ ministry is as well.
From Seth and Brianna
Since there were RFIS students at the Abbott’s house, I also did an informal interview with two of them (Seth and Brianna) to hear more about what they thought about the school. What I learned is that they were as thankful for the school as the Abbotts were.
Seth grew up in a region of Cameroon that is now undergoing a civil war. It is incredibly painful to have your home and childhood friends be subject to killing, gunfights, and kidnapping. When Seth showed up to RFIS, he brought with him a deep hurt for the suffering that he had witnessed, and which still goes on in his hometown today. And yet, the Lord has used a teacher there named Mr. Cone to help heal some of the deep pain in Seth. Mr. Cone also grew up in an African village and understands what Seth is going through. Through his empathy, encouragement, prayers, and sharing of Scripture, Seth has learned how to handle biblically the pain that he feels because of the civil unrest. Respect and admiration for his teacher shone through Seth as he talked about Mr. Cone.
Brianna also shared how much impact the teachers have had on her. She said that many of the instructors at RFIS have grown up overseas themselves and really understand the backgrounds of the missionary kids that attend the school. For those that haven’t grown up overseas, Brianna expressed how thankful she was for them as well because they really try to make deep connections with the students. Being a teacher at RFIS is more than just teaching math or science, it is filled with opportunities to mentor high school students to know and love the Lord. Many of those that graduate from RFIS go into ministry themselves. Being a teacher at RFIS impacts not only the students attending but also the people they will minister among all over the world in the future.
Why would someone leave the comforts of America to teach at RFIS?
When I asked the Abbotts and Seth and Brianna this question, they said that for those that teach in public schools, they are not as free to share their faith. However, at RFIS, teachers are encouraged to mentor their students, to teach in chapels, and to help them in their walks with Christ. Missionary kids often only have their parents to teach and grow them up in the ways of the Lord as they live among unreached people groups. But when they go to RFIS, they have the opportunity to be invested in by the Body of Christ.
Brianna also said that RFIS is absolutely beautiful. I can attest to this – the campus is breathtaking and looks more like a university campus rather than a highschool.
From my perspective, however, the most compelling reason to teach at RFIS is because in doing so, the parents of missionary kids are able to stay on the field and continue their work among the unreached.
“Within three years, 75% of our teachers will no longer be serving at RFIS. Several key staff are retiring. Other current teachers are sacrificially filling in, covering gaps that already exist in our teaching roster. RFIS simply cannot continue unless God provides the missionary teachers and staff we need.” – RFIS director
If RFIS does not continue, then many parents will need to consider returning home to the States in order to educate their children. We speak for many fellow missionaries when we say that do not want to have to do this. We want to stay, keep doing our work, while knowing our children are receiving a good education.
What roles could you or someone you know fill?
- Librarian – Coordinate the development, management, and daily running of the library collection.
- IT Network Specialist – Help to develop, manage, and maintain the school network and technology resources.
- Student Care Coordinator (counselor) – Support the mental, emotional, and spiritual health of international school students.
- Learning Support (Special Education) – coordinate the provision for special educational needs of RFIS students with learning difficulties and learning disabilities.
- Finance Manager (to overlap and train in 2021-2022 and take over in 2022-2023) – Manage the school’s finances and budgeting.
- Teaching staff: Teach and mentor secondary-level students in an international Christian school setting.
- Science (Middle and High school)
- Math (Middle and High school)
- Social Studies Teacher
- Humanities (Middle School – Social Studies, Bible, and English)
- Director of Technical Services (to overlap and train in 2022-2023 and take over in 2023-2024) Oversee the maintenance and development of an approximately 15-acre tropical school property.
- Academic counselor (to overlap and train some in 2022-23 and take over in 2023-2024) Coordinate external testing, the maintenance of student records, and college/career counseling.
- ELL teacher/support – Provide language support to English Language Learners.
- English (furlough replacement for 2022-23) – Teach English courses for secondary-level students.
In order for missionaries to be able to afford to send their kids to RFIS, all of their teaching staff needs to be supported not from missionary parents but from individual supporters and churches in the States. Teachers are seen as missionaries and go through agencies such as ours, World Team. If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about teaching at RFIS, please email me at email@example.com and I will put you in touch with the appropriate people.
Please forward this blog on to any teachers you know. This is the school we plan on sending our children to in just a couple years so this lack of teachers could severely hamper our ministry as well.