It all started last Saturday. Once again Grandma and Grandpa outdid themselves. They had a graduation party for Trae. They invited the high school, students and staff, and both of our churches here in Niamey. That counts for alot of people. Our guess is around 100. Food for 100 people is no small thing. But Grama wasn’t satisfied with just having finger sandwiches and desserts. Not for Trae. We had homemade meat pies, homemade enchiladas, (yep, the tortillas were homemade too), fried chicken and jolof rice. Jolof rice is a Nigerian rice – happens to be my favorite African food. It’s rice cooked in a red sauce with meat. And pepper. Red pepper. But I can’t do it justice just by describing it. And they didn’t plan for people to eat rice like American’s eat rice = as a little side dish. They planned for everyone to eat rice like a real African. Piled mountain high on the plate. Thus there was not just one or 2 large pots of rice. There were 2 coolers full of cooked jolof rice. Not small drink coolers. I’m talking about the big ones you fill full of food for an all day picnic. The people came and the people ate. And ate. And of course there was cake. What’s a grad party without cake? There were also 5 crates of cokes and 5 gallons of koolaid type stuff. And of course gallons and gallons of water. I prepared the picture display that needed to be done for grad night so we could use it at the party as well. People enjoyed seeing pictures of Trae from the time he was born through impending adulthood. It really was a great time – and a great memory for Trae. Thanks, Grama and Grampa.
The next big event was the Senior Banquet. This isn’t your traditional prom or Jr/Sr type banquet. The purpose of this banquet is for the parents to affirm and honor their students. What a time we had! The junior class is also involved, giving humorous and/or serious predictions of how the future lives of the seniors will look. The banquet was held at an air conditioned hotel. And it wasn’t the kind of AC that just took the edge off of the 100 + temps. It was really cool. Wonderful. And the food! It is the first buffet we’ve ever been to in Niger. We heard frequent comments like “this is the best food I’ve ever eaten in Niger’. It was good. After eating, there was a slide show showing past and present pictures of the seniors. It was fun for us to see all of Trae’s friends during their growing up years. And we had some embarrassing shots of Trae to throw into our mix. (Think a 2 year old Trae sitting on a bouncy horse with Tanika. Tanika is wearing one-piece pj’s. Trae, however, is naked.) You get the idea.
The slide show was followed by the juniors singing a special song to the seniors – which appeared to be very meaningful to them all. Then the juniors did their predictions. Lots of thought and creativity went into their presentation – which they did verbally, using a power point. Trae’s prediction was given by Rufus – his former roommate when he was in boarding school, and very close friend. His prediction went something like this.
Trae will graduate from Oral Roberts University with a degree in youth ministry. He becomes a youth pastor but then receives a call to return to Africa. He returns to Niger and establishes the largest church in Africa – in Niamey. Through his ministry the percentage of Christians in the country rises. From there he travels to several African countries and his motto is “signs, wonders and miracles” Those signs and wonders follow his ministry. He then becomes a successful musician but after a concert is in the wrong place at the wrong time and was in the middle of a gang fight when he gets shot.
What a prediction! But it indicated to us how Trae is viewed by his classmates.
Following dessert (real creme’ caramel and fresh fruit), it was our turn – the parents. We started by being humorous. And we were pretty funny. We chose the Gilligan’s Island theme song and one of the creative parents wrote several verses about the student’s high school years. You remember in the song where it says “There’s Gilligan, and Skipper too”. For that part, we named the students. Then we’d stop singing and the respective parent would come out and do a short cameo for their kid – in whatever style they wanted. There was rap (or attempted rap), opera, singing etc. Neal ‘preached’ our part. He started by preaching ‘I want to tell you about a boy named Trae. Ronald Neal Childs III. He went on to talk about the funny names we’ve called him, how he loves his hair, his cowboy phase and I love Barney days. Then said that no matter what he’s called, we’re proud to call him our son. He ended by saying “Can I get an amen?!” And the room responded . We all dressed like our kid – hat, shirt or something representing them. It went great. I’m going to include the words to the song at the end of this post, so I’ll have them for posterity.
The fun part was followed by the hard part. We parents had 3 minutes to talk about our kids – whatever we wanted to say. I’m going to add here what I said. It was an emotional time for all of us – everyone fighting tears, though at the same time so proud and excited about who our kids had become. And I think I can speak for all of us when I say that. This is what I said to Trae and when I spoke I almost felt like he was the only one there.
Trae, I remember the day I found out you were coming. Dad, Mr. Organized, wrote in his Franklin Planner that his 1st son would be born in October ’92. You arrived in October ’91. I was happy because I didn’t want to wait a year for you. We knew that someday we’d be in Africa so we started praying before you were born that you’d be adaptable and fit in wherever God placed us. We saw the answer to that prayer. We got off the plane in Niger at 6am and you heard kids playing next door to Grama and Grampa’s house. You insisted on playing with them immediately. The next few hours found you directing all the activities going on — you insisting that all these Zarma children understood your English. What they understood was your loud voice and gestures. In Maradi, you were a very valid part of our ministry, particularly children’s ministry and music. We appreciate how motivated you are, which is why you were a successful homeschooler. I would often find you in your room at 7am, almost done with the day’s lessons. Not because you loved learning so much, but because you wanted to go outside and play with your friends. That motivation has served you well, and will continue to bring you success. Speaking of success, we recognize that you have many gifts and abilities. What we want you to recognize is that they are all God-given. Given to you to help fulfill the purpose for which He created you. I believe you have already been faithful with what God has given you and because of that, He’ll increase those gifts even more and will use you to establish His Kingdom. One day you’ll understand that there is no greater joy than to see your children loving and serving God. But for now you should know that you have brought us that joy. I can’t even express how much you will be missed when we return in January. We will intensely feel your absence in both our family and ministry. But at the same time we are so excited about this new stage of life you are beginning. You have learned (sometimes the hard way) that when you make the choice to obey God, there is absolutely nothing that is impossible. We are so proud of you and it brings me great joy to say that you, Trae Childs, are my son.
And that’s how the night ended. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing all the parents honor their respective kids. And something occurred to me. I have been saying all year that Trae has been blessed to part of an exceptional class of students. They are a great group – all of them. But after hearing all the parent’s declarations, I realized why. They all have amazing families. Families that love them and pray for them and expect God’s best for them. I don’t think they will realize how blessed they are until they get to where they are going.
Thursday was Graduation Day. To be honest, I felt sad all day. But I realized that my sadness was really only selfishness. Trae certainly wasn’t sad. He was excited, and ready to move into the next ‘phase’ of life. So I had to make a decision to be happy – for him, instead of sad- for me. The graduation was held outside, and God held the rain. We have just entered rainy season and it rained the night before, and late the night of graduation. But the evening of it was clear. The graduates marched in to the traditional “Pomp and Circumstance” – all smiles. The music group (which Tanika is a part of), led some worship. Then the commendation was given by Daniel Meade, the math teacher. He did an excellent job and it was obvious that he had the heartbeat of the graduates. His comments to Trae were that he was a natural born leader, and because of that he will be held to a higher standard. He said he believes that Trae will use his charisma and initiative to serve others. He also said that Trae was determined and when he decided to do something, nothing would stop him – not even being hit by a truck! The graduates each had 2 minutes to speak and through their emotions they all did their families proud. It was moving. The address was given by Mr. Tim Tjosvold and he spoke from John 15, encouraging the graduates to ‘remain in Him’. Then came the diplomas – a very joyful time. Neal prayed the prayer of dedication, and the newly graduated adults marched out.
A reception followed where each of the students had tables showing pictures of them growing up. After that reception they had their own party – an all nighter. They ate, swam, watched movies and ate more.
Now, it’s finished. 13 years of school. Done. But yet it’s time to start again.
Trae, you’re the best and we’re proud of you. You were number one in your class, and though it’s cheesy to say, you’re number 1 in our book too! We love you!
Senior Parent Skit ——–Song
To the tune of “Gilligan’s Island” Theme song.
Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale
A tale of a special class
That started in this tropic spot
Without a lot of grass
Their parents have all left their homes
For this isolated spot
Aboard a sailing skyboat
To a place where it is hot, to a place where it is HOT
And Jessie, too…..
While they’ve been here
There’ve been a lot of changes at Sahel
They’ve learned through many hardships,
The lessons will serve them well.
New wall, sports field, new library,
What more could they ask for?
If there could be a swimming pool
Life wouldn’t be a bore, it would never be a bore.
They’ve been on many outreach trips
To places far and wide
Some even went to Galmi
For a ten hour ride, a ten hour ride.
Benin, Tera, and In-a-tes,
Some went to Makalondi
Like being on Survivor,
It was primitive as can be, yes primitive as can be.
There’s Chantell Bliss, and Suzanne too
And Chris Potratz……
The Internet is down again
I have a test that’s due.
And Nigelec went off at ten,
I think I’m gonna sue, I think I’m gonna sue.
No lights, ac, nor satellite,
What’s wrong with this country?
It’s hard enough to study
It’s frustrating as can be.
They went away on a long, long ride
To see a strip of sand.
They lived in the lap of luxury
In another foreign land.
They had to raise the money
By selling lots of food
To make their trip enjoyable
At this tropic, beachside ‘hood.
Seafood, Mercy Ship, 4 Wheelin’
And body surfing too.
They broke a bed which they all piled on
It was a great big hoot.
Here’s Phil and Tam
And Trae Childs, too….
So this is the tale of the 10 classmates
They’ve been here a long, long time.
They’ve had to make the best of things
It’s been an uphill climb, it’s been an uphill climb.
Their teachers and the StuCo, too
Have done their very best
To help them learn and have fun
Right next to Eagles Nest
There’s Esther Kim and Susanna….
And now it’s time to say goodbye
To this class on their new quest.
We’ll pray for you support you.
We wish you all the best.