I was talking about my fear of putting our son into 1st grade (in the public school system), which is the big transition year from "virtić" to "škola". I was so focused on the fact that he was an outsider, a foreigner, that I saw his needs as special. He needed a special teacher, a special classroom, special friends that would accept him, give him grace, attention, etc... This kind friend looked at me and said, "I'm afraid of the same things! I have to pray too! I pray for the right teacher. I pray for the right classroom for him. I pray for the right friends in his life." Of course! We both pray for our children in the same way!
We put our son in public school not because of a missiological strategy. We did it because it was the right thing for him. He needed to understand the language and really be given an opportunity to naturally relate to his peers. Our fear of our son being treated differently because he's a foreigner just didn't become a reality. Has it been perfect? No, but you tell me what Elementary age kid has had a perfect school experience. We know other kids struggle because we are intimately and personally connected to what other families are going through - our kids are growing up together, literally. In this school system, the kids are with the same class and the same teacher from 1st grade to 4th grade.
I've learned to see us a family in Mission, which means we, as a whole, try to be as integrated as we all can be. But this is not always easy. Some days the realization hits me very hard that no matter how long I live here I will never be 100% part of this culture, but that shouldn't stop me from being intentional about integrating, which brings value now; to our relationships, to our family, to our Mission. It's about having real connection, understanding people, and being present. When people constantly see themselves as an outsider, it keeps them from truly experiencing the joys and blessings of relationship. I could choose to focus on all the ways we're different, or I could choose to focus on all the ways we're the same. One brings us farther apart, and one brings us closer together.
This week I helped our son with his Science Fair project, and to be honest, it would've been A LOT easier if I had been able to research "Hidroelektrana" in English, UGH, but we are committed to participating the best we can, trying to keep up our heads above water, and we'll do it for as long as we can because integration leads to real connection...and the realization that we all say the same prayers for our children.