This week there were two big ceremonies to honor the 6 graduates of Sahel Academy (SA). (Daniel was the only American among the six--there were 2 Koreans, 2 Nigerians, and one Ghanaian, in addition to Daniel). The first was the graduation banquet Tuesday night, June 5. All the staff of SA, the juniors and seniors, and the families of the graduates were invited. It was a time to laugh and cry as we remebered the years that each of these 6 have spent at SA. Of the six seniors, Daniel had been at Sahel the longest, starting there in 1999, when he was in 5th grade. The juniors gave some prophecies about where each of the seniors would go and what they would do in life. Some of the prophecies were really funny and fit quite well the personalities and backgrounds of the seniors.
After the prophecies, each parent had a few moments to share some thoughts with their children. Nancy reminded everyone how Daniel loves food and exhorted him to feed on the Word and not just on bread alone. I recalled the time when Daniel was 3 and came up to Nancy and said to her, "Mommy, when I grow up, I want to be a killer." After being reprimanded for saying something so awful, Daniel, nearly in tears, had replied, "But I just wanted to be a killer like David who killed Goliath." I told Daniel that there are many giants out there, and they can be quite fearsome. But I reminded him that, like David, we do not need to fear, because God is with us and we are on His side. Then I said he had our blessing to be a killer and to go out and slay some giants.After all the parents had finished their speeches, I got up and sang a song sung by Mark Harris called, "Find Your Wings." I can't sing it like Mark Harris, but it expressed a lot of what I would like to say to Daniel and all the seniors at this time. I made it through the song without choking up. Here are the words:
Find Your Wings
It's only for a moment you are mine to hold
The plans that heaven has for you will all too soon unfold
So many different prayers I pray for all that you might do
But most of all I want to know you're walking in the truth
And if I've never told you
I want you to know,
That as I watch you grow
I pray that God would fill your heart with dreams
And that faith gives you the courage to dare to do great things
I'm here for you whatever this life brings
So, let my love give you roots,
And help you find your wings.
May passion be the wind that leads you through your days
And may conviction keep you strong,
Guide you on your way.
May there be many moments
That make your life so sweet
But more than memories
It's not living, if you don't reach for the sky.
I'll have tears as you take off,
But I'll cheer as you fly.
The graduation ceremony was last night, Thursday, June 7, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Niamey. It was attended by everyone from the international community involved with SA, about 100 adults and children. In addition to a speech by one of the faculty and by the director of the school, each graduate gave a short speech. None of the six graduates like public speaking very much, but all six did an excellent job. Daniel did the best speech of his life, and I was so proud of him (we have it on video). He even spoke a few words in Songhai to his best friend from Tera whom we had invited down for the occasion. I couldn't help the tears during the ceremony. It was very moving. Afterwards, there was a simple reception in the SA dining hall, with cake punch, snacks, and most importantly, the love of friends and colleagues. And then it was all over, and Daniel is now flying on his own. The high school kids stayed up all night watching all three Lord of the Rings videos in the extended version. But Nancy and I came home to try to calm down and get some sleep. We were going to go back to Tera today, but we are too tired and have too much to do, so we'll go back tomorrow, where we'll spend a week letting Daniel say good-bye to his home and packing up for our trip to the US on June 18.