Talk 1: Embracing Shalom
As our school year commences, the end goal is where we start from. As T.S. Elliot once said, “In the end is my beginning.” We begin a journey, first by knowing our destination. For Christians, the end of all belief and life is to live life for the glory of God and this is clearly defined as the Way of Jesus. This is the way of Shalom, peace with our Creator through Christ and flowing from this holy resurrection living in all areas of life. The glorious story of God’s love for humanity unfolds as an epic drama, the climax of which is the death and resurrection of Jesus, moving forward to the eternal happy ending! This is our splendid story that is to shape all we are and do as Christian teachers.
Though the culture we inhabit claims to be less religious, spirituality is now in the air we breathe. The encouraging aspect of this is that the deepest things of life, such as identity and what is lasting and eternal, are now in view. The downside is everyone is invited to make up their own story to make sense of their own humanity. Schools are passionate places where life is felt deeply, and teachers are feeling the intense pressure of the current cultural and social context and its confused and destructive impact on our students. The darkness around us is deep but our great calling as teachers is to shed light in the darkness and engender hope, for we tell a better, true story. The Bible invites our students to locate their lives in His story. “Once resurrection is introduced into the story, all the ways in which we work have to be re-thought, re-imagined and re-worked. The world’s means can no longer be employed for kingdom ends.” 
At the beginning of the new year, if our education is to be transformative, we need to return to the ancient meaning of the word ‘professional’. Originally its root meaning was a person who makes a “profession of faith” in a disheartened world, but as the centuries have passed professional has been reduced to someone who is a competent practitioner having mastered the necessary knowledge and skills. The Lord is raising up Christian teachers who are not only competent but embody the very heart of the transformation they want to see in the lives of their students. “A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:40)
In the complex institutions that are our schools, there is so much that can distort and compromise our core mission. When some days bring suffering, then the way forward is to go deeper into Christ and experience the unity of staff. Each teacher can stand with their colleagues on the firm foundation of their faith in the One who dwells with them. Each one can grow in Christ both personally and professionally as the Holy Spirit works in the staff of our schools. Staff are to reflect servanthood and love for one another. When times are challenging and difficulties present themselves for life is ‘messy’, courage and strength can be found to persevere.
Teachers model the shalom learning community when they care for one another, extend forgiveness and support one another in prayer and practical ways. This brings great encouragement and blessing not only to teachers but to the lives of the students who see a different way of being human: the way of Jesus.
As we seek to live out our God-given calling this year, may each of us be inspired by the story of one who faithfully fulfilled their calling and lived out a resurrection life in the midst of great difficulties.
Amy Carmichael was born in Ireland (1867) and dedicated her life to serving the Lord overseas. In 1901, she commenced itinerant ministry with Indian colleagues, settling in Dohnavur, India. As she went to different villages, she became aware that many Indian girls were dedicated to the gods by their families, becoming temple children who were in spiritual and moral danger. Amy had met a young girl called Preena, who had been sold to be married to the temple’s god. This practice was the ancient, religious form of sex-trafficking. It became Amy’s mission to raise these children in the love of Jesus and so the Dohnavur orphanage was established. It became a haven for girls rescued from temple prostitution. Later an adjacent orphanage was built for boys who were sold in the same way. A school was started and a hospital built. Many of the children rescued and brought up in the Dohnavur family came to know Christ and became mothers, nurses and staff.
Amy never returned to Great Britain after arriving in India. After a bad fall in 1931 that restricted her movement, she wrote and published around forty books, many of which contained stories of Dohnavur children. Her lengthy time at Dohnavur, where she died at age 83, was driven by the compassion of Christ and sustained by faith and determination to serve the children. When the children were asked what drew them to Amy, they often replied, “Amy loved us”. 
May Amy’s dedication to the Lord’s calling inspire our devotion to the students we serve this year, through the opportunities and challenges that will come our way.
In the words of Amy,
“Let us not be surprised when we have to face difficulties. When the wind blows hard on a tree, the roots stretch and grow stronger, let it be so with us. Let us not be weaklings, yielding to every wind blows, but strong in spirit to resist.” 
 TS Elliot, The Complete Poems & Plays, (New York; Harcourt, Brace & Co, 1952), 129
 Eugene H Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places – A Conversation in Spiritual Theology, (Great Britain: Hodder & Stoughton, 2005), 298
 Introduction by Elisabeth Elliott, Mountain-Breezes-The Collected Poems of Amy Carmichael, (Fort Washington: Christian Literature Crusade, 1999)
 Amy Carmichael, Edges of His Ways: Daily Devotional Notes, (Fort Washington, PA: CLC Publications, 1955) p30