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I've been a part of Haven of Peace Academy since 2001--as a teacher, chaplain, PTA volunteer, board member, and parent. Cut me open and HOPAC blood will run out. I didn't think I could become more proud of my school--and then I went through the kindergarten admissions process.

We try to keep our class size at about 24 students. By December of 2017, we had well over 60 applications for next year's kindergarten class. It was my responsibility as principal (along with the lower primary teachers) to decide which of those children would be a part of next year's class. 

I had no idea that this process would be so heart-wrenching. I sat with so many children--beautiful, bright, eager learners--while their anxious parents waited nearby, watching them be assessed. After almost every assessment, I would think to myself, Surely we will accept this amazing child! And then I got to the end and stared in dismay at the list. We could only take 24. There were just too many amazing children.

I had to turn down dozens, and the emails (and visits!) from parents were devastating. Please, won't you reconsider? HOPAC is our first and only choice for our child. 

I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. But we just don't have space.

I regularly received emails from parents whose child had been on the waiting list for years, asking if maybe, just maybe, there would be space this year? And I would write back sadly, I'm sorry, but your child is number 42 on the waiting list for that class, so there's really no chance.

It tore my heart out, but it also made me proud. Proud, but humbled, for the incredible honor of working at a school that is so sought-after in Tanzania.

One hopeful prospective parent told me, "My child goes to another international school down the road. We come here for soccer matches, and I can tell this school is different, just by being on campus." 

Our school is a Haven of Peace. 

Maybe that's because our teachers have a God-ordained desire to be at HOPAC. They certainly aren't getting rich. And their jobs are certainly not easy. I watched my teachers work 50 hour weeks--for no or little pay--with steadfast determination and whole-hearted dedication. I saw them agonize over struggling students. I saw them beaten down, on the verge of giving up. But, of course, they never did.

HOPAC's motto is Leadership-Service-Stewardship. We teach our students that they have been given a sacred privilege to attend HOPAC--a privilege that they must steward. We teach them that because of the opportunities they have been given, that they will become community leaders. And that by being leaders, they must serve.

We practice what we preach. We steward HOPAC's beautiful campus: Every week, you'll see groups of children from other local schools bused onto HOPAC's campus. They might be using our pool or playground. They might be in our computer lab, being taught IT skills by our high school students.

Every HOPAC student in middle and high school takes Service Learning as one of their classes, every year. They read When Helping Hurts and The Irresistible Revolution, and they weekly go out into the community to serve. As part of their graduation requirements, HOPAC seniors must develop and implement their own service project. 

And every year in March, HOPAC sets aside an entire week for service. From kindergarten through grade 12, every student and staff member joins a service project in the community.  

One of the blessings of being in Tanzania for so long is seeing the fruit of ministry. Our alumni are now graduating from college and coming back to Tanzania, and I keep running into them around town--owning a business, working for a law firm, managing a hospital. Truly incredible.

Despite the heartache of turning down so many applicants for kindergarten, I also had the joy of inviting some. One of those new kindergarten students will be the very first child of a HOPAC alumnus to join the school. And what makes it even more special is that I remember her father when he attended HOPAC so many years ago. He wrote me a wonderful email in response to my kindergarten invitation, and he has given me permission to share a segment of it with you.

Words cannot express how I feel; I am amazed with how God works. 24 years ago by His grace I came to HOPAC and spent 8 years in what I can say was the Potter's House for me, and now my daughter has the same opportunity.

Receiving this email from you is equally amazing. I feel like it was just a few days ago, we were in assembly listening to the announcement--"Gil and Amy Medina are coming to HOPAC so let's pray for them to come safely...and that God will bless them here." And today, you are the Primary Principal! That makes it more special; to God be the Glory.

Indeed. To God be the Glory.

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