Valdosta Daily Times

November 26, 2012

Valwood teacher keeping her dreams

Elizabeth Butler
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Monkeys stole fruit from her trees and played in the back yard of her house in Southeast Asia, where she was a missionary six years.

Traci Carver of Pinetta, Fla., fulfilled one of her lifelong ambitions by serving as a Southern Baptist missionary from 1999-2005.

“I absolutely loved it, and I learned to speak another language while I was there,” she said.

Carver explained why she can’t name the location of her country of missionary service.

“While this country name is common knowledge here at Valwood, when it comes to print and the WWW, using that word ‘missionary’ in connection with countries that aren’t open to missionaries could cause present personnel to be expelled from the country,” she said. “I would feel horrible if I were the cause of people being asked to leave someplace they’ve served for 10-plus years.”

In Southeast Asia, Carver helped poor villagers find avenues for income. In turn, they found a way into her heart, especially a family with eight children.

“... The children (would) come play at my house and do puzzles,” she said.

Carver also “dosed” the family with parasite medicine she purchased every three months for a mere $4.50. One of the children in the family had died from parasites.

“Eighty percent of the people where I lived had parasites,” she said.

“There were parasites on the fruits and vegetables, but you had to eat them to show respect to your host (even though you knew this would make you sick), but you eventually built up an immunity.”

The large family also afforded a lighter moment for the missionary. One day the family’s 11-year-old boy came to see her and asked for something to help his mom, whom he said had a really bad stomach ache. She gave him some Pepto Bismol to take to her. When the missionary saw the boy the next day and asked how she was, he replied that his mom’s stomach ache went away after she had the baby.

Because of everything Carver had done for the family, the baby’s mom gave her the honor of naming her ninth baby. Carver decided on the Greek word “charis” which means “grace.”

While in Southeast Asia, Carver was also able to assist a teenager who had been in a motorcycle accident when she was 4.

“Her face had been split open and poorly repaired with uneven alignment,” Carver said.

The missionary was able to help them get to a town where there was adequate medical care. The teen’s nose and mouth were back in line following the surgery.

“This was a really precious family, and I just loved being able to help them,” she said.

Carver also did some disaster-relief work when a tsunami struck in 2004, translating for a medical team.

“If it’s one thing an event like that will do for you, it will make you realize how blessed you are,” she said.

Carver had to return to the U.S. when her dad, James Carver of Madison, Fla., developed some serious medical concerns. But before she left Southeast Asia, Traci was given a special honor.

“The local people were so wonderfully hospitable and appreciative for the help in trying to generate income for their village that they made me a member of the people’s group,” she said.

“The headdress I wore in the ceremony weighed 11 pounds,” she said. “I had a huge headache at the end of the night.”



THE BEGINNING

Traci was born 38 years ago at South Georgia Medical Center in Valdosta to James and Emilie Carver of Madison. After graduating from Madison County High School, she attended Cumberland College in Williamsburg, Ky., where she received a bachelor of science in education. She would teach a year before graduating from the University of Georgia in Athens with a master’s degree in education.

After “enduring an 18-month interview-and-training process,” Traci said she found herself standing on Southeast Asian soil at age 25.

Coming home to Madison County, Fla., after six years, Traci began teaching ninth grade and AP English and composition at Valwood School in Valdosta in the fall of 2006.

“I just love my kids,” she said. “I love these high-schoolers. They’re old enough to interact with you on an intellectual level, and they make me laugh every day.”

But she has a legacy of instilling fear in ninth graders on the first day of class.

“I successfully terrify my high school students; they leave my room trembling on the first day of school,” she wrote in her blog (www.tracicarver.com) posted Nov. 5, 2012. She began blogging humorous anecdotes on Labor Day and hopes to get a following toward a second dream: She wants to have her collection of stories from her time in Southeast Asia published.

“I like to tell a good story and make people laugh,” she said. “I am hoping the blog will help me make a name for myself so I can get the book published.”

Of her dream, she spoke in a Valwood graduation speech in 2009, “When I entered college, I had two main goals that I wished to achieve for my life. The first was to become a published writer by the age of 30. I gave myself this generous deadline because, certainly, any writer with even an ounce of talent should be able to realize the publication of at least one novel within a decade, and I wanted to get my first book out there before my mental faculties began to decline and arthritis seized my joints, rendering me incapable of grasping a pen.

“At the current age of 34, I have since revised my goal and assumptions, though my dream of one day seeing my book on a shelf in Borders lives on. I have conceded that insight and literary prowess are still possible into the fourth decade of life, and I know that my goal of becoming an author has since refined its definition to only include those shelves with the heading ‘literature’ above them. After having read, savored and taught so many beautiful literary works, to settle for a paperback with a risqué picture of Fabio on the cover is not my idea of a dream fulfilled.

“So the first lesson I have learned along my journey is to keep my dreams. While they may change shape and form as I travel, they are the substance of human motivation and the roof on a house where hope is the foundation. Even if you fear you will never live to see that house finished, never toss the blueprints.”