Many people think that being a missionary on an island is all “rainbows and butterflies” because it is paradise. It may be true that the scenery is breathtaking, but that doesn’t mean discouragement and struggles are nonexistent. One particular week I was feeling slightly more discouraged and homesick than previous weeks. Monday began and I was able to focus on my classes and the work I needed to accomplish. Evening came, however, and I could no longer retain my tears. They began to overflow from my eyes and down my cheeks, like an overflowing rain gutter. I didn’t feel like I was making a difference or doing anything extraordinary. “Anyone can be an English teacher,” I thought to myself, “so why am I here?”
Tuesday morning rolled around and I was not feeling up to teaching, but I went to school anyway. My principal noticed that things were a little off with me so he and his wife talked and prayed with me. He asked for God to send someone into my path so that I would see that I was making even the smallest impact. Nothing happened for the next couple of days. I had actually forgotten about the prayer until Thursday night. I was talking to one of the other student missionaries about classes the next day and how I had no idea what I was going to do because the schedule that week had totally messed up my lesson plan. A few minutes later, several of my foreign students came out of the dorm because they had a question about one of my assignments. “Miss,” they began, “what does it mean to love your enemies?” I instantly remembered the prayer that my principal had prayed for me. Feeling God’s love and peace wash over me, I began to explain to my students how Jesus had made the decision to leave a place more beautiful than we could ever imagine, just to come down and die for our sins. I tried my best to describe how much Jesus loves all of us, even those who hate Him. After I finished explaining as best as I knew how, I asked them if they had ever heard that story, about how Jesus died on the cross. These kids had never heard the story! Remembering that I had nothing planned for class the next day, I asked if they wanted to go over the story in class. They seemed excited by the idea, then made their way back inside to finish their homework.
After they had left, I looked over at my friend, then off into the distance. Tears began to fill my eyes as I tried to grasp the fact that God had just used ME. After all, I was only an English teacher, but God had given me the opportunity to realize that I am in a position to change lives. The following day, I told the story of Jesus’ death. Never before have I been so passionate about God. It felt amazing! As I reached the part in the story where Mary and the disciple whom Jesus loved were standing at the foot of the cross, I began to cry. My students were completely silent, taking in every word. Some students were also moved to tears as I told the heartbreaking story.
The following week I had a test and, for extra credit, I asked the students to write about what they have learned in my class and what their favorite thing was about my class. To my amazement, some of the students wrote that they loved how I made learning fun, some said their favorite part was worship, some said the atmosphere, and others said that they had grown closer to God because of my class.
God’s timing is always perfect. He always knows what we need to hear and when we need to hear it, what we need to know and when we need to know it, what to see and when we need to see it, and what we need to feel and when we need to feel it. Just knowing that God used me to make a difference in at least one student’s life makes this whole missionary experience worth it.
“Let all that you do be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:14
*Kimberly Ford is a student missionary from Southern Adventist University, serving in Palau through the Office of Volunteer Ministries and Adventist Volunteer Service. This was originally posted on her blog (http://myislandjourney.blogspot.com) on Oct. 2, and is shared with her permission.