Each morning I muster up my strength as my students bounce through the door.
As I turn to face my students, I’m horrified to see Ethan crawling across the desks. I can’t believe this is happening in my class! Panic alarms are going off in my head, my heart is beating fast, and I know I have to act before total chaos erupts. I walk over to Ethan, wrap my arms around his waist, and heft him to the ground. It’s at this moment that I wonder why I ever volunteered to teach a kindergarten class.
I’m three months into my ten-month stay on Pohnpei, a steamy island in Micronesia covered with stunning green foliage. On my daily jogs, I see islanders in T-shirts and shorts sitting under palm trees or ambling down the road. Everyone seems so relaxed here. Everyone except me, the 19-year-old college student who has come to teach their children. I’m scared to death!
What if something happens today that I can’t handle? I wonder. What if two kids get in a fight?What if all my students start running around the room?What if the staff thinks I’m an incompetent teacher? I feel completely inadequate for this task. And yet, I am determined to do my best.
So each morning I muster up my strength as my students bounce through the door. I draw Bible characters on the chalkboard and act out the stories, and they absolutely love it. They are so cute with their soft little faces and eager eyes. Some mornings when I see them, I feel a little burst of joy.
But there is one student I am not happy to see. Ethan. He gives me more trouble than all the other students combined. He talks back, gets out of his seat, and makes fun of other students. One day, when I asked him to stand in line, he hit me.
When Ethan left the island for a few weeks, I hoped he’d never come back to class. He was too much for me to handle, and I knew it. So I did what I wish I had done long ago. I asked God for help and put Ethan in His hands.
When Ethan came back to school, I asked him to be my special helper. God gave me strength to deal lovingly with Ethan, and he slowly began to respect me and behave in class. Now he was sitting still at his desk with his hands folded and his little lips pursed. I could give him one look from across the room, and he would be quiet. The transformation was incredible!
At graduation, my students marched like little grown-ups. They were adorable in their silky blue robes, and I realized how much I had enjoyed teaching them. After the ceremony, Ethan gave me a big hug and said, “Teacher, I love you!” It was a wonderful contrast from the “Teacher, I hate you!” that I had been hearing all year.
Even though I thought I was unqualified to be a teacher in Pohnpei, I believe God placed me there. I felt like I was making a mistake because I didn’t feel like I could do the job on my own. But maybe that was the point. Maybe God put me in a place where I would have to call on Him. A place where He could use me to change a little boy and where a little boy could change me. The beautiful transformation in both of us was worth all the trouble.
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