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Adventist Mission

My Sunrise Epiphany

The sun has risen every morning outside my window, but today I actually see it. God never ceases to speak to me, but today I understand Him.

On the afternoon that I called in sick to work because my eyes couldn’t open from a night of crying, and my brain hurt from the never-ending change, and my heart was weary from loneliness, Nattawin asked about Jesus.

The morning of that same day, I had tiptoed into Josh’s classroom, slid the door closed, and allowed myself to say what I’d been thinking for the past two months.

The words tasted strange, devoid of the emotion they seemed to hold in my long e-mails to my trusted mission coordinator and former missionary friends.

“I don’t want to be here anymore,” I said. The words hung in the air as I stared at the ceiling, furiously blinking back tears, fighting to stay collected as I explained everything. But before he could reply to my statements with his usual opposition that had made me so angry at times, I answered myself.

“This is nothing like I thought it would be.” Nothing ever is.

“All my training is irrelevant.” Learn on your own.

“I’m not needed here.” Then leave.

“But, I can’t.”

I can’t leave because the young man with the faint scar on his forehead who sells fruit on the corner depends on me. Every time I catch his eye, he’s reaching for a guava, his machete ready at hand. I give him at least 100 baht a week and if smiles were stories, his would make you cry. I can’t leave because my Thai isn’t good enough to talk to him and there are only so many times and ways your mouth can sputter kop khun kha (thank you) while your eyes are saying God bless you.

I can’t leave because every afternoon my little students skip through the gate, their braids bouncing up and down. I can’t leave because they shower me with wet kisses and hold my hand and jump on my back while yelling, “Teasha, Teasha!” I can’t leave because every day they work hard for their stickers only to insist on giving them to me, their little fingers carefully placing them on my shirt. I can’t leave because Gingpai and Jingja call me Mama and are always the first to arrive and the last to leave.

I can’t leave because Nattawin prays to Jesus even though his family is Buddhist. I’ve never heard him speak to anyone, but yesterday he held a 30-minute conversation on faith.

I can’t leave because Pbang shares her food and spent nights crossing streets with me until it was finally safe for me to cross them alone.

I can’t leave because despite all the loneliness, hurt, frustration, and 12-hour days, I love my students. From age 3 to age 48, I love them all. And I need to show them my love. I need to show them Christ’s love.

I wake up the next morning before my alarm sounds, preparing to call in sick again. This time I really am quite sick, and nothing sounds better than a day of drinking water, eating guavas, and sleeping next to my rickety fan. I open my laptop to send an absence note, but my tired eyes close and my body rejoices in lying still in the few hours of the day that are cool enough to use a blanket.

My five-thirty alarm screams at me from the shelf. As my finger reaches for the off button, my eyes catch sight of the sun, peeking through the Bangkok skyline. Tired but curious, I open the door and listen to the sparrows sing. Soft pink clouds float in a sea of pale blue.

The sun has risen every morning outside my window, but today I actually see it. God never ceases to speak to me, but today I understand Him.

If I get dressed fast enough, I can finally make it in time to see the monks on their morning feeding rounds. But I stay and watch the sunrise. Because I can see the monks tomorrow. Or maybe the day after. I’ll have many days to choose. Because I’m staying. 

Karina Hildebrandt Gomez volunteered as an English as a second language and intensive English learning teacher at three Seventh-day Adventist language schools in Thailand. She is a senior business major at Walla Walla University in Washington, United States. 

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