I felt the hot air slap my face as I stepped off of the plane and gazed at my new home. Part of Micronesia, the island of Chuuk was lush and green and cradled by a blue sea. I felt sick. I’d just been evacuated from my mission work in Chad, Africa, due to potential political unrest, and I didn’t want to be here.
As I waited for my luggage, I thought about my experience in Chad and why I’d volunteered to go.
I’d felt that God was no longer present for me in the routine I’d created for myself in America: sitting in class, studying, eating, and sleeping and then getting up and doing the same thing the next day and the next. I wanted to find purpose for my life—God’s purpose.
When I signed up to spend 10 months in Chad, I knew nothing about the country’s people or culture. Pushing myself to dive into the unfamiliar was both frightening and thrilling!
Once there, I learned bits and pieces of French, gave Bible studies to children and adults, and participated in food distribution and women’s ministries. Every single day, I saw the power of God working in people’s lives no matter their circumstances. He let me be part of that! I finally began to feel the sense of purpose that I’d longed for. But after only six weeks, it was yanked away from me.
I was greeted at the airport by a friendly Chuukese Seventh-day Adventist pastor, and we hurried to his car in a downpour. As we traveled to the school where I would teach, he talked glowingly about his island home, but I was too tired to listen and couldn’t stop thinking about Chad. Why did God bring me here? Why did he take me away from Africa? Why am I even doing this?
When I stepped out of the car at the school, the children ran out of their classrooms and surrounded me.
I felt a tug on my arm. “Hi! I’m Scarlette! I’m in sixth grade. Are you going to be my teacher? Please tell me you’re going to be my teacher!” The children led me to the seventh-grade classroom where they had prepared a show for me.
They performed a cultural dance and sang with voices that sounded like angels. They placed flower crowns on my head and flashed their bright smiles.
Their welcome was very sweet, but I couldn’t share their enthusiasm.
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That night, the heat kept me awake, and I tossed and turned in bed, frustrated, sweating, and determined to go home. Tears streamed down my face, and I cried out to God.
“God, help me,” I prayed. “Show me my purpose here. Teach me what to do. Give me a reason to stay here and fulfill your plan.”
This was my prayer every night for at least two months. I taught multiple grades and subjects every day, and I felt exhausted and discouraged. I didn’t think I was making any difference in the lives of my students until one day an eighth grader named Susiann approached me after our English class.
“Miss,” she started, “I need your help.” The concerned look on her face worried me. Despite my opposition to living in Chuuk, I loved my students, and I wanted to help her.
“Sure, Susiann. How can I help you?” I asked.
“Miss,” she whispered, “I want to learn how to write better.”
Her innocence and gentle spirit warmed my heart, and I couldn’t understand why I’d been so selfish for the past several months. I felt guilty because I was teaching without passion, not really investing my time and effort into the students whom I’d come to serve.
I took Susiann’s hand and told her, “Of course I’ll help you! Meet me at the lunch tables after school.”
Susiann and I worked on grammar and writing essays every day after school. Her willingness to learn and her trust in me to teach her gave me much-needed inspiration.
“I’m finished teacher,” she said excitedly one afternoon, handing me her paper and grabbing her books. “Now I can go play!”
I watched Susiann run through the coconut trees, her long hair whipping behind her in the island breeze. There goes my answer to prayer, I thought, my purpose for being here. “Thank you, Father,” I prayed, “for bringing me to Susiann.”