My whole heart feels warm. Like the sun is shining directly on it while I’m lying on the beach. It feels so happy, it could burst like a balloon with too much air in it, except instead of air, it’s full of love.” These childlike words are all I have to explain what I feel when memories of moments with my students wash over me like soft waves.

Moments like these:

I’m returning to the school after being away for two weeks. As I ride in the taxi, the motion from navigating the curvy roads combined with the strong smell of betel nut the men on either side of me are chewing is enough to make me feel sick. I look desperately for the village sign that is my cue to get out of the vehicle. From there, I’ll catch a ride to the mission school, which is even deeper in the jungle. I wonder who will pick me up, secretly hoping it will be one of “my boys.”

Finally, the taxi driver unties my bags from his roof, tosses them into my outstretched arms, and disappears in a cloud of exhaust. It’s then that I spot the campus vehicle that’s been waiting for me. One of my boys, Suban, is driving. But he’s not the only person in the car. Five other boys are smiling, waving, and clamoring out. Within moments, a small gang surrounds me. Muthu is pulling off my backpack. Songayai is grabbing the bags from my hands. And Naoton is asking, “What did you bring me, Miss?”

When we pile into the car, the boys’ voices climb above each other while each tries to update me on his life. Eventually, we decide to play Suban’s favorite song, “My Heart Will Go On.” I watch the boys’ goofy antics as they sing along, and I think I must be the most blessed girl in the world.

This fact is confirmed when, upon arrival, I discover the boys have cleaned my home. Word spreads quickly that I’m back, and more boys rush into my dining room. We spend the next hour laughing and catching up.

They tell me about a recent soccer match in the city, and I pretend to be fascinated. I tell them about my shopping experiences, and they comment, “Girls are like this only, going out and putting style.” The banter lasts until the girls shout my name from the adjacent hill, and I head over to greet them. On the walk, my heart feels full, and the stars glow brighter than usual in the night sky.

I’m sitting with Bimola while we grade papers. Suddenly she looks up at me and says, “Miss, I aim to do your job someday. Helping the students reach their goals and loving them lots. If I could be like you, I’d thank God so much.” I feel so humbled, and my whole heart hurts with warmth.

Little Andi is running across the yard with his ever-toothless grin, holding up his latest catch—a beetle. He’s shouting, “Miss, green color. Green color for you!” My heart is bursting at the seams.

The girls are piled all around me on the surrounding bunks. Eunice turns on her flashlight, shining it directly in my face. “Eunice, I’m blind.”

“Miss, sorry. I want to see your face when you tell the story. I feel so interesting in your face.”

I share the story of Tamar in Genesis, speaking of her pain and how her father-in-law was so unfair to her. It sparks a lively discussion about how being a strong woman for God is one of the best things we can be. The beauty, strength, and kindness of these girls are so palpable, I can feel it in my heart.

As I finish this article, Muthu sits next to me. He’s been reading over my shoulder. He says, “Miss, when writing, don’t add too much masala.” Masala, the local seasoning, adds taste to curry dishes. To my Muthu, who always comes up with creative ways to say everything, my recounting of these memories might sound like I’m overexpressing the way I feel. But I’m not adding too much. This fullness, this glowing, is the kind of love Jesus gave me. And when the kids are around me, the warmth is greater than anything I’ve felt on earth. Why did He choose to bless me with them? Who else will God give me to love? How much more glow can I feel?

Andi taking a mud bath during monsoon season.
Bimola, who started as my student grader and became family.
Suban taking a much-needed break on a hike.
Andi playing on my kitchen floor while I cooked, always doing something to make me laugh.

avs.png (20 KB)Would you like to help make a positive impact in the lives of others? If so, please consider being a volunteer missionary through Adventist Volunteer Service which facilitates church members’ volunteer missionary service around the world. Volunteers ages 18 to 80 may serve as pastors, teachers, medical professionals, computer technicians, orphanage workers, farmers, and more. To learn more, visit AdventistVolunteers.org.

Editor’s note: This author served as a volunteer at a mission school in the 10/40 Window. She was initially an elementary teacher and dormitory dean for boys ages 7 to 11. Many of them were orphans whom she affectionately refers to as “her boys.” Later, after earning a teaching degree from Southern Adventist University, she taught high school classes to many of the same students. For the security of the project, all names have been changed.