I’ve spent the last month teaching English to students from Mexico. Teaching adults is one of my great passions. And I guess I should say that English is another passion of mine. I love how a firm grasp of grammar and vocabulary can enable people to express thoughts so creatively! Thinking about how a properly structured essay makes your reader more willing to forgive its flaws makes me excited in ways few could understand. I get to use Batman memes in clever power points to illustrate essay structure. So this job is a perfect outlet for me. What is even more valuable to me than the subject matter are the students who entrust a month of their education and lives into my hands.
This experience is totally intense for the students. For 4 weeks they take classes in another language for 9 hours a day. Then they live in community in the university’s dorms. As few of them have encountered life outside of a home, they have to negotiate a balance of work, fun, and community. They eat cafeteria food that was made with American students in mind. Many of them get homesick or just plain sick from the stress of this as well as work for their schools in Mexico. PLUS they are in a culture and language not their own! They are so exhausted that I have to pull out my teaching skills (and sometimes their chairs) to keep them from falling asleep. Such stressful situations create strong bonds between the students. It reminds me of mission trip or church camp bonds because they have these vivid memories and stories to share.
I love getting to be a part of this! I get to be their cheerleader. I recognize that what they are going through is intense, so I help them focus on what they are doing well. I can see their strengths even when they can only keep their eyes on the trial. My compassion for their experience doesn’t mean that I make it easy on them. They’ve got a lot of English to learn in a short time! We cram a whole semester of work into 45 class hours over the 4 weeks. At the end, they are proud of their improvement.
These students are so valuable to me. They trust me with a glimpse into their souls through their writing. My life is more rich as I discuss topics with people who see life from a different lens than I. As I share my culture with them, my ideas of “normal” are challenged. Through our interactions, my capacity to love increases to hold more people. In turn, I feel their love. In his final project, one student shared this quote for me:
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”-
This is my calling in life: to love internationals while I share with them my passion for English. I’ve felt this calling since I was in college a bazillion years ago. From my first English Camp in Hungary, I have felt this missionary call. How confusing when God closed the doors that seemed more obvious for international work. We’ve been continually led to places and situations that are less than conducive to attracting international interactions. I’ve often wondered what to do with my desires to teach (and frankly, my Master’s Degree in Linguistics/TESL). The trajectory of my ministry was not what I had anticipated when I felt His promise. So to see Him open these doors to me has been phenomenal.
What a demonstration of God’s faithfulness! Hebrews 11:8-10 talks about Abraham obeying while trusting in God’s promise:
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
Abraham didn’t see how living in a foreign country could be on the path towards God’s fulfillment of the promise. How I would anticipate the process is as follows:
- God promises the land for descendants
- God gives descendants and land
- Everybody dances happily
So when years and years (much longer than my 8 years without teaching internationals) go by without the fulfillment (or much progress), obedient faith would get hard! Yet God demonstrated His faithfulness to Abraham when He gave not only Isaac as a son, but Jesus as a descendant, and not only Israel as a nation but the Eternal Kingdom as an inheritance. The years passing in between the promise and the fulfillment did not negate God’s faithfulness, but instead demonstrated His perfect timing.
I am so thankful for God’s fulfilling His promises! I am so happy He’s proved faithful in providing me a chance to impact international students, but more than that I’m rejoicing in the demonstration of His nature. As He has fulfilled my passion for teaching, He will be similarly trustworthy in my future. I am so glad that He will prove Himself faithful in my children, in Titus’s surgeries, and in His promised return. His confirmed faithfulness in the past reminds me that He keeps His promises