There were many special experiences while I was there. Although the kids challenged me, and sometimes stretched me (It's been awhile since I've taught in a regular classroom), being back made me realize that TEACHING and working with kids is still one of my first loves.
Each child was special in their own unique way, but one girl in particular became very near and dear to my heart. Her name was Anna.
From day one, she seemed to be set in her own ways. She was a second year student, and so had already been through the program. So she often seemed disinterested or wanted to do her own thing. When she would come late to meetings, or not participate in an activity, she always had some good excuse. I grew weary with her, and strengthened my resolve to "make her" obey. But often I felt my efforts were fruitless and I was just spinning my wheels.
Somewhere in the first few days, she skipped out on a evening worship session. (Or maybe she slipped out when I wasn't looking!) Someone found her back in the dorm. When I questioned her, she only had excuses. She was always falling asleep at meetings and ignoring what was being said. I decided more than likely, she just did not want to hear the messages. I didn't know what to do, so I kept being firm with her. But things didn't get better. Halfway through, I had to take her to our director for a second time...for more behavior issues. He told me, "If she has a third offense, we are just going to send her home! She signed the agreement for summer camp that she was going to cooperate, but she's obviously not doing that." I felt horrible as a teacher. What was I doing wrong with her?!
At some point in time during our first week together, during evening family time, I'd asked my kids about their religious backgrounds. Only three of them even attended church, and the others said they came from homes where no religion was practiced. As I shared the "Creation Story" and the basics of the "Plan of Salvation" I could tell that this was all new to most. And so I prayed...
As things intensified with Anna, I began to realize that this wasn't just happen-stance behavior, but that we were in a spiritual battle for her soul. And the devil did not want to allow a single foot-hold of faith for her to hang on to. So I began to pray more earnestly. "God, please help me to reach her heart! You brought her here for a reason. You brought her to my class for a reason. I don't want to have to send her home. Please help me reach her."
Our team even gathered in prayer, to pray for each other and for our kids. And amazingly, it was then that things began to turn around.
God impressed upon my heart to be firm, but to add more love, to be strict but add more good-natured care, and I sought to reach out to her more. With time her attitude softened, and she began to relax. She began to actually stay-awake in meetings and pay more attention. She began to try to help out more in the classroom. Finally one day, as we got in our circle for evening prayer before I sent the kids off to their dorms, she piped up, "Teacher, can I pray tonight?" I was shocked!! "Of course Anna, I'd love that!"
And she prayed,
"Dear God, thank you for today. God, I love you! Goodnight God...Amen!"
That was all, just simple and sweet, but how that prayer must have touched the heart of God. The prayer of a little child, spoken with all sincerity and trust, and child-like love.
As to be expected, there were no more issues with Anna, and when my director made the call for those to come forward that wanted to accept the "Creator God," she was one of those that responded.
At the end of the camp, after the talent and award ceremony had finished, she came up to me to give me one last hug and she slipped a card into my hands. In beautiful English she had written,
"I am so glad you were my teacher. You are a good teacher and a good nurse. And I will never forget you. Please, let's keep in touch. Don't forget me. I love you and I will miss you so much."
Of course, it melted my sentimental little heart. And I thank the Lord for answered prayer!!
Like I shared before, it's been over 16 years since my very first over-seas mission trip...the one that I incidentally took to Korea. Many more mission trips have followed, and I am sure many will continue to follow.
I don't know what the future holds, or what exactly God has in store for the next 16 years of my life. But one thing I do know, and that is, I am thankful for each new day and each new opportunity to serve Him! I'm thankful for the kids I got to teach and the memories we made. I'm thankful for the teammates and friends that He gave me on this trip, that have forever etched their ways into my heart, and most of all, I'm thankful for another opportunity to grow my faith and trust in Him.
And hopefully, it is NOT 16 years before I visit Korea again! ;-)