A Smile is a Living Testimony

How can we still smile in the face of mission challenges

“You don’t know how to teach! I don’t understand why the school allows younger people like you without master’s degrees to teach the kids! You are not a teacher!” The parent’s angry voice filled my classroom. “Ma’am,” I replied, “I’m sorry about that, but in our classroom, the students know their rules and consequences.” The mother went on to blame the school for the child’s bad behavior and criticizing my ability to teach. After threatening to remove her son from our school, she walked out.

Those hurtful words weighed on me for the next week. I felt like I had disappointed God, like I wasn’t good enough, and what I’d been doing on Chuuk was just a waste. I had come from the Philippines to share God’s love and to be His living testimony. Christian educators do not just teach students the academics, but we also mold the students’ characters to be pleasing in God’s sight. I started doubting myself. I questioned whether God was still pleased with me.

But God showed me His answer in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 when I read, “We are troubled on every side but not distressed, we are perplexed but not in despair. Persecuted but not forsaken, cast down but not destroyed.” I was reminded that God sees what is in my heart and that I am here because of how much I loved the kids. God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called. I knew He was working in both my students’ lives and mine. In the end, the mother did not pull her child from our school. But for missionaries, challenging encounters like these might make us want to quit.

The 2020-2021 school year has been an even tougher one for me and for most of us at Chuuk Seventh-day School. The pandemic closed the borders, leaving only five missionaries to the run the school. A month or two into the year, God sent the pastor’s wife to be the principal, as well as two other local volunteers to help. It was hard in the beginning to think about operating the school with just two administrators and six teachers for almost 200 students.

Fhine with her 2nd grade class

Every day was a battle between our body and mind. We could not afford to get sick since we did not want to bother other teachers with substituting our classes. They too had their classes to teach. But God was just so amazing! We finished the school year with many fun memories and activities. I realized it is not us who runs the school, but it is God who is working in us. Miracles happened every day. We completed the year without any of us getting sick during the school week. When our bodies began to get weak, our prayers for strength were answered right away.

The year was not only draining physically but emotionally. Not long before 2020 ended, our staff meeting was interrupted by a call that my sister passed away. I didn’t know how to react to the news. It took a couple of hours before it sank in and I could finally cry. My co-missionaries were a great comfort to me. God gave me strength to face hardship through them and through my students.

I thought that that would be my greatest challenge of the school year. But soon after, my dad had a stroke that left half his body paralyzed. After hearing this, I burst into tears. I thought the passing of my sister was hard enough. When this came up, it almost broke me. I wasn’t fully recovered yet.

A week after his stroke, my dad was beginning to speak again, but he had forgotten that I was working in a different country. He kept asking why I was not home. Where had I been? It pained me every time he asked me this. I wanted to be next to him, to help him because he needed me since my mom had not fully recovered from the passing of my sister. I was too far away from them.

My dad was sick, but he never forgot to include me every time he prayed. This gave me the courage to be strong for them and for my students while in Chuuk.

God was my witness for all the tears I shed. I asked Him, “Lord, help me get through this. My body is so tired, my mind is not in focus, and my heart is in pain. I don’t know what to do, Lord. Don’t turn Your face away from me, Lord. Help me. I cannot do this on my own. My children need me here at school. Help me bring them closer to You. Help me with all I am facing right now.” Those were my silent prayers every night.

The days until the end of the school year flew by with my heart lightened. God showed me ways to take it just one step at a time. During my most down moments, God even sent more students’ parents to me. This time as a source of comfort as they checked on me and invited me into their homes for gatherings.

Every day that we can smile and laugh through hard times is a miracle. It makes people wonder. But God works in ways we cannot imagine. This coming school year I am soliciting prayers for missionaries all over the world and for our schools in all the islands, especially Chuuk SDA School. They need our prayers, and they need teachers that are dedicated to share God’s love to the children as well as to the people on the islands. I am a living testimony of God’s gracious mercy and loving kindness, and I want everyone to experience it. May our walk with God continually grow deeper everyday.

Pathfinders on a hike in Chuuk
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