I have been serving as a student missionary in Pohnpei, Micronesia, for the past seven months as a high school English and history teacher, and the overall wonderful experience has undoubtedly taught me many things thus far. I’ve encountered people from all walks of life and seen the love of God displayed throughout this beautiful island. To name just a few: I’ve learned about the importance of being present, the importance of gratitude, increased cultural appreciation and awareness, how to show love and grace even when it’s difficult to do so, and the importance of surrendering to God.
The importance of surrendering all to God has been one of the hardest lessons I have had to learn, and I’m continuing to practice it every day. As someone who is often crippled by perfectionism and anxiety, I crave control, as do a lot of us. I want things to be done a certain way, and when things go awry, it is hard for me to let it go and let God, so to speak.
This year has tested my fixed mindset and my fear of not having control. In the mission field and as a teacher, so many things happen that are out of our control. For example, there have been several instances where I was working on something important, like grading or lesson planning, and suddenly, the power went out. It is common for the power on the entire island to go out. I remember specifically one time when the power went out while I was working late in my classroom. I was a little agitated at first, but I decided to go outside. Without the lights and power, the stars were bright in the night sky. It was a beautiful sight with the palm trees. It reminded me that I was stressing out way too much over things that were out of my control and that I needed to focus on God and appreciate his beautiful creation as well as be present in the moment.
Spiritual surrender is also required in the classroom as a teacher. Here’s a tough lesson I’ve learned this year: you cannot control people. It is painfully obvious, and yet, it’s a tough pill to swallow. While teachers can try to manage behaviors, we cannot control how a student will act. We also cannot control a student’s attitude or their personal and home life. We can’t even control how well a lesson goes, no matter how much we plan.
Something that I’m trying to be more intentional about is letting God lead in my classroom and through my lessons. Student missionaries with little to no training in the field of education are called to do an almost impossible job—that is, without the help of God. Doing this job is tough—your inevitable flaws and shortcomings become more evident than ever before. You realize you aren’t equipped to do the job—only God is. This realization, however, creates a beautiful opportunity to lean on God. You absolutely have to rely on God to get through each day, and the discomfort you face on a daily basis leads you closer to God than ever before.
You cannot control what will happen to you or what situations will arise; you can only control how you equip yourself to face those situations and challenges. It has become more and more evident to me that preparing for this means putting on the armor of God, which means spending time in scripture and prayer each day. I have come to the conclusion that the more we know God, the more we can trust Him and, in turn, surrender to Him. Serving in any capacity is a beautiful opportunity to lean on God.
I have personally seen God work through the staff at Pohnpei SDA School and in the lives and hearts of my students. In fact, a few of my students were baptized this month after attending an evangelical series and Week of Prayer meetings. To see how God can work in a mighty way only leads me to surrender and trust Him more.
As I complete my year here on Pohnpei, I’ll continue singing this worship song lyric over and over:
There is joy in surrendering
Peace in letting go
Just knowing You’re in control