Womanhood. It is hard to imagine that at age 25 I’m there, but sometime during this last decade many of us have crossed the threshold—leaving girlhood and its fancies behind and entering upon the seriousness of life. For those of us who haven’t married, adulthood has opened up new freedoms and opportunities. Have we been using them wisely? In sharing my testimony I was reminded of the scripture which says, “let the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.” (1 Timothy 5:14) How important to commit these single years learning how we may please our Heavenly Bridegroom and to pray earnestly that our lives be not a reproach!
My story of the last few years has been one in the school of God’s faithfulness. After helping teach siblings and cousins in our home for several years, my friend asked whether I would consider working in partnership with her to offer private schooling for some of the children in our community. The Lord had given me a burden for the “lost causes,” so when a young girl from our weekly “children’s hour” was caught stealing, I believed my call had come. I agreed to join the teaching effort with a burden to reach Rosalinda—I would take responsibility for the three 3rd-graders, I told my friend.
Looking back at that summer of 2002, I cringe inside to think of how naive we were. Previous tutoring and teaching experiences had been in our own homes, so our first thoughts were to find a building to work out of. I remember looking at several “possibilities,” before we scraped together some money for a down payment on a little 2-bedroom house across the street from the local elementary school. We had no idea of expenses and operation costs, but took a parent’s advice to charge a minimum fee for our teaching services.
One weekend in August we were moving in—setting up the kitchen, living room, and back room for the learning experiences we were eager to create. Fourteen children awaited us, each a “diamond in the rough” for us to cut and shape. Our hearts were ready to give and nothing seemed impossible. We called it “Morning Glory School.”
What can I say of the three years that followed? It was all the “adventure in faith” I had predicted it to be, but could never had foreseen. That first month was an eye-opener to how deep the problems in our students could lie. When Rosalinda proved to be a griping rebel, we had to face the fact that we didn’t have her mother’s support and backing, and ended up having her and her siblings pulled out. When our blood-pressure went down and we could see straight again, we realized we had bitten off more than we could chew. How many times it has been the Lord’s mercy that saved us when we didn’t know what we were doing!
There was much we learned by our experiences, successes and failures alike. There were many confrontations and conferences, juggling of schedules and expenses, as we learned to labor as a team. I remember sitting in “staff meetings” on winter evenings, the three or four of us young teachers (our sisters helped the first couple years), gathering our forces and renewing our vision. It wasn’t to change the world, after all, but to sow some seeds for the Master. And when the prospects looked especially good, we couldn’t help dreaming about expansion. What about the house next door? Surely the Lord could provide the funds. But when more opposition came, we ended up praying for the strength and help just to go on.
And should we go on? Each year it was a personal question. We weren’t earning anything—monetary, that is. The tuition charge hardly paid for keeping things running. Our teaching effort was gaining us something far more valuable, though—a spiritual degree in the school of faith and love, with a Teacher who was always an example of patience and wisdom. When I had signed on to work with Rosalinda, I didn’t consider where it might take me. Lord, am I supposed to commit to another year? Each time the answer was, “Yes.” I smile now to think of how I was eased from teaching three (a little genius, an untamed pony, and an emotionally upset “cry baby”) to 12, and finally, 14 students. And each time I felt I couldn’t do it, He was right there with His promise to guide and help me.
One year, the second one I guess it was, we were ambitious. I was teaching science and history to all the older class (3rd - 6th grade) and we were at our peak in attendance. After a few mid-year drop outs we had gained three 11-year-old boys. Our spring program was based on the Exodus—from the Egyptians’ point of view—and our Pharaoh had deserted us two weeks before the performance was scheduled. In comes Jonny, and he’s willing to be the character. It isn’t until after the program is over that we discover that he was just being himself—The Character—when we endeavored to have a hands-on Egyptian Day, complete with a sleepover on the porch roof. If it wasn’t for the grace of God and all the support I had from my family, it would have been a disaster.
Most of all, the years in Morning Glory School have taught me what it means to walk with the Master. Without Him I would’ve given up long ago. I had to trust Him for strength when I didn’t feel capable. And to gain His vision when my efforts all seemed to be in vain. As I wrote to a friend in 2004:
I wouldn’t be able to go on without the confidence that God is in control and able to make a difference when the outlook is dark. It is not that teaching is such a dismal job, but there is so much at stake. When you put forth your best to instruct and coach and guide these young lives, when you spend day after day with them in the classroom, altering your focus to meet their needs, endeavoring to lift up the weak hands and strengthen the feeble knees, you find yourself really caring what happens to them. By the love of God, I want to give of the abundance that He has given me.
Over the years of dealing with the real-life needs and problems the Lord has taken my youthful zeal to make a difference, and taught me the lessons of walking humbly with my God. Many of my fantasy ideas have crumbled like sandcastles in the tides of sin, deception, and hardness to truth. One can’t just rescue children out of the wreckage and provide a place that will cure all ills. It is a lesson learned through tears and heartaches, because of many dashed hopes. But out of it all I’ve found a Rock to build on that is sure through every storm, and in dying to my dreams I have found that His purposes lead on to light and life eternal. Praise Him!
You might laugh when I say that my instructors in this school of faith were complainers and clowns, touchy fuses and stubborn block-heads. But they were. Out of my twenty-some students, why were the troublemakers those that I remember best? Because I invested in them. Because I cried and prayed for them. Because their problems and troubles became my own and I sought to make a difference for good in their lives. And in doing so, I learned what it means to love them as Jesus loves them. Not when it is fun and they treat you well, but when they don’t. Sometimes, after days of trying to get a stubborn student to submit and buckle down to work, a ray of hope might shine in. I quote from a school log I kept for one of “my” boys in 2005 (I still teach him today):
3/30—this week has been quite rotten, not in big things, but in the underlying attitude. Today he said he wanted to quit school after I cut talking privileges…. He ended up missing his lunch hour, but he really didn’t try to do much on the field trip afterwards and was set to have his own way at the end of school. I really felt a bit at my wit’s end with him. With so many strikes against him, the influence is becoming dangerous to keep around. Are we really going to be able to help him at all? I commit the case to the Lord.
3/31—much better attitude in class—a direct answer to prayer. I am burdened for him. “Idolatry” came up in literature class, and I said it was really anything that you spent all your money and time on, anything you valued more than God. He popped the question, “Are my video games my idols?” And I asked, “Would you stop them if you knew God would want you to?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “If God’s Word says not to see any evil, would you stop?” He became more “iffy” on that, but pronounced that he could quit. Evidence: on the topic “a day in my life” he wrote one sentence about spending the whole day playing video games with his cousin. It is really sickening.
6/8—resisting authority again and tried to get away with his own way, but the Lord helped me redirect him to do some cleaning first and then sit down and have him work on the writing. He ended up completing it with a good attitude and then stopped by the library later with his dad, just because he knew I was there and wanted to say “hi.” That was a victory I was thankful for.
And so I continued investing. Then, a year ago, after much consideration and prayer, we decided it was time to close the school. For the last couple years my friend’s father had joined us to teach the core subjects to the upper grades, and there was still much demand for what we could offer. But our burden to reach the individual was just not being met while trying to increase attendance so we could make the payments, and the Lord was leading us on. While my friend planned to go into foster-care work, her father and I prayed about working jointly to tutor a half dozen children out of his home.
People ask me if I’m still teaching these days. The answer is, “Yes—I’m helping tutor a small group of children four days a week.” It seems like a little thing that is not counting for much. But it is my answer to the little motto I once read on someone’s fridge: “What on earth are you doing for heaven’s sake?” It is my heart’s desire that these precious souls might be saved. So I labor on in faith. Each day brings something new—a challenge to surmount, a little gain to rejoice in, fresh ground on which to scatter more seeds. Whatever place in the vineyard Jesus has planned for me next, I am ready and willing to labor for Him, for I know that He will be there each step of the way.