12/31/2016: Strength For A School Teacher

Strength For A School Teacher

Thailand

 

Excitement and anxiety swirled inside me as I looked ahead to the new school year at the mission school where my family and I volunteer. Although I had been preparing my English lesson plans for weeks, I didn’t feel ready to start teaching again.

Sharon Streck.
Sharon Streck.

I loved teaching. More than teaching, I loved my students and could hardly wait to be with them again. But the stress of putting together class materials loomed like a mountain before me. We badly needed better English books—but since we couldn’t procure them, I had set about to reinvent my curriculum for grades 7 and 8. Now, with classes about to begin, I felt incapable of accomplishing the work in time. Little did I know that this school year would become my most challenging, faith-building year yet!

School began the first week of June—the rainy season in northwest Thailand. Last year’s students returned to Sunshine Orchard Learning Center full of smiles, and new additions also joined the big family. I prayed continually as I pored over my lesson plans and taught my classes. As I laid my challenges before the Lord, He proved unceasingly that He has a solution for every difficulty. No work is too hard for my Commissioner! “Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:24.

Grade Five.
Grade Five.

In addition to teaching English to grades 5, 7 and 8, I also headed up an afternoon work group. I loved working with the students—especially when we got wet and muddy together. Unfortunately, about three weeks into the school year I suddenly became sick. Through two weeks of illness, I managed to drag myself through my morning classes and afternoon work; but as the days went by, I slowly got weaker. I went to the hospital, but the doctor couldn’t diagnose my illness, and the medicine didn’t help. Before long, I couldn’t work in the afternoons. While

Grade Seven.
Grade Seven.

another teacher took charge of my group, I spent hours lying on my mat, propping myself up when I could to plan my lessons or do something else useful. Finally, I had to drop my classes, too.

Satan tried day in and day out to discourage me, but God was constantly there to help me. The teachers and staff proved a wonderful support. Also, at times some of my dear students would stop in to visit or at least chat a little as they passed by my house. Like vibrant rainbows, those moments brought joy to dreary days.

Grade Eight.
Grade Eight.

Two books helped me walk through the fire: The Great Controversy and Living the Life of Enoch. Communing with God through quiet hours gave me something to do besides stare out my window, listening to the ceaseless rain; and God’s presence made the solitude less lonely and discouraging. I knew that my faith would either flounder or grow stronger through the trial. So, although I could not see the path ahead, I chose to place my trembling hand in the hand of my Master. Trusting was often difficult. Every day brought a new test, but when my faith wavered, my Father’s faithful, loving hand would not let me go!

While my spirit took courage, my body continued to weaken until I could hardly move myself around on my mat. For a few days, my family had to feed me and walk me to the toilet. Those days of weakness dragged on extra long. Then, at the end of my third week of illness, strength began to return.

Songs of joy and gratitude filled my heart when at last I had just enough strength to return to school. Although symptoms of my illness lingered on—I ran a fever for most of the rest of the school year—I only missed a few days of classes after that. The Lord gave me just the strength needed to get through each day. Instead of returning to my outdoor work group, I was assigned to lighter afternoon duty: teaching one of the vocational computer classes.

That year of weakness brought me challenges with teaching that I hadn’t encountered before. Yet, countless blessings also came my way. Although fevers became an everyday reality, my Father’s strength was just as real. As I went on teaching anyway, I found that His strength has no limit. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Philippians 4:13.

Working in the garden.
Working in the garden.

My illness slowed down my ability to write lesson plans and create a new program for my two upper classes— and that presented another challenge. Too often, I had to teach my classes with unfinished lesson plans! At first, it stressed me out to enter the classroom unprepared for the day’s lesson. I felt like my teaching was falling apart. Yet in such times, God would speak to my heart and remind me that He is completely capable of helping me.
When I had to start class little knowing what I would be teaching, I would ask God for help
and claim His promises. Once I had the chalk in hand, ready to write, God would clearly flash into my mind what to do. I realized that as long as I do my best, God can do the rest.
He’s got lesson plans already made up. I just need to ask for help and trust Him to communicate through me to my class!

I am very thankful for the lessons God taught me and for the opportunities He gave me to grow—even when those opportunities felt like sand paper scraping on the rough spots in
my character. Through all the trials of missionary life, I’m learning to live a life of constant gratitude and praise to my Commissioner who has sent me. As I give thanks in every situation, He fills me with peace that upholds me through all the challenges of life in this foreign mission field.

By Sharon Steck of Sunshine Orchard Learning Center in Mae Song, Thailand.
See www.missions.thesteckfamily.com. For more information on Sunshine Orchard, see www.sunshineorchard.org. To donate to the Steck family’s ministry, make your check payable to Northport SDA Church, PO Box 560, Northport, WA 99157, with “Sunshine Orchard Mission Project” as the memo.

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