Our pastor likes to give us an assignment at the end of his sermons; something to think about or put into practice. I always take notes, but appreciate this “oh, and one more thing” encouragement to give further thought and prayer to what I heard. Several Sundays ago, Pastor Jeremy suggested that we write our own psalm. A psalmist, I’m not, but here are the thoughts – a prayer, really – which came to my heart and mind as I sat down to write that very afternoon.
A long over-due continuation of the story of my life-changing teaching trip to India.
More than a year has passed since my life-changing teaching trip to India. I promised to write about it when I returned, but have struggled with finding words to express the impact this trip and the people I served have had upon my life.
Friends, you need to know, I didn’t just wake up one morning and decide I would accompany my husband on his next trip to India. The decision to accept the challenge of teaching conversational English as a member of the four person ministry team from our church was a process paved with many tears and much prayer. I do teach in our children’s ministries (AWANA and Sunday School) and an occasional women’s Bible study, but am not trained vocationally as an educator. This opportunity was way outside of my comfort zone. WAY outside. So far outside of my comfort zone that those who knew me best could see it. In fact, during one Sunday morning service, my pastor once asked the congregation to pray for me as I prepared to teach English in India, adding . . .
“You need only talk with Cindie for 5 minutes or less and you’ll see how much she is out of her comfort zone in preparing for her ministry in India.”Pastor Jeremy Scott, Memorial Baptist Church, Verona, Wisconsin
Hearing Pastor Jeremy say this made me cringe with a bit of embarrassment, but then smile and verbally acknowledge that I did indeed need the prayer support of my church family. The realization that I was giving off a vibe of anxiety and insecurity made me blush, but I knew he was right. While one part of me felt uncomfortable being in the prayer request spotlight, another part of me relished the thought of extra prayers going into my account.
I knew in my heart I needed Divine guidance in preparing for this mission. There was no formal training to take or standardized curriculum to use in this ministry. I traded texts and emails with Dawn, the dedicated woman who had begun this particular ESL program in India. One afternoon we spoke on the phone together and she gave me some good advice and a few tips, but no specifics as to what my focus should be on this trip. I was on my own to come up with a teaching plan and make it my own.
Actually, in my heart I knew I wasn’t really alone in preparing for this trip. God was answering prayer as opportunities for ESL preparation began falling into place.
- I reserved a few books from the library which had been suggested by Dawn. I read each book cover-to-cover in an effort to come up with a workable plan.
- Dawn suggested that I contact “Joey,” who would be taking a turn at teaching the class during the Spring session. Once Joey was home from his trip, he very willingly shared his insights with me, along with a PowerPoint of one of his lessons, which served to confirm that I was on the right track in preparations.
- I spent time on Pinterest in search of English as a Second Language (ESL) “pins” and “boards” and came up with hundreds of good ideas. I created my own ESL board where I could “pin” those ideas for reference.
- My Pinterest activity led me to a couple of ESL websites and introduced me to Jessica at Everyday ESL Language Resources. What a treasure trove of teaching resources – many of them free!
- God helped me find a specific book which would help me brush up on my own grammar skills and greatly helped me in creating my own lesson plans. I told the story of that find here.
- A lovely friend from church told me she had a little time to spare and offered to help me as I prepared. Wendy is one of those enviable people who exudes creativity in everything she sets her mind to, so I asked her to help me think of a fun “warm-up game” or “review game” I could play with the adults. She took that idea and ran with it. I will share more details about that in a future post.
- I thought it would be beneficial to observe an ESL class in action, but local classes were winding down for the summer months. I mentioned that fact to my workout instructor at the gym and she got me in touch with a good friend of hers who co-teaches a kindergarten class of English/Spanish immersion. I was warmly invited to observe their class in action. Teaching adults would be a different ballgame, but would utilize similar game plans in a class setting where two or more languages are in play.
As I write this from the comfort of my own home well on the other side of my trip to India, I can honestly say that the greatest preparation for this trip was found in prayer.
- Prayer for the lessons I was creating was often on my heart.
- Prayer as I brushed up on my own understanding of grammar and punctuation.
- Prayer as I created visuals and PowerPoint presentations (and back up plans for possible power failure).
- Prayers for my husband and Pastor Jeremy as they prepared lessons on the seminary level.
- Prayer for Don, another member of our team (also an India newbie) as he prepared daily devotionals.
- Prayers for the students who I was soon to meet and come to love as family
- Prayers for the ministry team scheduled to arrive just as we’re leaving to continue the teaching ministry.
- Prayers of praise and thanksgiving to God for this amazing opportunity to help them prepare for ministry opportunities in their corner of the world.
Ten days spent with these men and women of faith opened my eyes to the wisdom in strategic seminary level training of national believers – equipping them to teach, preach and share the Gospel in their own communities. This trip informed my prayers for this incredible group of men and women who sacrifice so very much in order to prepare for ministry opportunities in their corner of the world. God used this trip to open my eyes to a world that is bigger than I could possibly imagine – a world that needs Jesus.
I think most Christians have those times in their walk with Christ where they feel a bit distant in their hearts. I’ve been in that place for awhile – feeling a little sad and out of sorts – a bit discouraged. Things which once brought pleasure seem to have the joy sapped out of them.
In my ministry life, I’m feeling like my teaching ministry isn’t bearing fruit and sometimes question whether I’m making a difference at all. My devotional life and time in the Word has been slipping. I sense my heart is distant and I’m not growing. I’ve been a Christian for 50 years now, so it’s a hard thing for me to admit I’m struggling in these areas.
One thing I know for sure, while my heart feels distant, God is not. He’s as close to me in my struggle as He is when all seems well. He has not moved – his steadfast love has not changed.
Psalm 119 is very dear to my heart. I re-read it today and found comfort in knowing that the “man after God’s own heart” felt this way at times too. Here we find David often crying out before God in the midst of his struggles, acknowledging that his help would come from God’s Word. Even when he felt like a lost sheep, He knew the Shepherd was near and would deliver him, put the song back in his heart and words of praise on his tongue.
I find assurance knowing that when the heart of one of His servants strays and feels distant and cold, the Good Shepherd is there seeking, drawing her heart back through His Word.
This post is written for Five Minute Friday Link Up. The word for today is “Distant.”