India: Prayerful Preparation

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.

If you’d like to read the backstory about what led up to this decision to teach in India, please click the links for these posts: Willing and Enlarging My World.

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
My Pastor: seminary professor AND baby-whisperer

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.
Fall 2019

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.

Five Minute Friday: Willing

Hubby asked me earlier this year if I wanted to travel with him to India where he and two other men from our church will be serving in a teaching capacity (I wrote a little more about that in Enlarging My World). I don’t think I answered right away, as I had just placed my mother in assisted living memory care. But there was definitely a tug of willingness and a sincere longing in my heart to travel with him and see firsthand this ministry.

After prayer about the ‘what-if’s’ related to mom’s care while I’m away, I decided to go. God had put the willingness in my heart. Momma was, is, and will always be in God’s very capable hands. 

As soon as I said yes, I learned there was a job for me to do. I would be teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). I’ve been busy preparing for that ministry from the moment I learned what my responsibilities would be. There’s a passport to be obtained (check!), immunizations to be received (done!), shopping for appropriate clothing (dragging my feet on that one), and reading nearly every library book I can get my hands on related to ESL. Most days you’ll find me listening to experienced ESL teachers share their teaching tips on YouTube.

Even with this preparation, I have felt for a few weeks now like I’m spinning my wheels. My foot is on the gas, but I’m getting nowhere, and digging myself into a rut of negative thinking. When I find a great idea and try to incorporate it into a lesson plan, ten reasons why it won’t work pop up in my mind.

I have five lessons to teach while I’m there. Five hours to give the students a better grasp of conversational English. Five lessons and five hours — that’s all. I want to make them count.

I’m finding myself melting into a puddle of anxiousness as I wrestle with what to say, what to teach, and how to do this thing I’ve never done before. This wrestling match has driven me to spend more time praying about this ministry opportunity. I know that all of my willingness and preparation in the world won’t matter one iota if the plans that I’m making are my plans alone. I have been reminded once again that my heart must be willing to seek and rely upon the Lord’s wisdom and guidance. 

Here I am, Lord. Please take my willingness to serve You and guide my steps of preparation in the way I should go. Direct my paths to the resources that will be helpful. Shield my heart and mind from that which discourages. Keep my mind focused on what you want me to teach. Your will, not mine.

Interesting how, once I released my tight grip on what and how to teach this class, the Lord directed my steps by allowing me to find the teacher’s edition of the English Grammar and Composition book I had loved using when I home-schooled my daughter eons ago. I thought the book was long since given away, but the Lord knew it was going to be helpful in the future.

Although I’m a little late to the link up, this post is inspired by the writing community at Five Minute Friday. Each participant writes for just 5 minutes on a one-word prompt – last week’s prompt being “willing.”

Five Minute Friday: Enlarging my World

My world has been relatively small the past few years, staying pretty close to home. Life has revolved very much around taking care of my mother as she battles Alzheimer’s. Over the years, I found myself growing weary and having to stop doing several things I love in order to be able to focus on her ever-increasing needs.

In late March, my sweet momma took up residence in a beautiful assisted living facility devoted to those with memory care needs. I still spend a few hours each day with her, but I can sleep throughout the WHOLE night in my own bed and am no longer fully responsible for her daily care. I’m beginning to feel more rested and able to resume some (but not all) of my former activities and ministries. I can take a little road-trip with my hubby, play in the dirt in my garden, or prepare a Sunday School lesson for the kids at church without interruption. It’s truly a blessing from God’s gracious hand.

With this new freedom, my world will enlarge even more in September when I accompany three of the men from our church (including my hubby) on a teaching trip to India. My responsibility during this trip will be to teach English as a Second Language (ESL) to the students who will be gathering for the purpose of enjoying some seminary-level training. I have never taught ESL, so this will be a huge stretch for me – something which will also enlarge my world as I help this group of adults whose first language is Hindi in their continued quest to become more fluent in their conversational English.

This is my hubby Wayne’s second trip to India (he’s the handsome, white-bearded guy on the lower left of the group photo above), as he traveled with our pastor and another friend on a teaching trip last year. This fall’s trip is a giant leap for me, as I’ve never been out of the country. [Well, unless you count the time when my hubby and I were honeymooning 43 years ago in a rented recreational vehicle and we drove over the Canadian border in the days before a passport was required.] This trip to India will be my first trip overseas, passport, visa, shots, long international flight, and all the cultural adventure that will surely come with that experience.

In the meanwhile, I will need much prayer support as I prepare for my role as a teacher on the other side of the world.

This post is written for the Five Minute Friday Writing Community. Please come join us!

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