Initiate Year 3

About a month ago, a family member reminded me that it has been over a year since I last updated my blog. Well, apart from school, classes, and teaching, nothing has happened in my life (huzzah for purposeful redundancy). Last year was also a bit of a struggle. I had a couple difficult classes, and I feel I didn’t handle some of the problems correctly. But I learned from them, and that’s what counts, right?

There were some bright spots too, though. I got to go home for Christmas and participate in a dear friend’s wedding. Then I spent spring break in Israel, touring important biblical sights and eating some of the best food in the world. Maybe in some down time (ha!) I’ll be able to share more about that trip.

Well, those two trips took a toll on my travel budget, so I decided to stay in Guam over the summer. What a change of pace from the school year! Most people went back to the States, including my two roommates. I hadn’t realized how big and quiet my apartment is until I was alone at midnight. Fortunately, my friends at Bible study and church were more than willing to let me tag along on their adventures to the beach, aquarium, and dinner.

Welp, that’s last year. Year three began a week ago. I’ve got former students returning to my classroom. I’ve got wide-eyed freshmen starting high school. I’ve got 2nd-year college students working through English literature. Yeah, that’s right. I am teaching English at Harvest Baptist Bible College this year. I feel so under-equipped for this job. Every year, God has used something to stretch me, and it seems this college class will be His tool this year to draw me closer to Him.

I ask for your prayers as I begin my third year. Please pray that I would love my students as God loves them. Pray that I would give God the preeminence in my life. And pray for wisdom as I seek God’s will for the future. This is the last year of my contract, but some plans are in the works that will most likely mean I stay in Guam for several more years. I’m fine with this plan, of course, if it’s what God has for me. Whatever happens, may God be glorified.

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“So how’s Guam?”

You hug me, smile at me, and wait expectantly for the answer to your loaded question.

Um, last I checked it was still happy as an island in the Pacific Ocean. A little rattled from the storm at the end of May, but otherwise doing quite well. Thanks for asking.

Oh wait. That’s not what you were asking. So what do you really want to know?

See, I could tell you that I had an absolute blast in my first year of teaching. My students were great as we worked through things together. I learned how NOT to teach the research paper process, why having a plan B is always important in case technology dies or faculty concerts end early, and how to cram Cyrano de Bergerac into 2 weeks. My students learned to fear “the sticks,” my favorite line is “this is true,” I love poetry, and sometimes I can’t speak worth a lick.

I could also tell you about the Bible study I joined in January and the friends I made there. It was nice to be a part of something that wasn’t on Harvest campus or organized by Harvest people. There are other Christians on the island!

I could tell you about living on the island. Yes, the beach is 5 minutes from my house and I have no tan. That’s the life of a teacher. And there is more to “island life” than laying out on the sand all day. There’s groceries to buy, rooms to clean, clothes to wash, bills to pay, people to visit, hikes to survive, food to cook, and a host of other activities. Sounds a lot like “States life.”

There are a lot of things I could tell you. But I doubt you have hours on end to listen to me. And that’s ok. I mean, how would you cram a whole year’s worth of adventures into 2 minutes?

“It’s hot and sticky but good. I’m enjoying it.” I smile back, and you’re satisfied.

The Highlights of Semester 1

Christmas break is the perfect time to realize that I haven’t updated this blog for 3 months. I doubt anyone wants a day-by-day update on the past few months, but I’ll hit the highlights.

The major highlight is surviving my first semester of teaching. Every couple of weeks, I’d have a moment in one of my classes where it would hit me that this is my class. I’m not subbing or student teaching. I am the teacher, the one making the decisions about these students’ education, the one whose word is law in the classroom. And I’d have to step back, take a deep breath, say a quick prayer, and adjust the weight of responsibility on my shoulders so I could carry on. Fortunately, God has been gracious every time I’ve felt overwhelmed. He is my Strong Tower.

Speaking of surviving, my students and I have survived the research paper and The Scarlet Letter (yay!!). I remember how big these two units seemed when I was in high school; they were even more daunting as a teacher, especially at the same time. I smiled as my students would come in complaining about this or that I was making them do–they weren’t trying to make lesson plans, gather materials, read (skim) the assigned novel, create vocab quizzes and reading checks, and grade 64 research paper rough drafts. But please, tell me how hard it is to finish that book report that was assigned 2 months ago but you didn’t start until 2 weeks before it was due. We can cry together, though for very different reasons.

Another highlight is a field trip to Andersen Air Force Base. As luck would have it, one of the teachers assigned to chaperone got sick, so I got volunteered to replace her. It really was an amazing trip with the ninth graders. We toured the base then ate lunch and bowled. It was so nice to get to know my students outside the classroom. I was reminded that there is so much more to them than what I see in class. They have likes and dislikes, relationships, struggles, and needs. All of these, whether we want them to or not, affect their experience in the classroom. When I can take these things into account, my teaching fits so much better with their learning.

A third highlight really has nothing to do with school. I am creating a new family. When you are 8,000 miles away from everything and everyone familiar, you learn that “family” is all about a blood connection–Christ’s blood, that is. My church family is absolutely amazing. Not being home for Thanksgiving and Christmas was hard, but I’ve been so busy with dinners and fellowships that I haven’t had much time to miss my family and friends back in NC. I will expand on Christmas break in a later post hopefully.

Second semester is just around the corner. I now understand what my mother means when she talks about her whole body dreading the beginning of school. But with God at my side, I am excited to see what He has in store for this coming semester!

Riding a Carabao and Other Adventures from Today

Today, a bunch of us teachers went on a tour of the island today. We stopped at several historic sites along the way. I didn’t realize there was so much history on the island, especially from WWII. Our guide, Patty Clodfelter, is a teacher at HCA. She knows this island inside and out, and I’m so glad she was willing to take us around. I took a ton of pictures, so I’m going to share a few of them. I’ll try to explain as many as I can, but I can’t promise anything.

Latte Stones--The Chamorro used to build their houses on top of these.

Latte Stones–The Chamorro used to build their houses on top of these.

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WWII bunkers from the Japanese occupation. We saw many of these all around the island.

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The Chocolate House where apparently the Spanish would drink hot chocolate.

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The Azotea in the Plaza de Espana, the site of the Spanish governor’s palace.

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A cannon in the Plaza de Espana

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Inside the Azotea

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The monument marking where the Guam insular guardsmen led the only ground resistance against the Japanese invasion during WWII.

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This statue commemorates Pope John Paul II’s visit to the island.

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Dulce Nombre de Maria Cathedral-Basilica in Agana.

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A panorama of the view looking down toward Agana (if I remember correctly).

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One of the “Silent Guns” the Japanese had set up in the jungle for the American invasion. They were never fired, hence the silent part.

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Apra Harbor where the Naval Base is located.

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Part of a memorial for the soldiers who helped fight for Guam.

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Guam’s part in WWII told through pictures

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I don’t remember exactly where this is, but the view was beautiful.

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One of the first landing sites during WWII.

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One of the first landing sites during WWII.

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We found coconuts along the beach, so one of the girls cracked one open.

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Mount Lamlam, the highest point on Guam and one of the tallest mountains in the world (the base starts at the bottom of the Marianas Trench).

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A view of the coast from a lookout at an old Spanish fort.

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We got to ride a Carabao. It’s a Filipino water buffalo.

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Some of the flora here on the island.

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Some of the flora on the island.

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Star fruit. I can’t wait to try it!

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If you look at it from the right angle, the rock looks like a bear standing on its hind legs. Hence the name Bear Rock.

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Some of the flora on the island.

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Learning how to cut open a coconut.

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Coconut juice is pretty good!

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We finished our tour with a beautiful sunset.

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Who knew God would plan to let me work in such a fantastic place?

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The Last Two Weeks

I apologize to all those who have been waiting for this post. The past two weeks have been busy with teaching, planning, and grading. But since I have Labor Day off, I now have some time to post an update.

I honestly could not have asked for a better start to the school year. Many of the other teachers have told me that my students are some of the best they have ever had, and I am inclined to agree with them. I am teaching two sections of juniors and three sections of freshmen. My biggest class is twenty-six students, and my smallest is nineteen. I also have two study halls: one for seventh graders and one for upperclassmen. The majority of them are well-behaved and smart. I’d take the time to describe each class, but then we would be here forever, and I have a cookout to attend. Maybe I can upload some pictures later.

The first week was basically an introduction to me and my classes. My favorite part was the discussion we had about objectionable elements. The juniors pleasantly surprised me with their thoughts on reading literature containing such elements. The freshmen were also on the ball concerning the Biblical approach. I think that once we get into the literature, we should have loads of fun discussing what we read. I can’t wait to see what they teach me.

The second week was all writing. The juniors wrote a descriptive essay about some place that has significance for them. The freshmen wrote a personal experience essay. We spent all day Wednesday writing and all day Thursday revising. On Friday, a few students were chosen at random to read their essays in front of the class. The ones I heard were not too shabby, so there may be hope for the rest.

This week is Spirit Week. There are no classes for the junior and senior high; instead, school is more like a week of teen camp. The students have been placed on one of four teams each named after a conqueror from history (go Alexander!!!). There will be games, food, and skits, but most importantly, there will be preaching. Jeremy Frazor is the speaker for this week, so I ask that you pray for him extra hard. Also pray for the students that they will be open to the gospel and willing to allow God to change their lives. Many of them are coming from unsaved households, so the summer was difficult for them. And finally, pray for us teachers as we try to minister to the students this week and live out our relationship with Christ genuinely.

Next week, I hope to have pictures of Spirit Week, so be on the lookout. Ciao for now!

Toothpicks

This past Sunday, my roommate and I made brownies. After searching for a mixing bowl that was not too small, we settled on a slightly warped pot that was big enough for 4 boxes of brownie mix. We threw in the other ingredients, poured the batter into the pan, and waited 15 minutes for the oven to preheat. Then we finally put the brownies in the oven, set the timer for 25 minutes, and sat down to supper. I hear the timer beep, and race over to take the warm gooey brownies out of the oven. Only then does it hit me–I don’t have any toothpicks! How am I supposed to check if the brownies are done without a toothpick?! 

Fortunately, we do have knives in the house, but this episode made me stop and think. Having to furnish my own kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom has made me realize how many little details, like toothpicks, are actually big details. Back at my parents’ house I never thought twice about finding a mixing bowl, hand soap, or coasters because they had always been there. Now I stand in the kitchen looking at our cupboards and thinking, “Boy, I wish we had ______________ so I could ___________.” Little things are just as important as the big things. “Little” people are just as important as “big” people, too. No job is so small as to be unnecessary. I’m so glad God uses the “toothpicks” of His children to carry out His will. And I’m especially glad He chose to use this toothpick to teach at HCA.

Why Guam? and Other FAQs

As my day of departure draws nearer, I have detected a pattern in the questions people ask when they hear my plans. I’d like to answer a few of them here for those who haven’t had the opportunity to ask or just forgot.

Q: Why Guam?

A: Why not?

Q: Wait, I thought you were going to China?

A: Good guess, but no. That was last summer.

Q: Is this another mission trip?

A: No, I am actually moving to Guam. I have a job there.

Q: What will you be doing there?

A: I will be teaching high school English at a Christian school on the island. Normally this question is followed by one about teaching ESL, and the answer to that one is that my primary responsibility will not be teaching English as a second language. I have been assured that my students will have a good grasp on the English language so I can focus on information that native speakers would learn at that age.

Q: So how did you decide on Harvest?

A: This is my favorite question!! Honestly, I did not choose; God did. He has been preparing me for this since I was born–a mind-blowing but ultimately comforting phenomenon. I’ve known I wanted to teach overseas since high school, but I wasn’t sure how or where. I got my first chance last summer when I traveled with an ESL team to southern China to teach at an English camp for five weeks. I loved working with the people over there, but through various circumstances God made it clear that I would not be returning to that organization after I graduated. I still wanted to teach overseas, though, so I kept praying and listening for any open doors. Finally last fall, one of the principals from Harvest spoke at a meeting for student teachers. I was impressed with his lecture on teaching internationally and the opportunities Harvest offered. Later, I got to speak with another representative from the school, who graciously answered all of my questions. Over the next month and a half, my family, a few close friends, and I prayed about what God would do with my life next fall and whether His plan involved Harvest. I applied in January, interviewed in February, and signed the contract in April. I am still humbled by how smoothly God opened all the doors leading to this moment, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Q: How long are you going to be there?

A: At least the next three years. After that, it’s up to God and the school.

Q: Will you be able to come home?

A: Well technically, Guam will be my home, but yes, I will be able to visit my family during the summer. I will also have the opportunity to travel to the surrounding islands, China, Japan, Korea, etc. The better question might be “Will you come home?” The answer to that one is…maybe. I have practically pinky-promised a couple of friends (you know who you are) that I would come to their weddings, so we’ll see.

Q: How will you communicate while you are over there?

A: Smoke signals and carrier pigeons. Just kidding!! I will communicate with friends and family the same way most people communicate over a long distance: phone calls, video chats, social media, email, and of course, this blog. I think that most people who ask this question are imagining me in a remote jungle somewhere with no internet access and a five-mile hike to the nearest post office. I assure you that such circumstances will not be part of my “suffering for Jesus” on a tropical island.

Q: What do they speak there?

A: English mostly. The other official language is Chamorro, but I will not have to teach in it. 🙂

Q: How do your parents feel about you going halfway around the world?

A: I silently thank God for my parents every time someone asks this question. They have been so supportive of every trip I’ve taken so far. I can’t imagine what went through their hearts and minds every time I called and asked, “So what do you think about (insert some place a few thousand miles away)?” They have ingrained in me that the happiest, safest place to be is in the center of God’s will. I’m sure it is hard for them to send me so far from home, but this is what they raised me to do, and so as they say, how could they not be proud?

Q: You know there are a lot of snakes over there, right?

A:……Yes. I do. Thank you for reminding me.

Q: When do you leave?

A: In two weeks. So much to do and so little time to do it!

Q: Are you excited?

A: Yes, and nervous and overwhelmed. But mostly excited. I get the chance to work on a tropical island, with high schoolers (freshmen no less!!), teaching my favorite subject, and all while serving the God of the universe! Who wouldn’t be excited?!

Blessings on those who made it through the entire post. If you have any more questions, just leave them in a comment, and I’ll answer as many as I can.