In part four of a series of articles by WWU student missionaries, Lauren Epperson, sophomore communications major, writes about her work teaching elementary education during the 2014-15 school year at the Pohnpei Seventh-day Adventist School in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia.
I was fighting back tears as I sang with 80 other student missionaries who were in Hawaii for island orientation and training: “Lord, prepare me to be a missionary, pure and holy, tried and true. With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living missionary, Lord for you.”
I’m not sure where the idea really came from—being a student missionary. It was just something I grew up hearing about and knew I wanted to do. During my first year of college, the idea kept popping into my head, and I would push it away with different excuses: I’m too young; I need more school first; my brother is graduating next year; I’m not cut out for that; I’m not a teacher; my parents would freak out; the year is almost over. So many things seemed to come up, and I would push the thought away. But as I started to entertain the idea more and more, I learned that God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.
So here I was, leaving everything I knew, everyone I loved for a yearlong adventure teaching third grade in Pohnpei, Micronesia. I heard about missionaries all the time. I heard that it was hard. I thought I was ready to take it on. But I didn’t really know what hard meant until I experienced it.
When I came to Pohnpei I didn’t just become a third grade teacher, I became a mother, a nurse, a mediator, a tutor, a cleaning lady, a chaplain, a storyteller, and an exterminator. My kids struggle in most subjects. I say “sit down” and “be quiet” more than any human being should. I give the same directions hundreds of times, and yet there is always someone who asks, “What are we doing?” But the children I teach are the cutest and most loving children I have ever met. No matter how many times I mess up or get upset or raise my voice, they still come and hug me every day and tell me I am the best teacher in the world. I am a completely unqualified college student who is expected to act and teach like a professionally trained teacher.
Whenever I am discouraged I have to ask God to be my strength and my courage. It is the notes from my students telling me they love me, the hugs, the funny things they say, and their joy that reminds me why I am here. It is when I am mad at them the most that they find a way to make me smile. Sometimes I feel like my students teach me way more than I ever teach them.
Posted Sept. 29, 2015