Missionary JobsMissionary work is diverse from one field to another, from one missionary to another, and even from one day to another. Toilet cleaning and mopping at church, grocery shopping in extreme weather conditions (no one-stop shopping here), struggling with red-tape legalese in a foreign language - these are some of the less than glamorous jobs. Though those time eaters can be unpleasant, there are some really fulfilling things that we get to do, too. Some of the best jobs are telling a person broken down by sin that there is forgiveness and hope in Christ, rejoicing with a new Christian over his first answered prayer, or sharing a meal to encourage a family. My favorite job, though, the one that makes me want to get up every day, is teaching.
That Light Bulb MomentOne of our children who is headed to college in the fall but is uncertain what the Lord wants him to study spent this last week helping a young lady study for a math exam. She told me that he was able to help her really understand the math like never before. In her words, "He should really be a math teacher."
I asked him what he thought about that. Did he like teaching her? Would he like to be a math teacher?
He replied, "I don't know if I'm supposed to be a teacher or not, but I can tell you one thing. I loved that light bulb moment."
I know what he means. I love that "light bulb moment," too.
In The BeginningAs with many European countries, Iceland has experienced a larger than normal number of immigrants. One of them, a lady from Ghana, has been coming to our church. Before meeting this lady and others like her, I took for granted the opportunity I had been given to go school, to learn to read and write. She was never afforded that opportunity.
At home she, her husband, and her children speak their mother tongue Twi. She can also speak a little Italian that she picked up while in Italy for a few years but when she came to Iceland, she could speak neither Icelandic nor English. While diligently trying to learn Icelandic along with her children, she also wants to learn English.
For the last several months, we have been studying both the mechanics of reading and the English language together. We had to be very creative at first to communicate with each other since neither of us spoke any language the other spoke. Adding a little color to our lessons, at least one of her children is with us during lessons playing, nursing, or sometimes crying. The learning process has been slow at times, but she is a hard worker and studies what we learn together.
Today was really exciting. I had an English Bible for her but was waiting to give it to her until she could read it. As we got to the end of our lesson, I told her that I had a surprise for her.
When I pulled out the Bible, she looked confused. "I already have a Twi Bible," she said.
"Right," I replied, "but this one you know how to read."
We opened the Scriptures to the first page. In broken, thickly accented English she read, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."
I cried. What an honor it is to share the gift of reading so that someone can read God's Word for the first time! I am so excited that I get to watch her grow in the Lord as she reads all about Him.
Hearing for the First TimeWhen there are no pre-printed Sunday School curricula in your language, you make your own. Creativity is the name of the game here. At first, I thought it was a handicap not to have anything in Icelandic ready to order. In time, though, I have changed my mind. By having to do lessons "from scratch," I am able to better tailor each lesson to the children that I am teaching.
Recently I have been struck by the tremendous honor it is to teach someone the Bible for the first time. God is amazing; telling children about Him is actually so very fun. From a literary perspective the Bible is written in such an entertaining way. He makes it too easy for us. His stories are exciting, funny, scary, miraculous, but most of all true. Teaching a child to add or subtract is rewarding, but that pales in comparison to the privilege of getting to share true Bible stories with them for the first time. Watching their little faces stare in wide-eyed wonder at what we are reading is such a treat. The greatest, most wonderful thing of all, though, is that in sharing these amazing stories with the children, I know that they are getting to know the God who loves them.
Yes, sometimes days are long and hard, and many jobs we do seem insignificant and thankless. They are not all like that, though. I feel so blessed to have the honor of teaching, of helping someone read God's Word for the first time, of sharing the timeless treasures in the Bible with children, of watching that "light bulb moment."
|Vicki and Patrick Weimer in Iceland since 1999|