As I reflect on the past year, my mind keeps going back to a simple truth, and that is “God is always with us.” For me, the past 12 months has been quite a roller coaster of emotions, trials, hardship, good things, exciting changes, and miracles that remind me the power of our Living God.
Just 12 short months ago, I left the halls of Georgetown High School not knowing what my future would hold, yet trusting in the plans God had for my life. Several weeks later, I received a call from Academy Middle School asking if I would teach Social Studies to 6th and 7th graders. Georgetown was a blessing in my life, but God was directing me to somewhere new. I would transition from an Eagle, whose fight never dies, to a stingin’ Bumblebee. I decorated my new classroom with maps, flags, and posters of people such as MLK, Malala Yousafzai, Nelson Mandela, and Maya Angelou to remind kids (and myself) that everyone can make a positive impact on others.
Then came the start of a new school year. I greeted each of my close to 150 students as they walked into my classroom for the first time, not yet knowing what kind of impact they would have on me, but hoping that I could make at least the slightest positive impact on them. Like any teacher, I learned what activities worked and led to fun learning and what… well… didn’t. Overall, I hoped that students would learn to explore the world around them, ask questions, and embrace and respect the awesome differences of people on this planet.
Being in a Social Studies classroom, we learned of both past and current events, and sometimes this led to tough discussions as to why people have to be so cruel to others. Our collective world history has been rife with challenges and violence of individuals and groups of people with hatred and discrimination towards others. For centuries, people were taken from their homes, traded as cargo, and forced to live lives as slaves. A madman and his brown shirts sought to wipe away an entire group of people because of their Jewish faith. Marchers were beaten and killed in the American Deep South and in South Africa because they believed that everyone should be granted basic human rights including the right to simply cast their vote. Slavery still exists, Authoritarian regimes, such as China’s, are still persecuting Christians, Muslims, and others, and hateful people still attack people of faith in Pittsburgh, Christchurch, and Sri Lanka. Yes, bad things happened and still happen, but as I was reminded from the kind hearts of 6th graders, there are so many people who show love and kindness to others. If anything, I hope that the positive stories that we did share reminded them to be lights in their communities.
During our time together, we learned that in the midst of slave trading, John Newton left his work as a slave trader, repented of his wrongdoing, became a monk, wrote the words to Amazing Grace, and tirelessly campaigned to end the slave trade. Martin Luther King, Jr. used his eloquent speaking skills to rally people around the idea that people should not be judged based on the color of their skin, Malala Yousafzai proved that girls deserve an education, Irena Sendler risked her life and was tortured for daring to rescue countless kids from the Nazis, and Nelson Mandela inspired the world to join his cause in ending the Apartheid. I constantly wanted to remind kids that they too can be lights in their communities. “Who’s someone who inspires you,” I once asked. One kid replied, “J.J. Watt. He does kind things for people. I can too.”
Of course, we also learned of the varied culture in this world. Rock-a-billy, Motown, Country, Jazz, and Hip-Hop music that shaped America’s musical landscape, bizarre foods in other parts of the world, dances, holidays, sports, and the various religious traditions of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus, and many others. I hope that I made Social Studies fun for students and helped them understand that while all of us are different and unique, we are also human beings who can show kindness to one another.
Before teaching about our state, our country, and our world to my students, I always prayed for a good day in which I could encourage at least one student if not more. And then there were moments where they encouraged me. There were countless times when students would stick around after class for a few more seconds to tell me something exciting happening in their lives. I learned that a student got a yorkie that she was constantly excited about. A few others wouldn’t leave my classroom until I shared at least one pun with them. Sometimes, they and others would have jokes of their own. “Did you hear about the kidnapping,” one student asked. “No.” I said. There was a slight pause before he smiled and said, “He’s okay now. He woke up.”
A few gave me drawings, plenty of different presents, and one gave me a thoughtful letter at the end of the year to thank me for teaching her things she had never learned before about history. I am thankful for my interactions with these students.
Of course, there were challenging circumstances outside of school as well. Dad’s cancer came back in several locations, including his brain, and with that, radiation and chemotherapy. Yet through all of that, Dad has been the one who has most encouraged me and has reminded me that God is there. God is with us. God will bring us through any circumstance. God is faithful. He cares for and loves us. Trust in Him always. God is good all the time.
My students saw me trying not to get emotional one day. They asked about me. I had just spoken to Dad on the phone before that class period. I told them my good thing of my Dad’s cancer shrinking. They cheered and celebrated with me. With the recent news that the spots in his brain have shrunk to almost nothing, my coworkers have also celebrated with me.
It’s difficult to understand why certain things happen, whether it’s evil in this world or a loved one battling a dreadful disease. Yet even in the midst of all of the pain and hurt in this world, I still have hope. My students have given me hope. Dad gives me hope. And the unfailing, majestic, powerful, good, good, Heavenly Father gives me hope.
We will face trials, hardship, and setbacks, but a song sung by Bethel Music I have been listening to lately reminds me that in Christ there is hope to be found.
Who could imagine so great a mercy?
What heart could fathom such boundless grace?
The God of ages stepped down from glory
To wear my sin and bear my shame
The cross has spoken, I am forgiven
The King of kings calls me His own
Beautiful Savior, I’m Yours forever
Jesus Christ, my living hope
Then came the morning that sealed the promise
Your buried body began to breathe
Out of the silence, the Roaring Lion
Declared the grave has no claim on me
Jesus, Yours is the victory, whoa!
Hallelujah, praise the One who set me free
Hallelujah, death has lost its grip on me
You have broken every chain
There’s salvation in Your name
Jesus Christ, my living hope!
What a beautiful reminder that we serve such a powerful God. The same God that created the universe, the giant galaxies, and the subatomic particles, is the same God who created us. We can have hope in God. Death could not defeat Him. Death cannot defeat us. In Christ, I have hope.
I am now leaving Academy a better person than when I arrived at this wonderful school. As I embark on an exciting new journey of ministry as I study at Baylor University’s Truett Seminary, I will always be thankful for the memories made as a Bumblebee and the continued hope I have thanks to not only God and my family, but also because of these students. I am blessed beyond measure!
Some verses for encouragement:
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
~ Isaiah 43:2
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. ~ 1 Peter 1:3-9
Bethel Music. Living Hope. By Phil Wickham and Brian Mark Johnson. Google Play Lyrics. Web. 06 Jun. 2019.
New International Version. Bible Gateway. Web. 06 Jun. 2019
Living Hope by Bethel Music
Living Hope by Phil Wickham