It has been a whirlwind of a year.
I live halfway across the world from my family, friends and everything that was ever familiar to me up to three months ago. I am teaching grade four at a Christian international school that has a vision for making education accessible to those who otherwise might not have access. In one sense, I am living out my dream, as my desire to teach overseas goes back further than I can remember. Even my current location, Cambodia, has been a dream God placed in my heart several years ago, and sometimes I sit back amazed that I am really here.
This sudden change transpired last February as I felt the Lord’s calling stronger than ever. I could no longer ignore the pull He had placed in my heart to serve overseas, specifically in Cambodia. I applied, and within two weeks, I had accepted my current school’s offer. I was in a serious relationship at the time, but we soon broke up because of the different directions in which God was leading us. Some people were surprised at my drastic life change, but those who knew me well assured me that I would ultimately not regret obeying His unmistakable call.
So in mid-July, I said my farewells and boarded a plane. The first few weeks and months here were filled with new friends, new home, new language to learn, new workplace, new foods, new smells (on both sides of the spectrum!), new currency, new forms of transportation, new way of life.
But as the initial “honeymoon stage” of living in a different culture wears off and as all the “new” becomes the “norm,” I’ve finally started processing the mixed emotions that come with making a decision to exchange all that is familiar for all that is unfamiliar.
When the heat feels unbearable, when I have to throw out another box of cereal because the bugs have gotten to it, when I am charged a higher price because of the color of my skin, the pull toward frustration and discontentment is stronger than I ever thought it would be. When my patience is low with my students, when simple instructions get lost in translation, when I feel ineffective as a teacher, the tendency to give in to discouragement is raw and real.
Hard questions surface, and I have no choice but to tackle them head on. Do I really believe He called me here? Do I trust His sovereignty? Do I trust that following His lead is worth it, even when I cannot see the bigger picture? Even when I feel weak and incompetent? Even when I don’t see the fruit? Even if I never seen the fruit?
Sometimes as Christ followers, I think we can have some pretty grand ideas of what we are going to do to impact lives and further His kingdom. What I’m realizing is that those ideas can sometimes make us believe that it is we who have the capacity to make a lasting impact. In 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, Paul says, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who makes things grow.” It is only by acknowledging that I really am nothing without Christ that He can use me to plant seeds in the lives of my students here.
God has given me the gift of a few small glimpses of the fruit He is growing in my students’ hearts and minds. Just the other day, one student told me without hesitation that he believes in God, even though his parents are practicing Buddhists. A little while ago, another student asked to take home a Bible, even after he had told me the previous week that Bible class was his least favorite subject.
The fruit that God is growing in my students is not yet fully ripe; they, too, are on a journey. My prayer for them is that one day they will fully realize the love of their Creator and that they will also humbly plant and water seeds that the great Gardener will grow.
Even in the more difficult moments of life here Cambodia, I am grateful that I can rest knowing God called me here. He is good, He is faithful, and in the palm of His hand, I feel very much alive.
Alyssa MacMillan is a proud Canadian currently teaching grade four at Asian Hope International School in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
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