The past two years living out in the S.Pacific have been filled with blessings. As I look back, I’m surprised by how much has changed. When I first decided to go out on mission I went on blind faith. I didn’t know the school, I didn’t know any people there, I hadn’t been there before and I didn’t speak the language, but I did know that God had called me and that was enough. I trusted that he would provide and he has at every turn. Over the 2 years I learned a lot about the school where I taught; its curriculum, its students, its teachers, its layout and how it serves the local community by educating the ‘MKs’. I made friends who became like family, I went to new places and served in new communities, I learned my way around the city I lived in and I learned enough of the local language to get my independence back.
The past 2 years have also had their challenges and set-backs. I had trouble getting a visa, and ended up with a visa through the bible seminary, where I needed to register as a ‘student’ and then take some classes. This meant every time someone from the Education Department came visiting and wanted to look around; I needed to hide in the library! The past visits home have been a challenge. Last summer my taxi to the airport got stuck in a riot on the motorway. There was broken glass on the road and an angry crowd on the street all wearing black. My driver told me, and I quote, ‘there’s no point locking the doors because they’re going to break the windows. Get down and pray,’ but somehow everything was totally fine, and no windows were broken. They let us through and I made it to check-in an hour and a half before my plane left. This was a reminder that God was with me through everything-even the things that scare me. At Christmas, I missed my connecting flight and got stuck for 30 hours by myself. Just 2 weeks ago I was trying to get through immigration to come home, when immigration informed me that I didn’t have permission to leave the country, and was going to need to drive the 4 hours back to the town where my visa is issued to get the stamp I needed, and so, I would need to book another flight. Then the immigration officer reluctantly stamped my passport anyway, and told me I couldn’t return on my current passport (because of the illegal stamp) and told me to go get on my flight quickly.
One of the biggest challenges was on arrival at the school. It took 5 months for me to feel like I wasn’t just ‘keeping my head above water’. I didn’t understand most of what was going on, and yet the school year was about to start, so I had decisions to make about my classroom and resources and curriculum, all kinds of things I didn’t have enough knowledge about yet, but the decisions needed to be made anyway. I felt quite out of my depth, and a bit overwhelmed. I remember standing in my classroom, the day before school began, and realising it was really happening; I really had moved to the S.Pacific, and I really was going to have to teach the next day, and some little children really were about to be entrusted into my care, whether I was ready or not. Then school began and swept me away with its energy and fullness. I love the way the whole community is supported by the school. It’s a school first and foremost, but outside school hours it’s a church, it’s a soccer stadium, it’s a venue for fundraisers, it’s a running track, it supports the mission community in all kinds of ways a normal school doesn’t.
Playing games with the children
My highlight for the year has to be a local mission trip I helped lead, taking high school students out to a tiny island, off the island where I stayed. We were only there for 3 days, but it was incredible. We arrived after a plane journey, a 3 hour drive and 2 hours on a fishing boat to a village with no electricity, no running water (and in dry season sometimes no clean drinking water). The people are descended from pirates and lived in shacks raised on stilts above the ground. We took books, to teach some of the village kids how to read, and to try and soften their attitude towards foreigners. The high school students were great at running games and reading groups, in the local language, and bonding really well with the children. It’s hard to be so completely out of your comfort zone, and then be needed to lead something, so I was really proud of the way they stepped up, and for how the girls, especially, dealt with the living conditions.
Grades 1 and 2 celebrating St. Patrick’s Day
I think my second year was even busier than the first year. This past year I taught Grades 1 and 2 (that’s like P2 and P3) because we didn’t have enough teachers to separate the grades. This was a bit mental, and by March I was also directing the high school musical and getting ready for the mission team trip that I just mentioned, so I was stretched too thin and feeling the strain. Thankfully, we were able to get another teacher to come in and teach, so we were able to split the grades, and just in time for me! So for the last quarter I taught only G2, giving me more time to plan for the musical.
My time ended with a visit from my mum and sister; Glynis and Naomi.
Part of King’s Kids current housing
They came out to see where I was working, and to share in what I had been doing for the past 2 years. I am so thankful that they now understand what I’ve been talking about, and met most of the people who have meant so much to me. They were a blessing to the community as well, and split the funds raised from the coffee morning to the orphanage ‘King’s Kids’, to the stroke rehabilitation unit of a local hospital, and to the bible seminary. King’s Kids are in the process of having a new building built and the bible seminary students are always struggling to pay their tuition fees, so this money came at the right time. My mum and sister were able to visit both these places and see the ministries. The stoke unit has recently appointed a new head physio, who is a friend and a fellow missionary with OMS. She is planning to use the funds to buy some much needed equipment.
with my mum, sister and Grade 2 at the school graduation ceremony
After this we went touring for a week. It is a beautiful country, full of adventure, and it was great to be able to experience some new things during our tour. This was also a really helpful time for me to process that I was returning to Northern Ireland permanently. We returned to my lodgings and I packed my two years into a suitcase and headed home.
My plans for the future are: wait and pray. At the moment I am searching for a temporary job so that in September I can begin substitute teaching. I’m not sure what God has for me in this upcoming year, but I’m excited to see what He will do next. Thank you for your continuing prayers and support. I have been so blessed by the support over my two years overseas, and I’m excited to be back in the UK now for the foreseeable future.