I'm really bad at making posts for significant marks; so, today is the 3 years and 1 week post.
Today a fellow missionary here in Guatemala contacted me about a rumor she had heard that involved the school where I used to work. She was unaware that I no longer work there. However, I had had the good fortune of running into the principal this week on the bus and chatting all the way home; so I was able to give her some details. This invariably led to me asking her about quite possibly the brightest student I have had the pleasure of teaching. She doesn't know the girl, but she said she could ask around.
Ana is a really smart young lady. She was the only one in the entire school who had passed my class by the third marking period. (You need an average of 60 for the year to pass the class; even if she had gotten a 0 in my class the last marking period, she would have passed.) But she is not just smart; she is also kind. A lot of smart kids are ostracized or picked on by their classmates, but Ana was well-loved. There was never a question of who had achieved the highest grade (in pretty much any subject), but no one seemed bent out of shape about it. However, Ana's mother (don't know if there is a father in the picture or not) doesn't believe there is value in educating girls. Ana only arrived to my class through a generous scholarship...or two. In her 9th grade graduating class of 12, ten continued on to 10th grade. Only the top of the class and the bottom of the class were kept home by their parents. Ana could become anything she wants to be if she were only allowed to continue school. She could be a teacher, a doctor, an astrophysicist, or even the president of Guatemala.
And then I apply that to my own life. Actually, first I'll let someone else apply it to hers. Addisyn is a missionary kid (MK) here in Guatemala. Her family attends my church. I don't really know her, but I know who she is. In that link, she shares her thoughts about going to college, about the worth of an education. And reading her entry a couple weeks ago (and the short exchange I had today with someone else) made me reflect upon my own education. My parents always told me I'd need a degree to do anything with my life. With all due respect, I am probably "over qualified" for what I do...or at least my degree probably isn't the right kind of training. Admittedly, having a bachelor's degree (regardless of major) has been important, or more correctly, going to college for the time I went there has been important.
While I could not have taught middle school English as a foreign language (EFL) in a private school without my bachelor's degree (which is in religious studies, by the way), the mission work I do does not require any special college degree. God prepares those He sends out, not college, not a degree. However, He prepared me in college. He worked to put me in a strong Christian community my sophomore year. He introduced me to amazing faith-filled people, people who did mission work at least for a time, people who would unknowingly validate the calling I felt to become a missionary. He also sent me one other important person.
When I was growing up, there were lots of things I wanted to be. I wanted to be the first female president of the United States. (Annalisa Simmer for President 2020!) I wanted to be Santa Claus. I wanted to be a lady farmer. I wanted to be a trapeze artist. I probably wanted to be lots of other things that only my mother remembers. And, well, most of those don't require degrees. In fact, not one of them absolutely requires a degree. And as time went on, it became obvious to me that what I really wanted to be was a wife and mother. Yes, I am a person with many talents who could probably do most anything she puts her mind to, but I don't consider being a wife and mother a less worthwhile pursuit than being the president. The other person I met in college was my fiance.
When you lose someone like a fiance or spouse, you sort of feel like your entire future disappeared with that person. And while I can't say this in retrospect with 100% certainty, I think I felt like that was my one chance at love, marriage, and children. I was 22; it was 3 years before I came here to do full-time ministry. Twenty-two year old single women with nearly $10k in student loans (all paid off due to two people who I love and respect a whole lot) do not receive foster children; they can't get approved for adoption. And I'm certainly not one of those women to use a guy just to get an offspring. So, as I saw it, all hopes of being a wife or even a mother were cut off.
Love is a funny thing. It hits you where you don't think you'll find it. It comes in unexpected ways from unexpected people. I more or less have a family here in Guatemala. I have 4 brothers, a set of parents, 3 nephews and a niece in addition to the church family that I have here. (I may potentially have more than that; it just depends on how people are feeling and how willing they are to claim the crazy white girl.) They have chaperoned me, invited me to weddings and birthdays, defended me, visited me, and helped me with manual labor. They have loaned me money. They have watched my animals. They've been wonderful people. And the children who I help work to get a better education? They're kind of like my kids.
I may not be a wife and a mother, but I am a woman very much loved. I thank God for the blessing to be able to live among and serve these people, and if He only gives me another 3 years and one week to serve them, I'm not sure it will be enough for my overflowing heart.