Like many Seventh-day Adventist teachers, I grew up attending Adventist schools. So many of my memories were made in a multi-grade classroom, learning how to navigate childhood with a room of kids both older and younger than myself. After experiencing the whirlwind of adolescence and early adulthood, God brought me back to Him and I became a teacher. A dream blossomed to one day teach at an Adventist school and demonstrate what our schools have to offer. After several years of teaching in California, Washington and Idaho, I felt prepared and experienced enough to take on that challenge. I would take a small school experience and share it with hundreds of kids. The public school would fear my name.
So last year, I arrived in South Dakota and this mountain man found himself in the flatlands with an opportunity before him. I began teaching at a tiny school consisting of four kids and I was able to add one half-day student, but that was it. I was bummed. I was defeated. I thought, “I was sent here to grow a school, but this is not growth!” It was embarrassing. I had failed. I arrived a year ago with the idea that I would be the key to growth, that I would have the skills and intelligence needed to change everything and create the booming school I had just left. The church would sing my praises from the pulpit, I would humbly accept their praise, and for my amazing feats receive a pass to be allowed to go through the line first at any Adventist potluck.
But I hadn’t achieved any of this. I changed nothing. I had simply kept things going.
You may have noticed that the word “I” was used a lot in that last paragraph. I was stuck in my vision for a school, what I would do, and the praise and honor I would receive. Over this last summer, my vision changed. I was impressed by God that HE would create a school here in Sioux Falls designed to bring more students to meet HIM. In this new vision, God would use me as nothing more than a shovel or hammer to prepare others for where they should be.
And then God began doing His thing. As July hit, we had three students enrolled and I prayed that we would be the school that God wanted us to be—even if that meant only having three kids. But we would be the mightiest three kids Sioux Falls has ever seen. Soon God sent us a new student. Then another. This was followed by beginning a partnership with another Christian school in town through which God has inspired many conversations and witnessing opportunities.
Then, through time and prayer, God blessed us with the opportunity to serve two more of His children. Then two more who connected us with the local Spanish Church. With each addition, I have learned a new lesson about teaching and life.
The moral of the story is as Christian teachers, we must throw away our vision of success for God to work. Instead, we must let Him lead us to where He needs us and always keep our hearts open to love and serve. Through this service, God can be the master craftsman He has always been. Oddly enough, God answered my original dream—to have one of those small schools I grew up in, where memories and a foundation in God are made.