By: Riel Panganiban
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues,they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.” 1 Corinthians 13:8 (NIV)
“Teacher I love you”! I love you too! I love you three! I love you fourever!”
I thank God for my mission field (Sahmyook Vocational Institute of Technology) which I believe is the best mission field. But of course ‘best’ and ‘easy’ are two different words. Hardships and trials are inevitable.
Sahmyook Gisuron (Sahmyook Vocational Institute of Technology) is an SDA institute where students, mostly high school 17 to 20-years-olds learn skills like welding, interior design, painting, electronics, and basic computer programming. They can take license exams and become licensed skilled workers before going to university.
At school, students have regular classes time and work time. At night they have to study by themselves and do their homework at least until 11 pm. And my job is to teach them English for 40 minutes a day which they call rest time. Sometimes I get angry because they don’t participate in class activities and some of them even sleep during my class. Needless to say, most of them don’t like English.
As a missionary, it is clear to me that my mission is not only to teach them English but also to help them mold their character. But it is just as clear to me how challenging it is especially if you are dealing with teens who are raced in the city. They have a great inclination to worldly things; they have so little interest in the Bible and have very hot temper.
At first I’d always get angry with them and I felt hopeless. Then God reminded me of something and made me realize that I forgot something. I forgot the most powerful and most important thing: LOVE. I felt so guilty being a missionary trying to work and to teach as if I am worthy of doing it. I forgot how patient God is in dealing with me being a sinner. What if God were like me? I felt so ashamed. I asked God to forgive me from what I did. I asked Him to give me more patient for my student as He is patient with me, and Love for my student as He loves me. God answered my prayers. Slowly and slowly I saw how beautiful and how precious these souls are; how privileged I am to be a part of their lives; and how God trusted me to touch their hearts.
Now Instead of focusing in English, I focus on sharing God’s love with them. Instead of being an English teacher, I focus on being a friend to them. I play with them; laugh with them; eat with them; and pray with them. And now that we are already friends I can easily share with them how great, amazing and awesome to experience God’s love.
One day one of my students called me and said, “Teacher I love you.” Although it sounded like a joke, I appreciated it and answered him “I love you too.” Then he responded “I love you three.” I laughed and said, “I love you four.” And we continued until the last number he knew in English. The next time, I have observed that other students were doing it also. It’s a good thing, but every time we do it, I get stuck in saying I love you too, four, six, eight, ten and so on. Then I thought of something that could change the game. Whenever they’d say “Teacher, I love you,” I’d answer “I love you too.”And after they’d say “I love you three,” I’d answer, “I love you fourever. And there it would stop. The good thing is that it became a trend in the dormitory and even at school.
One day, while I was in my room, I heard some of my students calling another student saying, “Hey! I love you.” And the other one answered, “I love you too.””I love you three,” said the other and the other one said, “I love you fourever.” Hearing it was a great experience, giving me an awesome feeling. The dormitory and school ring with this love expression blowing my stress away. God let me experience the power of His love. He let me see my students as He sees me. And that’s looking through the eyes of Love. Before, I tried hard to be a good example to my students that they would see me as a good missionary. But now I pray that the things they will remember of me would lead them to become more like Jesus, not like me.
I‘ve learned that sometimes we treat people based on their character and personality. But this should not be. God first loved us with unconditional love. In spite of our sins, He loves us and is very patient with us.
My prayer is that God will continue to help us see people as He sees them, giving us the heart that will look at other people through the eyes of love.