Over 30 years ago while living in Okinawa Japan, I was approached by a friend who asked if I would be willing to work part-time as an English tutor to advanced Japanese high school students. With two small boys, and an Army husband who was often away, I wasn’t sure I should take on another responsibility. I believed though that God had provided the opportunity; it would be extra income for our family, and with my interest in learning more about the Okinawan people, I accepted the new challenge. The students visited our home twice each week for several hours. We worked on English grammar lessons and spent time conversing in English so that they could improve their English-speaking skills. At a housing lodge on Kadena Air Force base two and a half years later, just before departing the island, our family said our goodbyes through tears to Kaori and Mayumi.
During our final year in Okinawa, Desert Shield / Desert Storm broke out and Scott was deployed to Saudi Arabia, so I especially enjoyed the company and friendship of the students. They loved being with Nick and Simon who they had first met when the boys were just ages three and one. Because of their demanding school schedules, our English classes were held in the evenings. By that time of day, it was bedtime for my two little ones, but because Kaori and Mayumi looked forward to seeing them, I delayed bedtime on those days until after their arrival. The routine on those evenings was to have the boys ready for bed, with stories read, prayers said, and pajamas on, so that when the girls came there would be time to visit before bedtime. When English class ended, I would gather the sleeping boys from their beds, buckle them into their car seats, and drive the girls to their bus stop in Okinawa City.
Sadly, we somehow lost touch over the years, but fond memories remain of the times spent with our two sweet friends. There was something special about those years, sitting around the dining room table conversing with Japanese-speaking teenagers eager to learn a second language. It was satisfying to see them improve in their English skills and in their confidence. The experience I gained as a conversational English teacher and tutor helped to prepare me for work that would come later as a special education classroom assistant and as a volunteer Sunday School and Bible teacher. I sometimes wondered what it would be like to formally teach English as a second language, but life got busy and the timing just never seemed right to seriously pursue the thought.
The desire to complete a Bachelor’s degree has persisted for most of my adulthood. After completing an Associate’s degree, and even after applying and being accepted at several colleges every couple of years since then, I always stopped short of taking that final step of commitment to continue. After researching again last year, I found the perfect program at a university that had my interest. I applied and got accepted once again, but this time took the steps toward completing a Bachelor of Science in Teaching English as a Second Language through Liberty University Online. Nearly everything that I was looking for in a program and in a college was available there. My only reservation was with the individual who held the position as the university’s president. That concern was relieved with his resignation on August 24….the very first day of my classes at the university. It felt a lot like a confirmation from God to me.
Many of my credits from Penn State University and Westmoreland County Community College were accepted, with the remaining needed credits being mostly major courses. In my first semester of the Fall of 2020, I hit the ground running, enrolling in five classes and completing 16 credits. I am now a senior at Liberty University, with four courses this semester. Once these are finished, I’ll need just a few more classes and an internship to complete my thirty-plus-years-long journey. The journey which began at a dining room table in Okinawa while teaching English as a second language led to the computer desk in my house where you’ll often find me late into the evening writing papers, completing tree diagram homework assignments, and taking online exams.
Completing the TESL program is my goal as a college student, but I’ll take away much more than a degree from this experience. My professors teach with excellence and expertise, but of equal importance, they approach each course from a biblical worldview. It’s been especially meaningful to receive emails from professors who inspire their students with biblical words of encouragement and assurances of their prayers. I don’t know if or how the degree will be put to use, but I do know that I’m glad I took the steps to walk through the door of a college which offers a Christ-centered education. Liberty University has exceeded my expectations and I look forward to traveling to Lynchburg Virginia in the (hopefully) near future to receive my degree. Who knows? There could be another Kaori or Mayumi along the path. We’ll see how God directs this part of my journey.
HOPE NUGGET: I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you [Psalm 32 :8].