The Journey

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].

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The Faith of a Child

When he was just a month old, my husband and I dedicated our second-born son to the Lord before the congregation of Neighborhood Assembly of God Church in Okinawa Japan. In the ceremony conducted by our pastor, Charles W. Butterfield, we made a commitment that we were serious about fulfilling….to raise our son in the Christian faith and to do our best to teach Him to love, serve and follow Jesus. 

Fast forward seven years to Blue Springs Assembly of God Church in Missouri. Our little “spitfire,” as Pastor Jeff Kelderman referred to him, was now seeking permission from us to be baptized. He had witnessed others make the commitment to follow Christ and subsequently confess their faith publicly through baptism. Our tradition of faith holds to what is called “believer’s baptism,” baptism which is based on one’s profession of faith in Christ. Our little guy, without any prompting, had made that profession. He was now persistent in his desire to be baptized. We knew that he was young, but after his continual requests, we spoke to Pastor Jeff who saw no reason to hold him back.

Parenthood is extremely challenging. It’s scary and stressful and exhausting. Flawed parents raising flawed children. But it’s worth it. Every moment. Thanks be to God, parenting is also very rewarding. When you catch a glimpse of your child in his room with his little hands raised in the air and eyes closed while worshipping God to a Michael W. Smith song or when as a third grader, he asks to sing a worship song in front of the church congregation, you whisper a prayer of thanks to God. When you have the privilege of watching him become a godly man who, with his wife, are raising their two little girls in the Christian faith, you thank God for His faithfulness to His promises.

We realized early on as parents that even young children are able to comprehend simple and sometimes deeper truths of the Bible and that we should not underestimate them. God has a way of speaking to their hearts and He certainly has the ability to impart faith in them. There is no greater responsibility for Christian parents than to teach their children the word of God and to keep the Christian faith the priority of the home and of their lives. Children are capable of learning and understanding the things of God so much so that Jesus even presented them as examples of the type of faith that adults should have. In Matthew 18:3, He said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

HOPE NUGGET: Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. [Proverbs 22:6]

The Storm

View from our window of Typhoon Dinah, Okinawa, 1987

November 1990, Okinawa Japan. Back then, I was a young Army wife and mother of 2 little boys. The service-members and families stationed on the small subtropical island in the Pacific were on edge, anxious about what we were being told might come. No, this time it wouldn’t be another tropical storm or typhoon (the name for a hurricane in the Pacific) that we’d spend days preparing for and weathering through. This time it would be saying goodbye to our guys – our husbands, our fathers. We had followed the news of the buildup for months, daily watching the departure of more and more troops from the peace and tranquility of life as we knew in the Far East. And with the steady buildup of American and allied troops in the Middle East, we wondered if we were ultimately saying our final goodbyes. The end of the world, or so it seemed at the time.

My soldier, the father of my sweet boys, when presented with the question of volunteering his advanced training in communications to serve in Saudi Arabia, bravely and dutifully answered with a Yes. A man of character and honor. A staff sergeant, known for his strong leadership, commitment to God, his country, and his family and to serving them well. He would pack up and travel to the other side of the world just weeks before Christmas, where he’d join with other honorable service-members in the desert sands of Saudi Arabia, a country and culture as far removed from our island life as could be.

I was left alone. Left alone with my fears and the uncertainty of what Desert Shield would mean for our family. Left alone with the task of comforting a 3 year old who cried every day for weeks for his daddy. Left alone with a 5 year old who was adjusting to his first year of attending school in a Kindergarten class at Zukeran Elementary. Left alone to find a way to adjust to the responsibility of running a household with just the 3 of us. For how long? Only God knew.

The buildup to The Storm continued, until mid-January 1991, when combat operations officially began. Would it lead to Armageddon, to World War III, as news reporters implied? Those questions did not go unnoticed by young military wives whose husbands were right smack in the middle of it all. I’m sure the anxiety was felt by our family members back in the states as well. 

Yet, was I alone? Was I reaalllyyyy alone? God had provided me with a wonderful church family, good neighbors, and a support group of “left behind” wives of other branches of the military. Then there was God. The One, the only One who broke through to calm my fears and who spoke to me so audibly it was as if the words were uttered directly from His mouth. Words that referred to my soldier, the guy who by way of military travel through the U.S., was over 14,000 miles away….

My Hope Nugget from God:

“Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you…No man shall be able to stand before you…I will be with you…Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (portions of Joshua 1: 3, 5, 9)

June 1991