I spent weeks planning for our English classes this year. I carefully crafted vocabulary lists, worksheets and engaging activities that will get my students well on their way to bilingual. And, today, I planned to teach my fifth graders common greetings with adorable handmade sock puppets.
But before the morning bell could get us started, I spotted a small group of girls huddled in the corner of the playground giggling nervously and looking my direction. Clearly, they were trying to get up the courage to approach their new teacher. So I took advantage of awkward attention and shouted out "Good morning!" in very clear English. I was hoping for an impromptu introduction to my lesson. Instead the girls parted revealing little Iveth in the middle of the group. She was fidgeting with something in her hands. "Teacher, I don't understand this," she said holding up a small board book. "I got it in my shoebox gift, but I don't know what it says. Will you help me?" I knew immediately that God was answering my prayer today.
While we've been preparing for another year of English classes, we've also been praying. We've been asking God to show us how to incorporate more biblical teaching through our English classes in this rural public school. Up until now, we've been very careful in what we say about our faith in this community. There are no evangelical Christians in the school here. And we know that although it isn't illegal here as it is in the U.S., it can be frowned upon to bring religion into the classroom. We were afraid we'd lose the opportunity to be a part of this community if we were too outspoken with our students. So we took our time and built up the trust of the other teachers, parents and students. But this year feels different. We feel a burden to say and share more about the hope found in Christ. But we also want to be respectful to the traditions and rules of the school. So we've been praying. We've been asking God to show us how and when to speak His Word. We've been praying for opportunities.
As the morning bell rang, I tossed aside my lesson plans in my mind and took the little book from Iveth's hands. I spent the next hour reading aloud and explaining the story of Joseph and his brothers to my eager fifth graders. In those six or seven pages, we amassed a list of about twenty new vocabulary words. But I also got to affirm the Truth of this powerful story of forgiveness. It was a palpable shift in our ministry at the school.
I don't know who packed Iveth's shoebox and I certainly don't typically recommend including English-language books in your Operation Christmas Child gifts. But I do know that months ago, God stirred the heart of some kind person or family to make a difference in the world. And, today, He used them to answer our prayer.
Do you have a shoebox story? Tell us about it in the comments!