by Alexandra Rutkowski
To say that Friday was incredible would be a gross understatement. It was by far one of the best days of my life. This whole week… wow. It has been orchestrated by God.
I had a pretty rough time last week, and it had been very discouraging. I wondered if I had been called here at all. I felt like a failure. When I sat down with God on Saturday night, I realized I desperately needed an attitude check. It wasn’t about having an easy or fun class at all. It’s about being content where God places you despite the difficulties and having faith in Him that He put you there for a reason. So I just came before God and dedicated the upcoming week to Him completely. Prayed for wisdom and discernment. But I said, “God… I’m not asking you for an easy or a fun class. I’m not asking for the class I want, but the class I need. Place me where You will.” Monday morning at devotions, that’s what I shared. And about using this last week at Jeonju to really love on them, show them God’s love and make a difference. Dear God, I prayed, don’t let me leave this place without making an impact.
From the very beginning, I connected with a group of girls from a middle school. They approached me first and said I look like Bella from Twilight. Not true. But that’s how it started. I was so excited to find they were all in my class for the week! (A few didn’t have English names, so I gave them Arianna and Irena. Sorry, Tisia, Cristina was already taken!) This whole week has been the most rewarding ever. They showed me more love than I can remember in a long time. I feel like I didn’t teach as much this week, but I just really focused on spending time with them and building relationships with them. We talked about purpose and meaning, true joy, and our dreams. Because this is not a Christian program or anything, I don’t have an opportunity to talk to these students about Jesus in the classroom- I really can’t. I prayed that they could see Him through my actions instead. But on the second day of classes, one of my students became very ill. As I waited for a teacher to come take her home, she was in a lot of pain, so I knelt beside her and asked her permission to hold her hand and pray for her. She granted it. As soon as I said the words, “Dear God…” my class gasped and went quiet. It just isn’t done. When I was finished, I heard a few utter amen after me, inquisitively. After the girl went home, two of my students came up to me and (in beautifully broken English) said they were touched, that it was so beautiful, and they never saw a teacher give that for a student. “Wow. Teacher really does care about us,” one said.
This week was beyond wonderful. I’ve come to love each and every girl. We’ve gotten close and have shared a lot of amazing memories. They even helped me make a congratulatory video for my sister’s move to her new apartment by singing a medley of songs. I taught them It Is Well, the hymn, and hearing them sing it was angelic. I also taught them You Raise Me Up by Josh Groban for them to sing at the closing ceremony. I didn’t want the week to end. It was perfect.
I walked into class on Friday morning completely shocked. The lights were off, and all my girls surprised me as I entered and had a candlelit cheesecake on a table in the middle of the room. They sat me down and as I cried, they sang You Raise Me Up. We blew out the candles together. Before I did, I was supposed to make a wish, but at that moment, I just prayed and thanked God. I had everything I needed at that moment. Overflowing joy, overwhelming love, and I was in the company of the girls God placed in my life. I prayed for them in my heart. As I cut the first slice, Cindy leaned over and said, “I’m sorry, teacher,” before smashing a bunch of the icing in my face. I returned the favor. It was hilarious.
All together, they got me gifts. They got me a beautiful hair bow, they made cutouts of themselves as dolls holding hands, they got me a bag, they bought me a new backpack because mine was about to fall apart, and wrote me letters. The whole morning… that was one of the most beautiful things anyone has ever done for me.
Call me a bad teacher, but I didn’t teach that day at all. I wanted these girls to have a day they could remember forever. I just asked them, if you could do anything right now, what would you want to do? After a momentary pause, they all exclaimed at the same time, “Mafia!” Playing games in the classroom is pretty much unheard of in a normal Korean setting. Any student I asked says that if they ask to play any game, their teacher will hit them. I wanted my girls, my Seven Princesses, to have the best last day ever, full of love and laughter. We played games, we took pictures, we exchanged letters, they tried to teach me Korean songs and dances, and we practiced their beautiful rendition of You Raise Me Up. They would get into two lines in the dark room, hold hands, and sing like angels. I cried every time.
I’m never going to forget that day. At the end, I sat them down and thanked them from the bottom of my heart for everything that whole week. I gave them the “talk,” about how beautiful they were and how much they deserve in life, never to settle, and never to give up on pursuing true happiness, despite what others may say. But the most amazing part was I got to share with them then and there about Jesus. I talked to them about their infinite worth in Christ. I got to share with them about Jesus. When I did, they were weeping. Each and every one of them. We sat in a circle, holding each other’s hands, sobbing. I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit there stronger than I can remember feeling in any church service. It was perfect. In the end, they were eager to pray. We all sat down right there, held hands, and I prayed over them, crying, as I blessed them and prayed for their future families, paths, and that they would experience the presence of God like never before. I just thanked God for them over and over again. I heard them pray on their own with me. This time, they all said amen with me.
During the closing ceremony, they sang You Raise Me Up and then You Are my Sunshine with their own motions as a surprise, dedicating it to their teacher. When I said goodbye to my girls, we hugged and hugged over and over again, not wanting to leave. It wasn’t boring English camp this week for anyone. It was a life-changing week. We held hands and closed in a short prayer. My girls were crying and didn’t want to leave. I was like a faucet.
As soon as I left the room, my class from two weeks ago, Team Ola, surprised me outside of the door. They brought gifts and letters and took me out for a night out in Geksa. It was a blast. We shopped, played pool, and just hung out. It was wonderful to see my students again. I felt so loved. I hated saying goodbye.
I got back to my room and cried. A lot. God is good.
Yesterday, we visited a Buddhist temple near Jeonju for several hours. Upon returning, we worked on the upcoming camp’s curriculum and proceeded to pack up our dorm. I moved into my host family’s home today. They are a wonderful Korean and Japanese family with three beautiful little children. I’m on the floor in my room right now, ready to go to bed. My last week of teaching starts in the morning. Jesus, You’ve got this, like You always do. Thank You.