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Bangkok 2015

Sarah Liu

  My past year in Thailand at Bangkok Christian International School has been a challenging but rewarding experience. Even though I went as a teacher, I really feel as if I learned more things than I taught, which is probably true. Above all else, the most prominent things I learned this past year from the people and experiences God has blessed me with are humility, community, patience, and trust.

  When I first arrived in Thailand, I faced challenges adjusting to my new environment. When we went out for our first meal soon after arriving, my food was so spicy that I couldn’t even finish it. The traffic and density of the city was overwhelming, and the hot and humid weather was enough to give me a heatstroke on my second day. I learned since then to never leave the house without sunscreen and a water bottle. I also got very sick from the immense difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures--I was still coughing by the time school started.

  During this stressful and humbling time of adjustment, however, I was blessed with caring new coworkers whom I quickly were able to call my friends and a comfortable new place I had learned to call ‘home.’ Prior to coming to Thailand, I had never met my other roommate/co-worker nor had I thoroughly seen the place I was going to live in. In a time when so many things could have not worked out or could have been worse, God was so gracious in his provisions, beyond what I had imagined. I hardly even missed my real home in Canada!

  The start of school was the birth of another challenge. When school started, I had to wake up at 5:30AM every day and get to school before 7AM. As someone who loved sleeping in, I was sure that this kind of physical/physiological hurdle could only be overcome with a miracle—and that is exactly what God gave me. I am still in awe today of how God gave me the strength to have done just that. Before class started everyday, we as a school devoted half an hour to worship, prayer, thanksgiving, and setting our hearts right before the Lord. By spending this time with God every morning, He used this time to strengthen me with His might, which is truly powerful as it had left me still standing and smiling by 4PM every day.

  Although our school only has about 300 people, it is very diverse with staff and students from all over the world. Most of the students are Thai but we also have fair amount of Korean and Chinese students. This year, I taught five classes from grades 8 to 10 and had about 55 students in total. My smallest class was 4 people and my largest was 18, which is still relatively small.

  I had many doubts, worries, and struggles when I first started teaching. I was very apprehensive because not only was it my first time teaching ever professionally, I was submerged in a culture that was still foreign to me. I was also teaching American Language Arts and English Literature, which were not things I studied in university. Furthermore, the teacher I had replaced was an extremely smart and well-respected English teacher of over 10 years—practically a star in our school. There were many times when the devil would use these to tempt me into thinking that I was not good enough and that I should quit. I normally would have kept these thoughts to myself but by God’s grace I was convicted to share these thoughts with fellow teachers and even some students. I straight up told many of my students that I had little confidence I’d be half as good a teacher as Mr. Dana (the former teacher) and that I had a science background. Amazingly, God used this incident of transparency and humility with my students to strengthen my relationship with them. I made it apparent to them that God was the sole source of my ability to teach them and that if I did do well, it would not be because of my own strength. The teachers who I shared with also prayed for me and encouraged me that being there was no accident and that God was going to use me for great things in our school and in the students’ lives.

  Being a Christian school, BCIS had mandatory Bible classes and weekly chapel for the students. As a result, many students know about Jesus and are well versed in the Gospel message. Furthermore, I was blessed to have had the opportunity to talk more about faith and life when we had in-school retreats. In these occasions, I would lead a small group discussion, share stories about my faith, and pray for the students. It would also be during these times that I’d learn more about our students’ lives as they opened up about family, interests, faith, and concerns. I learned that many of them were from broken families or had parents who worked elsewhere and only sent them money every month. With this knowledge I grew to love them more meaningfully and care about them beyond academics. Priscilla and I are planning to start a girls group this coming year, now that we know them better and have developed a great rapport with them.

  Outside of BCIS, I have also found a church that I attend regularly with my roommates and my friends. I also got more involved by becoming a youth group leader and helping out with the Friday night fellowship. I am thankful to have found community at church and at school, and I see God working in myself and in the people around me all the time. I am excited to resume teaching this coming August and seeing my students again, even though there will be new and more challenges heading my way. Whatever they may be, I pray that I continue to learn, forgive, love, and grow, knowing that God is with me and that He will be glorified.