I have wrestled for a few weeks on the best way to document our thoughts as we approach the end of our journey in Singapore. God has really tugged at my heart the past couple of weeks to share our walk rather than struggle with fear of what others might think.
As many of you know Singapore has been hit very hard with COVID-19 in the past couple of months, but government officials have worked very hard to control it. As of this post we have more than 36,900 cases and 24 deaths. Keep in mind that Singapore is a tiny island. For those of you in Arkansas, we are roughly half the size of Prairie County, and for those of you in Texas, we are close to half the size of San Antonio. These numbers are high, but the population in Singapore is over 5 million. The outbreak in Singapore started spiraling up once it hit foreign workers dorms. Community spread has pretty well been controlled since having extensive stay home “Circuit Breaker” measures in place. These circuit breaker measures (a fancy way to say lockdown) have been life changing to the point we have struggled with feeling like we are all on “house arrest”. We would give anything to have a backyard to allow our kids the opportunity to go run, swing, jump or kick a soccer ball outside right now. These measures have also brought on a roller coaster of changes and challenges.
Little did we know the pandemic that stopped many of us in our tracks and turned 2020 upside down would force us to make another life changing decision. This past Christmas we made a quick trip back to the states to see our family. My dad’s health has steadily been declining over the past several months, so we knew it was crucial to go home at Christmas. Since Christmas, my dad’s health hasn’t improved. If you know him, you know how hard headed he is when it comes to getting the care and help he needs. We have a tremendous amount of love for Singapore, the people, community and our amazing school. We were faced with a hard decision a couple months ago as we learned about restrictions that were being put on employment and dependent pass holders. If we travel outside of Singapore during this pandemic, we will not be able to return. This brought on a whirlwind of emotions because Singapore has a long road ahead in fighting this horrible virus. We knew we desperately needed to go home this summer to help care for and see my dad, but it wasn’t going to be possible.
As we heard the restrictions, I was overwhelmed. My heart was ripped apart. All I could think about was, “How could we leave Singapore because God called us here, and we have a school that needs us. What in the world were we supposed to do because I can’t turn my back on my family?” The thought of staying in Singapore and not knowing if I would ever see my dad again was hard. A million thoughts rushed through my head such as if Jesus called him home, I wouldn’t be able to fly home to support my sister or say goodbye. Could I live with not seeing him possibly ever again and carrying the guilt. I knew at that time I needed to just take all my worries to the Lord, because He is the only one that could guide us. I didn’t want to make decisions based on my emotions of the situation. I wanted for us as a family to make a decision based on prayer and for God to show us the way. We knew that no matter what decision we made, we would either be disappointing our school or our family. We spent a few weeks in gut wrenching prayer trying to come up with whatever solution we could that would allow us to continue to serve in Singapore and also allow us to be home with family. To some this decision might come easy and to others it might come hard. For us it was extremely hard. We questioned ourselves a million times, doubted our walk with christ, our self worth and our purpose as missionaries. We ripped ourselves apart and fell flat on our face begging for God to show us the way.
I am thankful for the mighty God we serve for showing us the path and providing us with all the affirmation we have desperately needed. Our story isn’t ending as we anticipated, but we know that God’s hand has been in our every move, and he is continuing to work in our lives. I wish I could share miraculous stories of what we have done here in Singapore and the enormous impact we have made. The truth is we have nothing like that to share. We have just been obedient to God’s calling for us. Our story here is ending not like what we wanted, but our time here has been beautiful and something we will forever cherish. It’s been life changing in more ways than I can explain in one post for all of us. Nick explained it best recently when he told a good friend, “We have learned that sometimes in life you have to be willing vessels for the Lord and let God work through you and in you. Sometimes the work in you is more important so the work through you can be more impactful.” Nick went on to say that he believed this whole journey was not about how much we could impact others, but about how much we could be impacted by them. This is so true, and I think it best wraps up our Singapore story.
It brings me back to last summer as we sat in front of our mentors for our last meeting in training before we were launched out into the world as missionary teachers. Mrs. Shelly (who has since passed away) looked Nick and me in the eyes with a face full of tears and said something I will never forget. She said, “I have so much admiration for you both, your faith, your love for others, and your willingness to serve as a family. You may not know your purpose and may never know your purpose for serving in Singapore, but God does. Sometimes this is his way of working in you and through you. Just don’t stop following his lead.”
Through a lot of prayer and with the support of our amazing school administration, we made one of the hardest decisions we have ever made. Nick and I decided the best place for us to be in this moment in our life is with our family to be able to help care for my dad. This decision wasn’t easy. It hurt so bad. To be honest, we struggled for a few weeks on what people would think, how our students would handle it, how many people we are disappointing by leaving and our self worth. We never imagined that our colleagues and students would provide us the affirmation we so very much needed to heal. The love and support we have received has been overwhelming, and I praise God for putting these people in our path.
I have had the great honor this school year of being a part of a team that has worked so very hard to build a special education program that we desperately needed to better support the needs of our international students with disabilities. I have been blessed to take my experience in the classroom and as a special education supervisor to help build a program from the ground up that is launching next school year (something I could only have dreamt to come to fruition and be a part of). We have worked tirelessly for the past several months and we are almost at the finish line. My wonderful colleagues reminded me in a time when I felt like I had done nothing that we had actually moved mountains in a very short time. I couldn’t love a school more. The beautiful sense of community and love for others it has to offer is unmatched anywhere. ICS Singapore will forever hold a place in my heart.
I can’t speak completely on Nick’s behalf, but I witnessed his cup over pouring with the affirmation he yearned for. Not only from our colleagues and student’s parents, but also from the students themselves. I listened this week as his students expressed so much love and appreciation for him. There is no doubt Nick loves ICS with his whole heart and has dedicated endless hours to his students. I have seen first hand through us both doing online teaching in our tiny condo on how much support and love he pours into his students and how much that love is reciprocated. God has worked in Nick’s life so much, and it’s been an amazing ride to witness first hand. His testimony hits home. This week I overheard his students asking him what he did before teaching. He mentioned that he was in the oil and gas industry and was a chemical sales account manager. The view on careers and teachers is a little different here, so of course it was shocking for his students to hear that he left that career which financially pays way better than to “just” be a teacher. Nick’s response to the students was a testimony in itself. He explained how God tugged on his heart and put people in his path that helped him realize that teaching is his calling and that he truly enjoys investing in the lives of his students. It might not make him rich, but it’s the most rewarding job he could ever have.
With all this said, tomorrow evening we say goodbye to Singapore and our ICS family and step out in faith to follow God’s lead once again. Unfortunately with the extensive restrictions still in place here, we will not be able to say goodbye in person to all our friends, co-workers and students. The same goes for Dawson and Ellie. This hurts deeply, but I trust God will heal our broken hearts one day.
As I begin to wrap up this post, I want to say a few more things as I know the unknowns of our future will leave many to wonder what’s next. When we made the decision to head back to the states this summer, it came with a hefty price; not only emotionally and mentally with all the unknowns but also financially with unexpectedly moving. We have trusted that God will lead the way and open the doors for us to be able to continue to teach and do what we love. We prayed about the best place to move where we can still care for my dad and support our family and also be able to continue our careers in education. This summer we will be in Arkansas for a month or so and then will move to the Dallas suburb of McKinney / Frisco. Nick just recently accepted an 8th grade science teaching position. I am very blessed to continue my love with working with elementary students on the Autism Spectrum and will be teaching in a specialized classroom with an amazing group of kiddos I can’t wait to meet. We are so very thankful for God continuing to open doors. We are trusting in his plans for us with all the unknowns we have ahead. We have peace in continuing to follow his lead. We are keeping the faith and counting our blessings.
As we say goodbye to this beautiful island, our hearts will be heavy. If you have room for a few extra prayers please keep Singapore, our ICS family and students, and our colleagues who are also on to new journeys in your prayers. Singapore’s road to fighting the virus is not a short one. Our ICS family will continue to adhere to the extensive measures throughout the month of June. I pray July brings them a little more freedom and the ability to do what they do best, show God’s love to others.
**Here are just a few things we have been incredibly thankful for through the past couple of months of our “house arrest”. (It’s a miracle that the four of us have survived this pandemic while teaching online, helping our kids learn online, and living in about 600 square feet 19 floors up.)
*Face time with family * Netflix *ICS Staff and Students * Weekly devotions on Zoom * Our friends & Family * Bouncy balls * Jump Ropes * soccer ball pillow kicking * Card games * Paint * Coloring books * Chips & Salsa * Watching my home church services live online with Bro. York (Such a blessing!) * Our health and safety * The view of the sea from our condo that reminds us daily of God’s beautiful work. *