What did I get myself into?

Ashley Pinto poses for a shot with her students. | PC: Ashley Pinto

Ashley Pinto poses for a shot with her students. | PC: Ashley Pinto

It hasn’t really hit me I’m currently living in Chuuk, Micronesia even though I’ve been living here for a month.

A year ago, I didn’t even know Micronesia was a country. I would have laughed if you told me I’d be teaching kindergarten and second graders. I probably never would have learned how to flush a toilet without a handle or how to cook a mean loaf of fresh banana bread.

But God has a funny way of throwing curve balls in my life and at this point, I’ve learned to embrace them rather than stress. My decision to be an international volunteer was unexpected, but after hearing former volunteers tell me their testimonies of their experiences, I knew I had to be part of this type of ministry.

I went on a two week mission trip to Peru in 2007 and was deeply affected by the need I saw in the world.

Not just the physical needs the people had, but the spiritual food missing from their lives. I promised myself when I was 13 that I would do more mission work when I was older, but as I went through high school, I never had the opportunity to go on another mission trip.

I’ve always had a heart for mission work, so now I’m sitting here reflecting, I’m not surprised at all of how quickly I came to the decision this past January to set a year of school aside and just go back to the basics of serving.

Here I am, six months later, a month into teaching and let me tell you: It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

I didn’t like teaching at all the first two weeks; it was draining. I felt incompetent and unqualified, and I since I wasn’t in full control of my surroundings I felt I couldn’t do my job well. I was being stretched early on and that made me nervous.

I constantly was thinking to myself, “How in the world am I supposed to teach for an entire ten months? What am I doing?” But being in this type of position made me really lean on God. I slowly realized the lack of confidence I felt in my work was directly linked to the lack of trust I was placing in God’s hands.

I, alone, can’t do much in God’s work here in Chuuk.

If I’m independent of Him, the work I do here will be purely superficial in that at the end of the day, one of my students will be able to identify the lifecycle of a plant—maybe.

But through the power, wisdom, patience and most of all, love, The Father gracefully gives me, I can help grow The Kingdom. Even if it grows only by one student this is much more powerful than what I could ever do.

And even then, God would’ve been the one who brought that student into a new life and I would have been a vessel He used.

Still, there’s nothing more exhilarating than talking with someone who’s excited about learning more about Jesus. I can literally feel my heart getting ripped out of my chest when one of my kindergarteners recites the memory verse of the week and the rest of the class erupts in cheers to celebrate their accomplishment or when a student taps me and asks if they can pray today since someone else prayed yesterday.

These experiences are what keep me going everyday.

The mission here is hefty. There’s a lot of students to show God’s love to and even though I’m relying on God more than I ever have before, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s hard.

I’m still adjusting to the climate (I literally sweat buckets every day), the people, the culture and just living on my own. But man, I’m so excited to be here and be part of something good.

Ashley Pinto is a sophomore international volunteer in Chuuk