As a junior in the education program at Messiah, I spend two mornings a week at Mechanicsburg Middle School for my pre-student teaching experience. I get to dress up all teacher-like—dress pants and button-up blouses with cardigans and pearl earrings—completing my outfit with a pair of classic black or nude colored heels to keep me from looking like a student next to my teaching partner Kira, an outgoing athletic English major (a rare find, indeed) with California-blonde hair and the height to match her bold personality. Kira and I both hope to teach high school English one day, so dressing up and playing teacher side by side with Mrs. Curry and her sixth grade English class is like giving a wannabe movie star her first minor role in a film.
We’re at the middle school for the first three periods of the day, but Mrs. Curry only teaches periods one and two. That means that period three is always a distinctively original adventure for Kira and I. We’ve spent some days in Mrs. Curry’s classroom discussing lesson plans or individualized student needs or the importance of organization. Yesterday we ventured to the library to laminate vocab words written in pretty green marker on dozens of index cards. One day we traveled next door for third period to watch Mr. Chubb teach his science class how the body gets energy through food: a lovely process that ends with excretion. Apparently, excretion is quite a comical lesson if you’re a sixth grade boy or quite a confusing one if you’re a middle school student who has never heard the word “stool” before.
Last Thursday, however, was by far my most favorite period three adventure yet. Kira and I visited the TESL, or Teaching English as a Second Language, classroom. For all of you non-education majors, a TESL class is designed to give students who are learning English as a second language individualized instruction apart from the general education classroom. There were four English Language Learners in the class that we observed on Thursday. Each one stood in front of the class and introduced themselves to us—telling us their name and pointing to their home country on a colorful classroom map—some of them in broken English. We finished our mini presentations by introducing ourselves as Messiah students Miss MacNeil and Miss Maier, both pointing to New Jersey as our hometown state on the class map.
As I resumed my seat next to two boys from Somalia, Africa, one of them turned to me excitedly and asked, “do you play soccer?!” If any of my friends overheard this question, I’m sure a slight outbreak of laughter would have occurred. Regardless, I chose to take the question as a complement despite its laughable imprecision.
“No, I don’t, but I like to watch!” I said trying to save the boy from disappointment and salvage an opportunity for common interest. “Have you ever been to a Messiah soccer game?”
“YEAH!” they both exclaimed, nearly jumping out of their seats. “We went to the soccer camp in the summer!” Just like that, the boys were glowing, and I beamed with excitement because I knew exactly what they were talking about. Last spring, my friend Josh told me about a passion that God placed on his heart to start a summer camp run by the Messiah soccer players for a group of local African boys.
“Oh, you did?! Do you know Josh?” I asked.
“Yes, yes!” they answered. “And uhh… J.P! Do you know J.P.?” “Or… or Jack!” said one boy. “And Danny? Do you know Danny? He’s my favorite!” chimed the second. They continued to name Messiah soccer players as if they were celebrities, and they grew in excitement as I affirmed their names. They told me that, in fact, they would be playing a mini scrimmage at Saturday’s home game, and I promised to look for them from my seat in the stands.
Last Thursday in that period three class, I saw the ripple effects of passionate Christians doing God’s work. I had heard Josh and J.P. talk to me last spring about what they felt God was calling them to do: how he wanted to use the soccer players to impact the lives of a group of young boys from Somalia. Now, I was seeing the effects of the soccer players’ obedience and passion in the shining faces of middle school boys. I could see the difference that they made in the lives of youth using little other than God’s love and a soccer ball.
On Saturday, I saw the two boys from that period three TESL class with a whole cluster of friends, and each of them was wearing the love and acceptance that they received from the soccer players on their sleeves like a captain letter sewn onto a soccer jersey: proud and deserving. The Messiah team beat Arcadia on Shoemaker Field that night, and the players celebrated with their summer soccer camp boys, eating pizza and hanging out together.
Sometimes when we follow God and act on love, we don’t realize God’s whole plan. Not everyone around us will see what we are doing, but we have to remember to do it. You never know who might see the ripples and be drawn to the water.
“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” –William James
“I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.” -Mother Theresa