IVEPer Hyojae Kwak from South Korea standing in front of her students in pre-K classroom at Della Lamb Early Education Program.
Della Lamb/LaTrecia Thornton

IVEPer Hyojae Kwak from South Korea standing in front of her students in pre-K classroom at Della Lamb Early Education Program.

Ms. Jeanine is my English name for my 3- and 4-year-old kids. It means that God is gracious.

“Ms. Jeanine, I am happy.” This was said by a girl who was special to me in my classroom. She had the warmest heart but needed help with completing tasks on her own and expressing herself. Before I engaged in educating her, I had worked on building attachment with her. Every day at naptime, I would cover her with her blanket, tell her I loved her and remind her she was enough just as she is and that I would always be here. It helped her not only feel loved, but also reassured that she was in a secure place.

With our relationship firmed, I started to teach her how to be independent in a safe environment. The more she was free from doubt if teachers would be with her, the more she could pay attention to what she had to do. She eventually learned how to articulate her feelings, sit on the carpet without help, clean up after playing and much more. I was truly proud of her growth and my own growth as a teacher.

Soon after, around Thanksgiving, we celebrated her birthday together and learned that her family just decided to move to Minnesota the following week. With only two days left, the first thought that came to my mind was that God was taking everything away from me. I was just starting to settle down in my classroom, and I had never anticipated that a kid would leave in the middle of a school year. I thought of all the growth that we both had accomplished and I did not want to lose time with her.

After the whirlwind of emotions, I looked into my mind closely and concluded that it was God’s plan.

To begin with, there might be someone who needs my help more than this girl. I realized that God’s priority could be different from mine at this moment. It was time to move my eyes from the girl to another person who is God is currently wanting me to focus on. I started looking around and a boy showed up. The boy needed a different type of additional care, but I did not know how to deal with him. However, I discovered that even if I do not know what to do, God may know it. I was grateful that God helped me see possibilities beyond impossibilities and not hesitate to go.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8–9, New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

On top of that, all I need to do was rely on God. I needed to process to fill the gap between what I can do and where I need help. It required endless joy, patience and hope to teach this boy. Since working with a difficult child is like a marathon, I cannot get the results right away, but I pray that I can continue to believe that he shall be changed someday. I also prayed that my spring of love would not dry up. I learned to lay all my knowledge down and seek God’s wisdom and attributes. It is also a great opportunity for me to see that pursuing the immaterial concepts such as joy, patience and hope is imperative when we live our lives with people.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5–6, New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Finally, God was training me to deal with uncertainty. It was sudden to let her go, and I felt vulnerable because there was nothing I could do. Meanwhile, I learned that all who come and go are in God’s control. I believe that all IVEPers, including me, have experienced lots of changes and things that do not go as we planned or expected. However, I strongly affirm that we are continuously growing by overcoming our challenges. Above all, God is always with us wherever we are.

I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9, New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)