Sunday, February 13, 2011

Extreme Morning Duty...

     I met a wonderful lady several years ago through her autobiography, To a Different Drum. Reading between the lines, I would say that Pauline Hamilton was brilliant, funny, independent, and a neat Christ-follower.
From a life of rebellion which involved drugs, alcohol, expulsion from med school, depression and thoughts of suicide, she became first a believer and then an accomplished college professor... and then a missionary to post-WWII China...
     Where she found herself teaching children of missionary parents.  Which was not what she intended to do.  Many of her colleagues thought she was crazy to give up her status as a college prof.  She could have transferred to a sister-college in China and continued there as a professor but she was sure that God was telling her to go simply as a missionary.  Why? Because He wanted her to go in humble dependence upon Him and not in her own strength and ability.
     She struggled with language school and was brought to the breaking point more than once as people would comment, "You have a PhD.  This should be easy for you!"  She tried to explain that science, not linguistics, was her forte.  After a year of sweating through to some fluency in Chinese, the OMF directors asked her, somewhat apologetically, if she would teach science at the boarding school for children of missionary parents.
      Okay. First, she'd never taught young children or been around them.  Second, she knew she was being called to reach out to the Chinese. To put language school on hold indefinitely might cause her to lose what little proficiency in the language she had painstakingly gained.  Third, the job would require her  to teach all levels of science from elementary to high school... with no textbooks and only one microscope (her own) for lab equipment.
      To add to that, since this was a boarding school and many of the children were literally thousands of miles away from their parents, teachers had assigned periods of morning duty and/or evening duty.  Okay. As a teacher, I understand morning duty:  you walk around the parking lot for 10 minutes, telling recalcitrant teen-agers to put away their cell phones, disengage from their significant others, and exit their cars...
       Her morning duty,however,  consisted of getting the kids ready for breakfast - helping them get dressed, braiding hair, etc. Night duty was more of the same only in reverse: getting kids ready for bed which included scrubbing the backs of the little ones, a duty she did not enjoy.
       In fact, none of it was palatable to her and she made a lot of mistakes.  She desperately wanted to do some lab work with the kids; finally decided that she could at least dissect a frog for them.  Only the kids, as enthusiastic about this assignment as they were, couldn't catch any frogs. Then she heard a bunch of the little green fellows croaking on the other side of a fence, went next door to ask if she could have one to dissect... only to find that was the wrong thing to do!  It seems next door was a Buddhist Temple and the frogs were sacred, believed to be the reincarnation of human beings.  Needless to say, she left quickly, without a frog and without a return invitation!This whole incident fell into the category of Things the Mission Directors Don't Need to Know:)
        She was only supposed to work at the school for a short time but more than once, the director had to call her in and apologetically say, "We still don't have anyone else to teach science. Would you consider staying on til Christmas?... til Easter? .... til summer?" Each time she said "yes" but it was hard.
        She hit a low point and, at the same time, received a letter from her mom, suggesting that she use the upcoming holiday to come home to the States for a visit.  Pauline knew that if she went, she would not return to China.    Just as she was about to write the letter, accepting the invitation, she saw the verse, No man who has set his hand to the plow and turned back is worthy to be my disciple.  She said that she knew she could insist on having her own way and that God would let her quit OMF. But that she would also receive leanness in her soul and she didn't want that. So she wrote a letter declining her mother's invitation.
      A short time later, another OMF worker came to her and said, "We've gotten a cable."  For three days, Pauline had tried to pray for her mom, as was her habit, but she simply  couldn't. This had bothered her a lot.   As soon as she heard the word "cable", she knew why she had been unable to pray for her mom: she knew her mom had died.
     She went through sleepless nights as the enemy tormented her with thoughts such as:  if only you had gone home when your mom asked you to come...
      Then one night, as she was putting a little girl to bed, the child reached up, grabbed her hand and said, "Miss Hammie, we are twins.  We are both short and fat and we both have mommies in Heaven".
       Children have a way of making us laugh and making us cry.  But they also have a way of getting to the heart of things.  Needless to say, when she left the school, she missed her kids. She was also  able to say that her time at the school had been "the making" of her as a missionary - that there are "no wasted lessons in the Lord's school!"  Finally, when she resumed her language lessons, she found to her delight that she had not regressed and was able to go on to the next level of classes.  She put it this way "As God is no man's debtor, I have found that He always makes up to us for all we ever give to him."  p. 105.

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