In the winter of 1969, my sister had her third child in Colombia, South America, where she and her husband were missionaries. Our mother decided to be adventurous and go visit them. She did go, and she spent an enjoyable month. In the car bringing her home from O’Hare Airport, she was bubbling over with accounts of her time there and the wonderful people she had met. As I listened somewhere in a back seat, God planted a dream in my heart. I knew I wanted to go and work in that place in South America. Fortunately, I was smart enough to realize that for that to happen, God had to plant the same dream in my husband’s heart.
Meanwhile, I looked into options for the student teaching I needed. Most such courses, in a college program, required a full year of classroom experience, or “practice.” I’m sorry I have no memory of how I heard about it, but I learned that NIU offered a fully-accredited student-teaching program during six weeks in the summer. Could that be for real? Ah, but it had an unusual requirement. One had to have taught a full year under contract to qualify.
Say what? I had taught only half days—but wait! I was in my second year. By the summer of 1970 I would have two years. Two half years make a whole year, so yes, I qualified. I would take the course in the summer of 1970 when I had finished all the other courses to qualify for a certificate.
The previous fall, my sister and her husband began a campaign to recruit us to go to South America. Their oldest would be going to kindergarten in the fall of 1970, and the mission school had no teacher for that fall. In addition, the man who kept the mechanical things running was going on furlough. That was my husband's area of expertise, and he was open to considering it.
The number of bumps we encountered along the way are stories for another time. At this point I just need to pull this together with the fact that the summer of 1970, while Fred and the girls visited friends to recruit some financial support for us and Don Paul spent his days with Grandma again, I did my student teaching in a six-weeks summer kindergarten program. I then rounded up all my credits—from Michigan again, from Wheaton, from NIU—and sent them off to the state of Illinois in Springfield.
They would issue me a teaching certificate, but I would not see it until three years later when I came back from South America. And that’s how I became a school teacher.
I never cease to marvel at the “ifs” along the way. If I hadn’t taken those courses in Michigan, if I hadn’t decided in 1967 to start working to become a teacher, if NIU hadn’t had that six-weeks’ summer course, and the biggest IF of all, if that half-day school-teaching job hadn’t come looking for me the exact time it did, I would in no way have been ready to think about South America when the opportunity came my way.
My God is so utterly amazing.