Monday, October 5, 2015

Kelson



It'd been ten weeks since Joanna (one of my teammates) and I had last seen Kelson. Despite the hot and sticky summer day, we continued to walk around the small Taiwanese village trying to find him. We even stopped by his house, but he was not home. As we began to pray again that we would be able to see him, we suddenly saw three boy-like figures coming up over a hill in the distance. "Could one of them be him?!" I thought as I strained my eyes to see who it was. Suddenly one of the figures began running straight towards us for a big hug. Sure enough, it was him!

Earlier that spring, Kelson had arrived at our week-long Character and English Institute with a completely different attitude. During classes he always made his presence known with disruptive behavior, despite his smaller stature. He would rarely smile and would always walk around with a tough facade on, especially towards his classmates. He was the type of student who would walk by other classmates’ desks and kick their chairs or “just so happen to” forcefully bump into his classmates when he would walk past them. It was very obvious that he grew up in a rough environment. That week I had to continually run to Christ for strength and patience with Kelson during my classes, especially during small group classes. Small group classes meant that I was the only teacher present during that entire class period. I prayed that Christ would give me His love for the kids when mine ran out. About halfway through the week I suddenly began to see his behavior in a different perspective. At first I saw him as a disruptive and obnoxious little boy who liked to make trouble for everyone, including the teachers. However, I suddenly saw him as a little boy who was starving for attention and love. Instead of just disciplining him for his disruptive behavior, I began to use those opportunities to talk with him. I wanted to try to figure out what was triggering him to act out with such unpleasant behavior. I realized that students like Kelson need to know that someone loves them, cares for them, and is cheering them on in life. After a little love and attention he began to not only focus more in class, but also began to open up more during break time and play with other students. Of course he still had his share of being sent to the office for one-on-one talks throughout the week. However, by Friday when it was time for him to go home he was in tears after he gave all of us teachers hugs goodbye. He even made a cute card thanking me for teaching him and spending time with him. In just a few days his attitude had already begun to change for the better. I learned that week to never underestimate how our words, actions, and reactions can affect others for a day or even a lifetime.

Because of such a breakthrough in his attitude during that week of classes, he is one of many students who holds a special place in my heart. That specific summer day in June, Joanna and I had decided to take a train and a taxi to his small, rough mountain village. We wanted to try and follow-up with him and a few other students. At first we were not sure how he would act since it had been ten weeks since he had come to our school. During those ten weeks we had not had any contact with him. As we saw him and his two cousins come up over a hill in the distance, we began to mentally prepare ourselves in case he reverted back to his “tough” attitude and decided to blatantly ignore us. However, part of us still held on to the hope that during that week at our school he had changed for the better. As soon as he saw us, his face beamed with joy and he ran as fast as his legs would carry him into Joanna and my arms for a big hug (which he most likely rarely gets at home). After telling him that we came there to see him and his other classmates, he seemed ecstatic that we had come just for that reason. He was excited to use a few English phrases that he remembered from school and we asked him if he remembered his Character 1, 2, 3 (something that is taught at our school). It was pretty obvious that that afternoon he totally soaked up the love and attention we gave him. It was as if he were a dry sponge that was just dipped in a bucket of water. He kept telling us how happy he was that we came and kept chatting with us non-stop, despite the language barrier. That visit to the village taught me to never judge students by their outward “mask”. Sometimes the students who act the toughest are actually some of the sweetest and most vulnerable kids. I believe that showing them unconditional love and giving them someone they can trust is one of the best gifts you can give them.

This past weekend I was reminded again to never underestimate the impact we can have on others around us, even in a short amount of time. Joanna and I made another trip to Kelson’s village. Some of our former students are reaching the pre-teen stage where they act “too-cool” to acknowledge us in front of other classmates, even though it is obvious they are happy we came to see them. Kelson is growing up in a village that has a rougher lifestyle and it has been a year and a half since the first breakthrough in his behavior and attitude. I was not sure what reaction to expect from him, if we even found him, but I was hoping for the best. As we arrived at his village, I prayed for two specific things. I prayed that we would not only be able to see Kelson, but that his attitude would not have slipped back into his old behavior. It was so encouraging to be greeted with a big smile and a hug even though it has been a while. He seems to be doing well, despite his environment, and even smiled big for a picture! This is something he does not always do.


Someone once said that the students who we get the most annoyed by are the ones who need our love and care the most. Many times their behavior may seem rude, loud, or even ugly on the outside. However, these are the students who are often hurting and crying out for love, attention, and acceptance. He goes on to say that they respond in positive ways as a result of us being willing to get on their level, really listening to them, genuinely loving them, and encouraging them. When we allow the love of Christ to shine through us, it can really change a person. I believe that this is what happened with Kelson. I am still praying that one day he will personally experience Christ’s love, acceptance, and forgiveness for himself. His village is about forty-five minutes away by train and taxi, so I plan to continue visiting Kelson throughout this upcoming year. I can’t wait to see all that Christ will continue doing in this village boy’s heart!



Caroline Rodgers is a twenty-two year old who fell in love with Taiwan over eight years ago. The beautiful east coast city of Hualien has become her Taiwanese home and she looks forward to teaching around seventy new fourth-grade students on a weekly basis. Caroline strives to share the light and love of Christ with those around her, especially her students. She can often be found wherever her former students are, which means hanging out in local villages, volunteering at local children’s homes, attending local elementary school “sports days”, or surprising them during lunch break by showing up at their public schools. When not spending time with students, she enjoys studying Chinese and spending time with friends.