LINDA BRUCH | Pioneer Press (Cut Bank, USA)
She knew someday she would stand in front of a class of eager young students, helping them through their daily lessons, while teaching them some life lessons too.
What she didn’t know was that four years of her classroom time would be spent in a place that is a long way from her hometown of Conrad.
In July 2009, after 14 years at Valley Christian School in Spokane, “God just opened some doors and it was obvious he was calling me to do something different,” she said. The ‘something different’ was teaching in Papua New Guinea.
In PNG, Carmen taught second grade for three years and sixth grade for one year. The kids in her classroom were from all over the world. Their parents were in PNG doing mission work.
“We were there to help the national kids too, but our primary purpose was to serve the kids in the mission,” she said. “For the four years I was there, I had kids that came from 10 different countries.”
She spoke and taught in English, making her classroom similar to those she taught in in the United States. “The kids were receptive to the American way of teaching,” she said. “However, because these kids come from so many different cultures, it was me that had to learn to be flexible and sometimes go beyond the American way of doing things.”
In helping her kids learn, Carmen learned too. “I never knew what we call Q-tips in America are ear buds in Australia.”
But she learned more than a few new words. “This whole experience taught me to be more aware of different cultures,” she said. “You have to use different aspects of teaching when in a different country too and my time there forced me to open my mind to another way of thinking.”
She continued, “It also really opened my eyes to see how invested the parents and their kids are in the mission work they are doing there. The parents were so grateful to me for what I was doing, because that meant they could continue their missionary work.”
When her four years as an associate were concluded, Carmen said she knew it was time to leave New Guinea and return home to Montana and to her family. “I had originally told my family I would be gone for one year, but then I stayed for four years.
“By the end of that time, I knew it was time to come home,” she said. “But I enjoyed the whole experience. It wasn’t always perfect and it wasn’t always easy, but it was worth it in so many ways. And I would do it again in a minute.”