by Mikaela Ramdial
As the intern at NVOC, I am naturally younger than the other teachers at the school. I consider this to be such a gift because it means that the girls warm to me fast as a friend in addition to a teacher. They all want me to sit with them and spend time with them. They like that I have my nails done differently each week and that I wink at them if they are being silly. It can sometimes feel like there are so many girls and I just want to get to know each and every one of them.
When the Bible says to “love one’s neighbour as himself” it feels cliché and a bit simplistic… until you are thrown into a room full of intricately created girls in a different culture, religion and language. Add their difficult and often messy lives into the situation and “loving them” feels much more complicated. I desperately want them all to feel valued and noticed. I want them all to know the gospel and to understand that the rules in their culture/Islam that either honor or shame them do not determine their worth. I wish I could prove to each girl that I am not judging her and that her personality is enough to cheer up my afternoon. But alas, one must begin at the beginning with the hellos, the giggles and the “I love your skirt today, it’s so pretty”. Relational ministry takes time because, evidently, relationships are not built in a day. And so us workers of the Kingdom are about the business of hanging out. We sit underneath grass huts and drink strong strong tea. We come to see the babies and attend the baptisms. We come specially to the school to cut out fabric, eat snacks, rock babies, look at pictures and chat over the sewing machines.
I especially have had such joy spending my mornings doing regular class stuff with the graduate students who have come back to learn more advanced material. Most of them are my age but they are married and often have kids. I am completely ignorant of how to wield a needle and yet they don’t seem to mind having me hang out with them. Evidently, I am not really helpful but each day I learn something new about a girl or they become more comfortable around me. However, I am learning that it is less the teaching or the food or the talking that enables me to love these young women. They actually just like it when we sit with them while they do everyday things. It must be a cultural thing because I still feel like I need to be helpful or talkative for it to be worthwhile. But just “hanging out” is enough ministry for each day. Loving them suddenly turns from complicated to simple again. Just being there counts. I pray that the student would come to trust us through our daily building of relationships. I pray that if anything in their messy lives came to threaten or scare them that they would feel comfortable approaching us. I pray that we would be available and ready to pray for them and love them whenever they feel they don’t know where to go. I pray that hanging out would improve their perception of Christians and therefore God! They are beautiful and intricate and full of life and we are so blessed to spend our lives spending our time with them.