Looking around my middle school classroom in Springfield, I’m struck by how different it is than where I was eight months ago, surrounded by the beautiful mountains of eastern Kentucky.
Or five months ago, when I was immersed in the bright and flashing lights of New York City.
After college, I decided to take a season of my life and do full-time ministry. I spent two years in Kentucky working with at-risk kids. I followed that up with a
few months in Brooklyn, learning about ministry in an urban context. I came back home to Illinois in November and felt called to live out a personal dream: becoming a teacher. I received an exciting job offer to teach current events to sixth, seventh and eighth graders.
My classroom isn’t as scenic as the mountains or the city, but it’s certainly a mission field.
Going from a mission-minded environment to a secular workplace was a big jump for me. In many ways it was one of my biggest life challenges. I went from being surrounded by those who have the same eternal goal in mind, to working with people who have lots of different goals. I quickly learned that the “harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” But God has given me opportunities to share the Gospel.
One of the first things I noticed among my co-workers was that the environment in my school was very negative. I started writing encouraging notes to the teachers on my team as well as the administrative staff. My coworkers quickly took notice of that and sought me out to talk about their struggles. A before-school prayer meeting started up again. People are more positive now. I realized that sharing the Gospel starts with the small things, and God can take those small things and transform a school.
The most valuable part of my job is getting to know my students and letting them know I care about their needs. Even though I’m not allowed to say, “Christ has a future for you,” I can give positive feedback and point them toward their strengths.
One student recently was placed in my room for a behavior problem. He quickly got bored, so I gave him the simple task of fixing my three-hole punch. He liked that I gave him some attention and that he was able to accomplish this task for me. We’ve had a positive relationship since then, and he knows that I care about him and want him to do better in school.
Even with the challenges this new workplace brings, I have been constantly reminded that Christ is in control, and that the real mission field lies in our schools and regular workplaces. People with needs are crying out and, for us who are Christians, being able to step into those places and bring the Gospel is an honor.
Carrie Campbell is a member of Delta Church in Springfield.