This month our church members are sharing testimonies during the worship service. This is Dianna's testimony from last week.
I came to Korea with a specific plan. I was going to stay one year, improve my Korean language skills while teaching, and then leave for a graduate degree in East Asian history. Soon after the 12-month mark arrived for me, I was telling people that I felt like God was laughing at me—good-naturedly of course—because everything I had said about where my life was going to be that fall was wrong. By that time I was living in Cheonan and teaching at the school where I still am today.
I knew before I ever arrived that God’s hand was guiding me in this and that he had plans beyond my own, and yet I’ve still found it extremely difficult to surrender my future to his keeping. Every fall I have once again pulled out my old grad school applications, reconsidered my goals, and begun the arduous mountain of paperwork necessary for entrance into highly competitive programs and the scholarships that would make them possible. Yet, every spring I have found that it’s not time to leave and as you can see I’m most definitely still here.
This fall the application process seemed more important than it ever has before. The Fulbright program, which brought me here to teach, is technically a graduate fellowship and a multi-national government grant, and it allows participants a maximum of three years in the program. At the same time that I was sure I had no choice but to leave I felt God calling me to become more involved and to invest more of myself in my students and my life here. As I was spending spare moments in the teachers’ office trying to write personal statements and essays for scholarships, I was also becoming involved with the students’ lunch-time bible study, being asked for advice and guidance, and connecting with parents who only see their sons on rare school holidays.
In the middle of all this I began to get angry with God. I felt like he was telling me to stay when both he and I knew that was impossible—even if I could stay in Korea with another teaching program I couldn’t stay at my school because it is and has been a Fulbright school for many years. As a result of this stress, by the middle of September my normal struggle with hormonal insomnia had turned into a continuous cycle of so little sleep that I watched my health deteriorate and everything in my life come to a standstill; nothing was getting done.
On the last Thursday in September I had a meeting with Josh. I desperately needed an outside perspective on my problems, and I got it. I walked away from that meeting with advice that I was determined not to follow—the suggestion to just talk to my school about staying without Fulbright and see what they said. I of course knew that Josh had no idea how impossible his suggestion really was because it was Fulbright and not my school that would stop something like that from happening.
Less than 24 hours later a completely disconnected conversation with our school’s head English teacher led to a request that I stay past my Fulbright contract. By the following Monday, I was officially asked to sign a contract for three more years at my school pending Fulbright’s approval and promise that at the end of that time our school could return to the program. Throughout October things with my school continued to progress as we considered appropriate ways to approach Fulbright with our request and began filling out paperwork and tracking down documents for the change of my visa status that would necessarily come with the change in my contract.
I continued to have so many doubts and to worry about what would happen, but finally on the day after Thanksgiving I had a meeting with the director of Fulbright Korea. In the hour long conversation I had with her she not only agreed to allow my school to temporarily leave the program with the promise that they could return when I leave, but also she offered to help me obtain the Korean government scholarship for graduate school in Korea three years from now. Objectively speaking, there are still many things that could happen between now and July that could cause all of these plans to fall through, but I have faith that as God started this he will also complete it. I think I have finally reached the point where I can stop making my own plans, because I’ve learned to really trust that God’s are better.