Sep 2, 2007

The Journey to Judith

And Abraham said, "God will provide. . ."
Genesis 22:8a

Now it came about that in the spring of 2007 that God tested the Saipan SDA School and said to the principal "Barbara!"

And she said "Here I am."

And He said, "Grant has some bad news for you. . ."

And so began the journey. I don't think I ever truly understood the famed story of Abraham and Isaac recorded in Genesis 22--indeed, I'd come to be actively uncomfortable with it in recent years. That is until I trailed along after Barbara on this, her journey up her own little Moriah.

Grant's decision not to return to Saipan for a second year was a shock. It just didn't seem right. How could this possibly be God's will? He was an excellent teacher, a vibrant leader, beloved by the kids. The second year was supposed to be even better than the first. And yet, there it was. Grant was leaving. God was calling him somewhere else, it seemed. And Barbara knew. A premonition, a whisper from God, call it what you will, but a few days before Grant delivered his resignation letter, Barbara sensed it was coming. It would it be the first of several such whispers Babs would hear in the long months ahead.

I'm sure along the way, Abraham was on the lookout for the lamb that he'd assured his son would be provided. I'm sure he heard a rustle in the bushes here, glimpsed a flash of wooly white amidst tall grasses there. I imagine he gazed longingly at the flocks grazing along roadside pastures waiting, hoping, and praying for the signal from the Lord to take one of them to be the sacrifice instead of his son. And so it was with Barbara. She interviewed prospective teacher after prospective teacher. Several sounded really good. A few were even excellent. She would make them an offer. And in a few cases they even said yes. The talk turned to airline tickets and arrival times, but always, always the bottom would drop out. Obstacles would arise, they would regretfully decline, and we would lose them. And often, Babs would hear the whisper in advance--ironically, often when everything seemed to be coming together--"No, this is not the one. They're not going to come." And the next day, sure enough, the door would close.

I'm sure that along the way, Abraham was tempted to force the issue. To just take what God had not chosen and make it work instead. Maybe a dog would do. Or how about a small bird? Anything, but his son. Maybe that was the test. To step out and take less than the best, less than what it seemed God required. So Barbara was tempted. It wasn't always that no one wanted to come. Sometimes it was Barbara who closed the door. She knew that some of the talented and eager applicants she encountered were wonderful, but not right for our school. She knew what she was looking for and in faith, she refused to settle.

Through the summer months, Barbara worked the phones, fired off e-mails, went through interview after interview, and there was nothing, and all the while Moriah's windswept peak drew closer.

And at last we were there. The mountaintop. The place of sacrifice, it appeared. We returned to Saipan. School began. And still there was no one. Our former pre-school director, Larene Delos Reyes, gamely and ably stepped into the gap to teach the the 5-7 homeroom while we waited for. . .what? For God to provide? Either He would come through in the clutch or Barbara would make the sacrifice--teaching full-time, the school hobbling along as best it could--and any work on fundraising or school expansion certainly put on hold.

And then, a phone call. It was Walla Walla College. "We heard you needed another teacher. Well, we have this girl who is interested in Saipan but she put down Majuro as her first choice, so she's going there." Not much hope there. But they gave Barbara her number and on a whim, Babs gave her a call. No one answered. So Barbara gave up.

A few days later, Walla Walla called again to question whether this girl was to come to Saipan, because the General Conference was voting the next day to send her to Majuro. Barbara told them, "No, go ahead and send her to Majuro." A few hours passed and Barbara was in the midst of a ho-hum webcam interview with yet another prospective teacher. The connection was going in and out, and while she drummed her fingers on the desk, waiting to be reconnected, the phone rang again. On the other end of the line was the girl--Judith Edwards. She was calling to say she wanted to come to Saipan.

Everything happened so fast after that. Barbara set up an interview and this time when the whisper came again, it said "This is the one."

Judith decided to make the sacrifice. She put her educational and career plans on hold, left behind friends and loved ones, abandoned her comfort zone, to come a tiny little rock in the Pacific to teach God's precious children. I'm sure it was scary, I'm sure it hurt some too, but she was willing and eager to make the sacrifice. And we're so glad she did.

Judith landed in Saipan early last Wednesday morning--just a week before Larene was scheduled to leave--to begin her adventure on Saipan. This Tuesday she'll step into the classroom that's been waiting for her all this time. I'd be surprised if she wasn't a little nervous--we all were on our first day, and add to that the pressure of being the Answer, the Provision. Talk about high expectations! But I'm confident that Judith will do a great job. After all, God called her, and He will enable her to thrive and shine.

So say a prayer for Judith. Because while our journey to find her has finally come to an end, her journey is just getting started.

Welcome to the team, Judith!

The late-night welcome for Judith on her arrival early on the morning of August 29, 2007.

"And Abraham called the name of that place "The Lord Will Provide", as it is said to this day, 'In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.'"

--Genesis 22:14

To be honest, I think lots of believers have gotten the story of Abraham and Isaac dead wrong. Check out my blog Faith Journeys for my latest post entitled "Getting Abraham and Isaac Right" which goes into further detail about what I learned about faith and sacrifice from our "Journey to Judith." Just click on the link on this page or go to


Ronda said...

Sean...I'm Riki's mom and I love to read your blogs. What a great parallel you have drawn between the journey of Abraham and the journey of finding Judith. Stories in the Bible sometime don't seem relevant until we take time to consider how they really do relate to what we experience today. I'm so glad that Saipan SDA School has their answer to prayer now. I have spent 8 years on school boards and personnel committees and have indeed found it worth waiting, most times impatiently, for the one God has chosen. And as you and Barbara have found, He does provide but always in His time. That was the hard part...being patient. I love that you and Barbara are God directed. I know that's why Riki is there as is the case with the others, I'm sure. I also believe that the people who work with missions at Walla Walla work on the same principle. Sorry, I'm going on and on but I get excited when I hear stories of how God works and answers prayer. I pray for your ministry every day.


Sean said...

Ronda, thanks so much for your comment and your support. It's nice to know there's folks reading and praying for us. We're so glad Riki's here. We feel that she too was called here for a special purpose this year and I know she'll fulfill it. I don't see Riki very often, as she is always at the pre-school and I'm always at the elementary campus, but I try to keep in touch with her and make sure she's doing alright.

Brit's Blog said...

Praise GOD!!! our prayers were answered. Isn't that exciting!?!!

Please give Judith a big hug from me. I know she's nervous, but I'm praying for her and every other teacher on that little rock in the south pacific. God bless! Judith will grow to love it soo much :)

Ken & Crystal said...

Good journal entry. Very powerful. We are glad she's here too!