The one where a new friend decides to say hi and bye. (Guest Post)


In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.  And one [seraphim] called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”
And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.  And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!  Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.  And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”  And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”  And he said, “Go" (Isaiah 6:1-9)

The hand of the Lord is always upon us, moving and shaping and guiding our existence according to His perfectly sovereign plan.  And the Lord's hand has been visibly evident in my life leading up to and during my time in Quito, Ecuador.

My name is Andrew, although my students call me Mr. Berndt, and I am just completing my three month student teaching semester in mathematics here at the Alliance Academy International.  (As a quick background, I am 23 years old and just graduated from Wheaton College (Illinois) this past May, and am currently working on a Master's Degree in the Art of Teaching from Wheaton College (Illinois) as well.)  Although I knew the Lord was orchestrating something as I prepared to depart for Quito back in August, I was unprepared for the "far more abundantly than all that we ask or think" that I was about to become immersed in (Ephesians 3:20).

Student teaching at the Alliance Academy International and living on campus in the school dorm (yes, living in the school dorm) are two experiences that I will not soon forget (yes, not soon forget).  In terms of student teaching, the Lord has been so gracious to me as I've prepared my lessons plans for Algebra 1 and Algebra 2, as I've taught those lesson plans while making adjustments on the fly and managing my classroom, as I've written quizzes and tests that are fair for my students and allow them to show me what they have learned, as I've graded quizzes and tests fairly in order to assess what my students have learned, and as I've cultivated and developed relationships with my students that seek to love them where they are at.  But I believe that it is this last area in which the grace of God has been most dearly felt over these last three months.  Although my personality is by and large individual and introverted, one of the greatest joys in life that the Lord has placed within me is loving and serving others in relationship, especially others who might in some way look up to me.  And it is this great joy of mine that led me to pursue a vocation as a high school mathematics teacher.  From the first day of school until now my students have welcomed me and have sought to build a relationship with me in ways I did not anticipate, with arms open wide (both figuratively and literally).  Ending my time as a student teacher will not be hard, from an educational perspective, but from a relational perspective it might be one of the hardest things I've done yet in my young life.  Over the past three months my students have become so dear and precious to me that saying goodbye on Friday is going to be hard, but it is a goodbye that must take place and pray for more of God's grace in my preparation to return to the States.

But student teaching has been just the first derivative of my time in Quito; living in the dorm has been the second derivative, and the majority of the "far more abundantly."  At first thought, although convenient, living in the dorm didn't seem like it was going to be the most appealing option for me.  However, the Lord's hand directs and living in the dorm has turned out to be more than the best option.  And why is that?  Juan Fernando and Marissa Moncayo, who have in large measure been God's servants to me while in Ecuador.  Perhaps more than any married couple I have gotten to know, Juan and Marissa have presented to me a picture of the Ephesians 5 type of man and the Proverbs 31 type of woman, demonstrating their sacrificial love to the land and illustrating the love of Christ for His bride, the Church, to all they encounter.  In addition, the two of them are so rooted in the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that one time event that is announced as The Good News that transforms lives, that its proclamation shines brightly from within them almost every time we interact.  I remember one of my first conversations with Juan early on in my time here and him saying, "I'm really looking forward to getting to know you, bro, but also to be the kind of friend that can ask you the challenging and hard questions."  Perhaps this should have scared me and caused me to flee, but thanks to the power of the Gospel it drew me in.  As a young man, I clung to this opportunity for friendship and have literally sought out as many interactions as possible with Juan, looking to glean from him all that I can.  During my three months the Lord has provided numerous opportunities for a friendship to develop between Juan and I.  Whether going to church or hanging out in the dorm or talking about school or lifting weights in the gym or chopping it up about Gospel rap music (I never thought I would go to Ecuador and find someone as blessed by and interested in Gospel rap music as me!), Juan is always faithfully present with me to listen and speak into me as he is led by the Spirit.  So as I prepare to head back to the States, I am saddened by the fact that that means I have to say goodbye to my newly found and dear friends, Juan Fernando and Marissa Moncayo, who have been used by God as instruments in my sanctification.

In closing, Lord is good, abounding is steadfast love and spiritual blessings for His children.  As one of His children, I have received the love of God through His directing me to the Alliance Academy International and I have experienced His spiritual blessings in the form of relationships with my students and the Moncayos.  God is three times holy and the only one worthy of my praise, while I am the chief of sinners and worthy of condemnation.  But in Christ I have been washed as white as snow and am equipped to say with Isaiah, "Here I am!  Send me."  With the Lord's calling we go, and as we go we trust that all things work together for the good of those who love God and have been called according to His purposes, a tautology that cannot fail.  In coming to Quito the hand of the Lord has been evident, and I have been blessed far more abundantly than I could have ever thought or imagined.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Grace and Peace,
Andrew Berndt

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