Kevin's Story – Special Needs Teacher in the Middle East
“I've always really enjoyed being around kids,” says Kevin. “I have a really patient, calm demeanor that works well with kids who are socially different.” Kevin is a special needs teacher working in the Middle East.
Kevin had a heart for the Middle East long before he made the move. But it was a mixture of what he calls “sovereign-stances” – God’s sovereignty mixed with the right timing and circumstances – that opened the door for this particular job. And now, he couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
“My daily prayer for my work is: Lord, help me do a good job taking care of and teaching these kids,” Kevin says. “Hopefully, I will be a blessing and an expression of God to them.”
In reality – Kevin might be the very first Jesus follower to ever pray for these children and their families.
While the local culture can feel vastly different from what he knew growing up in North America, much of Kevin’s day-to-day work environment and structures in his workplace are very familiar.
Kevin spends his days working alongside men and women from different cultural backgrounds, learning together, building friendships, and connecting with colleagues and client families alike. There are of course some language hurdles and translation needed at times that might be a little less common in a workplace back home, but the biggest difference he sees is the wider, societal impact in the community.
“We’re one of very few companies that offer a level of quality training for the parents (in addition to working with the kids),” Kevin explains.
This is impactful because, in an honor/shame society, there is a cultural stigma associated with mental disabilities. For this reason, children with special needs are often hidden away and missing the critical training and support needed to allow for greater independence and quality of life. This is why Kevin and his colleagues strive to work with both the child and their parents or caregivers.
Their goal is to help the child improve, but also to overcome the stigma or shame associated with even discussing their child’s needs. They strives to teach parents ways of managing their child’s behavior and to provide a sense of support.
“(The parents) can be part of a community; they’re not alone,” says Kevin.
Being a Jesus follower in a place where there are very few, means that even the seemingly little moments throughout Kevin’s workday can make a profound impact. “Showing genuine love and care (to a special needs child) gives honor to a family,” says Kevin.
One day, in particular, Kevin was working with a child when the father came over to ask how his son was doing. He was always asking Kevin for an update and seemed worried – or perhaps there was a little cultural shame coming through at needing this kind of support for his son. “When I said that I really enjoyed working with his kid, he just lit up,” Kevin shares.
But it’s not just the kids and families who notice something different in Kevin and the way he lives his life – but also his colleagues at work.
Everyone who works with Kevin knows that he’s a Christian. He’s open about it: answering questions, sharing scripture on his public social media platforms, and listening to worship music in his downtime. And people have noticed.
So, what does kingdom impact look like for a special needs teacher in the Middle East?
“One time, a parent commented on it,” Kevin said, referring to scripture he had shared publicly on his chat profile. Later on, that curious comment turned into a deeper conversation when Kevin accidentally got his schedule confused and showed up for a session on the wrong day.
“He just opened up and shared,” Kevin remembers.
Another time, Kevin was shadowing a really experienced colleague for the day. During some downtime, he remembered that she had studied at a North American university and asked about her experience. As they talked, she suddenly asked about the music he had been listening to – worship music. She wanted to know more about the lyrics, asking if Jesus really did in fact die for our sins.
Spiritual conversations, like these, come up naturally with co-workers – especially around religious holidays. Every year in the weeks leading up to Easter, there are questions. Recently, a Muslim coworker asked Kevin about the significance of Easter eggs. Kevin was able to explain what Easter actually celebrates, Jesus' death and resurrection (not the candy, eggs, and bunnies they might see in movies). These same questions come up around Christmas.
Even during Ramadan (a Muslim holy month of prayer and fasting), a co-worker asked Kevin what Christians think about fasting. She had noticed that her housemaids (women from the Philipines) had stopped eating meat during the season of Lent. Kevin was able to share about Jesus' teaching on fasting. “We talked about how Paul instructed Christians not to base their righteousness on what they ate (or did not eat), but solely on the finished work of Christ,” he shares.
According to Kevin, it’s the simple, everyday moments that can have a huge impact. “If you are living your normal Christian life, you’re actually having a way bigger impact than you realize,” he says.
There are millions of people in this country who have never spoken to a single Jesus follower one-on-one. They’ve never seen what a believer’s life looks like in the everyday moments of daily life: work, school, friends, and family.
While one person’s impact might feel insignificant, God is using seemingly small moments to do big things in the Middle East. So, what does kingdom impact look like as a special needs teacher in the Middle East?
“I can plant seeds, encourage, and do a good job of teaching these kids, today,” Kevin says. “I can be loving and respectful of my colleagues and the kids’ families – (It’s) just being a normal Christian,” he says. “And that actually has a big impact.”
After all, “most of what God has done throughout redemptive history has been through normal people doing normal things,” says Kevin.
What would it look like for you to take your job overseas? If you’ve ever wondered if God can use you in his kingdom story – schedule a Discovery Call today!
Scatter Stories is a monthly series spotlighting how God is using everyday people in everyday jobs around the world for his kingdom.