Melissa is a NICS teacher in Japan.

Tell us a bit about yourself, how and where you grew up, and where you went to school.
I was born and raised in central Kansas. I have always been surrounded by people with good values and Christian morals. I love my Mid-Western roots, and all the "farm girl" qualities instilled into me from birth. I just wish I had grabbed hold and appreciated it as much then as I do now. God is good and has strengthened many relationships I took for granted as a kid. I graduated from Kansas Wesleyan University in small town Kansas and received my Master's in an even smaller Kansas town at Baker University.
What made you decide to become a teacher?
I actually never dreamt of being a teacher! I wanted to be an adventurer, traveling the world, painting, writing, and creating happiness everywhere I went. Through life's twists and turns, I settled for being a travel agent and enjoyed life through other people's adventures and stories. Then 9-11 happened and the travel industry took a hit, so I chose to go back to school and finish my degree I'd been working on for several years, one class at a time to be an accountant. While sitting in the registrar's office, it hit me, I did not want to sit behind a desk the rest of my life, I wanted to have the adventure I'd so been craving. So again I chose a career where I could live vicariously through others, and became a teacher. God is good and always knows best!
How did you first hear about opportunities at NICS?
After several years of teaching in Kansas public schools, I felt the calling to become a missionary. I went to my church and discussed options for me. They connected me with NICS, an organization I had never heard of before. The thought that I could be a missionary and be paid on the field was huge! I also loved the idea of seeing in real life all those places I'd only dreamed about as a kid, a travel agent, and a teacher. God is good and sees it all.
Did you speak any languages beyond English?
I had attempted to learn German and Spanish, and now Japanese. None of these can I do much more than simple vocabulary and count to 10. God is good and has humor.
What did your family say when you told them you were teaching in another country?
My mother said she always knew I would do something like this. She is my biggest supporter in all areas, spiritual, financial, mental, emotional. She is awesome and a great Christian role model to me. My daughter, who at the time was a freshman in college, loved the idea and also was pursuing a degree in missions. She hoped to move to Africa and help in the medical field. She now is graduated and works in the inner city for a medical missions organization and loves it.
What was the biggest barrier keeping you from signing on as a NICS Teacher?
I honestly don't recall any barriers. I turned in my resignation, sold my house, prepared my family and friends, all before I even had a position with NICS. From the time I applied, God assured me over and over it was the right decision with so many validations. There was no room for doubt.
What convinced you to overcome that barrier?
Prayer and faith that God is who He is always and forever.
What was your biggest fear once you signed up?
I worried about losing my freedoms like driving anywhere I wanted, whenever I wanted and being able to talk to people in different languages.
Did your family encourage you to go? If so what was the most encouraging thing they did?
Yes, they encouraged me. They prayed with me, assisted with the transitions, and most importantly never questioned me and what God was doing through me. They also saw the validations over and over again. Every time there was a "what if..." spoken, He answered it with an "I AM..." and the worry was gone.
What was your biggest fear when you first landed in your new country?
I did not have a visa at the time of my arrival, so I was very worried about what would happen at the airport. But it was very smooth and very easily handled.
What was your favorite experience living in a new country?
The first time I went out on my own was an amazing feeling. I was able to order food, shop in the stores, find my directions, and get home all in one piece! I remember standing at the stop light outside my apartment and just staring at it in amazement that I was standing on a street corner in Japan... alone... at night... and God's got me.
What is the funniest thing that happened to you as you acclimated to a new culture?
Food troubles... oh so many...  Once, I purchased what looked like shredded cheddar cheese. I was extra excited, because this is a very rare find! I came home and tried to make nachos with chips and shredded cheese, but my cheese didn't melt. I thought, "hmm, maybe it doesn't react with the microwave?" So I made pizza and put the cheese on top and it still didn't melt in the oven. Weird. So then I tried to melt it on the stove top into my scrambled eggs, but no luck. It also had no real flavor. I then had a friend over who looked at the bag and fell on the floor with laughter.... it was shredded egg. She said the funniest part was that I put egg in my egg!
Tell us your favorite story from teaching at your NICS school.
I LOVE teaching Social Studies to international children!!! So many cultural perspectives I've never even thought about! I'm teaching World War 2 in Japan! I'm teaching about the European explorers who made slaves out of the barbarians from other countries. I'm teaching the Bible and God's role in all of it! God is so good and reminds us of His divine presence in all areas of history!
What makes teaching at NICS so special?
I get to teach the Bible and God in everything I do! And I get to tell every child and parent I see about God, too!
How did your experience with NICS help you grow as a teacher?
I definitely have become more confident in my own abilities. Teaching at a small school, you get to be "everybody" at some point or other. I am a computer tech, a librarian, a chaplain, a counselor, an advisor, maintenance man, lunch lady, nurse, weed puller, janitor, a PE teacher, an art teacher, a leader, a follower, a curriculum writer, an accreditation team member, a grade book master, among many others I can't even recall right now! God is good and equips us with skills before we need them!
What do you wish you knew before you signed up?
I wish I had known about NICS before. I really wish my own children had an opportunity like this when they were growing up.
What would you tell someone considering becoming a NICS teacher?
Do it! It will change you forever. Pray.
What is the one thing a new teacher should pack for their trip?
Medicine or food not found int he host country that you need.
What is your best advice for getting used to a new culture/climate?
Find a friend, find a smart phone, find the time, and just get out into the community and enjoy it without preconceived ideas. Give yourself time then to reflect and recoup from the experiences. It's exhausting to constantly be "thinking" about things we've always just done. Simple things like taking out trash, cooking, using hot water, traveling on the left side of the road, etc. are exhausting at the beginning. God is Good. If He brought you to it, He will bring you through it.
What final words of encouragement do you have for someone considering a job with NICS?
God is good. Always.

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