This blog was written by Harvest Member, Ellison Howle.
Hello from Southeast Asia! The past six months have been a whirlwind and I’m thankful to be settled into my new home and job teaching first grade at International Community School- Singapore. The Lord has blown me away by His provisions here. I have an incredible Christian community surrounding me, at church and school. I have even been able to attend a very encouraging church camp weekend in Malaysia with my new church family. This city-state is incredible! I am savoring the diversity, food, flora, arts, and city lifestyle.
Here’s a little bit about how God lead me to Singapore. Before moving I had been struggling with feelings of restlessness while teaching in Memphis. For most of my twenties I never thought teaching abroad could become a reality in my life because my roots were so firmly planted in Memphis. My whole family lives in Memphis, I’d bought a house, and I had a solid church community. I prayed for several years, asking the Lord where He wanted me to go and what He wanted me to do. In the fall of 2015 I met the founder of NICS, Joe Hale, and his wife in my Sunday school class at Harvest. I applied, interviewed, and met with the placement coordinators. They asked me where I wanted to go and I told them I was most drawn to Asia. Taking into consideration that I only speak English and had never lived abroad, they thought Singapore would be a good fit. I’ve heard it called “Asia light” because most people can speak English and there’s excellent healthcare, shopping, food, and nearly everything you could possibly want.
Being a NICS school, it is missions-focused. We have families from all over the world and many of them in positions of influence. We have diplomat families, missionary families, and many families who do not yet know the love of Christ. My job in Singapore is to be an excellent first grade teacher for God’s glory. I want to love families in tangible ways. Many of my students’ parents are traveling much of the year. It is a privilege to give extra hugs, wipe away tears, and listen them pour out their in prayer to the Lord in adorable accents. A lot of my time will be spent going to basketball games, piano recitals, and birthday parties. I have sixteen students in my class. I have 4 Japanese, 3 Korean, 3 Filipino, 2 Australian, 2 American, 1 Indian, and 1 South African. I love the diversity. It is a foretaste of eternity for those whose trust is in Christ!
I also look forward to getting involved in the community here in Singapore. It is a very wealthy place where 1 out of every 30 people is a millionaire. Even though I’ve only been here for a little over two months I already see the brokenness here. People are mainly focused on accumulating wealth and status. Performance is everything. Parents sacrifice a lot to send their kids to private schools, enroll their children in afterschool tutoring programs (as young as Kindergarten or maybe younger!), in an effort to make sure they are at the top of their class. I want to encourage people of all ages to look at their identity through a Biblical lens.
Although there are a lot of Christians in Singapore (18%), most people are Buddhist, Muslim, Taoist, Hindu, or non-religious. I’ve talked to a few taxi drivers who classify themselves as “free thinkers” and believe in themselves. Every single place I go in Singapore (or anywhere else!) is an opportunity to discuss Jesus. I pray for people I sit with on the bus. Even as I write this article I am motivated to be more intentional about the way I live my life here. The harvest is plenty and the workers are few! Please pray that I would be intentional in loving students and families. Please pray that I would not succumb to the lies of the enemy because it can be lonely at times. Please pray that God would guide me in getting involved in serving the community. I am so thankful for my Harvest family. I pray for Harvest weekly and I send my love!