Tough First Day of School
By Andrew McChesney
The first day of school was hard for Niang Muang. Really, really hard.
The 9-year-old girl had arrived in the United States only a month earlier from Myanmar. Her parents were refugees. She didn’t know English, and she didn’t have any friends.
“Hello, what’s your name?” a girl asked her.
Niang shook her head.
“No,” she said.
“Oh,” said the girl, confused. “Where are you from?”
Niang shook her head again.
“No,” she said.
Niang was not trying to be rude. She just didn’t understand.
Because she didn’t know English, she sat quietly all morning in class. At lunchtime, she followed the other children to the cafeteria and looked at the food being served. Nacho cheese and shredded beef. Mini-pizzas. Chicken nuggets. The food was very strange to her. She was used to eating mustard leaves, potatoes leaves, watercress, brown beans, and red lentils.
After tasting the food, she returned to the classroom and sat quietly until school ended for the day. At home, she prayed for help. “Dear God, please help me survive another day of school,” she said.
Fourth grade was tough, but fifth grade was better. She began to speak English and to make friends.
“What’s your name?” a girl asked.
“My name is Niang,” she replied with a shy smile.
“Oh, where are you from?” the girl said.
“I am from Burma, which is also called Myanmar,” Niang said.
The girl nodded her head. She had heard of the country. Several other refugee children from Myanmar also studied at their school.
“Oh OK,” she said. “Do you want to play?”
Niang felt happy. She was beginning to fit in. She felt even happier in seventh grade. She was able to transfer from the public school to a Seventh-day Adventist school thanks to money from a 2011 Thirteenth Sabbath Offering to help refugees in the North American Division.
She thanked God in her daily prayers. “Dear God, thank You so much for helping me learn this new language and for taking care of me,” she prayed.
Part of this quarter’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help more children refugees like Niang study at Adventist schools. Niang is now 21 and studying to become a mission doctor.
Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission. Find more mission stories at adventistmission[dot]org