Bethel Alumna Called to Afghanistan
Heidi Miller (’05) packed up her kindergarten classroom in Elkhart, Ind., just a few months ago after school let out for the summer. She’s now unpacked those classroom materials, using them to teach kindergarten students in Afghanistan.
"I've always felt God laid a calling on my heart to serve overseas," Miller said. "It's just been a matter of when and where."
Miller actually did her student teaching in South Korea while studying at Bethel. "It was something new Bethel was starting," she explained. "Since I knew I wanted to teach overseas later in life, I thought this would be good preparation for me."
Miller said the "when and where" of her calling became "now" principally because she came to the end of her three-year contract with Roosevelt Elementary School. "I thought this would be a good time to start pursuing opportunities overseas and see what presents itself," she said.
She began checking out job postings on the Web site Oasis, which is a sister organization of the one she did her student teaching through. She found several openings in Kabul. "It took me about a month before I was ready to submit an application," she acknowledged. "It is definitely a more dangerous part of the world. I had a lot to think and pray about before making a decision.
"I do feel this is where God is calling me," she continued. "I'm excited about what He has in store for me."
Leaving Indiana, Teaching and Living in Kabul
The 26-year-old left for Kabul in August, after attending a two-week training session in Mississippi. She was able to ship up to 200 pounds, or approximately four full suitcases, of linens, winter clothes and school supplies to her new home. She took her remaining clothes and possessions on the airplane with her.
Miller teaches kindergarten at an international school in Kabul, which is the capital of Afghanistan. The school is fairly small, with only one kindergarten class. It serves children of Afghanis as well as children of parents working or volunteering in Afghanistan.
She will live with the other single female teachers in housing provided by the school and located within the school compound. Their meals will be prepared for them. Miller and the other women will follow the Muslim dress code, which calls for women to wear pants underneath their dresses and to keep their head covered.
In addition to the stylish shoes she will have to forego, Miller will have to give up some of the freedoms she's accustomed to, such as shopping and traveling on her own. "We do have to be careful if we go outside the compound," she said. "We can't move around with the same freedom we have here.
"It's not like here where if you want something you can go to Wal-Mart at any time and get it," she added.
Rebuilding a Country Through Education
Miller said she's willing to make personal sacrifices for what she believes is an extremely worthy cause. "I feel like there is such a great need in countries all over the world, especially ones that need to be rebuilt," she explained. "I think the best way to rebuild a country is through the education of its young people.”
"I'm excited to be part of that process in Kabul," she continued. "I'm hopeful I can make a positive difference, even if it's just a small one."
Miller will have at least two years in Kabul to make a difference, as that's the length of her teaching contract. "Honestly, after that I'm not sure where I'll end up," she said. "It's wherever God takes me. It could be back in Elkhart. It could still be Afghanistan. It could be in a completely different country. Whatever door God opens, I'll walk through it."