Teacher Naomi Coleman never wanted to be a mission worker. “I was a committed Christian and very much wanted to serve God wholeheartedly,” she said. “Just so long as it didn’t involve going overseas."
I had no language skills, no interest in other cultures and I only ever went on holiday in the UK. In fact, I didn’t really like being abroad.”
But, as so often happens in mission, God had other plans. And that explains why Naomi is now teaching a small group of missionary children in a remote part of Madagascar.
After Naomi left university and qualified as a primary school teacher, she worked in the privileged environment of a prep school near her home in Cheltenham.
She had been a Christian since childhood and had always been determined to live for Jesus. But as she read Matthew’s gospel in the summer of 2013 she became increasingly aware that there could be no half measures.
She said: “I loved my job, teaching in a busy school with amazing opportunities to share the gospel with pupils. But I often worked weekends and evenings and I knew the pace was not sustainable so I was looking for a new job. I always got good feedback from interviews but nothing quite worked out. I was really asking God, ‘Where do you want me to go next?’
“I’d also been praying for the Linley family who were, and still are, missionaries in Madagascar. Katie Linley is a doctor at the Good News Hospital in Mandritsara and her husband Mat is a Bible teacher. While I only knew them vaguely, I could see their work was really valuable.
“Then, reading Matthew’s gospel, I became convinced I had to give God everything so I started praying for him to use me wherever he wanted me, even if that was overseas.”
A few weeks later, the Linleys’ regular prayer letter landed in Naomi’s inbox. She said: “I was amazed to see they were looking for a British primary school teacher who could help them home-school their daughter Phoebe, who was seven at the time. I ended up going out to see them on a short-term trip in the summer of 2014. By then, there were two other seven-year-olds and a six-year-old, from three different families, who also needed teaching.
“As I finished that trip and headed home, I could hear God’s call to serve in Madagascar. After some time doing cross-cultural studies at All Nations and language-learning in France, I moved out long-term in November, 2015.”
Naomi now has four pupils, aged four, seven, 11 and 13. The schoolroom is in a building on the mission compound in Mandritsara and also has use of a verandah and garden. Pupil numbers vary as mission families come and go and Naomi sometimes has teaching help from short-termers or missionary parents.
“I see my role as providing a valuable support service, which allows the missionaries to do whatever they are best at doing," said Naomi.
The school is surprisingly well-resourced, with UK textbooks and a reasonably reliable internet connection. Naomi is free to teach the English National Curriculum in her own way and with a solidly Christian worldview.
She said: “I have a lot of control over the timetable and the way I organise and deliver the curriculum, which isn’t necessarily true for teachers at home, and that is a great joy for me. But the biggest blessing is being part of a project reaching out with the gospel to people who have never heard it. I really believe in the work and it’s wonderful to see it first-hand.”
To find out more about teaching in Madagascar email email@example.com
For more Christian surgeons and doctors to be raised up for the Good News Hospital.
For Naomi to know God’s leading once more as she thinks about the future plans he has for her.
For the gospel to reach many who do not know Jesus in the Mandritsara area of Madagascar.