“An Unexpected Calling”

by Mark Pomerville
photos by Emily Moelker

 

KIMBERLY POSTMA ’11 never could have imagined that she would become a teacher.

A Kansas City native from a Reformed household, Postma had a natural gift and passion for mentoring young people—traits that both her friends and family recognized as essential qualities for a strong teacher. Yet, as a teenager, Postma was decisively opposed to the idea of becoming a professional educator.

“Before coming to Providence, I wasn’t interested in pursuing education at all,” says Postma. “Everyone would tell me that I would be an excellent teacher, but I would say, ‘No, I would hate to be a teacher!’ At the time, I loved animals and had my heart set on becoming a veterinarian.”

However, in August 2007, after enrolling at Providence, Postma soon discovered that the science classes, while stimulating, would not hold her interest for four years, and Postma’s ideals for becoming a vet quickly began to fade.

Unsure of which career to pursue, Postma became a History major and was immediately riveted by the Providence instructors’ unique biblical insight into the world. Postma also enrolled in an education course, studying a variety of international children’s books, some of which included Manga graphic novels, a popular form of young adult literature in Japan.

“I became absolutely fascinated with Japanese writing and culture,” says Postma. “As a Christian, I found it intriguing how Japan, despite being a predominantly godless nation, had such powerful Christian elements interwoven throughout their novels. These stories had deep, rich ideas such as redemption, truth, and sacrificial love—themes that are at the very core of the Christian worldview.”

As her love for Japanese literature grew, so did Postma’s love for the Japanese people.

“I began to pray for Japan every day because I could see through their literature that, even though we had our similarities, they were dying spiritually. They were very moralistic and didn’t see any need for Christ in their life.”

On March 11, 2011, shortly before graduating from Providence, Postma witnessed the devastating news coverage of the earthquake in northeastern Japan that spawned a ravaging tsunami, causing thousands of deaths, as well as unimaginable destruction throughout the greater Tōhoku region.

Overwhelmed with compassion, Postma sought to join a disaster relief team after her graduation in May. In August of the same year, she joined an Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) group and spent 10 days providing aid with their cleanup crews—an experience that had a profound impact not only on the lives of the local residents, but also her own life.

“The devastation of the tsunami opened up doors for witnessing in Japan. There were so many families in the streets that were left alone without anyone to help them. When they saw us offering aid, it provided opportunities to share the love of Christ that wasn’t there before.”

After returning home, Postma felt God calling her to a career that would combine both her love for literature and other cultures: teaching.

“I wanted to return to Japan, but I also wanted to sustain myself,” says Postma. “So, I looked at various possibilities, and one of the greatest needs they had was for English teachers. That’s when it finally clicked. I thought, ‘Okay, Lord, if going back to Japan means that I need to become a teacher, then I will become a teacher.”

Postma began the exhaustive year-and-a-half long process of becoming an English as a Second Language (ESL) instructor. Finally, in August 2014, Postma moved to Tokyo, taught for three months at an international preschool, and then was offered a teaching position through Interac, a private ESL education program in Yokohama City.

Postma served as an English tutor to over 800 Japanese middle school students, an experience in which God used her to be a light for Him in the lives of countless unsaved children.

After living in Japan for one year, Postma returned to the United States to continue her career in education. Today, she is an ESL Coach at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, offering writing instruction to foreign students from a variety of cultural backgrounds.

As Postma reflects on her educational journey, she recognizes that she is far removed from the young woman who didn’t want to become a teacher. Yet, she has found fulfillment in using her God-given gifts to edify others and glorify Him.

“Because His sovereign hand is in every culture, I’ve discovered that I love teaching English as a second language,” says Postma. “I’ve reached a point where I am learning to be content with God’s direction, and I know that I will continue to find joy wherever He places me.

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