I grew up in the southwest side of Chicago and attended both Southwest Chicago Christian School in Oak Lawn, Illinois, and later, Chicago Christian High School in Palos Heights, Illinois. It may seem strange that I mention these details but I have lived outside of the United States of America for more than a decade as a teacher, first of English and then of all subjects, mainly at the kindergarten level. Throughout this massive journey, I have held two truths to be true: God and the Holy Trinity are watching over me, and that Grandma Doot, my beloved personal savior on Earth, has helped me become who I am today.
After graduating top of the class — valedictorian! — from CCHS, I went to Hope College in Holland, Michigan, a land of my Dutch ancestors. Considered too liberal, by some, I thrived and spent my years studying literature and language, becoming an orator at the yearly Nykerk celebration. I persevered in strength with the prayers and support of my beloved Grandma Dora Doot, who took me in and helped me become the woman I am today. With her support and inspiration, I traveled to the Motherland (The Netherlands) during an overseas educational stint in London where I lived, learned, and finished my Bachelor of Arts in English walking the narrow paths and through the parks of Bloomsbury that the writers that I was reading about had traversed. Later, I returned to the USA with plans to move overseas. However, a group of friends and I decided to move to Portland Oregon. With prayers and guidance from the above, and Gram, I moved along with dear friends to a new place, unknown. I found new jobs, a boyfriend, and many friends. I was quite successful as a legal assistant at a prominent law firm for many years. But I was dissatisfied. The Lord’s nudging of what He had been calling for me — to be a teacher — began to peek through, though I did not know it yet at the time.
The economic downturn of 2008 was frightening but I survived. I had spent time in South Africa as a volunteer teaching in the most impoverished area in a township outside of Cape Town, a land many Americans can never imagine. At this point, I realized I wanted to be a teacher. I returned to my law firm job, awakened. But then the crisis hit, and I was terrified, so I said to myself, and God, “One more year” at the law firm. Literally, the next day, I got the phone call from HR and seemingly from God Himself: “Melissa, can you come to the HR office, please?” “Sure!”
Through many tears and prayers, I realized this was God’s calling for me to do something different with my life. I left, terrified, but with the power of the Spirit in my heart. I helped many along the way and eventually got a position overseas as a TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) teacher and a job in Bangkok, Thailand. My success at teaching English led me to continue my education and earn my Post Graduate Certificate in Education (International) (the UK equivalent to a Master’s in Education) and subsequently move into the international school circuit, with teaching jobs in central Bangkok, Madrid, Spain, and lastly, Bahrain, a small country in the Gulf in the Middle East. Near the end of my time in Thailand, my beloved Gram fell ill and passed away. I had resigned from my job and accepted a new position in Spain. I am blessed to know that the Lord has led me through these experiences and that my personal angel is above.
I left Spain and went on to Bahrain, witnessing through my words and actions. At this point I have traveled to more than 23 countries, a number that would be much higher if COVID-19 hadn’t devastated the world. I have learned much about many cultures and religions, mainly Buddhism and Islam, and have made dear friends from all walks of life. We must acknowledge those who seek because perhaps we all can find.
Now, after all of the violence and corruption in the world, with the coronavirus and racism raging, and post-cervical spine surgery, I am returning home to the United States of America, to finish my Master of Education at the University of Portland. I pray every day for guidance and hope. I am forever grateful to God, my parents, family, teachers, and friends for my education beginning in the Southwest Chicago Christian School system and currently Life, and lastly, and most importantly, my beloved Grandma Dora Doot.