My journey started in Suriname, South America. As a proud native of Suriname, I must start by briefly saying something about my country of origin. Suriname is located on the northeast coast of South America and shares borders with French Guyana to the East, Guyana to the West, and Brazil to the South. We lovingly call our country "The beating heart of the Amazon". My journey so far has thus taken me from the beautiful tropical rainforest in South America to the beautiful countryside of the upper Midwest...and what a journey it has been.
As a child, I always had big dreams. I used to daydream about feeding and educating the poor. In my dream, I would do this by becoming a scientist and make important discoveries and bring all kinds of innovative projects to underdeveloped countries. Other than daydreaming, I loved reading, writing, tell stories, and play soccer with the other kids who lived on the bible school campus where I grew up.
Yes, I spent several years of my childhood living on a bible school campus. Me and my two siblings grew up in a loving home. My dad was a pastor and he and my mom directed a bible school for a couple of years. The bible school was a three-year program where people were trained to become missionaries.
Growing up as a pastor’s child was not always easy. I often felt that I could not do the things other kids would get away with because “everybody” was watching me. Pastors kids are often held to other standards than “normal” kids, by the way. While in High school, in my quest to be accepted by my peers, I started rebelling against everything my parents stood for. I was determined that I was not going to be like them and in the process turned my back against God. I was no longer interested in going to church or participate in church activities, except when it gave me an opportunity to hang out with my friends. I later realized that I was just searching to discover who I was. See, all I had ever known was the church. And all I was defined by, was my parents their faith and their position in the church.
I was ready to know who I was and what my purpose in life was. So, after a period of rebellion, which I am sure felt like an eternity to my parents, I just got tired of running and rebelling. One night, totally exhausted and so ready for a change I found myself crying out to God to forgive me of my sins, I was seventeen at that time. Even though I had asked God to forgive me of my sins that night, there was still something missing. There was a hunger inside of me to know God personally and to know what my purpose in life was.
One year later I went on a mission trip to a village in our neighboring country, French Guyana, with a group consisting of people from different churches. One day as the rest of the team was gone to invite people for an evening event, I stayed behind. Partly, because I was homesick and partly because I wanted some time to myself. Finding a seat under the tent, that would later serve as the venue for the evening event, I started talking to God. And there for the first time, I found that God was not a god that was far off, but that He desired to be my friend. I discovered that he did not want a relationship with me through my parents, but that He loved me and wanted a personal relationship with me. I learned that God was perfectly okay with me asking difficult questions and telling Him how I felt. Discovering that about God, made me want to know Him more. I discovered that my true purpose was found in Him. He was no longer just the God of my parents; He was now my God.
I wish I could say that I immediately figured things out, found my purpose, and everything went smoothly from then on. No, it did not. See, that year I had started taking remedial classes to be able to enroll in College. By then I had decided that I wanted to pursue a degree in Agriculture. Believe me, coming to that decision was not easy. Even though I had developed a love for agriculture by growing up on a bible school campus with a hobby farm and had a dream to feed the poor, there were many options in the real world that seemed interesting. It took many conversations with my parents and other people I considered wise, and prayer, to come to a decision.
I did not pass my first year of remedial courses, so I had to retake these classes for another full academic year. I passed my classes the second year, applied to- and was accepted in the College of Technological Sciences at the Anton de Kom University of Suriname where I chose agronomy as my major.
College became an interesting journey. I struggled in my math and physics classes, but with tutoring and many hours of studying I passed, some of them after taking them a second time. I knew however, that this is what I was supposed to do and so I persevered. After graduation, I got a job with a food processing company as a quality manager.
Before going to graduate school, I held two more jobs, one as a Farm Manager at a Banana Company and the other as a Project Manager for an NGO working with small scale farmers. These experiences gave me some leadership- and people skills, for which I am very grateful. However, I still had a deep desire to pursue a career in science. So, after having worked for six years, I applied for graduate school and got accepted at Oklahoma State University in the Plant and Soil Science Department. Shortly after starting work on my master’s degree my advisor asked me to consider doing a PhD degree. Long story short, after completing my master’s degree, I was awarded a scholarship to pursue my PhD upon recommendation of my advisor. This was certainly something I could not have made happen, this was simply a miracle. At my graduation, with a Ph.D. in Soil Science, I thanked my parents for teaching me to always “trust in the One with Whom nothing is impossible”.
I can’t say that I have arrived. No, not by a long shot. I am a work in progress. But as I yield more to Christ and give Him the opportunity to work on, in, and through me I believe more of His purpose for me is coming to fruition.
It is my desire and prayer that my students would discover their full potential and destiny. More importantly, that they would allow Christ in their life to help them unlock their true potential. Because what I have found is that life can be challenging but with God nothing is impossible.