Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
- Ecclesiastes 4:12
Leaving behind their families and their home countries, especially the familiarity and the comfort of home, young students venture to a foreign land and arrive in Singapore. This is the prelude to each yet-to-be written story of our students here at SFMS. Away from the warmth and company of their loved ones and friends, they learn to navigate this exciting yet daunting new role of being international students. More often than not, they are confronted with loneliness and homesickness. As these momentary uncomfortable emotions hit, these young lives hope for a friend — one who is willing to walk alongside them, to listen to their stories, and sometimes, one who reaches out in the valley of their journey.
Many months ago, I was one of them. With my backpack, I arrived in a strange city to further my studies. Alone and lonely, I was kept afloat by the friendship of a school counsellor whose patience and concern made those dark and helpless days tolerable.
Today, my role is reversed. I am the teacher counsellor who receives these students in an international school. My work involves spending time with the students, listening to their honest sharing. I am thankful for the opportunity to hear the deepest concerns, struggles and stories of these students who are willing to open their hearts to me. They have given me insight into what makes them unique: some have trust issues because of broken relationships back home; others have retreated to their own fortresses because friends had failed them in the past; a few lack confidence in themselves and thus continue to wrestle with thoughts of self-harm and self-hatred.
Though I spent quite a bit of time with these students, I often feel that the help I render is limited. After all, my involvement is hardly perceived as a practical solution to the problems they have. However, as I show these students my unconditional acceptance of who they are and what they have been through, their wounds and hurts begin to heal. My attitude of acceptance and show of support aid their socio-emotional recovery.
As the saying goes, “Time heals all things.” Over time, although the past may not be forgotten, the wounds are healed. I am constantly reminded that the students at SFMS need to be heard, loved and understood. Although my effort may not be visible amidst the multitude of challenges faced by the school, I will continue to do my utmost to offer my purest and most sincere friendship, just as I had once been so blessed.
As God’s Word reminds us, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). May the light of God’s love and the friendship of fellow students warm our students’ hearts, giving them the strength to traverse the valley of darkness and emerge stronger to face the challenges that come their way as students here and even after graduation.