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A Perfect Job in Hard Times
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A Perfect Job in Hard Times

Brooke Cheng—Chicago, Illinois, USA

Having been away from the workforce for more than thirteen years, I am now back working full time. In today’s recessive economy, it is a miracle that I have been able to start a new career. It was a big change for my family and me, but God’s grace made all the transitions possible.

On the surface, God has helped me start a new career. But on a much deeper level, God has taught me how sweet it is to trust Him.

            Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths. (Prov 3:5, 6)


I never considered teaching as a career. God gave me the opportunity to be a RE (religious education) teacher after I moved to Chicago shortly after marriage. Teaching RE was great training for my spirituality and servitude. I also realized I enjoyed being in the classroom with children.

Nevertheless, my true calling came when my husband’s business began to run into trouble. I wanted to help bring in income for the family, but I was absent from the workforce for more than ten years. After much consideration and research, I knew I needed to own a new job skill to secure an income source if my husband’s business was to fail completely.

Teaching came into my mind. At this point in life, I wanted a career that was rewarding. Becoming a teacher would also be good role modeling for my children. I decided to pray to God to see if He would bless my wishful thinking.

Obtaining teaching certification is a two-year investment of time and money, and I simply had no confidence that my husband’s business would last that long. Even if it did, finding a teaching position afterwards was a big uncertainty. I also hoped to teach somewhere close to home so I could be home early to care for my children after school.

The first step towards eligibility for enrollment in a teacher program in Illinois is to pass the state’s Basic Skills test, which is a grueling five-hour test of reading, writing, and math. I heard that many people had to retake the test numerous times before they passed.

In prayer, I asked God to allow me to pass the test in one sitting. Then I would know I made the right decision to go into teaching. If I failed the test on my first try, then I would know it wasn’t meant to be.

Taking the Basic Skills test and the subsequent tests until I was finally certified were all nerve-wracking experiences, and I felt under-prepared each time. Nevertheless, I passed all the tests without retaking. With the success of each test, it was clear that God was guiding me.

Some might think I was just lucky. I knew when I looked at the questions that they were not easy. But I was able to remain calm throughout the exhausting tests and came to educated guesses after re-reading the questions. That was how I knew God was helping me.


Two years of school and student teaching was intense but rewarding. I finished my certification program in spring 2008. At that time, my biggest concern was that my children would have both parents working long hours. So I signed up for substitute teaching at first.

For two years, I had a vague idea that my husband’s business was struggling in the worsening economy. But amazingly, it survived another year. We continued to pray that God would preserve his business. I had to believe that if God had guided us so far, He would sustain us until I found a real job.

Substitute teaching turned out to be an important learning experience. Teaching in different grade levels and classrooms allowed me to build up the experience I desperately needed.

I learned that even a substitute teacher needed to network. Without good relationships with the school secretaries and classroom teachers, I wouldn’t receive many assignments. Without a steady stream of assignments, the income for a substitute teacher was small and without any benefits.

I also learned to be versatile and flexible. Since I was new to the district, I often didn’t receive assignments until late at night or early in the morning. Hence, I always said a prayer before I left for work, asking God to give me enough wisdom to know how to deal with a new group of kids and curriculum.

I also prayed for the safety of my children because I needed to leave the house much earlier than them. That year was a good training for the two of them to get ready for school on their own.

At that time, my son was in sixth grade, so he was old enough to be responsible at home without parents for an hour or two. I’d leave notes for them, and we made a big poster listing all their responsibilities. Thank God, they were never late for the school bus or forgot to bring their lunch boxes.

By the winter of 2008, I realized it was only a matter of time before my husband’s business would close. The notion of losing our sole source of income made me realize the urgency of finding a permanent position.

There was no more time to bargain with God. I needed to find a real job. Teaching was no longer a fallback plan—it was about survival. I couldn’t be choosy anymore.


I changed my prayers. I told God that I would go anywhere He wanted me to go. I would even move to another state if necessary.

Around the end of January 2009, the coldest time in Illinois, the hiring season began at the school districts. I was determined to be more proactive and assertive in applying for jobs.

I continued to polish up the essay application questions and I applied to many districts. After many prayers, I finally worked up the courage to approach the new principal at the school where I student taught to ask for an interview opportunity.

I went to teacher job fairs, where I stood in line competing with many new college graduates for a five-minute interview with each district. I needed to show God how much I wanted to work now.

In February, I finally got my first formal screening interview with the district where I substituted. Maybe it was the talk I had with the principal, maybe it was the sub experience. Whatever it was, I was just elated about this opportunity.

I tried my best during the interview but my nerves got the better of me. Two weeks later, I received the rejection letter. I was completely dejected. I had no more connections left. The last door had closed on me.

When I shared the news with the resident pastor in Chicago, he encouraged me, saying, “God has already found you the job, you just have to wait for it. Don’t give up!”

I told myself that I was allowed to mope for two days, and then I needed to move on. The failed experience was another learning experience. Next time, I would do better.

From then on, I just kept praying. I held onto Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Indeed, when all human doors are closed, God’s door of grace is opened. In March, I was referred to a district thirty-five minutes away to be a one-on-one aide to a student who was recently adopted from China.

Since it was just a temporary job until the end of the school year, there were no benefits and the pay was even less than a substitute teacher’s daily rate. I took the job anyway. I considered it more training from God, and I could put this new experience on my resume.

The Chinese student turned out to be extremely challenging. She had never been in school before and had physical and psychological disabilities. Every day was a new challenge with her. But the principal appreciated my effort and offered to look out for job opportunities for me. I felt much encouraged.

Shortly after I started as an aide, I received news that a district nearby opened a position in a middle school for a Chinese teacher. Although my certificate was for elementary education and I did not have a middle school endorsement, I updated my resume and submitted the application anyway.

With this opening, a brand new door was opened for me. My certificate would allow me to teach in middle schools if I completed just two more courses equivalent to six credit hours. Most of all, the pool of applicants would imaginably be much smaller than for regular teachers at the elementary level.


In April, I received the call for an interview. I was extremely nervous and asked friends at church to pray for me.

That was the most challenging interview I ever experienced. There was first a forty-five minute writing test with three essay questions, then an interview that was videotaped.

As it happened, the staff was friendly. The principal was warm and laughed at all the jokes I made. During our conversation I was able to refer to my student teaching experience and the work with the Chinese student.

I received the invitation for the second interview the following week. I was told it was down to the final three candidates. This time, I met with the chair of the foreign language department, two parents, and the principal. Two days later, I received a call asking me to teach a mini-lesson to a group of sixth graders.

God carried me through the whole process, and the school offered me the job within two days. The day I went to sign the contract with the district in May, I listened to the praise song “I Saw the Light” in my car. I finally saw the light at the end of the long tunnel. The waiting was over, and I sang along:

            “I saw the light I saw the light
No more darkness, no more night
Now I’m so happy, no sorrow in sight
Praise the Lord, I saw the light.”

For me, it was evident that God created the job position for me. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer 29:11).

As I yielded to the possibility of moving anywhere God wanted me to go, He placed me right back in a school that was a mere fifteen-minute’s drive away. I had secured the contract even before I registered for the courses for middle school endorsement. God had given me this assurance even before I was completely certified.

In the summer, I took the state content area test in Mandarin to qualify for teaching Chinese and completed the courses. Everything was ready before school started in fall.

But that is not all. God’s grace is so much deeper and wider. Looking back, my husband’s business continued to run in spite of the market downturn. It held on just long enough for me to complete my teacher’s training.

When the business closed, my husband was able to receive unemployment payments until I started working. By the time I received my first paycheck in September, his unemployment had expired. God does provide!


The first year of teaching is tough. I often feel exhausted but I remind myself to do my best to glorify God’s name. Thank God that my husband is now home with the kids, as I often stay late after school. I don’t have to worry about them missing the school bus in the morning, or that no one feeds them after school.

I know I will survive as long as I continue to trust in His guidance and ask Him to bestow wisdom and strength on me.

            And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the LORD… (Jer 29:13, 14)

May all glory be onto His name!


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