Stories & Commentaries

Are You Afraid to Die?

madeline cadavero with her students

Madeline Cadavero poses with some of her students in Chuuk, Micronesia. Photo supplied by Office of Volunteer Ministries/Madeline Cadavero

My name is Madeline. I’m from Murphy, North Carolina, and I’m serving as a student missionary (through the North American Division Office of Volunteer Ministries) on the island of Chuuk, Micronesia. Despite the postcard-like views of palm trees and colorful sea coral, life in Chuuk is not a walk at the beach.

I’ve only been teaching here about five months, but it seems as if I’ve grown and matured five years in that time. I’ve been challenged in some pretty crazy ways.

Patience is often hard to obtain and swift to vanish. We can go from crying to laughing in seconds (and vice versa!). But ultimately, although our work is hard and our hours are long, I’ve found that there is no greater responsibility than working for the good of another human being.

No two days are ever alike in the teaching world. The days, however, do tend to blur into weeks and weeks into months before I realize it. But every now and then, there’s usually a day or an experience that stands out above the rest.

One such experience occurred while I was teaching summer school. On this particular day, I had only one 8th grade student in my class. He was generally more reserved around his classmates. I had just finished giving the Bible lesson, and Matthew* had been characteristically silent throughout the entire lesson. But I felt impressed to ask him, before we moved on to English class, if he had any questions about what we had discussed. He took a long moment, and then, to my surprise, he asked a question.

“Miss, are you afraid to die?”

Rather taken aback by the abrupt way he posed the question, I thought for a moment, and then answered, “No, I’m not. Are you?”

“Sometimes I do bad things, and then I’m afraid that God won’t accept me and that when I die, I will go to hell,” he said quietly.

I nodded. “Yeah, I understand that feeling. But you know what’s the cool thing about God?”

He looked at me, and the moment of anticipatory silence that followed was beautiful. I could sense his complete interest, his rapt attention.

“The cool thing about God,” I said, “is that He always forgives. His arms are always open, and He’s always waiting for you to come to Him. He will never turn you away!”

He blinked, as if this was something that had never occurred to him. “So, God can never say ‘No’ to me?”

It was my time to blink, as salty tears suddenly sprang to my eyes. “No, Matthew,” I answered. “God will never say ‘No’ to you.”

A beautiful conversation about forgiveness and how to pray ensued. I realized that God must have arranged for Matthew’s three other classmates to all be absent that day, for he would have never opened up in front of his peers.

It is precious little moments like these that stand out to me, among the hustle and bustle of school life, the lectures, lesson planning, copy-making, and grading of each day. These precious moments — and the times I see how God can work through me — are the moments that make it all worthwhile.

*Name has been changed to protect privacy.