The Day I Touched the Clouds

My dad worked right across the street from my primary school. His flights would disrupt our classes and my teachers would have to pause and wait for his plane to take off before continuing with the lesson. Sometimes he’d show up at my school at lunch or during recess. I’d see him walking through the school yard in his blue flight uniform and I’d go running up to meet him. I loved it when he visited school–not just for his company, though. My dad had a special way of getting me out of class. Whenever he had extra space on one of his flights, he’d show up to tell my teacher he’s taking me out for the day. And we’d go fly. Sometimes I’d even get to bring a friend or two.
Spontaneous travel. That fit our family well. It didn’t matter if I couldn’t go home first to pack a swimsuit or change clothes.
If we ended up at the beach in Wewak, I’d just spend the afternoon trying to dig up sandlions while he did his work at the hanger. Perhaps if I had seen what the sandlions really looked like, I wouldn’t have been so anxious to catch one. But I never did see them, just the sand they’d spit at me from the bottom of their sand funnels. They were always just out of my reach–just below my fingers. If I ever got discouraged with the sandlions, I’d turn to the tiny, shy touch-me-not plants, making all their leaves fold up for me.
Sometimes we’d end up in a little mountain village to visit the translators who were living there and bring them supplies. There were no sandlions or touch-me-nots up there. The village kids would make a wide circle around me, curious, but cautious. None could speak English and I didn’t even know which language they spoke. The awkward staring took a little getting used to, but it was always followed by lots of friendly gestures. Before long, I was swarmed by crowds of kids that wanted to touch my white skin and feel my hair, which fell down on my shoulders and was not useful for holding grass or decorations like theirs. Anything they put in it would just fall right out. Then they would take me around their village in a kind of silent tour which alerted all the other kids to my arrival.
Me and and friend from school after the awkward stare with the village kids was over.

Me and a friend from school after the awkward stare with the village kids was over.

 But where we ended up wasn’t why I’d go with Dad. It was the promise of flying. A part of me was convinced I was born in the air. Or perhaps I was a Care Bear. Because the clouds were definitely my country. Looking down on the land of clouds from an airliner was like surveying my kingdom. Flying through them was like braving a turbulent ocean–breaking through to a new land of fluff and blinding sun on the other side.
The small planes and helicopter that my dad flew in PNG weren’t strong enough to rise above all the clouds. We’d break through them like the big waves at Wewak that I could never quite float over. Many times we flew under them because “clouds are dangerous,” dad would say. “You never know what’s in them.” That was especially true in Papua New Guinea where the clouds could hide a mountain.
Under, over, or in, I loved the clouds. I loved how they looked as if I could bounce on them like a trampoline, or roll in them like the softest, warmest snow on earth. I loved how they felt bumpy on the inside—making us drop and rise like a roller coaster in the sky. It fit their personality. They were magical.


On one particular return trip in the helicopter, Dad and I had to fly through some stormy weather. This was exciting. It meant clouds that we couldn’t do anything but fly through. It meant turbulence. It meant fun. As we approached the storm, my dad closed his small sliding window which he had opened for fresh air. I had learned on another flight, sticking my hand out the window to feel the push of the wind, that rain felt like bullets at this speed. I kept my window closed for this storm, too. We flew under most of the clouds–all that we could manage to avoid. But some were too low. We couldn’t do anything but fly through. I saw it coming. We were headed straight into a cloud.
I thought about grabbing a piece of cloud. Just enough to hold in my hand and carry home with me. Maybe I’d taste it and find out exactly which flavor of candy it tastes like. But definitely take some home to show Jordan. He’d want to see the cloud up close. It’d be even better than holding the elusive sandlion.
Dad! Can I stick my hand out the window and touch the cloud?” I asked him through our headset.
He looked over at me with a smile that knew more than I did. “Sure!” He said.
I pulled my window open just enough to stick my hand out and with all my built up excitement, threw my hand as far as I could to make sure I caught some of the cloud in my fingers. The wind shoved my arm all the way back in the window and I struggled to keep my hand open flat against the force as we flew straight into the cloud.
The cloud ate us up. We were surrounded by it on all sides and couldn’t see out. But my hand never caught any fluff. I closed my fingers, trying to find the cloud that we were inside of. But all I got was wet.
My smile turned into confusion. If the cloud had melted in my hand, I would have understood, but no fluff balls were melting in my hand. It just was… water.
It’s just wet!” I said to my dad, a little disappointed.
Yup!” he said back with that same smile. “Clouds are just water and dust, Jacki.”
And like that, the magic of clouds disappeared—like the fluff balls that I thought I could hug, like the sandlion that was always just out of sight.

For as the Heavens are Higher than the Earth…

When I graduated college in 2008, I told God that I would go anywhere in the world for Him–anywhere but Charlotte. I started applying for jobs in Wilmington, Boston, Cameroon, and Ecuador. I looked into the Peace Corp. I followed after a job opening in the Ukraine–anywhere… but Charlotte.

After six months of searching, I had depleted my funds. I still didn’t have a job and I was forced to move back home to Charlotte, kicking and screaming the whole way.

But God had heard my prayer–and more than that–He had heard my heart. Because even though I had asked to go anywhere in the world, what I was really longing for was a chance to work with foreign cultures. It just seemed logical that that would have to happen in another country. Instead, God answered my heart’s desire in such a way that proved that He was God and that I knew nothing. He brought me to One7 Ministries. And there, I was given the privilege of starting a school with refugee kids from around the world–different cultures, all in one room.

bible class

Teaching my first five students in a tiny conference room at the Asian Library.

When I first started teaching at One7 Academy, the headmistress, MC, asked me where I saw myself in five years. I said I wanted to see my first class graduate high school. I honestly had no clue. But that sounded good enough to me. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. So that became my prayer for my future, “God, let me stay here and watch my first students graduate high school. Then you can do whatever you want with me.”

But God had to show me that He’s going to do whatever He wants with me all the time. Because, like I hadn’t learned before, God’s ways are better than mine.

So after two years of teaching with these lovely five girls, God closed that door to me and sent me to Brazil to teach for six months. And thus, this blog began. I was sad and elated at the same time. Brazil was an experience that I know God will bring back around in my future.

But even through that turn of events, God had heard my prayer and my heart’s desire. And last year, He brought me back to Charlotte to teach at One7 Academy again (now with 20 students enrolled). And I was given one last year with the girls I had started with:

Tri, my first ever student and the first child I met at One7 Ministries. She is a woman of passion. When she draws, she draws passionately, when she speaks, she speaks from deep within her heart, and when she eats salad, she eats everyone else’s salad, too because somewhere inside her, she is also a rabbit.

When she studies her feet, she does it enthusiastically.

When she studies her feet, she does it enthusiastically.

Kiet, the quiet servant. Devoted and loyal, she is the one that many overlook, not just because she’s about a foot shorter than others, but because she’s bent over cleaning up the floor and caring for the toddlers and picking up things that someone else dropped. She is the meek one that Jesus said would inherit the earth. She is the one He spoke about when He said the last shall be first. She is the true servant leader.

Standing tall at barely five feet.

It amazes me that such a huge servant’s heart can fit in such a small person.

On Friday, I had the privilege of watching these two young girls become women and celebrate the end of their high school careers.

All three members of the class of 2014 of One7 Academy

All three members of the class of 2014 of One7 Academy. From left to right: Kiet, Tri, and Anna.

God answered my prayers for my future, but not in my way. It was even better than I could have ever planned out, myself. I know that he has something great in store for these two lovely ladies. My prayer now is that I’ll get to see what that is.


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