During a choir practice, the person-in-charge was taking attendance and called out ‘Esther’. Four heads turned and one asked, “which Esther?”.
Esther was such a common name during my time that there was always more than one Esther in my circle of friends and even among relatives(yup, sharing the same family name makes it even harder to differentiate)
Undoubtedly, all four Esthers in church had some things in common – for one, we all sang in the church choir. Nonetheless, we were all very different individuals. So, who am I besides being just Esther, a girl named after a queen in the bible?
My dad was a teacher and I wanted to be a teacher ever since I remembered having an ambition. I spent lots of time in his school for extra classes with his students. I wrote in my school report card that my ambition was to be a teacher every year(with the exception of one year, where I wrote I wanted to be a housewife).
While I started wanting to be in a noble career because of my dad, I eventually decided to be a teacher myself when I realised the impact teachers have not only on their students but in society.
A saying on the wall of the staffroom in my high school read,
There were teachers in my secondary school who said words nonchalantly which hurt my friends and affected their whole lives. When they were in a place of influence to sow good seeds into young lives in need of adult guidance, they chose to focus on ‘correcting the mistakes’, turning a blind eye to the real problem.
Having seen that while also experiencing the joy of having teachers who inspired me including my dad, I decided that I couldn’t leave the lives of young people to others and then complain about them not doing a good job. Instead, it became my passion to be that teacher who would make a difference in people’s lives.
During a youth camp, an unusual altar call was made. Unlike the altar calls for salvation or to be a full time minister, this altar call was made for those who wanted to become teachers. Needless to said, I went up that day and was from then convicted that that was my calling despite it being a low paid career.
The journey begins
I embarked on my pursue to be a teacher and was blessed to received a B. Ed TESOL scholarship which even allowed me to study a twinning programme both in Malaysia and then overseas in New Zealand. It was like the perfect start to achieving my dream.
I enjoyed my teaching experiences in schools and was ready to start my career as a teacher. Upon graduation, however, I found out that I was selected to be a lecturer at the Institute of Teacher Education. While it was an honour to be handpicked for this, I was sadden by the thought that I would not be teaching students in school.
What we see as an obstacle or unfortunate event however is always God’s best plans for us. Instead of just being a teacher, I was now a teacher of teachers. The impact which I could have as a teacher now not only doubled but multiplied exponentially with this unexpected opportunity.
The seeds I planted in the teacher trainees I met, would lead to a greater harvest when they become teachers and have their own students. I saw myself as only a teacher but God saw much more in me.
If you think everything goes smoothly after that, you’re mistaken. Life is full of challenges and we need to get use to them. There will be no testimony without a test, no message without mess.
A few years into my career, I had to apply for a transfer to my husband’s hometown so we could start our family. This transfer meant I would lose my status as a lecturer and instead had to take up a back office job. It totally felt like I was forsaking my dream and saying goodbye to my passion and calling.
At that point however, I did not know God was fulfilling my second dream. When my son was one, we came to New Zealand and I was able to be a stay-at-home mum thanks to my devoted husband who worked hard as the breadwinner of the family.
Five years into being a stay-at-home mum with now two boys, God has once again opened doors for me to enter the teaching profession. This 2020, I begin my teaching career in New Zealand as a primary school teacher.
My journey has reminded me of his promises in Isaiah chapter 55, verses 8-12,
What I realised through it all is that, despite my not understanding it completely, the break in between was not a step back in my pursuit, but all necessary steps to equip me be a better me. God purposefully lined it all up so we are well equipped for greater challenges that we know will continue to come our way.
(Esther Koh is the Press Service International editor of the Kiwi young writers for Christian Today New Zealand)
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand. Dr Mark Tronson’s Press Service International in 2019 was awarded the Australasian Religious Press Association’s premier award, The Gutenberg.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at