Divine intervention stopped plans by J'can couple taking up teaching jobs in Wuhan, China

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Divine intervention stopped plans by J'can couple taking up teaching jobs in Wuhan, China

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS
Senior staff reporter
dunkleywillisa@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, February 14, 2020

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WHEN Deborah Watson-Small and her husband Keeling heard of the outbreak of the deadly novel coronavirus in Wuhan China in January this year, one major disappointment in 2019 began to make perfect sense and not for the first time the couple deduced that their lives have been divinely scripted from beginning to end.

In the summer of 2018 the Jamaican duo returned to the island with their two children Keelan and Kelanie in tow after their five-year contract in Taraz, Kazakhstan, as teachers of physics and biology, respectively, ended.

“I was over seven months pregnant with our third child at the time so we decided to take a year off from teaching overseas and stay home,” Watson-Small shared with the Jamaica Observer in a recent exchange.

By December, however, the couple began to apply for international teaching positions in the United Arab Emirates, China, the United Kingdom, and other places.

It wasn't long before the highly qualified pair attracted the attention of job recruiters and successfully interviewed for lucrative teaching positions in China between February 20 and April 3, 2019.

“The organisation which selected us has schools in numerous locations throughout China; these include Chongqing, Haikou, YanCheng, Dalian, Xi'an, Yiwu; Zhenjiang, Kaifaqu, Shanghai, Tianjin and Wuhan,” Watson-Small told the Observer. The couple was asked to “select the top three locations” to start working in August 2019.

“We were given verbal confirmation and the contracts' contents were discussed. The recruiter and placement officer contacted their references and promised to send the final contracts to be signed with official offer letters,” the young professional said.

From all indications it would have been all systems go, but the devout couple, born-again Christians, felt compelled to get a clear heavenly opinion about their choice.

“We continued to pray for God's guidance throughout the recruitment process. We also started our own research and narrowed down the choices to Wuhan, Xi'an and Tianjin with the first choice being Wuhan as we thought it would have been more suitable for our family,” Watson-Small shared.

Just when it appeared that the family had found the place they would settle for another few years “the process was aborted in a confusing turn of events”.

“We were totally blindsided and disappointed and we did not understand what really happened,” the educator told the Observer.

“But we consoled each other and reminded ourselves of our constant prayer which had been, 'Jesus shut the doors that are to be shut and open the ones to be opened and provide clear passage',” Watson-Small reminisced.

Shortly after that “door slammed shut”, the couple received an offer of a renewed contract at the same school where they taught previously in Taraz, Kazakhstan.

Fast-forward nearly a year later, the happily resettled couple and their three children are looking as it were, at what might have been and are beside themselves with “gratitude”.

“When we first heard about the outbreak of coronavirus in Wuhan, we immediately remembered how God switched everything. Though He did not tell us why then, we are now convinced that it was God at work preventing the process from going forward for us to take up the position in China,” an emotional Watson-Small told the Observer.

While their feet could very well engage in a happy dance they are, however, mindful of those who have no choice but to remain in Wuhan, the capital of China's Hubei province.

“Our hearts are filled with gratitude, we are happy that we did not go to China to work, Wuhan in particular. But we are saddened for those that are quarantined there now, some battling for life, others have died. We are praying that the rest of the world will be protected from this deadly viral outbreak and that the people of China will be delivered,” Watson-Small said.

The pneumonia-like virus has infected thousands of Chinese and is now present in more than 20 countries. The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a global emergency. Already, more than a thousand persons have died from the virus with well over 40,000 cases confirmed. In the meantime, public health officials in China and globally are making efforts to contain the spread of the disease with China introducing travel restrictions, quarantines, and outdoor restrictions affecting millions of people.


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