Mrs. Bertha Saladier is the current principal of the Guam Adventist Academy. You could say it was in her blood. She is not only a graduate of this 71-year-old institution but also the granddaughter of Maria Ulloa, the first principal of GAA. Mrs. Saladier remembers with fondness the letters her grandmother sent her when she was in the first grade; letters complete with gifts of money and the counsel to use it prudently – not all on candy. But the wisdom her grandmother imparted to her and her family went back much further than those cherished letters. Maria Ulloa and her family were the first baptized Adventists to share the faith on Guam.
In 1945, as change swept across the Pacific with the end of World War II, the military also brought to Guam a U.S. corpsman named Henry Metzger. Henry was a Seventh-day Adventist, so as Saturday approached on the predominantly Catholic island, he searched for an Adventist church or group to worship with on Sabbath. In the village of Dededo, he met a Protestant Baptist family named the Ulloas.
Mrs. Saladier’s father, Paul, was the eldest Ulloa son in the home at the time, and she recalls how he described the black sky and heavy rain on that day. Henry, caught in the downpour, sought refuge under the first shelter he encountered – the Ulloa family home. As is the custom with Chamorro hospitality, the family offered the corpsman something to eat and drink. When he politely declined the coffee and tea, it sparked a discussion about diet. Sharing the health message then led to a conversation about the seventh-day Sabbath. Maria, the mother of the family, welcomed this topic. As a child, she had asked her parents why they observed Sunday when she had read verses in the Bible that Saturday was the Sabbath. Her family simply replied that that was what the church said to do. Over the next several weeks, the Ulloa family would continue to welcome Henry to their home to conduct Bible studies on the Ten Commandments. Maria and her husband Manuel soon made a decision to follow Christ according to biblical teachings. Over the next year, their home served as the first Adventist church.
Although the family wished to be baptized, it would be another two years before an Adventist pastor would arrive on Guam. When a military flight was en route to Hawaii by way of Japan, a providential storm developed and the plane was diverted to Guam. A Filipino pastor named Jose Bautista arrived from Palau and learned of the believers who desired baptism. In October of 1947 at Tumon beach, nine members of the Ulloa family – Manuel Frederico and Maria, their eldest children, and a cousin – became the first Chamorro family to be baptized on Guam.
As the number of Adventists grew, a tent church was erected and, on what is today the site of the Korean SDA Church, members donated land in Dededo for the first SDA church building on Guam. Located across from a Catholic church, the new Adventist company met antagonism as they evangelized. There were discouraging stories about Boy Scouts recruited by the Catholic church to pick up SDA literature and throw them out. The work continued despite opposition and expanded its influence with the establishment of the Guam Adventist Academy in 1949.
From the small beginnings in a house church, Guam now has eight congregations, a PreK-12 academy, a medical/dental/eye clinic, and the Joy FM radio station. Currently, there is an SDA membership of 5862 people in over 20 congregations that meet across the three island nations and two U.S. territories in the Guam-Micronesia Mission. Eleven SDA schools this year are sharing God’s love with students on nine islands. And while God has truly blessed the mission work across GMM, of the 92 inhabited islands in the region, there is an SDA presence on only 26. As we look back on the first 75 years on Guam, may it further our resolve to reach forward to the other 66 islands.
The SDA schools in the Guam-Micronesia Mission have brought many precious students and missionaries into a closer walk with Jesus. Help continue the mission by sharing the Open Missionary Positions website with people who may have a desire to teach students in the islands. Also, consider donating to the Student Financial Aid Fund.