Everyone living life has had forks in the road. One such moment for me was when I finished my master’s degree in South Korea. I was debating whether I should proceed to my doctorate, go back to the Philippines or explore something else.
I spent months in prayer by the lake in Sahmyook University, my favorite devotional spot. It was during this time that I saw a Facebook post about the need for missionary teachers on Ebeye, an island in the Marshall Islands. I was certain that was my next destination. No doubts, no second guesses, no exploring other options. I knew firmly in my heart that God was leading me there.
After juggling my research lab, thesis defense and required documents for AVS (Adventist Volunteer Service), I found myself on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean just a week after my graduation.
This island experience introduced me to the world of “service”. It wasn't just about sharing space with other volunteers in my apartment but also letting them become a part of my life. It wasn't just working with people from different countries – ten to be exact during my two-year service in the Marshall Islands – but also opening my mind to different cultural points of view and understanding where they are coming from. It wasn't just walking or riding bikes on the way to the school, around the island or neighboring islands, but giving up the convenience of transportation to appreciate the beauty of simplicity and companionship.
It wasn't just wearing long skirts but giving up my style for a while to immerse myself in their culture. It wasn't just attending Sabbath services, taking part in programs and religious gatherings because I was expected to as a missionary, but also because of the limited time I had to share my previous experiences and to gain wisdom from them. It wasn't just teaching science to my students but letting them appreciate the knowledge and its Author. It wasn't just being a homeroom teacher responsible for their school performance but also asking God to implant in me a genuinely interested heart for their well-being. It wasn't just visiting sick people in the sole hospital on the island but also learning to play the ukulele to accompany the singers. It wasn't just attending birthday parties and preparing $1 bills as gifts but also listening and spending your precious time at homes.
It was not allowing yourself to be burnt out but finding balance in rest and recreation: soaking in the blue water of the island; watching the sunrises, sunsets, night stars, full moons, and blushing skies; enjoying ferry rides, visiting Kwajalein, playing games with small kids, watching movies, eating, talking, laughing, singing, and jumbo-jumbo (island term for road trip around the island).
It was not making myself exclusive to people of my own faith but being available to others and authentically connecting with them.
And when my time was up and I left to move on to a new journey, the memories and relationships I made on the island still live on.
When you leave a place of service, you will still be connected to that world. You may receive messages from your old students - updating you that they will graduate soon or just anything to let you know that you are still remembered. But most importantly, you will still carry that spirit of service wherever you go, no matter what your present job. Because it’s not just driven by title, pay or expectation, the fulfillment and the joy of service is the internal reward that comes from our Master.
You can read about Schley's current work on page 10 of the Adventist Journey (May 2021).
Correction - May 21, 2021: This story has been edited to correct that Schley was not a current, but recent volunteer at Total Health Spokane at the time of publication.