Road Blocks Led to Kosrae

When obstacles create an unexpected path

In Fall 2019, I started the process to become a student missionary. It began with looking through many lists to find the right location. It took a lot of praying, but I ended up choosing Chuuk based on their need and what I would be doing there.

Unfortunately, in Spring 2020, COVID happened and the North American Division was unsure about sending students missionaries for the coming year. As school ended, the NAD still couldn’t say whether we would be able to go. There was mention of teaching online from Guam, but honestly, I’d rather do anything except teach online. Therefore, I returned to school and planned to look into missions in the future.

While attending university that fall, I restarted the missions process. Thankfully, I was able to reuse much of the application information from last year, but I decided to switch locations: from Chuuk to Bangla Hope in Bangladesh. After interviewing with the director, I was immediately accepted and very excited to go. This was the same step I had reached a year earlier, so I prayed that this time everything would go as planned.

However, April 2021 did not bring good news. India had huge problems with COVID, and this did not bode well for the smaller and more remote neighboring country of Bangladesh. Obtaining a visa proved nearly impossible and would cost thousands of dollars, so the director at Bangla Hope encouraged me to consider other locations. This experience was really demotivating and, after two years of trying, I questioned if God had different plans for me other than spending the year as a student missionary.

Members of the Kosrae SDA Church and staff of SDA school

It was back to the drawing board for where to serve. Shortly after deciding to switch locations, but before starting my search, I received a message from Chuuk SDA School asking if I would serve there for the 2021-2022 school year. I said yes and began, yet again, the process of getting ready to go.

But, in late May, I hit another road block. After a day at the lake, a pain in my chest sent me to the hospital. They told me I had a pneumothorax, which, in my type of English, means a hole in my lung. I was in the hospital for nearly a week and they told me I needed a checkup from a pulmonologist, which, in my type of English, means a lung doctor.

The doctors in my area were fully booked except for one availability that was just shortly before I was supposed to leave. At the appointment, I learned that there were two possible outcomes: both meant no scuba diving for the rest of my life, but one outcome included no flying for a year. Since Chuuk is only accessible by a plane — or an extremely long boat trip — the inability to fly would be a major problem. Thankfully, prayers were answered. The doctor said that flying should be okay, but if I felt intense chest pain, there would be serious complications: I would need to find a flight attendant, get access to 100% oxygen, and as soon as we landed, I would require a very painful surgery.

Dylan with students in his classroom

Much to my dismay, I can't scuba dive for the rest of my life and I won’t be able to free dive deeper than 30 feet. While this was discouraging, I was grateful that I could still fly and my plans were not foiled like the two times before. My mom was not excited by the news, though, and needed time to contemplate whether I should go. Thankfully, she ended up agreeing, and in July, I flew to Guam to begin the first part of my quarantine.

Once on Guam, the student missionaries and I were told that we needed to get on a limited list in order to quarantine before we could fly to our islands. I didn’t make the list for the first flight, nor the second, or even the third.

I spent over a month on Guam. Luckily, there were other student missionaries in the same boat, and we got to do more than we could have ever imagined. We visited churches, hiked, made new friends, assisted at Guam Adventist Academy, and even helped out at the GMM headquarters. In between all this fun, I found out that the Chuuk border was closed but that there was still a need in Kosrae, which I was happy to fill. I applied for and quickly got on Kosrae’s second quarantine list.

At the end of August, I entered quarantine. For seven days, I was in complete isolation in a Guam hotel room, followed by another seven days of quarantine at a facility on Kosrae. Due to these circumstances, I was scheduled to arrive after school began, so I began teaching my math and science classes online while in quarantine. Was it difficult? Yes, but it made teaching in person so much more rewarding.

H.E. David W. Panuelo, president of the Federated States of Micronesia (center), visited Kosrae SDA School during his first State Visit to Kosrae

It has been about a month and a half since I left quarantine and there has been plenty to do. Between teaching seven classes and helping around campus, there seems to always be something more to do. However, we still find time on Sundays to explore the island. The other student missionaries and I have already enjoyed fishing, snorkeling, hiking to waterfalls, purchasing local clothes, and walking part of the island. Kosrae is a great place to be and the students make it even better. Though my experience had many trials and tribulations, the destination proved worth the journey.

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