Thank you, missionaries! You have kept GMM’s schools open during desperate times. It has not been easy.
Like the rest of the world, GMM has faced unexpected challenges these last three years due to the global pandemic. The student missionary program that drives GMM’s Education Department did not escape COVID’s long-term effects .
The last “normal” SM year was in 2018. GMM’s eleven schools welcomed the arrival of student missionaries after meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii for the traditional orientation. The next group of 87 missionaries would arrive in 2019 with the anticipation of another successful year.
Unfortunately, three-quarters into the 2019-2020 school year, students and teachers who were looking forward to spring break were bitterly disappointed by the news of impending shutdowns due to the novel coronavirus. Student missionaries were quickly sent home, their year of service suddenly disrupted with little time to say a proper goodbye to their students and new friends.
In the aftermath, the determined local teachers and support staff on each island banded together to finish the school year for the students. Personnel doubled their efforts by teaching elementary lessons in the morning and then high school classes in the afternoon. Many church members volunteered to help fill the void left by the early return of student missionaries. They all stretched themselves to the limit. No one knew just how long the stretch would last.
The border closures persisted into the new school year. Schools depended on the dedicated staff and church members to repeat the cycle of teaching both the elementary and high school lesson plans. This included one courageous missionary from Brazil that remained on Yap for the rest of the calendar year, serving the first semester of 2020.
Some relief came when four student missionaries answered the urgent call to come to Guam and serve as online teachers for the other islands. These four had the distinctly unique start to their service – beginning not with orientation in Hawaii but with a virtual introduction to their new students from their quarantine facilities.
Additionally challenging was that GMM’s territory includes four time zones over its 2,500 miles span. Starting their days early, the online teachers were scheduled to teach different classes to different islands, without the opportunity to meet their students in-person or immerse themselves in the beautiful cultures. Even with so much of the interaction that makes the missionary experience rewarding was impossible, they served to the best of their ability.
God blessed their work and the doors to the SDA schools stayed open for their students.
The second full school year into the pandemic showed promise. Island governments permitted student missionaries to enter the islands for the 2021-2022 term as essential workers. Thirty-seven adventurous SMs endured additional measures, undaunted by quarantines that lasted as long as four weeks before arriving to their schools. They kept our essential ministry of education open.
When the next school year approached, restrictions had eased, but the dates were still uncertain for when borders would open. Twenty-two new student missionaries signed up on faith and prepared to travel to their islands in spite of the lengthy quarantine periods they might face. Thankfully, by October 2022, all of the governments within the Guam-Micronesia Mission territory had lifted travel restrictions and opened their borders to visitors. Praise God! No more wait lists to get onto flights. No more quarantining for weeks – not even days. Now, all islands are open for the first time in three years!
The number of student missionaries to our mission have been drastically dropping: 87, 4, 37, 22.
The group of SMs that were evacuated mid-year 2019-2020 are no longer at their universities to share their stories. We need more missionaries to teach our students about the love of Jesus, then to return home and tell others about what He has done for them.
Will you join the number of missionaries making an eternal difference? If you are willing to serve for the 2023-2024 school year, the need is great and the doors are open.
Students are literally waiting to learn. One island school reported that some students are anxious for their SDA school to reopen high school classes. A lack of teachers prevents the school from offering high school, yet former students or their parents have not felt comfortable transferring to other schools. They were so thankful for the sense of family and safety that the SDA school provided them. That is what Jesus does through missionaries.
What can Jesus do through you?
Can you share your testimony and inspire the next group of student missionaries to serve?
Can you become the next testimony and answer the call to go, give, and grow? Only the Lord knows who will thank you because of your service.
Pray over the needs viewed at gmmsda.org/positions and experience what God can do through you. We hope to see your face at GMM's SM Orientation, returning this July!