A Life Changed by Student Missions

From bully to valedictorian

“Hey, that’s my island!”

A cheerful voice warmed the chilly air on Southern Adventist University's campus last autumn. I turned to see a man smiling and pointing at our student missionary recruitment banner.

“That’s Yap. I’m from Yap.” He gestured towards the image of a triangular thatched-roof hut on our poster, then quickly passed through to a room that was clearly under renovation.

I was manning the Guam-Micronesia Mission recruitment booth but managed to catch the young man later during lunch. I learned that his name is Edwin. He graduated from our GMM high school on Yap and is now studying Construction Management at SAU. The testimony of what led him here was exactly why we were recruiting students to become student missionaries – to come to our islands and change lives.

Edwin described how the Seventh-day Adventist school on Yap, and the student missionaries that taught there through the years, had influenced his life.

“I started the second grade at public school in Yap,” he began. “I was a crazy kid, getting into a lot of trouble, had bad friends. My parents didn’t have money and were not highly educated. They were working villagers.”

Despite the challenge of a limited income, Edwin’s parents wanted to provide the best for their children. They asked around and learned that the SDA school had a good reputation with native English-speakers as teachers.

When Edwin started at Yap SDA School, his knowledge of English was limited to the words: “Yes” and “Shut up”. The transition was not easy and he was suspended in the second grade. But Edwin was attracted to school even during his suspension because he loved to play with the other kids. He hid in the field until recess time, then joined the other students.

When he officially returned to school after his suspension, things began to change for the better. He credits the principals and teachers at Yap SDA School for leading him through his formative years.

He remembers how an American missionary teacher took interest in him and made the effort to meet with his parents. They came up with an improvement plan and she spent extra time tutoring him after school. Edwin recalls fondly how she taught him to spell several colors and even his name.

As time went on, other struggles arose. Edwin became a bully at school. “I wanted to be the toughest,” he explained. “But by fourth grade, I realized I didn’t have any friends.” John Tamngin, his homeroom teacher at the time and later his principal in high school, became a spiritual mentor in the young boy’s life as he helped Edwin understand how Jesus died for each person.

“I began to question my walk with Jesus. Principal made us memorize Bible verses in class that helped me answer these questions that were building up.” Edwin brought home his growing faith and tried to share with his parents what he learned.

Of the four island states of Micronesia, Yap has the largest percentage of Catholic households – about 80% according to the 2020 state census [1]. Edwin’s life was changed when he was introduced to the Adventist faith through the SDA school. He stopped bullying other students. He graduated as valedictorian of his class. His relationship with Jesus grew deeper and he was baptized after moving to the United States. Today, Edwin praises God for His provisions as he continues to work diligently in pursuit of higher education.

This is the why the schools in the Guam-Micronesia Mission exist. We invite university students take a gap year and serve as missionaries because giving ten months to provide Adventist education on our islands elevates lives academically and spiritually.

The mission's Education Department is our most active ministry with the broadest reach – it shares the light of the gospel on our nine main islands every day for the ten months of the school year! The vast majority of nearly 2,000 students at our schools this year are non-Adventist (almost 99% at some schools) because families are drawn to the native English-speaking, college-educated, mission-hearted teachers.

Students attending GMM schools have followed paths to become influential pastors, teachers, government leaders, and church administrators. But most importantly, students at our schools have been led into a closer walk with Jesus.

As missionary teachers build relationships with students, witness to families, and work closely with the local Adventist churches in outreach, they are changing lives for eternity. Prayerfully consider spending this next year on an island like Yap and sharing the love of God with students like Edwin.


[1] https://www.state.gov/repots/2020-report-on-international-religious-freedom/micronesia/#:~:text=Religious%20Demography,present%20in%20all%20four%20states

02/02/2023 12pm: Corrected John Tamngin's position and when Edwin was baptized.

Sign up for our eNewsletter.
It's quick and free!

You are now subscribed to the
Tropical Isles eNewsletter.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form