Having hosted close to 100 student missionaries at our project over the years, we can say with certainty that the student missionary experience makes a big difference in many ways:
1. They build relationships. SMs typically have more time to just hang out. They go hiking with their local friends, work with them in their fields and dig edible roots together. They share stories with people and play games with children. In this way, they build relationships for eternity.
2. They are helpful hands and feet for the myriad duties that keep the project running smoothly. SMs make trips in and out of the mountains ferrying anything from flash drives with AF magazine articles to urgently needed medicines. They mow the grass and keep facilities in repair and equipment running. They also facilitate transport of patients that need to be carried long distances on stretchers.
3. They develop new personal skills and gain a growing sense of independence. They learn to take care of themselves, to cook, to innovate and to try new things. They improve their time management skills and their ability to plan ahead.
4. SMs develop greater interpersonal skills as they live with roommates who often are quite different from themselves and perhaps from a different part of the world.
5. We love watching SMs grow in their faith and trust in God. They gain a sense that God really does have a plan for them, and that His plan is perfect. The SM experience helps them mature into responsible, industrious young adults with a vision for how God wants to use them and a clearer understanding of what skills they may need to continue to develop. SM service often serves to solidify a career choice.
6. By loving the Palawanos and learning to accept people who are different from them, SMs help to lighten our burden for these dear people. Long after our SMs return home, their Palawano friends hold them in their hearts and prayers.
7. Our SMs find that the Palawano people touch their hearts deeply in ways they never could have imagined. Through this experience, they learn to love “the least of these” at a whole new level of selflessness.
Kent and I enjoy mentoring these young people and watching their lives be impacted for eternity as they engage in frontier mission work for the unreached. A mighty army of youth? Yes! Keep them coming!