Another cohort of AFM student missionaries (SMs) and short-term missionaries (STM) has launched to the frontiers. What a privilege it is to know such dedicated, willing young people! Some have left their jobs as nurses, personal trainers and Bible workers. Many have interrupted their college programs to serve at least a year. Others are leaving home for the first time. All are convicted to go and share a year or more of their eternal lives, to tell those who have never heard about Jesus their Savior.
Natesha Bent has eagerly stepped up to teach English at the French school in Guinea. Anna Greene* is off to teach ESL at a creative-access project in Southeast Asia. Keren Gomez-Mora will be serving in northern Thailand at a project where she volunteered in a different capacity last year. She will be teaching ESL to children and connecting with as many people as possible to make friends for the gospel’s sake. Sarah Sinz is teaching ESL to packed classes of youngsters in Cambodia at the Pnong Project. And Cera Lee Hanson* has finished a term already as an SM and has taken a new call to teach ESL in Southeast Asia.
As these SMs/STMs teach English, they pray their students will see something different in them and ask questions about their beliefs. They spend time with them after school, inviting them to their homes for meals and Bible studies. Such interactions lead to changed lives. For example, in an area not friendly to the sharing of the good news, a contact who has been friends with four consecutive ESL teachers at her school over the past several years recently decided to commit her life into the hands of Jesus.
Floyd Counsell will be climbing the mountains of Palawan to serve as a maintenance man, doing whatever is needed there. He was recruited by a classmate, Brandon von Dorpowski, who served in Palawan last year and was determined to pass the baton.
Passing the baton is something we do literally and metaphorically at the end of AFM training as the returning student missionaries hand a baton with a sheet of advice tucked inside to someone going out. We never have to prompt the returned SMs to share contact information for friends they left behind at their projects.
In some cases the SMs find it difficult to pass the baton and instead follow their convictions to stay at the project another year. Last year Michael Hess went to Palawan to teach high school math, and this year he chose to stay for a second term. Sharon Andrea Williams retired from her job as an accountant in Jamaica to serve in Palawan last year as the accountant and treasurer. She chose to stay for a second year as well. Justina Thomas has been serving as a nurse at the clinic in Palawan. She stayed a second term and became head nurse when four-year veteran Carrie Hann came back to the States this spring to fundraise and train. Carrie has now returned to Palawan as a career missionary!
Anna Rorabeck went to Thailand to teach piano and is staying beyond her first term up to the very limit her university program will allow her to be gone. Xiao-bang (Bryan) Chen launched this fall to eventually take over Anna’s position as piano teacher.
Such flexibility is not easy, even for young people. They must put relationships on hold, graduate with a different class, and in some cases abandon their previous plans in order to serve where needed most. Karina Brinckhaus, an ICU nurse who originally applied for a nursing call, responded to the need in Thailand for a violin teacher. (If you know someone who can teach violin, encourage them to apply for next term!) She is using her violin hobby to fill the need at Peace Music Academy while partnering with another new STM, Miriam Bernstein, to start a medical missionary endeavor there at the Central Thai Project in Khon Kaen.
Back in Palawan, Justina and Carrie have been joined by Talice Foster, also an experienced nurse; Samantha Clark, who comes from a long line of missionaries, and Casey Lao who is preparing to be a nurse. And Rose Russell* and Lorena Dale* are using their First Aid and nursing skills to help the Church* family in Cambodia.
Last but not least we have a delightful pair, Ava Jennings* and Elaina Myers,* who have gone to teach lifestyle principles to the Irish. Having become Adventists four years ago, they are eager to share the message of a soon-returning Savior with the people of Ireland.
As last year’s SM/STMs return home and make the transition to missions among their own people, we pray their reverse culture shock quickly fades. We pray for the new SM/STMs in the field as they step out of their comfort zones with new languages to learn, new duties to perform and new people to befriend.
We pray for the next team of SM/STMs that will be coming together over the next nine months as God calls them one by one to service among the unreached. Perhaps you are one of the dedicated, willing ones He has called. Will you respond to His call and go?