Island SMs Get Oriented

WWU student missionaries get crash courses in teaching, culture, relying on God

By: Becky St. Clair

Student missionaries from all over the world gathered in Hawai'i for a 3-day orientation before heading to their posts in late July.

Every year, Walla Walla University sends 80-100 students as student missionaries (SMs) around the globe. Approximately 20 percent of those students serve on the islands. “The islands” consist of: Majuro, Ebeye, Kosrae, Pohnpei, Chuuk, Guam, Yap, Palau, Saipan and, this year for the first time, American Samoa.

As part of their introduction to the culture they will be immersed in for nearly a year, all student missionaries to the islands are required to attend a 3-day orientation at Hawaiian Mission Academy.

As Director of Student Missions at WWU, Jeanne Vories is always present at the orientation. “I meet all the WWU students as they land in Honolulu,” says Vories. “I also take them out to eat, drive them to purchase last-minute items, and answer any questions they have about the islands where they will be serving.” Vories also made sure to see each student off at the airport.

While at the orientation, students participate in team-building activities, spiritual experiences, and presentations on what is expected of them at their posts. Not only do the students learn what their duties will be, but also what is considered appropriate dress and behavior on the islands.

“They split us up according to what age level we would be teaching and gave us a crash course on lesson planning, cultural differences, and classroom discipline,” explains Katie Savage, junior pre-dental hygiene major. “The mission directors from participating universities were there and answered a lot of questions for us.”

One of the main goals of the orientation is to give the students a chance to bond with each other. “Because each and every SM was scared about teaching, it was easy to bond with their fellow students,” says Vories. “It actually relieved a lot of their fears to share them with other students.”

The students appreciated the chance to not only get to meet the principals of the schools they would be going to, but also their fellow SMs, some from schools other than WWU.

“The orientation gave everyone the opportunity to bond a bit before the unexpected became a reality,” says Karen McVicker, senior social work major. “The whole event was very worthwhile, and really helped with the transition from home to the unknown.”

One of the speakers during the orientation was Jose Rojas, Director of the Office of Volunteer Ministries for the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists. On the last night of the orientation, Rojas led in a dedication service for the SMs, the principals of the island schools, and the SM coordinators from each university. It was undoubtedly the spiritual high point of the orientation.

“When everyone comes together dedicate themselves to a mission that they know will be challenging, where the unknowns will be more numerous than the known, it is powerful, to say the least,” says Chelle Jahn, junior psychology and social work major. “As each person touched the people beside them and prayer was lifted to heaven, an amazing sense of peace and comfort surrounded us. We could feel the power of God in the midst of His children.”

Now that the SMs have been serving on their respective islands for over a month, they are realizing even more what a blessing it was to participate in the orientation during those three days.

“Rojas discussed some firsthand experiences from his time on Yap and talked about the difficulty we would face,” says Dustin Kelley, junior history and theology major. “But he also explained that brokenness is an important aspect of ministry because it keeps us focused on God instead of ourselves. I've learned that he's right after only a month on Pohnpei. I need to constantly submit to God.”

The SMs that come from WWU are always much appreciated, wherever they serve.

In a letter to Vories earlier this year, John Youngberg, principal of Guam Adventist Academy, said, “I want to express my appreciation for the quality student missionaries you have sent Guam Adventist Academy during my tenure. Every one of them showed maturity and a work ethic that was of the highest caliber. Our school is a better place thanks to Walla Walla University.”

Keith Rodman, Director of Education for the Guam Micronesia Mission of Seventh-day Adventists, also has nothing but positive things to say about the SMs that come from WWU.

“Dedication, flexibility, and a mission-centered spirit make WWU volunteers one of the most valuable resources in our mission,” says Rodman. “When we get an SM from WWU I know we are getting a quality person. Without WWU SMs we would surely not be able to fulfill our mission of telling the world of Jesus’ love for them.”

For more information on how you can help further the work of SMs from WWU, contact the Student Missions department at 509-527-2633 or email

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