Lives of Service Are Just Beginning

WWU's graduates serve as student missionaries

By: Becky St. Clair

Erbenich enjoyed her time in Thailand so much, she plans to return next year.

During the 2007-2008 school year, Walla Walla University had over 80 student missionaries spread throughout the world.  Most were serving in the islands, but WWU had representation on all but one of the continents.  

Of those who served last year, ten were students who had never attended WWU previously, or had attended in the past but not recently.  Each of the ten plans to attend WWU for the 2008-2009 school year.

Another group of those who served as student missionaries this year was those who have already received degrees from WWU.  There were 33 in total.  Two such individuals were Melissa Erbenich and Hans Fly.

Erbenich, a 2006 speech communications and theology graduate, had known since childhood that she wanted to be a missionary.  She recognizes a huge place in her heart for service, and jumped at the chance to serve at Ekamai International School in Bangkok, Thailand.  Ninety-five percent of the students there are Buddhist.

“The last year was filled with challenging, yet amazing moments,” says Erbenich.  “No matter the challenges, though, I know that all the hours I spent cheering for, believing in, and supporting my students, regardless of our faith differences, were priceless.”

Erbenich will return to Thailand next year to continue teaching the values course she began this year.

During his undergraduate years, Fly spent two years studying abroad: one year each in France and Argentina.  As a Spanish and French major, he was required to do so, and he relished the experience.  Upon graduating in 2007, Fly decided it was time to do something different.

“Both of those traveling opportunities were selfish pursuits,” says Fly.  “I never did any missions work, and I decided I needed to volunteer a year of service to get experience and work on my character before I began work on my career.”

So Fly signed up to be a student missionary after graduation.  He went to Béré, Chad.  The following months were spent recuperating from malaria and parasites, learning what it is like to live in a mud hut, and living like the natives.

When Fly returned, he found it interesting that everyone he met asked him if his year had been fun.  It fascinated him that people expected his missions experience to be one that somehow excited and amused him.

“It’s not that at all,” says Fly emphatically.  “It was a very difficult experience.  There were moments of joy, like going to the river and swimming with the kids, or getting together for a hospital party, but it wasn’t necessarily ‘fun.’  In the West we have this idea that we have a lot to give to a place.  But the people there are really benefitting us.  It might not be fun, but it is character building.”

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is currently working on opening a location in Chad.  Fly has submitted his resume to them, and hopes to return to continue helping the people there.  If that opportunity doesn’t come, Fly has plans to teach English in Asia.

For many WWU students, service doesn’t end with a black gown and square hat with a colored tassel.   For those like Melissa Erbenich and Hans Fly, their dedicated service to God’s children around the world is only just beginning.

For more information on how you can experience serving others, or to learn how you can help those who spend their summers saving money and praying for miracles to be able to travel to their posts, contact the Student Missions Department at 509-527-2633, or student.missions@wallawalla.edu.

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