Spending a year of your life as a student missionary (SM) is a major commitment. The application process takes time—sometimes three months from the time your application is submitted. It also involves significant preparation—interviewing returned SMs, a training retreat, a class about cross-cultural missions, and more. But time and growth are what meaningful journeys are made of, and the preparation process helps ensure that you’ll have the best mission service experience possible.
And you don’t take this journey alone. Our Student Missions team is here every step of the way to answer your questions, help you with paperwork, share knowledge from their own mission experiences, and most importantly, pray and envision with you on where God may be calling you to serve.
Our prayer is that, as you embark on this journey, you will allow God to root and ground you in His love so that you may be filled with the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:17-19), and the overflow of that experience will become your individual service story!
An overview of the steps to your service journey
Stop by the Chaplain’s Office anytime, for any reason, but especially if you’re considering a student missionary year. We have many returned SM staff who would love to help answer your questions!
- Complete initial application meeting at Chaplain’s Office.
- Complete General Conference (GC) paperwork.
- Liability waivers.
- Beneficiary form.
- Meet with returned SMs.
- Meet with associate chaplain for missions.
- Discuss and choose several calls where you would like to serve.
- Submit completed application to the North American Division or to an independent calling organization.
- Meet with SM finance manager.
- Submit fundraising letter for approval.
- Pick up donation return envelopes.
- Send out letters early (recommended minimum of 50).
- Fundraise online through WWU-approved platform.
- Solicitor’s name: your name
- Enroll in Cross-Cultural Ministry class (spring quarter).
- Attend outgoing SM retreat.
- Attend SM dedication vespers.
- Continue to talk with returned SMs about their experiences.
6. Commonly asked questions
Jump to read what others have asked.
Every journey begins with one step. In your SM journey, that step is conversation: conversation with returned SMs to learn about their service stories and conversations with our Student Missions team at the Chaplain’s Office.
It’s important to understand that you can ask as many questions as you feel like you need to before you start an application. We are happy for you to come by the Chaplain’s Office anytime to look through SM call options, talk with our team, and let us help you work through the call you feel God may be placing on your heart.
God has a calling for each of us. Our job is to become aware, awaken, and answer that call. As an SM, God can use you in many different ways, here in the U.S. or in countries all around the world.
Service capacities include:
- Youth pastor
- Graphic designer
- Elementary teacher
- Middle school teacher
- Medical assistant
- High school teacher
- Refugee advocate
- Orphanage assistant
- Finance assistant
- Construction worker
- Agriculture worker
- Computer programmer
- Maintenance worker
- Office assistant
- Friendship evangelist
The initial application meeting is a great time for you to get to know your application guide. You can find out about the application process and ask any questions you might have about becoming an SM. If you’re ready, we will also walk through the application process to help you understand the steps to become an SM.
Once your application is complete, it will be reviewed and voted to either pass or postpone service depending on your situation and qualifications. Our goal is to find you a place to thrive.
We require a minimum of four completed references for each applicant. One reference must be completed by a pastor, two must be professional in nature (i.e. teacher, employer, mentor), and one can be completed by a friend or RA. We highly recommend you send out more than four reference forms as this helps ensure you will receive the minimum required number of references. The more references you have, the better your chance of acceptance to the calls you apply to. Reference forms can be found online with your AVS application or picked up from the Chaplain’s Office.
The forms on myWWU help us get to know you better, know how we can best support you while serving as an SM, and will help us make your travel arrangements so that you can reach your destination safely. These forms can be found on your myWWU Student Center Classic page.
First, in the upper right-hand corner, click the green button labeled “Sign Documents.” Read through these forms and submit them. Once both forms are completed, the button will no longer appear on the page.
Second, at the bottom of the Student Center Classic page, you will see a link labeled “Student Missions Forms.” This link will take you to a page with a dropdown menu that includes three online forms that you must fill out and submit: the WWU SM application, the travel form, and the mailings preference form.
The AVS application can be found on adventistvolunteers.org. Once completed, this application provides personal details, employment and education information, references, and skills and interests, which assist us in finding you the right call.
Minimum one completed reference
This can be a professional or pastoral reference.
Minimum four completed references
This includes at least two professional references and one pastoral reference.
Since you will most likely be traveling to another country, we need to have a copy of your passport on file for identification purposes and travel arrangements. Make sure your passport is not due to expire in the next two years as it will need to be valid throughout the time you are overseas. You can bring your passport to the Chaplain’s Office to be copied or you can scan your passport and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you scan your passport to us, make sure it is a clear, full-color copy of both the signature and photo page.
Health clearance (physical and mental)
This is similar to a physical checkup completed by a licensed medical professional. It can be completed at the University Health Clinic or by your primary care provider (PCP). In the event that our University Health Clinic staff feel it would be in your best interest to meet with a trained counselor for additional health clearance, you can easily do this by making an appointment with a provider at the Counseling and Testing Center. Also, if you choose to use your PCP, you will automatically need a letter of additional mental health clearance from the university. Stop by the Chaplain’s Office to pick up the required health clearance form before your appointment. Call (509) 527-2425 to schedule your appointment at the University Health Clinic.
Applying for a call is like applying for a job. The organization where you are hoping to serve needs to know the skills and experience of its applicants in order to find the best fit for its service needs. If you need assistance creating a résumé, the Student Development Center is a great place to visit for tips and advice on what to include on your résumé. You can bring a copy of your résumé to the Chaplain’s Office or email a copy to email@example.com.
Each applicant is required to complete a volunteer safety training course and background screening. You can find directions for this at hesaidgo.org/verified-volunteers.
Choosing a call
After approval by the WWU Screening Committee, you will meet with the missions chaplain to start searching for the right call. Finding a location begins with a passion for service. Whether the passion is teaching, kids, or evangelism, we will work with each student to try to find an available location that fits. Usually students identify three or more preferences and submit their application for those calls, like submitting a résumé for a job. The administration at the call then accepts or declines the application.
- Taskforce calls. Taskforce calls include any location within the continental United States. Since taskforce students often make their own travel arrangements to travel to their respective calls, each student is only responsible for raising money to cover the Student Missions fee. These calls often include deaning positions at academies.
- Adventist Volunteer Services. These calls are affiliated with the General Conference and are listed on adventistvolunteers.org. These calls include a living stipend, along with provided housing and insurance for volunteers. These calls include the Pacific islands calls.
- Independent calls. Independent calls require the student to cover his or her own living stipend and insurance. Although costs vary, these add an additional $200 to $300 per month of service to your fundraising needs; that’s why these calls cost about $2,000 more than a call where those costs are covered. Although these calls are not affiliated with the General Conference volunteer system, they are for reputable organizations such as Adventist Frontier Missions. All orphanage calls are independent.
The best way to cover the costs of the SM experience is to fundraise. The financial support from others is a blessing, and so is the encouragement that comes from knowing people are thinking of and praying for you. The most successful method of fundraising is writing letters. You’ll need to obtain our fundraising letter template by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The template is meant to be personalized but not completely rewritten as some of the technical language is important for legal purposes. We recommend sending out a minimum of 50 letters, but have found that at least 100 letters goes a long way to reaching your goal. We even offer several scholarships as an incentive for this. We provide prepaid return envelopes to include in your mailing. It has been our experience that churches and their members like to support missions, and when it is someone they personally know, they’re even happier to give.
Each student missionary is responsible for covering the cost of their experience. Each call varies in airfare, stipend, and associated costs. To simplify the process, the Chaplain’s Office sets goals for each student missionary with the following ranges. The goal is based on location, length of service, date of application, and other associated costs.
Non-island AVS calls
Pacific island AVS calls
Costs typically covered by fundraising: airfare, one flight change fee, limited visa expenses, insurance, and living stipend, if applicable to the call.
Student missions fee
Included in the flat fee of each call is a $500 student missions fee. This fee covers the following costs associated with the experience: registration for experiential credit, monthly mailings which include campus publications and other support, outgoing/re-entry retreats, a prayer journal, and SM processing costs such as donation management, telecommunications, and application/training supplies. Essentially, it covers the nuts and bolts so that you can serve without worrying about what’s holding it all together.
The Student Missions program has both travel scholarships and tuition scholarships. Our travel scholarship helps with fundraising. Tuition scholarships apply after a student has returned. Talk to someone in the Student Missions office for more details about scholarships and their requirements.
Early Bird Travel Scholarship ($300): Pass second screening and send out 100 letters by the first day of spring quarter. (You’ll need to send us a picture of your completed, sealed, and stamped letters, fanned out to show the number as proof for the second requirement).
100 Letter Travel Scholarship (5% of fundraising goal): Send us a picture of your completed, sealed, and stamped letters (fanned out to show the number of letters).
Month of Money Travel Scholarship ($100): Complete all your application paperwork and pass first and second screening in one month.
Student missionary scholarship
Every student missionary returning to WWU is eligible for a scholarship. The maximum scholarship is for those who serve at least seven months, reach their fundraising goal, and complete all the other necessary requirements stated in the application process. We highly recommend filling out the FAFSA as it will improve your chance of receiving scholarships. Many SM scholarships are designated for students with financial need.
Student Financial Services
We recommend that each student meet with a Student Financial Services officer to walk through the financial aspects of their year of service. Every SM must pay their school bill before departure.
Tip: People often give more when they know the cause is service-oriented.
Work with the Student Missions office to share your fundraiser on social media.
Sell your artwork
Auction off your art at an ASWWU art auction or sell independently to the community.
Most gas stations or churches will let you use their lot.
Host an outdoor/indoor movie night
Establish a donation bucket.
Hand out fliers, exchange work for donations, or give reply envelopes.
Make a list of 50 to 100 names or more to send fundraising letters to:
- Family (near or far).
- Facebook friends.
- Former high school classmates.
- Former teachers.
- Parents’ friends.
- Parents of friends.
- Your and/or your parents’ Christmas card list.
- Current teachers/staff members.
- Anyone you would invite to your wedding/graduation/birthday party.
- Everyone you have EVER known.
- At your home church (you don’t have to be there).
- At school, to friends and teachers.
- Mail orders for cookies.
Make an appeal at your home church and supply donation envelopes
Make a display on table or bulletin board if pastor approves.
Ask for per plate donations.
Ask your friends to join you and donate their sales.
- Ideal time to start the application process (especially for competitive calls).
- Make sure your passport is valid for two or more years.
- Talk with a variety of returned SMs to help you explore calls.
- Get fundraising letter written and approved.
- Register for Cross-Cultural Ministry class (online or at WWU).
- Start sending out your fundraising letters. (Remember to send out 100 for the Early Bird Travel Scholarship!)
- March 29—Deadline for Early Bird Travel Scholarship (have passed second screening and have proof of sending out 100 fundraising letters).
- April—Finalize SM call (if not done already).
- May 7–8—Attend SM retreat.
- May 14—Attend/participate in SM dedication vespers.
- May 16—Attend teacher workshops.
- Complete missions class (online or at WWU).
- Make sure you have your necessary travel immunizations.
The final step of the pre-service journey for you as an outgoing student missionary involves training and preparation. Every student missionary is required to take the Cross-Cultural Ministry class whether on WWU’s campus or online through the General Conference. You also will need to attend the Outgoing SM Orientation Retreat, as well as several teacher training sessions and other opportunities to learn more about your duties as a student missionary. These also provide priceless opportunities for you to grow closer to the other SMs you will be serving with.
Cross-Cultural Ministry class
Each SM is required to take the Cross-Cultural Ministry class that is offered during spring quarter (RELM 233). This is a great opportunity not only for general religion credit but also to meet other outgoing SMs and grow in your ability to engage in culturally competent incarnational mission service. If you are unable to take this class, there is an online course offered through the General Conference. Plan to register for this as part of your spring quarter schedule and come talk to us at the Chaplain’s Office if you have questions or need help registering for the online course.
Outgoing SM Retreat
May 1-2 is the annual Outgoing SM Orientation Retreat, a weekend where all those preparing to go out as student missionaries can meet, worship, and learn about what is to come. This weekend includes question-and-answer sessions, location-focused workshops, and time to talk to returned SMs. The Outgoing Retreat is a very valuable opportunity to get all your questions answered. It is one of the requirements for your SM scholarship that you will receive upon completion of your service.
On May 15, there is an Outgoing SM Dedication Vespers and reception that takes place during the usual vespers time. This is a special vespers aimed at consecrating your time of service and sending you out with the support of WWU, your friends, and families. Now is the time to mark your calendars and invite your parents. They won’t want to miss this.
For those who have accepted calls that include teaching duties, teacher orientation workshops are offered throughout the month of May. Faculty from the education department offer training, advice, and wisdom for those who are planning to teach. These are not-to-be-missed conversations that will contribute greatly to your comfort level during the first few days in the classroom and beyond!
Every current WWU student who has not graduated will be enrolled in the experiential credit program. This is a program offered by WWU that enables SMs to stay enrolled while away from campus. Each quarter, 12 credits are awarded that perpetuate student status, count toward class standing, and defer some student loans. As wonderful as these credits are, they don’t count toward a specific major or toward graduation.
The Chaplain’s Office will arrange airfare to and from the mission location for each SM. We purchase these tickets through a travel agent using fundraised money and based on the information provided on your application.
Purchases made with fundraised money can only apply toward necessary travel to and from the mission. Any personal travel or additions to the itinerary will need to be purchased with personal funds.
Certain expenses involved in the SM experience can be reimbursed with fundraised money. Because of the tax-deductible status of the donations, only certain things are eligible for reimbursement. Only items with the sole purpose of “for the mission” can be reimbursed. This includes airfare costs to the mission and back and visa fees up to a limit. This does not include personal travel or items such as clothing, vaccinations, or medicine. Additional items for emergencies may be approved by the Chaplain’s Office Executive Committee upon request.
Health and safety
There are a lot of risks involved in the student missionary experience. However, many serious incidents can be averted with some basic knowledge and simple application. Because each student’s safety is our priority, the following are steps required to help ensure your SM experience is safe:
- Immunizations: Once a call is finalized, it’s time to contact a health provider about immunizations. Typical immunizations recommended for every country are: hepatitis A and B, typhoid, tetanus-diphtheria, measles, mumps, and rubella, and chickenpox. Each country is different and your provider will have the best information about what’s needed. It is important to take care of this ASAP after your call is finalized. Some immunizations take several weeks to become effective. Some may have adverse side effects to travel. We recommend all missionaries keep their immunizations booklet in their passport during travel. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, cdc.gov, is a great place to check for recommendations and required immunizations for your country of service.
- Insurance: Each student missionary is covered by Adventist Risk and Safety insurance. This coverage includes health, accident, repatriation, accidental life, and medical evacuation. This is a powerful tool that can get you out of tough situations. Adventist Risk and Safety works with local doctors to make sure students have adequate care and can evacuate students if deemed necessary. It is a reimbursement plan, so the student will need to pay the costs up front, keep all receipts, and file a claim for reimbursement.
Tips for risk reduction: There are a few rules for general safety.
- Do not go out alone! Travel in groups with other SMs or locals from the mission. Every incident that has happened to WWU student missionaries in the past has taken place when someone was either alone or out after dark, or both.
- Make sure to ask your local supervisor what is and what isn’t safe.
- If feeling sick, communicate with other SMs, a supervisor, and us. It is important to share the uncomfortable stuff—vomiting and diarrhea can leave you dangerously dehydrated. Not telling anyone is the worst thing to do.
Commonly asked questions
The truth is, God did not call you because you already have the perfect skills, talents, or knowledge needed to serve. He called you because you made yourself available. Perhaps you’re struggling with feeling like you have the wrong motive for service or feeling like you have not dedicated enough to serve well. If that’s you, rest easy and remember that God doesn’t necessarily need us for His work but, because of His great love, He chooses to work in and through us to accomplish His purposes. He will give you resources, provide for you, equip you with what you need to get the job done, and ultimately, grow you through the joys and challenges of your SM journey. So the next time you feel unqualified for the dream you have been given, remember: God does not call the equipped—He equips the called!
This process begins by praying for guidance. Working with the SM office staff to break the process into smaller steps also makes the process more manageable. Stop by the Chaplain’s Office and we can discuss the exciting task of deciding where in the world you can go!
Most calls outside the U.S. are teaching, in either elementary or high school, or tutoring students of various ages. These calls offer structure and usually a living stipend. However, these aren’t the only positions available. There are also positions for assistant pastors, orphanage caregivers, English tutors, assistant deans, teacher’s aides, maintenance workers, librarians, office assistants, hospital assistants, and more! Specific calls can be created personally but only for students who complete their application early in the school year.
Probably one of the greatest needs is in the Central Pacific islands (Micronesia and the Marshall Islands). There are around 120 openings here alone. Other rewarding locations include Thailand, Poland, Denmark, Malawi, Egypt, Peru, Haiti, and the Philippines.
You are responsible for fundraising the amount needed for your specific call. All donated funds are allocated by the Chaplain’s Office. If the cost of the ticket, insurance, etc., exceeds the goal, we absorb the cost. Any excess funds raised go to assist the overall Student Missions program. That means the funds help other student missionaries go, provide emergency aid, and support student missionaries in the field. Checks should be made to “Walla Walla University.” Donations can be made online or in person. Donated funds are tax deductible. Students must fundraise for each trip. Money doesn’t carry over to or from other trips.
When you complete the SM application and are approved for a call, you are registered for the experiential program as a WWU student; therefore, loans are deferred the same as any other student. Graduates do not qualify for this, but there are other ways to defer loans. Students must attend WWU the quarter preceding their service to qualify.
If you are going anywhere except the 50 states, you will need a passport. If you need to apply for a passport, allow several months for processing. Many students already have current passports. We ask for a scanned copy of your passport so we can check to be certain it is valid for your trip. Please note that U.S. citizens must have a passport that will not expire for at least six months after their return date.
Along with sending you regular packages, emails, and support, we manage the business details involving flights, finances, and registering for experiential credit. We’ve even gone as far as flying a parent to a student in crisis for needed support.