The student missions program at Walla Walla University has been an important part of the university for over 60 years. However, as 20 new student missionaries from the university are preparing to serve in 10 countries for the 2021-22 school year, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause challenges by preventing some of those student missionaries from traveling. With certain countries having tight requirements to enter or even complete closure to international travelers, some students have been unable to serve abroad at all. Still, WWU’s student missionaries are dedicated to serving wherever they can.
“It’s definitely not exactly back to normal,” said Andrea Keele, associate chaplain for missions. “Getting people to locations has been tricky with various travel restrictions.” In response to some of these restrictions, Walla Walla University has required all international student missionaries to be fully vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine before departure. The decision is part of the university’s efforts to help simplify travel and the students’ navigation of restrictions and requirements that are constantly changing.
“Once they are out there, I think it depends on the locations as to what kinds of challenges they face,” said Keele. “Some places will be more relaxed and some will be more challenging with COVID-related requirements for every-day life.”
Samantha Wawondatu, a junior strategic communication student, is already learning what it’s like to begin her missionary journey in a world recovering from COVID-19. “I am currently quarantined in a government designated facility and will be released after 5 days,” said Wawondatu in July. “I would say that Saipan has relaxed its COVID-19 restrictions since the situation here hasn’t been that bad, but they are being very cautious about visitors that come on the island since outbreaks can be bad in a densely populated territory like Saipan.”
Wawondatu chose to be a student missionary for several reasons, but a key one was the desire to push herself out of her comfort zone. Excited to have this new experience, she also expressed her excitement to be able to share stories about her time in Saipan when she gets back to the states after 11 months.
Another WWU student, currently serving on the island of Yap, also dealt with traveling challenges. While en route, Lauren Larson was held up in Guam where her layover was canceled. She waited in Guam for several weeks before she was finally allowed to board a flight to Yap.
“I see the student missions program as an opportunity that God uses to reach the hearts of college students and communities where they serve, at the same time,” says Keele. As the world continues to deal with the effects of COVID-19, the student missions program hopes that their students can help bring God’s healing.
Click here for more information about the student missions program at Walla Walla University. https://www.wallawalla.edu/campus-life/chaplains-office/student-missions/
Posted Sept. 10, 2021