October 17, 2021

Best Year of My Life

I started looking for opportunities to serve abroad as a volunteer when I was only 16!

I was excited by the idea of serving abroad but realized that probably wouldn’t be the case for a few years. Nevertheless, I enjoyed looking at the call descriptions on the Adventist Volunteer Service (AVS) website and imagining what it would be like to teach abroad as a missionary.

When I started university, however, I forgot all about that. My mind quickly turned to what I would do after graduating, and mission endeavors were not a priority. Funnily enough, I took a break from my final-year studies to do mission work in India for a month ... it was not exactly the best time to go! Although I had a wonderful experience, when I returned, I was still certain a long-term mission opportunity wasn't part of the plan.

Fast-forward to 22-year-old me. As I looked for graduate jobs and graduate schemes, I realized that my ideal job would be one that left me with enough free time to be active in ministry outside of work. I was keen to be more involved in my local community. As I reflected on what I wanted from a job, I realized I was describing an AVS call! I knew it was unlikely I'd choose to serve for a year or more once I got onto the career ladder. So, I decided to volunteer first, to prioritize service.

I looked for opportunities on the AVS website and applied for a teaching position at Malang Adventist Academy. My application was approved, and I left for Indonesia in July 2018. It was precisely the day after my 23rd birthday; I got on a plane and spent an incredible year in my host country. Without a doubt, this is the best “gift” I’ve ever given myself!

There is much I could say about my experience in Indonesia. In fact, I tried to squeeze the whole story into a “short” presentation (160 slides!) that I like to share with family and friends. But suffice to say, it was challenging in the best of ways. Though there were many ups and downs, my time at Malang Adventist Academy was absolutely the best year of my life.

School that Makes a Difference

The school welcomes students from all denominations and faiths and is truly making a difference in the lives of its students. One of my students, who came from a Sunday-keeping background, is now a baptized member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church because of his experience at the school. Moreover, I was happily surprised when a Muslim student signed up for a Pathfinder camping trip, even though he knew it would include many worship services over the three-day event. He gladly participated and enjoyed it! I enjoyed contributing to the spiritual lives of all my students by sharing my testimony, leading devotions, and encouraging them to pray.

There is so much that I miss about Indonesia. From the hugs I was showered with by my elementary school students, to the cheekiness of my senior students, and even the stress of my junior students! Not to mention the luxury of not needing to cook or do laundry for an entire year! Through it all, I learned so much about myself and God. I'm grateful for awesome colleagues and a church community that were incredibly loving and caring from the beginning. Malang will always feel like a second home to me.

If mission work is something you are interested in, then I highly recommend applying through AVS. The mandatory Preparation for Mission course is an excellent resource to ensure that all potential missionaries are ready for what lies ahead. I was also required to attend a training session in Thailand (organized for all missionaries serving in that division). It was wonderful to meet fellow missionaries and experience the Thai culture.

One of my prayer requests, while I was there, was clarity on what happens next: Was this a once-in-lifetime thing or a rest-of-my-life thing? I sensed that God’s will for me is the latter, and I look forward to starting my journey as a career missionary soon.

Since I returned to the United Kingdom two years ago, God has opened doors that allowed me to begin training to become a chartered accountant. However, my focus has been on remaining active in ministry and not waiting until I return to full-time mission work to serve God. As a writer, I've continued to develop the blog that I launched while I was in Indonesia: The Holy Grain. I am truly grateful that my time serving in Indonesia inspired me to start a blog that is blessing readers around the world even today.

The original version of this story was posted on the Trans-European Division news site.