February 8, 2020

‘I thought I was too old for mission service’

“I thought God was done using me after teaching for thirty-four years,” Belinda Ennes said, “but instead, He’s given me the greatest adventure of my life!” 

Ennes is currently serving as principal at the Seventh-day Adventist school on the tropical island of Yap, in the Caroline Islands of the western Pacific Ocean.

Yap is best known for the gentle, massive manta rays that glide through its crystal-clear waters, its ancient use of huge stone coins for currency, and its rich World War II history.

“Yap has vastly exceeded my expectations,” Ennes said, “except that there aren’t any dangerous animals.” She laughed. “I thought that went with the territory!”

“I love children and their culture,” Ennes added. “On Yap, no one cares about status symbols, no kids are coming to school with iPhones, and as for school shootings, we don’t have guns on the island. It’s very different in so many ways from the inner-city school I served at for fourteen years before retiring at seventy years old.”

Some similarities between the two are evident, however, Ennes said.

“The kids here, just like in urban America, are desperately searching for a sense of hope,” she said. “Being able to give them that hope through faith in Jesus Christ is the most satisfying part of my life here.”

Yap is part of the Federated States of Micronesia, an independent nation with very close ties to the U.S. The islanders have the right to live and work in the U.S., use the U.S. dollar as currency, and the nation enjoys a security arrangement with the U.S.

“The close ties to the U.S. makes living and working here simple for Americans,” Ennes said. “I applied through Adventist Volunteer Services on a Wednesday and received a call the next Sunday from Yap, informing me I’d be the principal. Three months later, I was in meetings in Honolulu with the other principals from our schools spread across Micronesia.” 

“I love that our teachers are primarily student missionaries. They are the most wonderful, positive, dedicated young people you can imagine,” Ennes observed. “My job is to empower and mentor them. I sincerely appreciate the love and respect I’m shown in return.”

Ennes’s closeness with the student missionaries makes sense when you learn she is only here because of one of them. “It’s all my granddaughter’s fault,” Ennes said with a chuckle and a twinkle in her bright blue eyes. “I helped her through Adventist schools and to an Adventist college. She is the only Adventist among my grandchildren, and I’ve seen what a difference Adventist education has made in her life. She came as a student missionary to Micronesia and encouraged me to apply. It’s because of her that I’m here.”

Leah Lauzon from Port Heron, Michigan, United States, is in her second year as a student missionary in Yap.

“Ennes, by her example of how she interacts with the students and with us, has inspired me to change my plans from being a graphic designer to becoming a teacher,” Lauzon said. “She’s shown me that teaching is about getting close to kids, building relationships, and helping them in life. It’s not just about education — it’s about their salvation as well. She has shown us every day through her example of what it is to be an Adventist educator.”

Nathan Moravetz, who knew Leah at Camp Au Sable in Michigan before they came to Yap, agreed.

“We need retirees here because they have experience, and they come here with a real sense of mission,” Moravetz said. “Ennes is so dedicated, and she has a passion for young people. We really need her experience. She also provides a family atmosphere that we deeply appreciate. We student missionaries have energy, but we lack experience. She blesses us with her wealth of experience.”

Ennes, who retired to Gentry, Arkansas to be near her two sisters and her brother, has breathed life and direction into the Yap school. Two of her siblings have come to Yap for a small taste of the adventure and to support her. “Serving on Yap has been a blessing for all of us,” she said.

“I used to sit in church hearing mission stories and thinking that one day, I’d like to do mission service,” Ennes continued. “But life went on, and I thought I was too old. I guess God didn’t think so because, here I am, and I love it.” 

“We are sincerely thankful that God sent Belinda to Yap,” said Arne Nielsen, vice-president of education for the North American Division. “Her experience and kindness are more valuable to us than she could ever imagine.”

If you are a retired educator or you have the skills to renovate buildings, and God isn’t quite done with you yet, why not answer His call for the adventure of mission in Micronesia? You will be loved, respected, and needed every day you are there. And, after a day sharing the love of Christ with the families of Yap, there’s always the lure of a swim with the manta rays or a hike through the jungle to find downed fighter planes from World War II. God may have a mission adventure waiting for you in Micronesia.