Tap, scroll down, refresh. Tap, scroll down, refresh.
I impatiently refreshed my email notifications every time I remembered that I was expecting an important email that should be arriving anytime soon. Last year, I had received this same email, entitled “Program for Medical Laboratory Science (MLS) Admissions Committee Decision”, on March 2, 2015. Surrounded by my beloved classmates, we had opened the letters which would decide the fate for our careers together. We had anticipated this day from the first day of our freshman year, as we watched the seniors in awe, working endlessly in the lab and later in the semester being launched to their hospital sites. We respected their knowledge of parasitology and transfusion medicine, knowing that soon we too would be in their spots in the laboratory. Diligently, we made our way through the prerequisite courses of immunology, microbiology, clinical chemistry, hematology, and blood banking. Sleepless nights were spent cramming for quizzes, and even on snow days we gathered together on the third story of the science complex at Andrews University to review our notes. The chalkboard would be filled with flowcharts and diagrams that contained the information that would be on our upcoming test. Our work was rewarded, because as we all opened our emails together, we were delighted to discover that we had been accepted into the clinical program. Students from other campuses, such as Southern and Union College, would be joining us in the select body of thirty students the following year for an intensive clinical program. The glorious day of graduation was before us, where we would receive our BS in Medical Laboratory Science.
So what would ever possess me to even consider not going, and instead answer an unforeseen call to be a student missionary? To put my dreams on hold, to leave my family behind, and lose my graduating class?
Just a month before receiving my acceptance letter, I received a curious combination of text messages and phone calls. One, from a friend at Weimar College explaining that there was an opening at Weimar Academy for a task force assistant girls’ dean, and he had recommended me. I casually tossed the notion aside, assured that there was no room for me to take a year off in an area that was not even close to what I studied. However, three days later, I received a phone call from Great Lakes Adventist Academy asking if I would consider being an assistant girls’ dean there. This was no longer coincidence—it had to be Providence. I had not attended either of these academies, so I had no affiliations with them whatsoever. What was God trying to do? This time, I went to my knees and prayed about it. Impressed to pursue the Weimar Academy option, I timidly called Mrs. Gallant, the head girls’ dean, to inquire about the position. She explained that the decision was not up to her, but if I was truly interested then she would forward my name to the principal, Mr. Chad, so that he could interview me. For the next several weeks, all I heard was silence. Relieved, I dismissed the possibility of going to Weimar. After all, I had several mountains that would have to be moved if I were to be offered such a position. For example, I was active in my church, so I would need to find a replacement for my youth worship coordinator position. I also have severe corn and sunflower allergies, so wherever I go I need to have a place that can accommodate my diet and have medical facilities nearby just in case a mistake happens. In those silent weeks, I also received my acceptance letter into the clinical program, so all thoughts of going to Weimar faded into the far corners of my mind.
Just when I thought all thoughts of taking a year off were gone, the silence was broken. Soon after receiving my acceptance letter into the MLS program, Mr. Chad and I finally found time for the seemingly forgotten interview. He explained there were other people also applying, so he would bring my application to staff meeting, and by the next week I should receive their answer. It didn’t seem as if there was any certainty in my acceptance, so I didn’t think too much of it. But to my astonishment, a week later, Mrs. Gallant called me to tell me the news—would I accept their offer to be an assistant girls’ dean? I requested a couple days to pray about it. I went to my teachers and let them know what was happening. Secretly, I hoped that they would advise me to continue with clinicals and graduate before I considered other adventures. Instead, they supported my leaving and encouraged me to go and grow, as this may be my last chance to experience different aspects of life as a young student. The chef at Weimar who knew me from previous years at summer camp let me know that they would adjust their ingredients to accommodate my allergies. I found a friend who was passionate about worship ministry to take my place as worship coordinator at my youth Sabbath school.
As if in a dream, I went to the Office of Campus Ministries to fill out my paperwork to be a domestic student missionary. When I let my parents know, they let me know I was taking a huge, possibly even foolish, risk. The fine print under my acceptance letter said that I could choose to accept or decline my approval, and if I chose to decline then I would need to reapply the following year, no guarantees of being reaccepted. I told some of my close friends about the update, and some cheered me on, but others let me know that this was a mistake. However, there was no denying that mountains were being moved, and I needed to follow God. I would be restless if I chose to not follow His calling. I called Mrs. Gallant and told her I would take it. The next day, I signed the paper that stated I would decline my acceptance into the clinical year program. Would God honor my faith next year when the time came to reapply? Only time would tell.
Harder than signing that paper was telling my classmates. I had carefully chosen not to tell them to avoid bias in my decision, but now I had to tell them. If there was ever weeping and gnashing of teeth in the classroom, it was that morning. For the remaining month of classes, I received no end of the grief they gave me as they daily reminded me I was ditching them. After everything we had been through, after all those late nights and bad weather, studying for all those classes, I was leaving. Why? On the outside, I showed confidence and excitement for a new experience, but on the inside, I trembled. This was the first time I was leaving my home for longer than a few weeks. I wouldn’t be able to see my family for months on end. By the time my student missions year was over, my fellow MLS classmates would be almost done with their clinicals and soon march down the aisle. Would I be able to do the same thing a year later?
August came soon enough, and I arrived on the Weimar campus with all my belongings for the year in three suitcases. First, a week of staff meetings, but soon registration day came, when the school was livened with high schoolers, ready to meet their friends again and another year of schoolwork. Was I ready for them? The only experience I had with anything close to being a dean was being a head girls’ counselor at Camp Au Sable, and I put it to use. It turns out that being a dean is the same thing, only you have a whole year with your ‘cabin’ instead of just a week. Throughout the year, I had twenty girls, to cherish and to hold, as my own sisters, daughters, friends. The months went by quickly, with every weekend being booked with a school outing, concert, or other activity. Home leaves came and went, choir tour came and went, mission trip came and went. However, I never forgot my MLS friends, whenever I spent my time off reviewing old notes to keep my memory fresh. I filled out my application in the winter, and prayed faithfully over it. Before I knew it, it was March again, and here I was, refreshing my email as often as possible. Would God honor my faith?
My long-awaited-for email came early in the morning, just a few days and a year later. Same title—but would it be the same content? Nervously, I downloaded the PDF file that would display the letter from the committee. There, in big bold letters, stated that the committee had decided to accept me for the 2016-2017 school year. God had heard my prayers after all! God had rewarded my faith. God had led me to be a student missionary for a year, and had used a break in my studies to teach me what academics couldn’t. The quiet Weimar campus provided an incubator, a safe haven, for me to grow in my relationship with Jesus. I learned to depend on Him like never before, as I lived apart from everything I knew. When the dorm girls needed counsel, I could only point to Him for wisdom. When I was too tired to dean, only God could provide the strength for me to keep going. A spiritual toddler, I would leave Weimar a spiritual teenager, a stronger disciple and a believer in prayer. In the great faith chapter of the Bible, it says, “…it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him” (Hebrews 11:6, NLT). With faith only the size of a mustard seed, God can move mountains, and use that experience to mold you into a follower after His own heart. As I prepare for transitioning back into school, I look back and see that I would not trade this year for the world. I have a new dream to serve God, a new family in California, and a new graduating class to meet in the fall. William Carey, a British missionary, once said, “attempt great things for God, expect great things from God.” God indeed does reward faith.
Melody Collins served as a student missionary from Andrews University as an Assistant Girls’ Dean at Weimar Academy in California for the 2015-16 school year. This was originally posted on her blog, and is used with permission.