The North American Division is currently holding their Year-End Meetings at their Headquarters in Columbia, Maryland, where delegates gather from around the Division to report on progress in various areas as well as make decisions regarding recommendations and policies.
Student government presidents from Adventist campuses, as well as a few representatives from public universities through Adventist Christian Fellowship, have been invited as delegates for these meetings. Sara Devraj is the S.A. president for Washington Adventist University, and has participated in several mission trips over the years. We are thankful for Sara’s willingness to share her thoughts with us about the impact of missions on her as a leader, as well as her experience here at Year-End Meetings.
How do you think your involvement with missions has impacted you as an Adventist leader?
My mission trip to the Philippines was the perfect opportunity to grow in leadership before I stepped into my position as Washington Adventist University’s Student Association President. The trip taught me how to set a plan of action but also taught me to be flexible when things don’t go as expected. My Chaplain (and current Interim VP of Ministry), Mark Sigue, was determined to teach me the ropes of leadership on the trip and I’m forever grateful for the lessons I learned not only regarding leadership but also teamwork that is closely correlated with leadership and service.
Do you think Missions is helpful for youth and young adults in their faith and leadership in the church? If so, how?
My mission trips to Ecuador, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and the Philippines have prepared me for leadership in more ways than I can count. It tests everything you know and pushes you into a situation where you truly have to cling to faith. I cannot count the times I’ve had to adapt to various situations and find solutions for problems I could have never anticipated however God has always provided the best mentors and leaders who have reminded me about what a faithful God we serve. I can only do my best and let God do the rest. Mission trips also invoke a calling to leadership because when there are a limited number of people on the team everyone has to step up and lead in some capacity.
My mission trip to Costa Rica when I was a Junior at Takoma Academy was probably my most spiritually impactful mission trip. During the course of my trip I could see God’s hand moving in ways that I had never experience before. My Costa Rica mission trip gave me the opportunity to interact with children and teach them about Jesus. Their smiles and laughter despite the little they had allowed me to recognize the abundance of blessing I have been given. The trip was also a time when I say things fall into place when they shouldn’t have. During this year, my dad was injured and I knew I could not burden my family with the cost of a trip to a beautiful tropical island. I asked God to make a way for me. If he wanted me on that trip I knew I would be there and I knew that it would be an opportunity for me to draw closer to God before I took my term as Student Council President at TA the upcoming year. God in his gracious mercy made a way for me. The trip ended up costing less than $400!
What do you think are some of the strengths and/or challenges for our church as you attend year end meetings?
I believe that the church struggles with connecting with and communicating with my demographic. We are so often overlooked and under-represented even the people who are sent to represent us are far out of our demographic and cannot advocate for us and our passions and desires. It’s disappointing to see so many of my peers walk away from the Adventist church and donate their tithe money instead of giving it to the church due to controversial world church decisions. To hear my friends tell me that they feel unvalued, unwelcome, and marginalized is saddening and we as a church community have to do better. We can’t afford to lose the future because we are determined to hold on to the past. However, I am encouraged by the NAD’’s invitation to represent my students and my constituents, to give a voice to many who don’t. The NAD has given AIA the opportunity to sit on committees and hold a voting member positions within the Executive Committee which shows that our division values us and welcomes our thoughts and opinions, as controversial and uncomfortable as they may be. I am so honored and privileged to serve my peers and colleagues in this capacity with so many other presidents. As time goes on, I hope that our opportunity only broadens and the youth and young adults of the Adventist church are recognized, appreciated, valued, and represented.
Sara Devraj is a Junior at Washington Adventist University, set to graduate Spring of 2020, pursuing degrees in Biochemistry and Political Studies. She also plans to get an Honors Interdisciplinary Degree. Below are some of her favorite photos from her mission trips.