Rebecca Orozco, a Student Missionary from Walla Walla University, recently returned from serving as a 6th grade teacher at Yap Seventh-day Adventist School in Yap, Micronesia. Sadly, school came to a sudden close in March due to the threat of COVID-19, sending Rebecca and most of her fellow volunteer teachers home a few months early. Rebecca is taking some time to walk through her experience in Yap as she transitions home, and is kind enough to share it with all of us in the next few weeks.
When I first began my journey as a student missionary, I was torn between my excitement for this new adventure and disappointment at its timing. I had dreamt of being a student missionary since I was a sophomore in high school, but I had just recently come to a point in my life where I had started to love who I was becoming and who I was doing life with. Being in my second year out of high school, I had experienced immense growth within my freshman year of college, but I had a feeling that I had a long way to go. I had heard enough about other student missionaries’ stories to know that a year as an SM would mean the discomfort of more uprooting and growth. With all the molding that was coming my way, how was I to know that I would come out the other side as a person who I could live with? Here I was, at a point in life where being in my skin started to feel like home. What if I came back from Yap with that taken away from me?
Of course, these fears were completely nonsensical. Why would God take me on a path that ran backwards? God does not take away the good things that he gives. He waters them and causes more fruit to bear. A promise that I held close to my heart then and still hold close today is the promise that what God has given, no one can take away. What God establishes, no one can change. (Ecc. 3:14) So I left home trying to cling to this promise, knowing that it would be just God and I for the next few months, and that He was the only constant on whom I could count.
Despite the uncertainties, I left home with a heart full of eagerness and anticipation, and the coming days felt like a dream. I vividly remember getting off the plane in Yap and seeing the smallest airport I had ever seen in my life! The whole airport seemed to be one to two big rooms. Baggage claim was not a carousel like I was used to, but a slow process of boxes, coolers, and luggage being pulled out one-by-one–a crowd of people peering over shoulders to see if their belongings had been retrieved yet. Upon exiting the airport, I saw locals casually sitting on the dark, grassy hillside waiting for their rides, talking as if they were school children waiting for their bus, and had not just returning on a 2 am red-eye flight. The other student missionaries and I received a warm welcome as Yap SDA members met us outside and crowned us with flower leis. An older woman from the church introduced herself to me, and then warmly suggested that I tell a children’s story for the coming Sabbath. I laughed, agreeing to the proposition and wondering at her immediate comfortability and boldness in the wee hours of that morning. That night, I stayed up far into the morning, fascinated by my new surroundings and having my first standoff (of many) with a very large, very terrifying cockroach. Thus was my first impression of my dear Yap.
The week following our arrival was consumed by coconut-eating, town-tripping, and, of course, lots of planning for the start of school. A couple conclusions which I came to very early in my life in Yap were, first, that I loved coconuts, and second, cooking was not one of my fortes. Because of this, I spent many days getting acquainted with different types of coconuts, and counting them as the majority of my sustenance. So I was quite thankful when later that week we went on our first town trip to buy groceries, and I went on to learn to cut and cook my first fish. Needless to say, I felt that this was a step upward in my trek to becoming an actual, teaching adult.
At the end of that week, the Friday before school started, I was sitting in my classroom and making letters for a quote I was putting up on one of my walls while I listened to music. Suddenly I couldn’t hear the music anymore because an abrupt rainfall started pouring outside my classroom. It was the epitome of “raining cats and dogs.” The first of many downpours that I would experience. I stopped what I was doing and stood by my classroom door, smiling at the showers that before me. Gratefulness flowed into me as I thought about the place in which I was standing: in a foreign place with warm rainfalls and kind people; where shoes were scarcely worn and I got to eat coconuts whenever my heart desired. Later that day I wrote about the experience, saying:
“School starts on Monday. I’m not prepared and couldn’t be more ready. I’ve been meeting contentment lately. I didn’t know that this is what my soul has been craving–the unpredictable life that has been staring me in the face at the present.”
From the very beginning, God, in His great faithfulness, was planting seeds of peace that He would water and grow throughout the coming months. Little did I know how He was going to take this seed, this journey, and use it to teach me to trust in Him and His unpredictable plan.