Student Missionary Highlight: A Year in Hawaii

Student Missionary Highlight: A Year in Hawaii



Dana Swann
Alumna of Andrews University
BS in Animal Science
Interviewed by Maya Nelson



Why did you decide to go to Hawaii?
I always thought it would be great to serve in my own country. I also think there's a great need for missionary work domestically, not just overseas. I focused on how I could use my skills and which place had a need. I was initially chosen for a different position and place, but then I stepped back from looking online at all the opportunities and just prayed, and spoke to my family and friends about if it was really the right decision. As things became more clear, I logged on to the Adventist volunteer website months later and the exact position I was thinking of was available! So I learned to better trust in God and let him lead, instead of trying to do what I think is best on my own.


How did you help the community around you?
I volunteered as a teacher's aide in a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade Seventh-day Adventist school. I think that it's definitely helping because for one thing, the missionaries give the teachers a break and reduce the stress they were going through, because of lack of staff and lack of funds to hire full time staff. I'm able to help with classroom duties, keep the school clean and take care of the kids. Not all of them are Seventh-day Adventist and for a lot of them, school is the best part of the day. The kids like having people at school they can talk to and be open with if they need to, and they love to sing songs and learn more about God. Adventists do not have a strong presence in Hilo, but the school certainly does.

What was your mindset or what did you expect when you went to Hawaii?
I was excited, yet nervous to go. This is my first time being totally off the North American continent, and so far from home. The flight was twelve hours long.  I didn't really have any expectations besides the demographics and statistics I researched before I left, like poverty, homelessness, ethnic diversity and population. I tried to keep an open mind and not place major expectations so that I would welcome anything that happened.

Since Hawaii, how has your relationship with God changed?
From the time I began the student missionary application, a week before it was due, all the way to two months into this trip, I would say my trust in God has gotten a lot deeper. I'm learning that there's so little I can do on my own. Even when I'm sad, God is helping me choose to see the best in others and take care of my relationships. I try to do what Jesus would do, and try to have patience when things are rough. When things are not ideal, it's easy to get into a mode of complaining, but I'm learning to stop complaining and tell God what the real problem is and ask him to help me find delight and be delightful anyway.


Do you feel God has guided you during your time there?
I think God has guided me for sure, because there have been instances where I needed help and he showed up immediately. There were times when I've wanted to be bossy and reprimand a peer, but God said wait, and the person would figure out what they should do a day later. There are times when I'm asked to do something and I get nervous or think I'm inadequate, but I remember that God doesn't lead us anywhere without the intention to help us get through and give us the right equipment. Overall, I've learned that God certainly does take care of us and that he will give his guiding hand if you let him have control over your situations. Instead of being nervous about my next step or feeling badly about how I'm treated, I remember that God’s plan is the right plan and it's easier to have faith than to worry all the time.


What do you hope will happen as the year goes on?
I hope that I will reach at least one student and show them what God looks like. I would want to see the kids fight and hit less, and learn to love and respect more. I would also like to see the school improve on its competitiveness, because education here is not always valued and many do not graduate high school.  I hope that every child in the school will understand that completing school will allow them to have a better life, especially if God is in it.  I hope that I will leave a lasting impression on the children, and I hope they will know that I love them and that an even greater love exists. I also hope that the community will see that Christian education is worth the cost.  For the future, I hope that the school decides to keep using missionaries because it has not only been fun for us, but I can see that many burdens were taken off of the backs of the staff here.

What do you plan on doing after Hawaii? How do you think your relationship with God will be different afterwards?
After Hawaii, I plan to go back to school to get a masters degree in education with an emphasis in biology, and become a teacher.  I think that my relationship with God will be continuously going upward. He's shown me that with little possessions and lots of stress, I can still be at peace. He's let me know that I need not fear the future as long as I follow him.


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