An important word in Marshallese is “yokwe,” which is similar to the Hawaiian “aloha” and means “hello,” “goodbye,” and “love.”
There are three Adventist schools in the Marshall Islands: an elementary school and a K-12 school on Majuro, and a K-12 school on the second-largest island of Ebeye.
The first Seventh-day Adventist school in the Marshall Islands was founded in 1968 in the community of Laura on Majuro.
By Nerly Macias Figueroa, as told to Andrew McChesney
Ask a woman to share this first-person account.
Inspired by reading mission stories, I resolved at the age of 17 to leave my home in the Mexican state of Chiapas one day and become a missionary.
I remembered this desire after graduating from the university, but I didn’t have any money to volunteer. Walking home one night, I prayed, “Lord, I want to be a missionary, but I can’t buy the airplane ticket. If You want me to be a missionary, give me a job, and I will go.”
Two days later, I received a telephone call from Southeast Adventist Hospital in the Mexican state of Tabasco.
“We have a job for you,” the man said. “Just come for the interview.”
The hospital hired me as its head dietitian, responsible for planning all meals. It was an incredible answer to prayer!
A year later, I filled out a job application on the website of Adventist Volunteer Service. The principal of Ebeye [pronounced: EE-by] Seventh-day Adventist School in the Marshall Islands accepted my application.
I prayed, “Help me to go to Ebeye.”
Three days before buying the air ticket, my uncle died. He had several outstanding financial matters, and my family didn’t have the money to cover them. So, I handed over my savings. I called the Ebeye principal and explained that I didn’t have the funds to come. He was understanding.
That night, I prayed, “God, if You gave me this dream of becoming a missionary, why can’t I go? I’m working for You at the hospital, but I want to go abroad.”
A year passed, and again I saved up enough money to go to Ebeye. But then my sister was badly injured in an accident, and I gave my savings to her. Again, I told the Ebeye principal that I couldn’t come.
Two years passed, and I set aside my mission dreams. I had a good job and was earning good money. Then one night, as I was lying in bed and making plans to buy a car and a house, I remembered Ebeye.
I thought about the island for a week. I remembered promising God to become a missionary, but I argued with Him, saying, “I’m working at an Adventist hospital, so I’m doing Your work. Why should I leave my job and go to another country?”
As I listened for an answer, all I could think was, “Ebeye, Ebeye, Ebeye.”
So, I prayed, “OK, if You want me to go to Ebeye, just give me a U.S. visa.”
The cheapest route to Ebeye from Mexico is to fly through Los Angeles, California, and Honolulu, Hawaii. For that, I needed a U.S. visa—which isn’t easy to get in Mexico. I asked the Ebeye principal for a letter to take to the U.S. Embassy.
Shortly before the embassy interview, I said, “God, I really don’t want to go as missionary because I have a good life now. I wished to go before, but not anymore. Please don’t give me the visa.”
At the embassy, the consular officer asked, “Why do you want a visa?”
“Because I’m going to be a missionary on Ebeye Island in the Marshall Islands,” I replied.
The officer looked at his computer screen. He didn’t ask for the letter from the school principal, and he didn’t request any bank account information. He just looked at his screen. “OK,” he said finally. “You will have your visa in one month.”
With those words, I realized that God was opening the door for me to go and I needed to keep my promise to Him. So, I gave up everything—my job and my life in Mexico. I said goodbye to my family and moved to Ebeye, an island of 12,000 people in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
After a year on Ebeye, I have no regrets. When I started teaching the fifth grade, only one child in the classroom was from an Adventist family. Through the assistance of a friend in Hawaii, I gave Bibles to all my students for Christmas. Five of my students were baptized during the school year!
Some people ask me, “Why did you leave your job in Mexico? You don’t have anything now.”
I reply, “I have everything. I am happy here, and I know God has a plan.”
What amazes me is that I tried to come to Ebeye for four years but only arrived in 2016. I think it is because God had a plan. I don’t know what the plan is, but I know He has one and He will reveal it at the perfect time.
Raian [pronounced: Ryan] G. Villacruel, principal of Ebeye Seventh-day Adventist School, has no doubt why Nerly arrived when she did. With 25 percent of her students baptized, her classroom had more baptisms than any other last school year! Part of this quarter’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help the school carry out major repairs on crumbling classrooms. Thank you for your mission offerings.