ach year, hundreds of Adventist young people step away from their studies or work to volunteer full time, for up to two years, around the world through the church’s Adventist Volunteer Service (AVS) program. Among them, Helen Margaret Hall is unique. She is both the longest serving and oldest active AVS missionary for the Adventist Church. Helen, who turned 80 on February 16, has served for 36 years as an AVS missionary on the Myanmar-Thailand border.
During a leadership conference in Bangkok, Thailand, in January 2018, Helen was recognized for these milestones by leaders from two Adventist Church divisions and from the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Kevin Costello, AVS director for the Southern Asia-Pacific Division (SSD), commended Helen for her service both to the Karen people in Myanmar and in the Mae La refugee camp in Thailand.
Helen was awarded special plaques from her home division by Glenn Townend, president of the South Pacific Division; her current division by Samuel Saw, president of SSD; and the General Conference Adventist Volunteer Service department by vice president Ella Simmons on behalf of director John Thomas.
Helen’s service includes years as an educator in four countries. A native of Australia, she first worked as a teacher and women’s dean at Kabiufa Adventist College (now Kabiufa Adventist Secondary School) in Papua New Guinea. She returned to Australia and served for 22 years in the Victorian Conference.
During a bus trip from Nepal to London, England, Helen saw the great needs of the Nepalese and other Asian children. As a result, she requested a one-year leave to teach Karen children in Thailand. That 1 year turned into 36 and counting. She shares, “I came here first for one year in 1982 and never went back to work in Australia again.”
Helen energetically worked as an AVS teacher along the Myanmar-Thailand border. During a time of turmoil within Myanmar, she soon found herself and her school in the middle of a war. She shared that more than once the town where her school was located came under gunfire.
In another instance, Helen and the children had to hide in large, open pits while war planes stormed overhead, firing down on the very land where they had been. Later, when she and the students had to flee to Thailand, they were fired upon as they crossed the river by boat. By God’s grace, they made it safely.
As a result of the war, a number of refugee camps were established for the Karen people on the Thailand side of the border, including the large Mae La refugee camp. Although Helen wasn’t permitted to live inside the camp, she made her way inside daily to see and work with her students. Soon she established a new school inside the camp.
The school, which was named Eden Valley Academy (EVA), started with approximately 80 students. Helen, who has served as the school’s founder and leader for more than three decades, reports that it wasn’t long before the school grew to more than 1,000 students and more than 150 teachers. Over the years, thousands of young people have enrolled in this refugee camp school, and more than 1,500 have been baptized. EVA has become a home to the students, and many graduates have continued on as staff. In addition to EVA, Helen helped establish the Karen Adventist Academy in Myanmar.
Through the years, Helen has received numerous awards, including a General Conference Award of Excellence in 1999, a Woman of the Year award from the Association of Adventist Women in 2005, and a Medal of the Order of Australia from the Australian government in 2006. In 2010, Helen was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Andrews University for her lifelong commitment to the service of God.
Get a glimpse of Helen Hall’s ministry at m360.tv/s1312.
During the leadership conference in Thailand, several leaders commented on Helen’s service. For Saw, the president of SSD who is from Myanmar, her service has special significance.
“We deeply appreciate the determination, courage, and commitment that Helen has had for so many years for the displaced people of the border,” Saw said. “Today, many of the refugees now live in the United States and around the world and are doing very well because of the education they received at Eden Valley. They do not face the struggles and challenges of illiteracy that so many other refugees who did not have the advantage of this Christian education face today. Helen has dedicated her life to changing the lives of others, and many will be in the kingdom because of her efforts.”
Please pray for Helen Hall and the students who attend EVA. For more information about EVA and how you can be part of its ministry, visit Facebook.com/EdenValleyAcademy.
If you’re interested in being a volunteer, visit AdventistVolunteers.org.