Have you ever woken up one day and wondered, How did I get here, perhaps considering how completely different your life was just a short time before? That’s how I feel every day. I expected to be attending college this year, not working as a first-grade teacher on a tiny speck of island in the South Pacific!

For one thing, I didn’t feel ready to be a teacher. I’d only completed a year and a half of college and didn’t feel educated or “good enough” for this position. But God set this opportunity before me with such undeniable clarity that I couldn’t deny His leading.

It all started last summer at camp meeting in my home state of Alaska. I was catching a quick nap between meetings when I received a text message from a friend. “How would you like to be a volunteer teacher in Chuuk this school year?” she asked. Still groggy, I misread her message. Who is Chuck, and why do I need to teach him? I wondered, very confused. Seconds later, I caught the gist of what she was saying and realized its possible implications. Work as a volunteer this year? Is that even possible?

I made some calls and discovered that Chuuk Seventh-day Adventist School had 150 students enrolled and only six teachers available, including the principal. They desperately needed more help. I prayed for guidance, filled out an application, and a few weeks later boarded a plane to begin my new adventure.

I often find brilliant blue starfish when I swim at the beaches of Chuuk.
Me with several of my first-graders.
Me, second from left, participating in a staff-led branch Sabbath School with a nearby mountain community.
My arrival in Chuuk.
Me, third from left, enjoying fresh coconuts with the Chuuk Seventh-day Adventist School staff.

Although Chuuk seemed relatively modern to me at first glance, I didn’t have to look far to see that traditional spiritual beliefs still clutched people in their fearful grasp. A conversation I had while teaching a fourth-grade Bible class solidified this observation. We were studying the story of King Saul and the witch of Endor when one of my students related an interesting story. She said that her neighbor’s son had become possessed by a demon at a picnic and that now he stares into space, not acknowledging anyone.

Hear from other volunteers at m360.tv/avs.

Chuuk’s tropical climate, palm-tree-riddled beaches, and fantastic World War II shipwreck diving are big draws, but they pale compared to the immeasurable needs of the island people—a people desperate for truth in a sun-drenched yet spiritually dark world. With most of its students from non-Adventist families, our Chuuk school is truly a mission school, and I really believe that I’m making a difference in both the lives of the students and of the community.

I love my students; each of them is beautiful and interesting in their own way. Somehow, when I’m with them, I don’t feel quite so far from home, at least most of the time. One day, one of them asked, “Teacher, why do you speak English if you’re from Alaska?” I guess I still have a bit more teaching to do!

As I write this story in my apartment, the air conditioner going strong in an attempt to combat the invasive tropical heat and surrounded by papers that need grading, I’m amazed at how far I’ve come in this incredible journey called faith.

If you’re interested in being a volunteer, please visit AdventistVolunteers.org.

Some days my best hardly feels good enough, but I believe that God put me here for a reason and gives me the strength I need to serve Him. Through this experience, I’ve come to understand that sometimes the success of our Christian walk isn’t measured by our own “goodness” or capability but rather by how good we are at listening to and obeying God’s voice.

Ellie Butikofer
From Alaska, United States, Ellie Butikofer serves as a volunteer first-grade teacher on the island of Weno in Chuuk, Micronesia.