Serah [SEH-rah] walked slowly toward the sturdy old buildings that make up the Pisik Adventist Primary School. Grass grew through cracks in the concrete and stood knee high around the buildings. Serah had never attended this school, but her parents and her husband had. Her father-in-law had been a pioneer teacher at the school 70 years earlier.
The school had served the people on a tiny island in northern Papua New Guinea. As Serah walked, she thought of the generations of Adventist and non-Adventist children who had studied inside its walls. Then enrollment dropped as Adventists moved away and the locals realized that the public school on a larger island nearby was less expensive. With only one retired teacher and 15 students, the remaining members voted to close the school and invite the government to take over the buildings and start a public school on their island.
“Don’t let the government take over the Adventist school,” Serah’s father-in-law pleaded.
Serah’s heart ached for the school that had meant so much to so many. But what could she do? She and her family lived on a larger island not far away. She had a good job as a high school English teacher, and her children were doing well in school.
But she could not stop thinking about the mission school. She prayed about it every day, asking God what to do. She became convinced that God was asking her to return to the little island and save the Adventist school. It sounded crazy, even to her, to take her children out of a good school and forfeit her retirement benefits to accept a job for which she wouldn’t be paid. But she couldn’t deny God’s call.
She resigned her job and told the mission she would come as a volunteer teacher. The family packed their belongings and moved back to her home island. They settled into one of the vacant staff houses and planted a garden to provide food for the family. Serah’s children had studied in top schools; now they would study in the lowest-rated school in the province. But Serah’s faith was contagious, and the children believed in their mother’s calling and God’s power to meet their needs.
Every morning Serah awoke at 3:00 to ask God for instruction. The school fees were lowered, and volunteers began repairing the school buildings. Soon a few parents returned to enroll their children in the school. When people saw how much the school had improved, others returned.
For three years Serah worked tirelessly to improve the school’s curriculum. Test scores rose from last place in the province to fourth place. People asked how this could happen.
Serah knew the answer. God had taught her. As an English teacher, she knew the importance of teaching English—reading, writing, and speaking. Government exams were given in English, and if the students didn’t excel in English, they couldn’t do well on the exams. She used several methods. One was to ask the students to read a passage from the Bible each day. When they found a verse that spoke to their hearts, they were to copy it into their exercise books. The students’ writing improved greatly. One 14-year-old student learned to write English in just two months and was able to take the national exam with his class. He scored high enough to continue on to high school.
Serah’s success in reviving the little mission school has led her to return to school herself. She’s studying at Pacific Adventist University, where her thesis explores the importance of teaching English, the language of education in Papua New Guinea, at an earlier age in schools across the island nation. Her advisors believe that her research will make a major contribution to the education system in the country.
Serah is convinced that children who use the English Bible as one of their textbooks learn English faster and better than those who don’t use it. She has seen firsthand that reading the Bible helps the students master the language. And she knows that it helps them grow spiritually as well.
Many children in Papua New Guinea come from families who cannot afford to buy a Bible. This quarter our children are raising money to help children in Papua New Guinea and across the South Pacific have a Bible they can read and explore. A Bible in a child’s hands influences the entire family. Help our children give a great offering this Thirteenth Sabbath in order to buy 15,000 Bibles for the children across the South Pacific.