Injured and Down, Missionary Starts a Joy Journal
Marshall Islands teacher Elisa Albertsen tries to find good in all situations.
The year couldn’t have gone worse for Elisa Albertsen, a native of Palmer, Alaska, who quit a promising career as a hairdresser to volunteer at a mission school in the Marshall Islands.
Just three months into the school year, she had to be airlifted back to the United States after dislocating a kneecap while playing soccer at Ebeye Seventh-day Adventist School.
After four months in the United States, Elisa was still recovering and realized that she would have to break her promise to her students to return before the end of the school year.
Then she and her long-time boyfriend broke up.
Disappointed and discouraged, Elisa decided to take a 40-day fast from secular music, books, and movies, and to immerse herself in the Bible and the writings of Adventist Church cofounder Ellen G. White. It was then that she started a joy journal.
“I wanted to count 1,000 gifts God gave me,” she said.
The daily entries in the joy journal began with simple things. Elisa wrote that she was grateful for clean water and the sunlight shining through the window. As she continued to write, she remembered the words of the apostle Paul, “Rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16; NKJV). She determined to find good amid difficulties and praise God.
When she discovered ants swarming over the food in her dog’s bowl, she thought, “This is so frustrating. I hate ants!” Then she remembered the joy journal and wondered, “How can I thank God?” Peering closely at the busy ants, she began to marvel at their perseverance, teamwork, and ability to carry a load many times their size.
In her joy journal, she wrote, “I thank God for ants. Through God, we can accomplish things that are much bigger than us.”
Elisa found joy in other negative circumstances as well. When someone criticized her, she wrote, “Thank You for that critical word because it puts me on track to improve and draw closer to You.”
She thanked God for her dislocated kneecap, realizing He strengthened her mentally and physically through the injury.
“The leg that had been weak was now stronger than my uninjured leg,” she said.
Elisa is now 21 and back at Ebeye as a second-grade teacher. She is delighted to be teaching again, and she has signed a two-year contract.
“I feel on fire and extremely passionate to do God’s work where He needs me,” she said.
She still keeps the joy journal.
“This has helped me get closer to God,” she said. “I am not yet at 1,000 but I want to have more than 1,000.”
Recently, she caught a flu going around Ebeye, an island with 12,000 inhabitants living on 80 acres (32 hectares) of land. The illness won a mention in her joy journal.
“When I lost my voice, I said, ‘Praise God because now I can hear my children better,” she said.
Elisa Albertsen, 21, talking about her joy journal. (Andrew McChesney / Adventist Mission)
Part of the Thirteenth Sabbath Offering in second quarter 2018 will help the Ebeye Seventh-day Adventist School carry out repairs on crumbling classrooms. Thank you for your mission offering.