Bryan Soderblom, a sophomore aviation and religion major, experienced a life-changing journey during his year as a student missionary in Guyana, a small nation on the northern coast of South America. Although as a freshman he initially planned to go to Brazil as a pilot, personally he felt the call for a homeschool teacher in Guyana was stronger. “The more and more I thought about it during long hikes in the back 40, it felt like if I went to Brazil I’d be serving my own purposes,” said Bryan. He liked the opportunity in Guyana because it seemed more of a service mission than a way to advance his own career as a pilot.
Bryan was set up teaching two American children as soon as he arrived in Guyana. Shortly he began giving guitar lessons to local kids, and then was bumped up to teaching high school math to about a hundred students at the secondary school. He said the job was rewarding as well as demanding; he was able to help the high school kids push through the basics of math up to a solid high school level. “By the end, I’m glad to say we got to factorization of polynomials,” he said.
For the first few months, Bryan’s teaching was his sole job, but eventually he was invited to come along on some of the medevac flights for Adventist World Aviation’s (AWA) Wings for Humanity. Although AWA has missions and service projects all over the globe, Wings for Humanity is specifically in Guyana. These medevacs flew sick and injured people from their small villages to the main hospital, and were also chartered by the government to transport local officials. Also, one of the medevacs’ most important functions was to perform body flights so the burials could take place in the home villages. Bryan’s experience in the medevacs was at first limited to the copilot’s seat—he was able to make adjustments and use the controls from there, but soon graduated to making solo flights.
Bryan said he felt very blessed by the flying experience he had in Guyana. “I didn’t go to Guyana to fly—I turned down flying somewhere else to go and do something hopefully not for myself,” he said, “and yet God still brought it around and let me fly.” As he made more flights with the medevacs, he gained experience as a pilot, learning how to cope with situations that required quick thinking and snap decisions. On one of these occasions, Bryan had to figure out what to do with a full plane, two critically injured passengers and a crucial weight restriction. To his relief, after crunching the numbers Bryan was able to transport every passenger to the correct destination without maxing the weight limit.
Even though he was constantly challenged by the isolation, the lack of familiar culture, and a close up view of death, Bryan described his time in Guyana as very fulfilling. “Throughout the whole time I was there I couldn’t feel God leading in any way. I was out there—just me,” said Bryan, “just looking back and seeing how God really did lead through it all, and took things and put them beyond my wildest imagination—I wouldn’t change it for anything.”