Returned Student Missionary Retreat Builds Support

By Ben Speegle and Amanda Navarette on October 9, 2014

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The student missionary (SM) experience is unique. The distinct challenges of geography, vocation, and personality can leave those who return from the mission field feeling isolated. A recent weekend retreat helped PUC SMs build support and understanding by sharing experiences and time together.

Ten returned PUC student missionaries from across the mission field gathered in Bodega Bay, Calif. on Oct. 3-4 to share their experiences with one another. At the retreat, organized by PUC’s campus ministries staff, the recently returned students discussed ways they could continue their service now that they have returned home.

During the weekend retreat, participants enjoyed the beautiful beach scenery as well as valuable discussions about the purpose of student missionaries, the challenges they encountered, and the victories they found during their service.

“After spending last year in a pretty rigid missionary schedule, I felt like the retreat was the first place I was able to have an honest conversation with other people who understood where I was coming from,” shares Miranda Mailand, who served as a teacher on the island of Chuuk.

Benjamin Speegle, administrative assistant in the Office of Service, Justice, and Missions, understands the experience of resuming college life after being an SM. “Returning from the mission field could sometimes be a difficult process for students,” Speegle, himself a former SM in Thailand, explains. However, the student missionaries are not alone, Speegle emphasized. “The Campus Ministries office is continually looking for ways to help students who are returning from the challenging, but tremendously rewarding year of service.”

Tim Giang, who spent the last school year teaching English in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, was grateful for the retreat. “Coming back from one of the best years of my life as a SM led to me experiencing reverse culture shock,” Giang explains. “However, attending the SM retreat gave me the opportunity to know that many are going through a similar experience and that I am not alone.” Giang’s fellow student missionaries served in diverse places including Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Guyana, Thailand, England, and Spain.

“Pacific Union College is blessed to have students willing to volunteer to help others in need, both in the local community and across the world,” Speegle concluded.