MEA International Student Shares 'Outside' Perspective

June 25, 2021 | Youth | Renae Young

Inspirational stories of our youth shared in public platforms of the Adventist church often focus on “spiritual triumphs,” for which we, as the readers, can give thanks to Christ. Parents, teachers and mentors pray over youth as they navigate solidifying their spiritual beliefs.

What about the stories of youth that did not grow up in a home with a Christian influence? What do they see at Adventist schools? What do they see in people around them? Here is a peek into the experience of an international student, Saya Koda, a senior at Mount Ellis Academy in Bozeman, Montana. Koda shares what she sees in a Seventh-day Adventist school and how it has started to affect her life.

"I’ve attended a Seventh-day Adventist school in Montana for two and a half years. I am originally from Japan, and I grew up with no religious influence at home. I am not an Adventist, and sometimes things are difficult for me to understand and accept religious differences. However, I am so glad I came to this school because I have met many kind, Christian people and I have been able to experience a different cultural perspective."

"The host family I live with works for the school. They are faithful Christians and love to help other people. I have seen a lot of people who became happier after they met "the family," and one day I want to be like them and make people happy. I’m also grateful for the other kind people I have met. This means a lot to me."

"It is surprising to me that people can live their life thanking and serving God because of a book [Bible]. It is new to me to think that way because I’ve always lived for myself. I eat shrimp because it’s my favorite food that makes me happy. I wear jewelry because it makes me feel great. I get sad and struggle with life sometimes, though hoping for a larger meaning someday, instead of seeking God for help not to go through issues. I need to face issues to be able to handle it. Besides, that’s what friends are for — to support each other. I do all those things for myself to live the best life, but Christian people live their life for God. They learn life lessons from the book [Bible], but I learn from my experiences. We live totally different lives and sometimes this brings disagreement."

"Being around people who have different opinions, lifestyles and personality is interesting. Even though I struggle with them sometimes, it is a great life lesson that gives me a different perspective. My mom always encourages me to see the world and experience new things because it builds up your life and your character. Being in an Adventist community is new, but I like to challenge myself to experience new things."

— Saya Koda

To work in Adventist education is a humbling experience. When the big takeaway from a student, even though they are not a converted Christian, is that they see people turning to God for solutions, we are thankful God is working through us and sometimes in spite of us. When they see kindness and see people finding joy in helping others, they see the Gospel Commission.