“God has placed a huge burden for Micronesians on me,” shares Mark, a recent graduate from the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). While studying abroad in Guam, Mark developed a passion for sharing the gospel with students. As he thinks about returning home, Mark is wondering and praying whether student ministry might be part of his future.
“My vision for student ministry simply came from day-to-day conversations with my Micronesian dorm mates and listening to their beliefs about who God is,” he explains. “Seeing how the religious and cultural practices of our nation have led us away from who God truly is stirred up my desire to start a Bible study and show them who the God of the Bible is, the true and living God.”
The FSM is composed of more than 600 islands in the Western Pacific. Approximately 95 percent of the population identifies as Christian. Going to church is the norm. But Mark says that for many, their faith is based on tradition and culture rather than on the bible.
“It has always been an encouragement for me to hear from students that some of the Bible studies we have had are actually the first time they’ve heard such stories about Jesus, even though they’ve been in church most of their lives,” he said.
After he moved to Guam to study public administration, Mark became involved with the student ministry work pioneered by Sam, an InterVarsity Link staff worker, whose story was covered in this Prayerline article.
“I am truly grateful to Sam for coming out to Guam and conducting Bible studies for college students,” Mark said. “It was encouraging to be able to fellowship with peers who are also faithful.”
Mark began leading Bible studies in the University of Guam Residence Halls where there are more than 150 students from other Micronesian islands such as the FSM, Palau, and the Marshall Islands. After graduating with a master’s last year, Mark decided to stay in Guam to work and continue volunteering in student ministry. As he looks for opportunities to return home, Mark considers how God might use this passion and experience in future ministry on Pohnpei, the largest and most populous island in the FSM.
“I hope that God will provide laborers in the Federated States of Micronesia that are young and passionate about sharing the gospel to students. If the Lord wills, it would be great if he were to open doors for me to do student ministry there.”
Knowing his home country like he does, Mark understands that it won’t be easy.
“It can be difficult to challenge traditional ‘religious’ beliefs with Scripture because it can come across as if we are disrespecting our elders, our traditions, and our culture. Young born-again believers can face backlash when they are bold for biblical truths. It’s something I’ve experienced myself.”
The FSM is one of approximately seven countries or territories in the South Pacific currently without an affiliated IFES movement. Developing student ministry in these remote island nations is complicated by the fact that many student groups and college campuses are geographically isolated from each other.
In addition, some of these Pacific Island nations do not have a traditional four-year university. The FSM, for example, does not have a major university but it does have a community college where students can study for two years before completing their studies at another institution abroad or online. Nevertheless, IFES believes that institutions of higher learning are strategic locations for mission. In some nations that means a focus on universities, while in others it may mean working in secondary schools or community colleges.
“These factors – and others – make the prospect of planting a new student movement in the FSM a significant challenge,” says David Walter, IFES Regional Secretary for the South Pacific. “But God is good.”
Please pray for Mark and students in – and from – the Federated States of Micronesia:
- Pray for guidance and opportunities as Mark explores future ministry opportunities on his home island of Pohnpei.
- Pray for wisdom and boldness for young followers of Jesus in the FSM.
- Pray that the Lord would provide “workers for the harvest” so that Micronesian students may hear the good news of Jesus – either in their own country or while studying abroad.