The other side of the postcard
On a college mission trip Courtney Davis took in the white sandy beaches and resorts of Fiji like most do on a trip to the tropical location. But she saw another view of the island as well -- potholes throughout the dirt roads, homeless people wandering the street and people who didn't have access to the gospel Davis had grown up listening to.
"It kind of caused a problem for me," Davis said. "There's another side to the postcard, and I really felt like God was breaking my heart for what breaks his."
This week, two years after graduating college, Davis will travel to Papua New Guinea, on the Oceanian island off the coast of Australia, to continue her mission work and serve as a music teacher at a local missionary school.
"I went to school for instrumental music; I was hoping to be a band director," she said. "After I graduated I applied to about 50 jobs, and nothing worked out. It was frustrating, but God was closing every door for me to teach in the U.S."
Davis began working at a camp in Okoboji part-time and at a church in Emmetsburg part-time, until she saw a job poster on her college's website advertising the position in New Guinea.
The school she'll be teaching at is affiliated with Wycliffe Bible Translators, an alliance of organizations that works to spread the Christian gospel across the world through bible translations and mission work. Davis noted the new position will allow her to use both her passions for music and missions.
"I knew what I wanted to do, but I wasn't sure it existed," she said. "I'm really excited to blend my music and discipleship passions into one," she said. "I've been trained to do all of this stuff, and I'm glad to be able to use it."
Her commitment, however, will mean she won't be able to come home for two years.
"That will be a challenge," she said. "I'm leaving everyone I know and I won't be able to see them for two years. But I guess that's why the Internet is so good."
Her expectations, she said, are rather straightforward.
"I expect God to do big things," she said. "I expect him to use me to make a difference."
She also expects to learn a few languages. Papua New Guinea has 848 listed languages, 12 of which have no known speakers.
"Being a teacher, I will be able to teach in English," she said. "But I would like to talk to some of the local people in their native language."
The school has about 300 students, divided into primary and secondary campuses. Davis noted she will be working primarily with middle school-aged children, and teaching private lessons on band instruments.
"It depends on what their needs are," she said. "There's another guy there that's doing everything right now."
Though she anticipates a few challenges, Davis is hopeful of this experience and confident in the path she believes she's been led toward.
"Growing up, I went to church because my family went to church," she said. "As I got older, my faith became my own, and it really became important to me. I know there are people in the world that don't have that. I know how much the Bible has transformed my life, and I want to give that to other people."