Serving Palau: The student who stayed behind

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Despite the threat of COVID-19 around the world, Student Missionary Joe Mixon opted to remain in Palau, the tiny group of islands in the Pacific Ocean north of Australia and east of the Philippines. 

“[I chose to stay in Palau because] school is still happening online and the kids need me here to keep going,” he said. 

Mixon, working on his master’s in Global Community Development, teaches freshman geography, sophomore world history, junior U.S. history, and senior government.

As of April 29, there were no suspected or confirmed cases of in Palau. As of April 29, there were no suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Palau, according to the country’s ministry of health. The lack of cases convinced Mixon to stay; however many others went home due to the uncertainty of flights. 

According to Christian Bunch, Student Missions Director, 37 Student Missionaries went home after spring break, including three from Palau. 

Even though Palau has not been affected yet, Mixon said the locals treat the threat similar to people in the United States. “There are two extremes just like everywhere else. On one end, you have people without a care in the world. And, on the other end, you have people who are absolutely freaking out. On average, though, I think people are okay  as long as we don’t have a confirmed case here.” 

Contact has been a little harder, but still perhaps better than in other places, Mixon explained.

“We have definitely been self-isolating for a while,” he said. “But now that we are sure we don’t have any cases here yet, we can be a bit more social.”.

Like Southern and many other places, transitioning to online schooling has been challenging for the school. With daylight savings time, Palau is 14 hours ahead of Southern (EST), making it difficult to continue teaching for those student missionaries who returned to the United States. 

“It’s been tough work,” he acknowledged. “But we are getting through it together.” 

With his decision to remain on the other side of the world during this pandemic, Mixon is grateful for the continued support from friends and family.  “They are all very supportive of anything I feel called to do,” he said.

Mixon believes there is a lot of confusion surrounding COVID-19. 

“I don’t necessarily buy into any one thing,” he said. “I’m just focusing on what matters—spreading the love of God until Christ comes again.”

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