I was born in the central region of Bougainville Island, the second of seven children in a devoted Roman Catholic family. As I grew, it was at home that I first learned about the existence of God. Knowing about a God who provides and protects was important to me as a child, as I was only five years old when civil war broke out.
The reasons for the war were complicated. Our land has always been central to our identity and survival; so, when copper deposits were discovered and a large open cut mine was established, disputes over land ownership and destruction resulted in full-scale war. Over a period of nine years, many people were displaced and almost 20,000 people died. Our family survived, but these were difficult years, defined by a constant seeking for safety and peace.
During the war, my grandfather taught us at home; however, when the war finally ended, the first school to reopen in our region was an Adventist school. It was there I began my formal education. Sadly, when I finished primary school, there was no Adventist high school in my region, so I transitioned to a public school. This was challenging for me, as, for the first time in my life, I was in an environment that did not include prayer and devotions, and Christian beliefs and values were not spoken of or upheld. Secular influences increasingly impacted me, and I began chewing betel nut.
However, my early education in the Adventist school had deeply impacted my faith, and the message of the three angels echoed in my mind. I began to think more about God and my faith, so I joined the local Christian Life Centre; however, I was troubled by the day on which we worshipped, as I’d learned about the Sabbath at the Adventist school.
After finishing high school, I hoped to attend nursing school; however, my parents were unable to finance my education, so I felt somewhat directionless and discouraged about my future. One evening, I heard a clear voice calling my name: “Jessica, ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.’” I looked for the verse in my Bible, finding it in Proverbs 1:7.
That night, I had a dream about the three angels’ messages. In my dream, one of the three angels gave me a scroll and commanded me to preach. I shared these experiences with my parents, but I was troubled. I’d never considered that God might want me to be a missionary, but I was convicted that these experiences were His calling on my life. Soon after, I attended an Adventist meeting where Pastor Agnes Kola encouraged me in my calling. Gradually, I came to realise the nursing career I’d hoped to pursue was not God’s plan for me.
I began theology studies at Sonoma College, and after graduating I was called to serve in Bougainville. Since that time, I’ve served as a local church pastor and in administrative roles. I’m now married to a wonderful, godly man John, who originally trained to become a priest but who became convicted of the Adventist faith through our nine-year friendship. We were married after his baptism and today we have a beautiful daughter. My husband serves through his practical skills in the Building and Maintenance department of the Bougainville Mission. My entire village has now converted to the Adventist faith and we are passionately involved in disciple-making.
As I look back over my life, I recognise that, when I chose God, He made everything possible for me. If you are a woman experiencing a call to ministry, I hope my story will remind you that “nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).
Jessica Devau is director of Children’s, Women’s and Prayer Ministries in Bougainville Mission (with Edyta Jankiewicz, SPD).