News Release

 Former Missionary in Chuuk Returns with His Wife to Teach School 

Lawson & Ava Duce Chuuk 2023
Lawson & Ava Duce Chuuk 2023
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Lawson Duce served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 2018-2020 to the Micronesia Guam Mission.  He served most of his time on the islands of Chuuk.  He returned to his home in Alberta Canada, but the people of Chuuk remained close to his heart. He married one of his dear friends, Ava in the Alberta Temple.  Ava was also a returned missionary.  She served her mission in Phoenix, Arizona from 2020-2021.  Lawson and Ava moved to Provo where they both began attending BYU for their education.  They found out that there was a Chuukese Branch in Clearfield, Utah and decided to attend one Sunday.  Lawson was still able to speak Chuukese and quickly fell in love with the people there, as did his wife.  One Sunday turned into two, then three, and finally they were asked if they’d be willing to move their church records there because they were needed.  This was a huge sacrifice of time for them every Sunday as they drove one and a half hours each way to get there.  They ended up doing this for nearly two years.   

One day while at school, Lawson saw an ad on his Facebook post advertising for teachers for the Akoyikoyi School in Chuuk.  Lawson knew the principle and became almost giddy. The school was in desperate need of teachers.  If Akoyikoyi school did not receive more teachers soon, the school would be forced to close its doors for the 2023-2024 school year.  (At the time of the ad, there were only 3 teachers for nine grades!) The advertisement said that if you have at least two years of college education, the school would pay for your flight, a place to live, and a salary.  After praying about it, they received the answer to apply for the job.  This opportunity was an answer to their prayers.  They were searching for a way to come to Chuuk to visit Lawson’s mission, but coming from Canada, the plane tickets were too expensive on a student budget.  Their non-U.S. passport only allowed them to stay for thirty days before they’d have to return to Canada unless they had a work Visa.  The Lord had opened a way for them to go to Chuuk. “Everything seemed to eventually come together, and it just felt right from the beginning,” stated Ava.  

The Akoyikoyi principle quickly offered Lawson and Ava the job! They put their schooling on hold and moved to Chuuk.  They teach all the subjects: math, science, english, writing, sports, music, and art.  The principle was very transparent, so they knew that they’d be doing this before they arrived.  It wasn’t required by the school to speak Chuukese, although, it was a bonus that Lawson did speak the language. (Currently he is also teaching Ava how to speak Chuukese) Because the school wants their students to speak English, that is the language in the classrooms.  Lawson said that knowing Chuukese has helped him in the classroom quite a bit though.   Ava stated, “It’s hard because we both teach two grades.   We teach young children from 8:00 am to 11:00 am and then have a half hour lunch/planning. I teach 2nd grade and Lawson teaches 1st  grade in the morning.  The classroom is one big room separated by a whiteboard in the middle to make two classrooms.  In the afternoon, I teach 5th grade and Lawson teaches 6th grade.”   

They are so grateful to the Akoyikoyi school for providing the opportunity to serve the people that Lawson grew to love on his mission and be able to do this together.  When asked if they would recommend this to other couples, they replied in unison: “Yes! Absolutely!”  Ava added: “It’s been so rewarding to be here.  My favorite part is seeing the kids grasp new ideas and they all want to be in school!  They get sad when it’s the weekend or a holiday and ask why they can’t have school every day. They want to be in school and are so grateful for an education.”  Lawson said: “A highlight for me is seeing some kids who struggle and watch them try their best to get better at their math and reading skills.  It’s great to see the results of their efforts and their excitement in taking their papers home to show to their parents.  It’s fun to see their test scores go up and know that they have been studying.  The parents are so grateful.”  Tenderly, Ava said that she’s had parents come to her in tears thanking her for teaching their kids.   

One of the most rewarding things for Ava has been going to church and going out with the missionaries.  She has gotten to see Lawson in his element with the people.  She said that she understands now why he came back with such a love for the people on Chuuk.  She has a special love for the Chuukese people now as well.  She said: “It’s been fun to come here and live among these people, not just come to visit for a short time, but to actually get to know them and develop my own relationship with them.”   Lawson said it almost feels like he never left.  They don’t teach religion in the school although faith is a big part of all that attend and teach at the school.  They have many opportunities to share the gospel, even at the school in casual conversations. People know that they are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because they see them with the missionaries a lot.  One young girl wrote Lawson a letter and told him that she knows that he was a good and humble missionary here on Chuuk.  She had seen them out by her house with the young missionaries.  Ava said: “So, again, absolutely would we encourage other young couples to do this! I would definitely tell them that it is not always easy and not just share the ‘good parts’.  They would need to know what they’re getting themselves into.  It’s a ‘worth it’ type of challenge and it has been so good for us as a couple.  Parts of it have been hard for me, but not as much for Lawson.  The hard part for me is trying to learn the language because I’ve never learned a language before.  I’ve also gotten sick a couple of times.  The hard parts remind me a little of my mission.  It’s like the ‘good hard’ on my mission, was a ‘character-building hard’.  I feel like I will go back from this experience as a different person just like I did on my mission.  I’m glad we got to do something like this together.”   

Ava and Lawson felt the Lord’s hands preparing them for this opportunity before they even saw the ad.  Looking back, they can see where the Lord was directing them and giving them opportunities that would help them be ready for this assignment.  After Ava returned from her mission, she taught English as a second language at the MTC (Mission Training Center) in Provo. She enjoyed teaching and thought that it might be her career path before changing it to the nursing program at BYU.  This opportunity has given her a chance to fulfill a desire to teach. She’s very grateful to BYU for allowing her the opportunity to defer her nursing program for a second time. (the first time was when she left to serve a mission) She feels like she has had to really rely on the Lord being in Chuuk because of the language barrier. She’s learned humility and is discovering success in a different way.  She said that success is giving your best every day from trying to learn the language, learn new teaching skills, or by serving others”.  They have both learned to see others as the Lord sees them.  They are seeing miracles all the time.  They feel like attending the Micronesian Branch in Utah helped to prepare them to live in Chuuk.  Ava said: “I’ve never had to sacrifice to come to church before.  Traveling an hour and a half one way each week to attend this branch was a sacrifice for us.  It became a sweet experience, especially meeting Elder Gucayan who was serving his mission in the area!  (He is the son of the district president and his wife in Chuuk!) Lawson translated for him in the MTC in Provo when he first came to the mission field.  Elder Gucayan came to our home and now we are in his.   It is good and right to for us to be here.”   They both agreed that their testimonies have really grown since they came to Chuuk.  Lawson continued by saying: “The more that you’re involved with the Church, the easier it is to have a testimony.  It is so easy to go to other places and not have to do as much because there are a lot of people to help.  But when you come here, you have to do a lot.  The more you are serving, the more you are learning, and the more you will have the Spirit.”  Ava added:  I think that I’ve always had a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but I’m finally gaining a testimony of the need for a church. The Church here struggles a lot more than other places in the world.  The member’s faith is strong in the gospel, but they need a church.”  She explained that we need church to strengthen each other.  She continued: “A ward family is important to strengthen your faith and partake of the sacrament together. There is a reason Christ came to the earth and established His Church and not just His gospel.  We need both and we need each other.”    


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