Two things quickly stand out as you visit with Gilead Tarus. First, he has a great smile. Second, he has an unusually calm, peaceful spirit. Both qualities come from a life grounded in Jesus.

Tarus is a 15-year-old sophomore at Maplewood Academy who has already preached two sermons at his home church (Andover Church). He also spoke last year for the MWA student week of prayer. When he was a seventh grader, he even invited students to his room during MWA’s music festival for worship and Bible study.

God’s Spirit working in a big way

Tarus is the son of Samson and Everlyn Tarus. He was born in Minnesota, but his parents are from Kenya. Because of his ethnicity, he speaks some Swahili and his favorite food is chapati (Kenyan flatbread) with rice and beans.

Tarus’ gift for spiritual leadership began to show itself early—even in elementary school. Tralese Syvertson was Tarus’ teacher for grades 5-8. “He found the Lord in a big way,” she said. “He was not reserved or ashamed about it. God changed him into a kind young man, and kids would go to him for advice. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.”

According to Syvertson, the worship and Bible study Tarus held during MWA music fest outgrew his assigned dorm room and had to move into the hallway.

Tarus was surprised how God’s spirit worked in some of his classmates last year. “I saw people come to Christ who I never thought would make that decision,” he said. “People who were watching basketball videos 24/7 switched to watching sermons.”

Tarus now sees a special opportunity to lift up Jesus over meals at the cafeteria. “People talk about God and His mysteries,” he said. “There are special times when the table talk is lifting us closer to heaven.”

Seeing God’s guidance in his life

Tarus’ ability to be at MWA is due to his reliance on God, paired with his work ethic. This past summer, he worked for the Minnesota Conference magabook program with Darrell Conway, the conference literature evangelism coordinator. Currently, Tarus works with the ASSIST program at Maplewood. ASSIST partners students with senior citizens at assisted living centers and nursing homes.

Tarus believes his Maplewood experience is teaching him independence. “I see Christ more,” he said. “I’m learning from my mistakes and I see God’s guidance in my life.”

Enabling learners to develop a life of faith

Adventist education’s mission is to enable learners to develop a life of faith in God, and to use their knowledge, skills and understandings to serve God and humanity. As you consider the children in your life or the local school ministry your church is sponsoring, remember this mission and remember Tarus. Adventist education exists to help young people meet and know Christ. Please pray for your local educators as they strive to give more students the same opportunities as Tarus.

John Bedell is education superintendent for the Minnesota Conference.

Photo: Courtesy of Maplewood Academy