“All your children shall be taught by the Lord, And great shall be the peace of your children.” Isa. 54:13.
There is a phrase that I remember hearing when I was young used to describe children born to parents of Seventh-day Adventist Christians. This phrase was “you were born into this church.” I recognized that the assumption was because my parents were Adventist that I was automatically “in the church.” But as I grew up, I realized that I may have been born to Adventist parents but I certainly was not born saved. And here is where I will testify about how Adventist education saved my life.
It is said by leaders in the education field that the first 5-7 years of a child’s life are the most important in instilling values and principles that will guide that child for the rest of his or her life. I remember attending the Barbados Seventh-day Adventist Elementary School in Infants A and Infants B; that would probably be kindergarten and 1st grade here in the United States. And it was there in elementary school that I learned that my God-fearing parents weren’t crazy. The principles of knowing who I am, created in the image of God, learning how to develop my own personal relationship with God, and so much more, that I learned at elementary school, were the very same principles that I learned at home. One of the first ingredients in the secret sauce that saved my life was that my home and school taught me the same the values. I was never confused about who God was, or the differences between right and wrong, regardless of the outside worldly influences that were very real.
This strong foundational start kept me as I moved from Adventist elementary school to Adventist high schools on the islands of Barbados and Antigua; to Caribbean Union College in Trinidad and Tobago, and then to Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. It was in Trinidad, then in Michigan, far away from my parents in St. Thomas, United States Virgin Islands, that my Adventist education foundation would receive more testing. Andrews provided opportunities for me to use my gifts and talents for God, even while I was simultaneously trying to be a prodigal son, and straddling the proverbial fence to experience the life of this far country. There was not social media or cell phones at that time, so I thought I could do this, that and the other—without much parental supervision.
This brings me to the second ingredient of the secret sauce with Adventist education. There were always opportunities for me to encounter God. No matter how hard I tried to find enjoyment and fulfillment in secular activities that were clearly not of God, I found myself at Black Student Christian Forum with my heart crying out for God. I would find myself being asked to play the piano for vespers on Friday nights, or for church on Sabbaths, and God’s Spirit would not stop tugging on my heart-strings. Worships and devotions on campus, and powerful sermons from the pastors (Dr. Clifford Jones and Dr. Timothy Nixon in particular) felt like they were created and written specifically for me. I remember, even though my degree at Andrews was in business, how I would find myself being used to minister the gospel in song, even though my own religious experience was lacking. Adventist education provided avenues for God to keep working on me that secular institutions could not have come close to giving me.
As I was completing my Bachelors in Business Administration with an emphasis in marketing, I remember my mother asking me this question: “Son, what are you going to market?” This was a question she had asked a few times, and my response was consistently something to the effect that it didn’t matter what I was marketing once I made good money doing it. In other words, my purpose in life—my godly purpose in life—had not yet been recognized, until God made another move, thanks to Adventist Christian education.
In this thing called life, God knows that we need to find good friends, close friends, even potential life-partners, who will help us become closer to Him and ultimately help us to secure our eternal salvation. While living around Andrews University in southwest Michigan and northern Indiana, God literally sent a woman from Brooklyn, New York to Andrews University, who, a few years before was baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Karen came to Andrews to further her education, but it became clear to me that God sent her to meet this third generation Adventist guy—who still did not yet have a personal, saving relationship with Jesus Christ. This newly baptized, spiritual woman of God was on fire for the Lord, and helped to re-solidify my faith in the God, to whom I was introduced in Infants A. The third ingredient of the secret sauce of Adventist Christian education is simply that it will connect you with people who will help you make it into God’s kingdom.
It has become evident based on my own personal experience that spiritual Seventh-day Adventist educators and pastors do indeed create an environment that allows for our children to receive the same biblical values that are taught by our Christian parents; create spaces where our kids can encounter God; and create opportunities for us to connect with spiritually-minded friends. And I truly believe that this basic model of home, church and school was created by God Himself so that our kids will have that great peace that He promises, not only in this world but in the world to come. Adventist Christian education definitely saved my life. I believe that it has saved the lives of many others. And, I believe if we remain faithful to its calling, it will save the lives of many more children who need it.