Some time ago, I had a conversation with prior students about their time at Dakota Adventist Academy. I asked where we had failed and how we had been successful at reaching them spiritually. Two former students wished we had discussed more relevant topics. It seemed to them we were behind the times, still worried about handholding and the length of their dresses. The issues in their lives and questions they had weren’t being addressed. They said it was as if we were afraid to talk about more difficult topics.

Because of this, a special weekend was hosted at DAA on the topic of sexual purity. The staff recognize the influence of social media and worldly pressures upon young people to look and act a certain way, and we want the students to be given a biblical ground upon which to stand when pressures come their way.

DAA’s spiritual life team, along with the administrators, discussed at length what more could be done and who should present to the students with a focus on today’s sexual pressures. Pastors Ricky and Brooke Melendez, directors of Youth and Young Adult ministries for the Dakota Conference, were asked to spend a weekend at DAA to lead in a discussion regarding sexual purity.

They agreed, and they went above and beyond the request by spending a couple hours each day the week prior to talk with students about what they believe and what was on their hearts. Pastors Ricky and Brooke posed questions to the students. They asked, “What is purity?” The responses included, “Without blemish.” “Perfect.” An honest but blunt answer was, “Boring.”

Pastor Ricky set the stage for the weekend focus at Friday evening vespers by asking again, “What is purity?” He suggested purity is contentment and satisfaction in Christ. “We were created to be free, not to be slaves to sin; God takes on our sin and buries it. Purity in Christ is true freedom,” he said.

That night, a student lingered to talk with Pastors Ricky, Brooke and Jason Woll. The student was freed from her struggles, and she had such happiness and lightheartedness. It was as if I had witnessed a baptism, but instead of by water, it was of the Holy Spirit.

Two days later, another student was moved to the place of freedom and of giving her life to Christ. Pastors Ricky and Brooke came to the dorm that night where we all listened to her story and prayed over her.

Sabbath morning, the girls met in the dorm recreation room with Pastor Brooke for an intimate talk about where they should receive their value. That afternoon, the students congregated for a joint question and answer time. Pastors Ricky and Brooke, along with Tracy Jo Peterson, Pastor Woll, Stephen Staff, and I talked through the many difficult questions posed by the students. A new lens was provided through which to view sexuality, porn and the idea of purity.

The weekend concluded with Sabbath evening vespers. Pastor Ricky presented the story of the woman at the well stating that Jesus is looking for a relationship with each person, and he is the only way to true freedom.

God is working mightily. A week later another student found freedom in Christ. Students relayed how valuable this weekend and topic was to them. The students appreciated the honesty and stated how Pastors Ricky and Brooke are relatable and showed genuine love and concern for them.

Mindy Juhl is the girls dean at Dakota Adventist Academy.