One phrase I remember hearing when I was young described children born to parents of Seventh-day Adventist Christians: “You were born into this church.” I recognized the assumption that because my parents were Adventist, I was automatically “in the church.” But as I grew up, I realized that I might 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.
Leaders in the education field say that the first five to seven 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. It would probably be kindergarten and first grade in the United States. And it was there in elementary school that I learned my God-fearing parents weren’t crazy. The principles I learned at the elementary school — knowing who I am, created in the image of God, learning how to develop my relationship with God, and so much more — were the same principles I had 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 values. I was never confused about who God was or the difference between right and wrong, regardless of the outside worldly influences that were very real.
This foundational went with 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, United States. It was far away from my parents that my Adventist educational 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-away country. There were no 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 night or church on Saturday (Sabbath), and God’s Spirit would not stop tugging on my heartstrings. Worships and devotions on campus and powerful sermons from the pastors felt created and written specifically for me. Even though my degree at Andrews was in business, I remember how I would find myself being used to ministering 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 Bachelor of Business Administration degree 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 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 earlier, had been baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Karen came to Andrews to further her education. It became clear to me, however, that God had 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 I had been introduced to as a baby. 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 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 our Christian parents teach; create spaces where our kids can encounter God; and create opportunities for us to connect with spiritually minded friends. And I genuinely 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 that if we remain faithful to its calling, it will save the lives of many more children who need it.