July 8, 2016

Adventist Academy Offers Troubled Teen a 2nd Chance

Columbia Union Visitor

When Jacob Harris was 8, his family moved from the African country of Liberia to the U.S. state of Maryland so his father could serve as a Lutheran minister.

Harris was bullied in school because he was not from the United States. He decided that he didn’t want to be different and started hanging out with gang members. That decision led him to an unhealthy lifestyle including drugs, fighting, and crime.

Harris began burglarizing homes and stealing cars.

One day while he was out, a SWAT team came into his house. His cousins, at home at the time, were terrified. This shocked Harris and he realized that they were being caught up in the consequences of his actions. He wanted to change.

Arrested and charged with grand theft auto and burglary, among other things, Harris prayed and promised God that he would change his life.

After his court trial, all charges were dismissed except for one: disruption of the peace. Harris went to a special private school to help him overcome his drug addiction. But after that year away, Harris relapsed and began hanging out with old friends. A military school stint didn’t help either. Back in Maryland, he drove by Spencerville Adventist Academy. He applied and told the admissions team his story.

Dawn Thompson, the school’s registrar, felt especially convicted to vote for Harris’ acceptance.

“He was so transparent and honest in his answers,” Thompson said. “He seemed to feel certain that our school could make the difference in his life that he so desired. He had maintained good grades throughout, and I felt that he just needed to have a chance to change his life.”

Jacob Harris praying with Justin Montero and Spencerville church youth pastor Stephen Finney at his baptism. (Juliana Baionin / Visitor)

Harris began a new life as a senior at Spencerville Adventist Academy this last school year. In November, Chad Stuart, senior pastor of the Spencerville Seventh-day Adventist Church, held an evangelistic series at the church and the academy simultaneously. Harris attended the school meetings and wanted learn more about the Sabbath, the state of the dead, and the doctrine of hell.

“It all made sense to me, but I wanted to know more,” he said.

Harris began taking Bible studies with Justin Montero, a Bible worker who shard a similar past. They connected, studied together, and Harris was baptized in March at the Spencerville church.

Before graduating a few weeks ago, Harris was active in the spiritual life on campus and preached and rapped his testimony at various churches and chapel services. The acadamy’s Broadcast Journalism class has made of video of his story.

When asked what the future holds for him, Harris said: “I would like to study theology. I just like learning about God for myself.”

Watch Jacob Harris share his story. (Columbia Union Visitor)