June 16, 2017

Adventist School Thrives on Student Discipleship

Ken Kingston, Adventist Record

“I made a new friend this year,” says Nabila Paitik, a 10th-grade student at Nagum Adventist Secondary School, in East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea (PNG). “She comes from a Sunday-church background and I noticed she was very faithful in not working on Sunday. When we were asked to pair up and find a prayer partner, I asked her and she said yes. When everyone was asleep in the dorm we would pray together. I told her God had chosen her to come to this school so she could be a light to her family.”

There’s a new enthusiasm for God at Nagum. After the Total Member Involvement (TMI) concept was launched in the Sepik region in June 2016, the school decided to follow up with an initiative of their own, a Festival of Discipleship. TMI is an initiative of the world Seventh-day Adventist Church to get every member involved in sharing Jesus.

“[The Festival of Discipleship] was a new idea for us,” says Jeffery Saigomi, a chaplain at the small boarding school of just 183 students. “There was a lot of excitement. Our primary ‘feeder’ schools were also involved and 84 were baptised at that festival, including one teacher.

“We have at least nine ministries at the school,” says Saigomi, reading off a list that includes community services, men’s and women’s ministries, prayer ministries and Bible studies twice a week. “We encourage them to reach out to their peers to influence them for Christ. Two weeks ago, we baptized 17 students. They came into the water, accompanied by the student who had led them to Christ.”

Nabila is hoping she’ll soon be able to do the same with her friend. As they’ve been praying together, Nabila has been sharing what she knows about the Bible. “I told her about the fourth commandment,” she recalls. “I told her Jesus died on Friday and was raised on the first day of the week. She said she never knew this before. About two weeks after she became my prayer partner she said she wanted to be baptized. She asked me, ‘Is heaven real?’ I said, ‘Yes, heaven is real,’ and I told her some stories about heaven. At the next chance we have, she will be baptized.”

“One student who was baptized last year is now head boy of the school,” says Saigomi. “He leads in worship and other activities.” Some of the girls who were baptized are also leading out in various ways.”

Saigomi is pleased that these students are getting involved in their home churches when they visit for weekends or holidays. This shows that the skills and attitudes they’re learning at school are having a wider impact. “Before, I used to take morning and evening devotions,” he says. “Now they do it themselves. At nominating committee time, we consider which students would be appropriate for different church offices—we look for their gifts. We also involve them in board meetings.”

But Saigomi is keen to point out that it’s not just clever strategy that is producing results. “Nagum is a praying school,” he emphasizes. “Last year we went into 40 consecutive days of prayer. After that we saw 27 students with marks high enough to continue to 11th and 12th grades. Our mission president is very excited at what is happening here.”

As student numbers and school capacity have increased, Nagum is now on the verge of being able to offer classes for the last of the high school years and make the transition from a junior high school (9th and 10th grade only) to a full secondary school.

“I was baptized just two days before my exams,” says 10th-grade student Baldazar Megnangam. “My uncle and aunty, who I live with during school breaks, weren’t speaking to me—they hadn’t wanted me to be baptised. I prayed about this and, over time, they began to see that I was changing. I didn’t talk roughly about worldly things like the other boys from my village. Now my uncle and aunty accept my decision. I have a dream that one day my village will have an Adventist church.”