Seventh-day Adventist Church evangelistic initiatives seem to include an ever-increasing space for children to take on an active role. They may not be ready to give Bible studies or go from door to door but, when their hearts are driven by the love of Jesus, their testimony can show many people the road to salvation.
This is what happened in Brazilto José Fernandes, known as Fernando, and his granddaughter Maria Clara. Fernando, 65, had delayed his decision for baptism for more than 30 years. Maria Clara, on the other hand, is just 8 and had been attending her local Adventist congregation since she was a baby.
A year ago, Maria Clara told her grandpa she had requested to start preparing for baptism, and that she was planning to do it after she turned 8. Fernando felt impressed and moved by her determination. “Grandpa will be baptized together with you!” he told her.
For years, members at the Cabo Frio Seventh-day Adventist Church in Cabo Frio, Rio de Janeiro, and relatives had been praying for Fernando. He often attended church, and even supported some of the congregation’s initiatives, but had been reluctant to be baptized. Since he knew now everyone would be excited with the news, he asked Maria Clara to keep his decision secret.
“Every time I visited her, I would remind her of our surprise. She did her part, and did not tell her parents about my decision,” shared Fernando after the baptismal ceremony.
An Eventful Ceremony
It was a moment for laughs and tears when, on Sabbath, April 28, 2018, Fernando walked into the baptismal pool with Maria Clara in his arms.
“For many years I went to church and weighed the possibility of getting baptized,” shared Fernando, tears coming down from his eyes. “Had it not been for Maria Clara’s influence, I would have never reached this moment.”
He said he felt drawn to Jesus after witnessing the girl’s exemplary behavior, her devotion to heavenly things, and her commitment to God’s church. “Parents should make their goal to instill God’s fear in their children,” Fernando advised. “It is easy to see the difference it makes.”
Maria Clara, who is involved in her local Adventurers Club, said she feels important in God’s eyes when she remembers grandpa is now a star in her crown. “I am happy because I know I am special for God…and because God used me.”
She encourages other children like her to start sharing Jesus with other people. “Children should never be afraid to talk about Jesus and invite other people to church,” she said.
A Change in Focus
A change of focus by church leaders, who are increasingly opening spaces to children, seems to be paying off. Children have an outstanding ability for leading people to Jesus, said Rio Fluminense Conference (ARF)’s Children’s Ministries director Raquel Souza. “Children influence their environment,” she explained, “but for their influence to be meaningful, motivation is essential.”
In this context, parents’ role is critical, Souza said. “Parents must participate together with their children, encourage them, and the church must be ready to support them,” she explained. “It is a process that allows them to develop their characters and become teenagers and young adults committed to God’s matters.”
The regional church is also promoting a Bible Contest which invites children to get to know God’s Word by reading it every day. “It is a project that encourages parents to read the Bible with their children at bedtime,” shared ARF Adventurers Club director Filipi Ribeiro. “In that way, a seed is planted in children’s hearts.” Across the Adventist Church, Adventurers Clubs provide physical, mental, social, and spiritual activities to children ages 6-10.
It can be a life-changing experience, said Ribeiro.
“As we have seen in Fernando’s case, when a child dreams of heaven, she is not afraid of share her dream with the people she loves the most,” he said.