For 10 days in May, students from Ruth Murdoch Elementary School in Berrien Springs, Michigan, United States, spearheaded a series of evangelistic meetings in a large tent on the campus of Andrews University.
This year was the tenth time The Tent, as it’s known, was held, and the theme was “This is Our Faith.” It was led by 7th and 8th graders, who were responsible for much of the planning and production. From May 12 to 21, they set up, preached, greeted, prayed, ran the livestream, took photos, and more.
Preachers Made It Personal
Losa Poua, an eighth grader, was one of the 12 speakers, and she decided to talk about body issues. “I struggled, and sometimes still do struggle, with loving and accepting my body.”
By sharing, however, she felt God working through her and wants to continue holding on to her relationship with Him. “I definitely feel like I’ve found something that I want to continue to do, but only if God is with me as I go.”
Another eighth grader, Briauna Skinner, said she asked God to give her a topic that would help others and help her at the same time. “I thought maybe I would preach on forgiveness or patience,” she said. “Little did I know that God would choose a topic that I had been struggling with for a long time. I am glad that God chose the topic of the end times for me, as it really helped my relationship with Christ.”
Every year decisions for Jesus are made, and this year was no different. Ten baptisms were lined up, but a few more were added as the days went by.
Gadi Igaso, one of the young preachers, also decided to get baptized. Her mother flew in from Papua New Guinea, and she was baptized by an uncle who told the audience about Gadi’s journey to this point, which included her losing her dad to COVID-19.
In a later interview, Gadi said, “The baptism felt right like there was nothing wrong with it, and it was pretty satisfying.” Her decision for baptism also marked a turning point. The eighth grader had been struggling and having second thoughts about whether to take the stage to preach, but after her baptism she realized, “I wasn’t fighting the battle alone.”
Students Wrote Their Own Music
Each year, The Tent has a specific theme, and this year, for the first time, students wrote the theme song. The songwriting process was through a mini course called “Intro to Worship Leading: Leading through Writing,” which was taught by seminary student Peter Flores.
“Songwriting is a creative process, so students were given a theme and encouraged to come up with lyrics they were proud of,” Flores said. “Each student wrote about three sets of lyrics of their own with different themes.”
The lyrics took two weeks to complete, and every student either wrote or inspired the writing of lyrics. The students also helped to create the melody. “I helped facilitate, but the heavy lifting was done by the inspiration of the students.”
History of the Tent
God has really worked through Ben Martin, Pioneer Memorial Church associate pastor, in the founding of The Tent. Ten years ago, as a seminary student, he was helping at Ruth Murdoch teaching Bible and witnessed the students getting deeper and deeper into studying the Word. But he noticed something troubling.
“At Ruth Murdoch, there are lots of people asking questions like, ‘Would you like to get baptized,’ and ‘Would you like to choose Jesus?’” But who was asking the kids who go to public schools? Nobody’s even asked them. So, there are lots in the community who nobody is asking.”
The idea of an evangelistic series to reach students outside the Adventist schools came to him while sitting in a seminary class.
“I immediately realized that this would be a terrible idea because it was going to be a lot of work,” he said. But he persisted and approached the Ruth Murdoch junior high teachers, who acknowledged the amount of work but said, “Let’s do it!”
As he looks back, he reflected: “I couldn’t imagine that we thought this would still be going ten years later, but I think it is an awesome opportunity for kids not only to think through what they believe and share it with others but also to find ways to get involved with ministry. I think it is incredible for all kinds of leadership.”
When asked what The Tent meant to him, Martin concluded that it’s evident that God has faithfully been at work. “I think it is a powerful reminder that God can use absolutely everyone and anyone who is willing. Seeing Him work through middle school students and seeing Him show up year after year and night after night is just a powerful reminder of His willingness to work with us when we give Him that opportunity.”