During the fall semester in 2020, Lee not only learned social studies, math, and Spanish at Chicago Seventh-day Adventist Christian School. In between her regular classes, she was preparing to participate in a special 10-night Bible Prophecy Seminar, where she and other youth would preach the word of God to a virtual audience.
Lee, an eighth-grader, was involved in the “Countdown to Eternity” livestream series, which began on November 15, 2020, and was hosted by students from four schools in the Lake Region Conference (LUC) of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
The focus of the seminars was the book of Revelation and end-of-time events, and each night, speakers presented a different topic. The series was streamed on LUC’s YouTube channel and Facebook account.
“This evangelistic series has strengthened the student’s spiritual life,” Helen Bryant, Lake Region Conference education superintendent, said. “They were asking theological questions such as, ‘What is the mark of the beast?’ I know seeds have been planted, and I believe the Lord will do the rest.”
Each night, “Countdown to Eternity” began with a welcome and opening prayer, followed by a health nugget and the Countdown theme song. The message for the evening followed, flanked by a review quiz, closing remarks, and finally, closing prayer — all done over the course of the series by 60 students from Shiloh, Peterson-Warren, Capitol City, and South Suburban schools.
Several students, such as Lee, who was the speaker for the second night, weren’t new to public speaking. Nevertheless, when she gave her sermon titled “End Time Events in Bible Prophecy,” she said, “I was kind of scared, and a little bit nervous, since it was going to be put on TV.” But she was emboldened to speak the name of Jesus.
Dwayne, a sixth-grade student at Peterson-Warren Academy in Inkster, Michigan, and speaker on the final night, presented on The New Earth and said he was excited to speak. “It was also very enlightening.”
While the students didn’t write the sermons themselves, all of them, including Duncombe, agreed it was a positive experience. He said, “I was learning from preaching it also.”
Peterson-Warren Academy principal Lynette Jefferson explained, “It was also a revelation for them, to learn some things that maybe they haven’t particularly heard before. It was a two-fold blessing: we shared [the gospel] with others and prayed that they understood some new things, but also it helped the students to grow spiritually.”
How It Came Together
Seeing Peterson-Warren Academy’s student body present “Countdown to Eternity” at the school back in 2017 “left an impression on me,” Bryant said. So much so that she reached out to the series creator and Burns Avenue (Detroit) church member Tim Gardner for assistance in bringing the evangelistic series to other schools in 2020.
The schools began laying the groundwork for this initiative on September 13. Keeping students on course with their curriculum while simultaneously hosting a virtual evangelistic seminar was no small undertaking, Bryant said.
Under normal circumstances, a production of this magnitude would have come together a with less effort; due to the quarantine and the ongoing rise of COVID-19 cases, however, school principals had to dig deep into their supply of creativity and resourcefulness to film and record the series.
“We physically had to coordinate the picking up of students,” Alexandria Miller, principal at South Suburban Elementary School in Park Forest, Illinois, recounted. Coordinating filming times and transportation and making sure students remembered their respective scripts while following proper physical distances was no easy task. “The teachers should get an award!” Bryant said.
Over the next two months, Gardner spent his time editing the students’ video recordings, piecing them together with music and aligning them with the format of the program. “It was quite an aggressive timing schedule; [we were] praying each step of the way,” Gardner recalled with amusement.
In reflecting on the “Countdown to Eternity” program he originally created in 2008, Gardner said he was proud to see the LUC students execute the seminar. “I am amazed at what God can do with willing vessels, be it kids or elders or laypeople. If you are willing and obedient, it is an awesome privilege to be used by the Spirit of God.”