I used to be godly until I went to high school and life changed. I left God and lived my life without Him, without prayer. I was a confused soul for four years.
After I finished school, as I was scrolling my Facebook page, I found a post by a high school mate. I was amazed how she had stayed with God, even after high school. She seemed happy. I returned to God that same day and my life has never been the same. Today I encourage people through Facebook every day. I also opened a page recently to point people to God.
For years I yearned to know the truth about the Sabbath. Being born and raised in a Sundaykeeping family, the seventh-day Sabbath was not discussed very often. My questions about it were never answered. I was bothered, because I always found the seventh-day Sabbath in the Bible, not Sundaykeeping.
Then one day my schoolteacher discussed the seventh-day Sabbath with the class. Everything became clear! Peace, hope, and joy filled me, and my life was never the same. I dedicated my life to the Lord, working to advance the everlasting gospel.
In 1985 our Sabbath School class decided that we didn’t want to follow the quarterly pamphlet, and we struck out on a yearlong tour of the Bible (“sola”) in modern translations. I learned to “know” God, not know “about” God. I learned about love, grace, and feeling uncondemned by my inability to be the perfect person my past experience insisted I must be to be saved.
My childhood was similar to many children of immigrant parents. We were taught values based on hard work, integrity, and modesty. However, things changed with my parents’ divorce.
Financially frustrated, my siblings and I turned to the streets. The future was not bright, but there was hope. I had weekly Bible studies with Pastor Branner (now pastoring in South Sacramento) when I was in high school. When fear, rap music, drugs, and the stress of the world surrounded me, Branner’s time with me changed my perspective of God, myself, my whole life.
Now I teach English in China, after having been the first one in my family to graduate from university. I simply wouldn’t be the man I am without God and that pastor.
I came from a family of nine, so my mother had to ask Jesus to help us with our needs.
We went to church on Sunday until I turned 13. Walking to school I met Margaret, and we talked about Jesus. She said we’re supposed to go to church on Saturdays. I said, “No, we’re not.”
I told Mom what Margaret had said, and she said, “We are” (Mom was a closet Adventist). Today I attend church on Sabbath, and Margaret attends a Sunday church.
One day a man who sold books came to my door. Books by Uncle Arthur cost $9 a month. That was a lot for a single mom. He asked if I went to church, and I said no. Then he asked if I were to attend, which church would it be. I told him the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He said that that was the church he attended. I went to my room, closed the door, and thanked God for bringing him to my house.
One of the key people in my life journey was my third-grade teacher at John Nevins Andrews School, Lydia Chiomenti. She was the first teacher to treat me as equal to the children of the doctors and ministers who were in my class. I started the year as a slow reader, but by the end of the year I was reading at a ninth-grade level, all because of the confidence she gave me.
I never really looked at my experience with Gladys Stumpf as a pivotal point, yet it has so influenced my entire life that it must have been.
Gladys was in love with Jesus, especially the Jesus revealed in the heavenly sanctuary. She instilled that love in me so that it has been a constant basis of interest and study. She didn’t have to encourage me to study; I wanted to study, because I wanted to know her Jesus.
Mrs. Shafner, my second seventh-grade teacher, influenced me during a difficult and pivotal point in my life.
I had already failed seventh grade once, and I had undiagnosed attention deficit disorder (ADD). I was an angry and troubled child who got into trouble daily. Mrs. Shafner diagnosed my ADD, showed me how to study and learn, and spent time with me every day. Finally she and her husband took an extracurricular interest in me as well.
Because of her influence in my life, I not only passed seventh grade, but grew to love school, ultimately getting my master’s degree. Now I work in schools and the community as a counselor, paying forward to other students the love of God that Mrs. Shafner shared with me.