High-schooler Patricia was miserable at home, physically, mentally, and verbally abused by her step-father. Her grades were dropping, and life at home had become unbearable.
“I doubted that I would live to see adulthood,” she remembers, “and at times I even contemplated ending my own life in order to escape our home.”
But Patricia did reach adulthood, and today at age 36 is a registered physical therapist with her own practice.
What made the difference?
“Gem State Adventist Academy!” she says.
“I have so many fond memories of my time at Gem State. I came as a sophomore, and it was like a dream come true. Living in the dorm was my refuge. I thrived. I became a straight-A student. I remember crying and pleading with the girls’ dean to let me stay in the dorm and work during vacation.”
At the Academy, she says she was “surrounded by people who constantly demonstrated Christian values and lifestyle, and their influence was powerful.”
How did she get so lucky?
“I would never have been able to attend the Academy, were it not for generous people helping to pay the tuition and fees. Thank you so much to all of you who have, over the years, given to the Worthy Student Fund. You helped to change my life, and you are changing the future of other students today, one life at a time.”
Gerry’s parents were trying to help their son, so every time he’d get kicked out of one school, they’d enroll him in another. But they were running out of schools.
Finally, Gerry told his parents to “Give up, I’m going to join the military.” But he agreed to try one more school—a place in southwestern Oregon called “Milo Adventist Academy.”
Here, an amazing thing occurred—he found a mentor, Pastor Paul Gordon. Things clicked between the older man and the young whipper-snapper, and in time the once-incorrigible troublemaker went into the ministry.
Gerry Winslow is today known internationally for his writing and speaking in ethics and has taught more than two decades at Loma Linda University.
Hundreds of Stories
Countless young lives in distress and rebellion have been saved in Adventist secondary academies. Countless more who seemed well on the road to success have enriched their lives in Adventist schools.
But not one of these stories could have happened without teamwork. Friends and mentors had to step in to help students like Patricia fund her education in a Christian environment; parents like Gerry’s had to show the patience to keep enrolling their brilliant son in various schools until he found a Godly mentor.
Christian education takes a team.
“Adventist education is ideally a continuation of what young Christians have been learning at home,” says Dennis Plubell, North Pacific Union Conference associate director of education.
“I don’t know where the idea possibly came from that at a certain age, parents hand their kids over to a teacher and say, ‘Here, now it’s your turn.’
“Adventist education ideally reinforces what parents have already been teaching their children for many years at home. So, really, Adventist schools are all ‘home schools,’ helping parents expand their children’s horizons socially and spiritually, preparing them for lives of service to God and humanity. Parents can’t do it alone. Schools can’t do it alone. The pastor can’t do it alone. It takes a team, working together.”
Josh is a sixth-grader this year at Kirkland Adventist school, east of Seattle. He’s attended the school since Kindergarten, and just this year, his mother, Minet, asked to join the Adventist church, on profession of faith.
“She had had no other contact with Adventists, just our school,” reports Vivian Richards, vice principal. “I was so touched by her testimony and felt humbled that I was one of her son’s teachers.”
No, Minet didn’t join the church the first year her son went to Kirkland Adventist School. Nor the second, nor the third. But the cumulative effects, the changes and growth she saw in her son, convinced her that she and Josh had found the right church.
“It happened over a long time,” says Minet. “It wasn’t an instantaneous thing, but the influence of the teachers and the influence of my son convinced me that this was a special church I wanted to join.”
Nobody “won” Minet to Adventist Christianity. Like students attending Adventist schools year after year, in time the evidence was so compelling and incontrovertible, she knew she had to join.
Christian education ideally enriches both students and parents. But it always takes a team of influences to do its work.
Christianity is a freewill religion, and Christian education in that spirit does not compel students to accept the Lord and His word.
What Christian education does is model the methods of Jesus Christ at work in the real world—the intellectual, social, and physical world, balanced in real-life situations.
It provides a laboratory for life—a place to practice while learning, a place to discover spiritual gifts and hone those gifts, while developing a rich team of like-minded friends with whom to travel life’s pathways.
The Lord prayed that His followers would be “one, even as we are one.”
He knew that one of the hardest lessons His followers would have to learn would be teamwork. Sin promotes selfishness and self-centeredness, and He knew that in their infant carnality, His followers might destroy each other in their quest for individual honor.
So He prayed.
Of the many reasons given for the united strength of Seventh-day Adventism today, its educational system is viewed as one of its greatest.
For this system has the effect of unifying church, school, parents, and pastors in a team effort that begins during the most impressionable period of life, and is intended to last for eternity.
Jesus knew it would take the Godhead “Team” to save the world. And He knew His followers would need that same kind of teamwork to carry the good news to every nation.
To do that, His followers would need schooling that not only creates, but demands unity—that brings together diverse talents and says, “Sort these out and create a team, and then go out and spread the Good News.”
Christian education not only takes a team. It builds them. •