Early Childhood Education Essential to Return to God

In spite of many years in Adventist schools and growing up in an Adventist family, Gary Evans drifted away from God. Gary’s dad, Benny Evans, was an Adventist pastor in the Oregon Conference, but he passed away while Gary was quite young.

Losing a parent is tough at any age, but at 9 years old Gary was like a ship without a sail. He became rebellious and uncooperative at home. His mom remarried and the family moved. A few years later another tragedy occurred and Gary lost his stepfather. Through his formative years he attended many Adventist schools, two different church schools, three academies and two colleges.

During the final years of his education, studying to be a cardiopulmonary technician and a respiratory therapist, Gary let go of his Christian upbringing. But God was not lost like the loss of his two dads, because God is in the business of pursuing people.

During the 25 years that Gary was drifting from God, he met his wife, Ilene, and they were married in Eugene, Ore. Ilene was raised attending a Congregational church that wasn’t deeply Biblical, so Gary and Ilene found they dealt with life issues differently. As Gary began to think about the serious questions of life and reflect on why he was the person he was, he realized that his Adventist education, and Godly upbringing, were the foundation of his views on life.

One day Gary and Ilene received a flier in the mail for an Angel Seminar to be held at the nearby Veneta Adventist Church and they decided to attend. This seminar prompted Gary to decide whether the beliefs he had acquired through Adventist education were real or not.

Gary says, “This time God got not only my head, but He got my heart.” He had the educational background, but now he was able to embrace the truths in God’s Word and take them into his heart. The evangelist, Dennis Pumford, baptized both Gary and Ilene following the seminar. Through God’s leading Gary became a lay pastor and eventually received a call to pastor the Republic and Grand Coulee churches. In April of this year, Gary and Ilene accepted the call to be the pastoral couple for the Brewster and Chelan churches in the Upper Columbia Conference.

Gary’s passion for reaching people is strong, especially those who have drifted away as he once did. He encourages parents and teachers to never quit praying, and never quit being supportive. “You never know when the Lord is going to bring the fruit to ripen,” says Gary.

When asked what impact his early training in Adventist school had on his life, Gary says, “It’s everything, it’s essential … I would not be where I am today without the foundation of a Seventh-day Adventist Christian education."

Gary says, "I only wish all of our families would see the importance of sending our kids to our own Adventist schools, and that the parents would take an active role in seeing that our Seventh-day Adventist beliefs and standards are upheld in all of our schools. These are dangerous days where compromise is creeping in everywhere if we're not vigilant. And what's more important than correctly guiding the children God Himself has entrusted to us?”

August 01, 2006 / Upper Columbia Conference