The day my Buddhist student asked to pray

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It took me by surprise. Not his prayer – his prayer was short and simple: “Lord, bless us today and thank you for our food. There were still a few words that I couldn’t remember because at that time I was deeply surprised and grateful for his simple prayer.

Sam* had come to the Adventist school four years earlier. He had never seen a Bible before, but on the first day of school he had one among his school supplies. He had trouble understanding the book. There were a lot of pages and a few odd words, but he seemed to like stories.

One day, as our class was finishing morning worship, Sam raised his hand and asked, “Can you pray for my grandmother? She is sick.” Soon he was talking about Jesus and his death on the cross for our sins.

It was customary in our class to pray for our meal before going to the cafeteria. Students are encouraged to pray, but only a few volunteer occasionally; most are too shy. On this particular occasion, Sam raised his hand. “Can I pray? He asked.

This moment was surprising and meaningful to me because Sam’s family is entirely Buddhist. Before entering our school, Sam knew nothing about the God we worship. He didn’t know anything about Christ or how to find books, chapters and verses in the Bible.

But Sam was on a spiritual journey through our Adventist school—the mission field that was our little institution. And that day, he chose to participate in one of the practices most dear to our faith: prayer. Talk to God, as to a friend.

The Mission of Adventist Education

We frequently refer to “redemption” as the goal of Adventist education, and when we talk about redemption, we are talking about evangelism—bringing mankind into a relationship with God. “In the highest sense, the work of education and the work of redemption are one, for in education, as in redemption, no one can lay any other foundation than that which is laid, who is Jesus Christ. »**

But how often do we see elementary schools as centers of evangelism?

Many years ago I attended a meeting of pastors and directors of the conference where I served. One of the pastors addressed the gathering, expressing his opposition to his church diverting valuable funds to support the local school rather than investing in church evangelism. That was a long time ago, and I’m glad most of my pastor friends see our schools as centers of evangelism. Yet I still wonder how many well-meaning church members continue to view Adventist schools as financial burdens rather than the evangelistic centers they truly are.

Two years after Sam’s parents enrolled him in Adventist school, they also enrolled his younger sister. Sam also heard of the Pathfinders and wanted to join the club. His parents accepted. Soon after, her sister also followed suit.

Sam’s story highlights an Adventist reality: We are here for a reason, and that reason is to take the gospel to the world. In other words, our reason for being as Adventists is evangelism. Bring others to the knowledge of the three angels’ messages. And what better place to start than in our schools?

It’s no secret that our churches are aging and we are struggling to replace the members we are losing. Some churches became empty buildings, sparsely occupied once a week on Sabbath morning. It is time for our educational and ministerial departments to come together and realize that we are one. For our churches to thrive, we must grow together, and for that we must invest in youth evangelism.

the original version of this story was published on the Mid-America Union Conference Outlook.

*This is not his real name.

**Ellen G. White, Education (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1903), 30.

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