My name is Jean [pronounced John], and I am from Senegal, a small country on the western coast of Africa.
When I was 15 I saw people setting up benches in the open area of our village. I asked a man what was happening, and he told me that some people were holding meetings. “They will tell stories about God that you’ve never heard before,” he said. “You should come.”
I was curious about the meetings, so I attended. The man was right; I heard wonderful stories about God and Jesus. Then I learned that the meetings were sponsored by Seventh-day Adventists.
I remember my first encounter with Adventists. I was 7 years old, and my family lived in another village. One day I was tagging along with some other boys in the village when they stopped in front of a building with a sign out front that said “Seventh-day Adventist Church.” I had no idea what “Seventh-day Adventist” meant. I thought maybe the church had been built in seven days. My friends stood in the street and called out insults at the people who were entering the church. So I joined them.
Several years later I was living with my uncle so I could attend school, and I found myself attending meetings sponsored by the very people I had insulted as a child. I found the Adventist message compelling.
School holidays came, and I went home to visit my parents. One day I was sitting outside watching some young people knocking on doors and inviting people to meetings. When they saw me, they invited me to attend, too. You can imagine how surprised I was to learn that they were Seventh-day Adventists. The young people invited me to join them for Bible studies, and I decided to go with them. I attended all the meetings, and even after the evangelistic meetings ended, I continued studying the Bible with my new Adventist friends. I realized that these people whom I had insulted when I was a little boy were God’s special people. I surrendered my life to Christ and asked to be baptized.
My mother was unhappy that I was joining a different church from the family. And my friends—the same boys who had harassed the Adventists when we were younger—said I was crazy. But I had made up my mind. I was determined to follow Christ and be baptized, even when one of the other boys who was preparing to be baptized with me changed his mind after his parents threatened to kill him if he joined the Adventist Church.
Vacation ended, and I returned to my uncle’s home to begin another semester of studies. But when I refused to attend Saturday classes, the principal expelled me from the school. I worried about how I would continue my education. Then the church members in town learned of my situation, and they raised money to send me to the Adventist high school. I was thrilled to continue my studies in a school in which Sabbath was never an issue.
I completed my secondary school studies and decided to study to be a nurse. I had seen a notice about a new Adventist university called Cosendai [koh-SEN-dai], in the country of Cameroon. I decided to apply to study there, even though it was really far from my home in Senegal. I started making plans. I figured it would take me about 10 days’ travel by bus to reach the school, but I was determined to go.
Again, when the church members learned of my decision, they supported me and encouraged me to go to this new school. Then a church member bought me a plane ticket so I could fly to Cameroon in a few hours instead of spending nearly two weeks traveling over several countries by bus.
I am studying at Cosendai Adventist University now. It’s a sacrifice, for I cannot see my family. But my church there is helping me with money for school fees. I look forward to returning to Senegal to work as a nurse in the Adventist clinic in my village. I want to serve God and give back to my community, just as Jesus did.
This university is new, and the students share a campus with a high school. Part of this quarter’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help to build a medical laboratory, where nursing and medical technology students can get hands-on training in our fields. Thank you for helping young people in Africa advance their studies to serve God. ⎭