[Ask a young man to present this first-person report.]
I checked the mail, looking for a letter from one of the internship programs I had applied for. But no letter of acceptance came, and I was growing worried.
I am a student of agriculture in Madagascar. [Locate Madagascar, off the coast of Africa, on a map.] My degree requires internships that give students practical experiences on farms. I had to complete a five-week internship to get that experience, but none of the institutions I had contacted accepted me as an intern. I couldn’t complete my degree without an internship.
I contacted my cousin, who is at Zurcher Adventist University in central Madagascar. I asked him if his school had a farm, and he said it did. He urged me to contact the farm manager. For the first time in weeks I felt hopeful.
I knew Adventists were pretty strict about religious stuff, such as keeping their Sabbath and not eating pork. I began feeling nervous about working at this school, but when I was accepted, I knew I had to go. I left for Zurcher promising my parents that I would not become an Adventist.
A New Way of Life
I arrived at the remote university campus and looked around. It looked normal enough. The students were friendly, and my cousin invited me to stay at his house.
I began working on the farm the next day. We worked hard all day, every day. But on Friday afternoon, the farm manager told me to go home and prepare for the Sabbath. That evening my cousin’s family gathered to sing and pray before going to a meeting at the church. They explained that Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday.
Two weeks passed, and I enjoyed the work experience. To my surprise, I found myself looking forward to the Sabbath. It wasn’t just a day off of work; I looked forward to worship too.
Building a Strong Defense
My mother called, warning me to remain true to my family’s religion and urging me not to become an Adventist. But I couldn’t help my curiosity. Every day I had more questions about what Adventists believe and how they differ from my own family’s beliefs. I asked lots of questions and enjoyed discussing the Bible with my cousin’s family. I studied the Sabbath School lesson so that I would have strong arguments to present each week. I wanted to find cracks in the wall of the Adventist faith.
One day I saw a book in my cousin’s house called Patriarchs and Prophets. I began reading it and could not put it down. Everything in that book was backed up with Bible references. I read other books I found in my cousin’s home. I hardly had time to sleep!
When my five weeks ended, I was sad to leave. I had learned so much. I had come to learn about agriculture, but I had received a spiritual education I had not expected.
Carrying the Faith Back Home
When I returned home, I went back to my busy schedule. But I missed the spiritual atmosphere of Zurcher. I read a book my cousin had given me about the importance of the Sabbath and decided to worship God on the seventh day. I told my professor I would not attend classes on Saturdays. He warned me that my grade would be in jeopardy. But the day after I missed my first Saturday class, the professor brought me a recording of his lecture.
I studied the history of Christianity and the Sabbath, and I decided to be baptized into the Adventist Church. I was so excited about finding the truth! I talked to my mother and my younger brother and sister about my new faith. My mother said she would never observe the Sabbath. But I remembered how my stubborn mind had changed in just five weeks, and I told her she might be surprised at what God can do. I’m sending my dad text messages about what I am learning.
I share my faith at school with anyone who will listen. Some walk away, but I keep talking. One student has been baptized, and two more are attending church because I shared my new faith with them.
And I continue to learn every day. I’m grateful for Zurcher Adventist University, a school that builds faith. This quarter part of our Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help build a much-needed student center on the campus of this school. It will help the school become fully accredited. One day soon I’d like to study theology there. After all, that’s where God planted the first seeds of faith in my life.