The music thumped while couples danced around the house, laughing and drinking. Nine-year-old Carlos glanced at his mom and grabbed a beer. She laughed and kept dancing.
Carlos began helping himself to alcohol more and more often. His parents either didn’t notice or didn’t care, and before long Carlos relied on alcohol to get through his day. Sometimes he even took it to school in a soda.
An Adventist woman invited Carlos to attend the church’s Pathfinder Club meetings. “Sure,” he shrugged.
He stepped into the church activity room and was surrounded by happy children his age. He listened as they sang and watched as they practiced marching and studied nature. They invited him to join them on camping trips, and he eagerly accepted. When the Pathfinders studied healthful living, Carlos realized the damage his alcohol addiction was causing. It wasn’t easy, but he stopped drinking.
His parents had separated, and neither paid much attention to his interest in Pathfinders. They were just glad he’d found something he loved. When he decided to be baptized, he wondered if either parent would come to witness the moment. They didn’t.
But when Carlos’ new life impacted his parents, trouble started. Carlos was working after school selling frozen treats to help his mother with bills. But when he wouldn’t work on Sabbath, she didn’t understand. He explained that he would work other days, but not on Sabbath. Eventually she agreed.
But other issues arose that brought strife between them, and eventually his mother told him to leave the house. God, what can I do? Carlos wondered. He felt helpless and wondered if he would end up on the streets.
Carlos asked his grandparents to let him live with them. He worked during the day and studied at night. But they, too, didn’t understand his religious convictions, and they accused him of carousing when he returned home from classes late. One night as Carlos returned to their home after 11:00, his grandfather met him at the door.
“Where have you been?” he demanded angrily.
“I’ve been at school,” Carlos explained. But his grandfather didn’t believe him and ordered him to leave their house. As Carlos packed his few belongings, he wondered where he would go.
A church member heard his story and offered to let him live with her family. Carlos gratefully accepted. One day as the two sat talking, Carlos shared his dream to attend an Adventist school to finish high school.
“Maybe there’s a way,” she said. Carlos gratefully smiled. Later the woman talked to the pastor, who agreed to try to help Carlos get a scholarship to attend Central Brazil Academy. When Carlos learned that the academy had accepted him, he felt joy he had never known. People cared about him; people wanted him to succeed.
Carlos is attending Central Brazil Academy. “I see changes in my life,” he says, smiling. “I am growing spiritually as well as intellectually and physically here. I get a lot of support from the teachers, the boys dean, and my classmates. They encourage me when I am tempted; they talk with me and pray with me when I need help. They strengthen my faith.
“I may not have a biological family, but I have a faith family at my school. They are helping me see beyond my past and understand that God has dreams for me that I could never have imagined. God holds the whole world in His hands—including me!”
Central Brazil Academy serves more than 400 students. Almost 300 are boarding students, and half of these are from non-Adventist homes. The school takes seriously the mission God has given them to reach these students while they’re studying at the school.
The school has an active mission-outreach program that involves youth from across the region. Students from the school may spend several weeks each summer working in an unentered or under-entered region in Brazil, and others train to spend 10 months in mission service somewhere in the country.
But the heart of any Adventist school is its church, and Central Brazil Academy lacks a church. Part of this quarter’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help build a church to bring the students and community together in Christ and train future leaders for service.