Felix swung his ax at the tree trunk in front of him. The 15-year-old knew that cutting live trees to make charcoal was illegal, but he was desperate. With 12 children in his parents’ family, he had to earn his own school fees if he wanted to study. He gripped the large ax and swung it again.
Just then he heard something. He stood up and watched as several men pushed aside the tall grass surrounding him. His feet felt rooted to the ground, and his heart pounded. Caught! he thought. He realized that the strangers were not government officials, but their presence still meant trouble. The boy’s shoulders slumped.
“Give us half your charcoal and we will leave you alone,” one man said.
“If I do, I won’t have enough to pay my school fees,” Felix said, stepping back slightly.
The men stepped closer, their faces darkening. Felix gripped his ax and ran toward home. The men didn’t follow. His charcoal was gone, and with it the hope of returning to school.
Felix’s cousin offered to take him to the Adventist university some 20 miles [about 30 kilometers] away. “It’s a big school,” his cousin said. “Surely there’s work there.” Felix nodded. He didn’t know anything about Adventists, but if he could earn money to study, he’d be grateful.
Felix and his cousin arrived at the university gates. “You’ll be OK,” his cousin said as he shook Felix’s hand and slapped him on the back. Then he turned and retraced his steps, leaving Felix alone and uncertain.
The sound of singing drifted across the campus, drawing Felix in. He followed the voices and found a meeting. He stopped to listen and let the peace flow over him. Some students noticed him and walked over to invite him to join them for the meeting. Felix followed the young people, warmed by their friendliness. He discovered that the meeting was part of a campuswide camp meeting that would continue throughout the week.
After the meeting ended, his new friends asked about him. They shared their faith and asked about his. When they learned that he enjoyed singing, they invited him to join their choir and attend their Bible studies. Felix felt a spark of hope. He had been on campus only a couple hours, and already he had made friends and found something to look forward to. He hoped that he would find work and someday soon attend school with these boys. He would try!
Felix found work cleaning faculty yards, washing their cars, and doing any odd jobs he could find that would pay a little money. He rented a room off campus. It was one of several mud rooms built in a long line. It had no electricity, no heat, and a low ceiling. And when it rained, he discovered the tin roof leaked. But it was cheap, and he could save a little money for his schooling.
Felix’s savings account grew more slowly than he had hoped, and at times he felt discouraged. But he kept his dream before him and busied himself with choir and Bible studies and Pathfinders. Several months later he was baptized into the Adventist Church.
Impatient to start his education, Felix bought used textbooks from high school students so he could study independently. He studied biology, agriculture, and economics, hoping he could learn enough to pass the national high school graduate exams and start university. Many nights he hunched over his books, reading by candlelight and testing himself by writing his own exam questions. He asked his friends to grade his mock exams.
Felix sat for the national exams and passed. He was thrilled and determined to continue his education at the university. But he had no money. He enrolled in the university’s work-study program and worked a year. He earned enough to study for one semester. Thus began his long journey to reach his dream. Work a year, study a semester; work a year, study a semester.
Felix continues his studies and serves as student body vice president. He is a deacon and a Pathfinder leader at the campus church. “The University of Eastern Africa at Baraton took me in and helped me make a dream come true. While here I’ve realized the dream of an education. And I’ve learned that God had so much more in store for me. Now I have a new faith, new friends, and new hope.”
Part of this quarter’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help provide student and faculty housing. Thank you for your part in helping meet the needs of young people such as Felix in eastern Africa.