[Ask a teen boy and girl to present this first-person report.]
Christian: I’m Christian, and this is Sanja [SAN-yah]. We’ve grown up together in the Adventist church in Macedonia. Ours is a small country just north of Greece, and the church there is very small, with fewer than 500 Adventists in the country. We have more members on the books, but many have moved to other countries in Europe looking for work and better living possibilities.
Sanja: Christian and I have just begun high school. We are studying in a special school that focuses on subjects that will prepare us for our future careers. I want to be a doctor.
Schools in Macedonia are crowded, and most operate on two schedules, with students attending class in the morning for two weeks and then the afternoon and evening the next two weeks.
Everything went well for the first two weeks of school. Then the next two weeks we went to school in the afternoon. This meant that in the winter, we wouldn’t be able to attend classes on Friday, for the sun sets as early as 4:00.
Christian: The church members knew about the school issues and were praying with us. My mom went to the school to talk to the principal and the teachers about our dilemma and to request that we be allowed to miss the classes that met after sundown on Friday evening.
“We don’t make exceptions for religious beliefs,” the head teacher said. “If these students won’t attend all their classes, they must change schools.” She walked into her office and closed the door. The conversation was over.
Mom went to see the director of the primary school I had attended to ask for advice. The woman asked about us and where we were studying. “Don’t worry,” she said. “My husband and the director of the high school are friends. We’ll see what we can do to resolve the problem.”
Mom thanked the primary school director and left. A few minutes later her phone rang. It was the primary school director. She had just talked to the high school director and made an appointment to talk about the issue. Suddenly there was hope.
Sanja: On Monday the school director called us and said, “We will excuse Sanja and Christian from classes that fall on your Sabbath.”
Christian: The head teacher came into my class and asked, “Who’s the guy who wants to skip classes on Friday?” I stood up and told her my name.
“OK,” she said. “Thank you.” And she left the room.
Some of my classmates wondered what was going on. I hadn’t talked about my religion since we all were new in school. “Why are you skipping classes?” they asked after class. I explained a bit of the situation, and some asked, “Could we join your church so we can skip classes too?” I knew they were joking.
Sanja: It’s been six weeks now, and we haven’t had any serious problems. None of our teachers have given us a difficult time. Our classmates know that we leave school for religious beliefs. We make up all our work. It’s important that we do a good job because our faith is on the line. We must be sure to honor God.
Our ways are not God’s ways. Things aren’t always as we wish them to be. Sometimes God has other plans. I’m so grateful that God overruled in our situation so we can honor Him here, in this school, where so few people are believers and so few know who Adventists are.
Mom told me that an Adventist girl in another town is having great difficulties getting permission to miss classes on Friday. She faces expulsion unless the minister of education steps in, and he doesn’t want to interfere. We’re praying for her—and for other young people in Macedonia who face similar problems.
Christian: The Adventist Church in Macedonia is small, as I said. But we are working hard to make it known in our country. Part of this quarter’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help us share our faith with far more people from Macedonia and across our part of Europe. With the funds we will build an evangelistic center in a resort city on a lake. Thousands of people visit this resort every year. We want to meet them and share God’s Word with them. Your offering will help us make this happen. Thank you for helping us grow the church in Macedonia.