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Adrian Cotterell enrolled in an Adventist boarding school expecting to party every weekend. Little did he know that he would be baptized. (Andrew McChesney / Adventist Mission)

Doctrine Didn’t Persuade Him. It Was an Adventist Roommate

A church leader in Jamaica says nothing is more powerful than a good example.

By Andrew McChesney, Adventist Mission

When Adrian Cotterell enrolled in 11th grade at a Seventh-day Adventist boarding school in Jamaica, he had no interest in Christianity. He didn’t believe in the soon coming of Jesus, and thought Adventists especially were foolish for worshipping on Saturday and refusing to eat pork.

Adrian chose West Indies High School on a hilltop in the central city Mandeville because he thought it was like other boarding schools where students could have parties.

“I wanted to party on Saturday night,” Adrian said.

The 17-year-old teen soon learned that the school was owned by the Adventist Church and it practiced Bible teachings. For a short time, he tried to find a way to live off campus because he didn’t like the cafeteria food. But he found that it was more expensive to live off campus, and he couldn’t quit the school because his father had already paid full tuition. So, he resolved to study but avoid Christianity.

“Christianity wasn’t something that I wanted,” he said. “I thought Christians were old, sick, and ready to die.”

His initial impression of Adventist young people wasn’t good. His first new friends invited him to watch a soccer match in town on Sabbath. Another Adventist student invited him to participate in a scheme to steal milk for the high school cafeteria and mocked him for refusing.

Roommate ‘Lived Jesus’

Adrian was placed in a dormitory room with three other teens, one of whom was an Adventist. That Adventist student, Leonard Steele, “lived Jesus in that room,” Adrian said.

Adrian watched Leonard pray every evening before he went to bed. He saw him pray in the same spot in front of the window when he got up in the morning. Before Leonard went to class, he bowed his head at the door and asked God to keep him during the day, and he prayed when he returned from classes. Every time he entered and left the room, he prayed. He also read his Bible and Sabbath School Study Guide every afternoon after classes, and went into town on weekends to help and encourage residents.

Adrian was impressed.

“It was attractive,” Adrian said. “I said to myself, ‘I would love to be like this guy, praying and studying and encouraging. I would love to be like him.’”

Leonard noticed that his roommate was watching him and invited him to study the Sabbath School lesson together. Leonard showed Adrian how to find verses in the Bible for the Sabbath School lesson. He told him about tithing and Adventist Church cofounder Ellen G. White.

“I didn’t know who was this Sister White,” Adrian said. “I heard people mention Sister White in church. My roommate said she was a prophet, and he showed me the test of a true prophet from the Bible so I saw her visions were from God.”

Adrian Cotterell talks about the importance of being a good example as Seventh-day Adventists. (Andrew McChesney / Adventist Mission)

Lifestyle Changes

Within a few months of entering the high school, Adrian stopped eating pork and felt a growing desire to worship Christ on Saturday. He gave his heart to Jesus when a visiting pastor made a call for baptism during the school’s week of prayer in March.

Leonard was delighted. He invited Adrian to join him on weekend outings to share Bible verses in the town, and he took Adrian colporteuring that summer, telling Adrian that Christians are strengthened by sharing their faith.

Adrian was the only Adventist in his family. His parents accepted his decision, but his childhood friends ridiculed him as a “girl child” for refusing to smoke and drink. The teasing stopped when they saw they he remained firm to his convictions.

Adrian went on to become a pastor, conference president, and now serves as the director of the Sabbath School, personal ministries, and community services departments of the Adventist Church in Jamaica. He also oversees the church’s work with the blind and deaf. Leonard works as a pastor in Jamaica’s capital, Kingston. The two remain good friends.

Adrian said the example of a Christ-like Adventist has more power than a sermon or a biblical doctrine.

“I wasn’t drawn to become an Adventist because of Ellen White, the Sabbath, or the sanctuary,” he said. “It was the lifestyle of my roommate. I wanted to be like him.”