Help Needed at the Helm
Davi was a 3-year-old terror when he entered our school a year and a half ago. Very strong-willed, he would scream, cry, bite, kick, and hit his peers. He had to be removed from the classroom many times. We talked and prayed with him. We met several times with the parents and counseled them on home discipline. We even considered not letting him return the following year. This year, the teacher faced numerous challenges with him and almost gave up, but instead persevered, increased the amount of time she prayed for him, and continued to encourage the mother. Davi’s mother is a very mild-mannered young woman who loves him dearly but was also very frustrated. But slowly a transformation occurred in Davi and he is now a different child, to the parents’ delight—and ours! He is calm, pays attention to the teacher, treats his peers nicely, and wants to please Jesus. Thank the Lord for praying teachers! The spiritual support this child and family received would not have been experienced in a public school, and rarely in private schools. It is only one example of how the Lord works in the Ark. But we are in need of help at the helm in order to continue.
Noah’s Ark Christian School is a missionary preschool and elementary school in the small and poor town of Rio Preto da Eva in the heart of Brazil’s Amazon region. Crime is rampant, adolescent pregnancies are the norm, alcohol and drug abuse and prostitution are common, and the educational system is very poor. Very few students advance to college, and many do not graduate from high school or even junior high. Financially, the town is depressed and politically unstable. All businesses have suffered, including the Ark. But the Lord continues to keep us afloat, providing a safe haven for young children to grow academically and spiritually.
Noah’s Ark Christian School began six years ago out of a rented house. My sister-in-law, Vânia Scheffel, and I started the school on a shoestring budget and a whisper in our ears from the Holy Spirit. We had little else besides some teaching materials in English that I had brought with me when our family moved to Brazil two years prior, never dreaming I would be starting a school. We had only three students that first year but we made sacrifices to be able to continue.
The following year we had 21 students and two classes: preschool and kindergarten. Every year we have added a grade, and this year we offer preschool through 3rd grade classes. Our student population is up to about 80 students, and the Ark is the only authorized elementary school within our town. We have a staff of six teachers, an aide, two kitchen workers, a supervisor, a secretary, a coordinator, and a principal. All of them, except our aide, are Seventh-day Adventists. Finding capable staff members that are able to embrace our vision of education is extremely difficult, even among Seventh-day Adventists, and we do a lot of teacher training. Each staff member is chosen with extreme care. Our preschool students receive a strong foundation for literacy, and our elementary students enjoy a small class size and high-quality teaching.
The main goals of Noah’s Ark Christian School are twofold: provide students with a strong academic base that will prepare them to succeed in elementary school, and a strong spiritual base that focuses on Christian character development and becoming acquainted with Jesus Christ. Our curriculum and instruction is biblically-based, and in addition to regular content areas, the children learn Bible stories and recite Bible verses.
Looking back over the last six years we see how the Lord has opened up the way to teach the children of our town about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Parents have also been impacted, as many tell us that their children’s behavior at home has improved after beginning to attend the Ark. Children sing their memory verses at home and share what they have learned about the Bible with their families. Children who have no spiritual training at home have learned how to pray and take their cares to Jesus. Our children are prayed for and prayed with when they have disciplinary challenges in the classroom. Our hearts melt when parents, who do not have spiritual education in the home, tell us how their family began praying and reading Bible stories at home because their child tells them it’s the right thing to do, and they insist on it.
Academically, our students perform very well, and we have few behavior problems, due to the presence of the Holy Spirit and the constant prayers of teachers and staff for the students. Students who give the most challenges are prayed with and counseled, and we work closely with the families to help them with home discipline. Nearly all the children modify their behaviors in a positive way, and parents always marvel at the students’ behavior as a group at special events, such as programs in the church. We offer healthy vegetarian snacks and sell whole wheat bread and granola. We teach the children to make healthy choices in their diet, and this, as well as the spiritual lessons, are brought home by the children to their families.
Every year is marked with financial sacrifice and challenges, and often we thought we would have to close our doors permanently, but the Lord has always made a way. Last year we were able to move into a larger facility and have added a playground and a kitchen. This has been a wonderful blessing, but a challenge as well, since the rent is very high for a town with a depressed economy. The Lord knows our need for our own property to build our school, and at the right time He will provide it in a miraculous way, we are sure.
This school was a dream come true for my sister-in-law Vânia and myself, and we have steered it together with the Lord’s guidance since 2009. However, for one of us, the dream is coming to a close. Vânia, due to health difficulties and an impending move to southern Brazil following her husband’s soon retirement, will be stepping down from the Ark. She has invested her time, sweat, tears, and money into the Ark and we will miss her greatly. She will be selling her half, and our family’s desire is to purchase it and have complete ownership of the Ark. If we are able to raise the funds, my husband Aluisio will partner with me in the administration of the school. He has already stepped in as interim principal during a lengthy absence when her health was very poor. My time is divided between running the school, teaching English classes, managing the kitchen, supervising and training teachers, and various other tasks. Our family of five has struggled and never been able to make ends meet during these years, though the Lord has always taken care of us. The economy in our town is poor and unstable, and other efforts to supplement our income have failed. But the Ark continues to float, and by owning both shares our financial situation will be more stable and I can pass some responsibilities on to others. If we are unable to purchase Vânia’s share, we may not be able to continue.
The amount that Vânia is asking for her share is modest, as it is little more than a return on the amount her husband has invested over the years. It will enable her to pay him back, clear any debts, and transfer the ownership to our name. She must sell her share this year and we need to raise $17,000 as soon as possible. We are in need of donors who feel impressed by the Lord to help continue the good work which has been begun here in Rio Preto da Eva. We appreciate the help of those who have donated in the past and know of our work. Please remember that all donations are tax-deductible when sent through Mission Projects International. More importantly, the returns are eternal, as scores of families in our town are reached with the gospel through this ministry. We thank all who are able to help us through prayers and/or financial assistance. May the Lord bless you in your generosity and your prayers.
By Sandy De Senna of Noah’s Ark Christian School. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Send donations to: Mission Projects International, marked Brazil-Noah’s Ark Project, at www.missionspro.org.