The Ark in Amazonas
Tears filled her eyes as she peeked through the classroom window and saw her son Gilberto* leading the prayer in his first grade class. “I didn’t know my son knew how to pray!” she later told his teacher. “I never taught him, and we don’t even go to church. Listen to what a beautiful prayer he gave!”
Gilberto is one of many children who have experienced real changes since coming to study at Noah’s Ark Christian School in the small town of Rio Preto da Eva in Amazonas, Brazil. Gilberto began studying at Noah’s Ark last year in kindergarten. We knew that his parents have been very pleased with the school and with their son’s progress, but until recently we didn’t know of the changes happening in the family.
One day at the conclusion of religion class, the teacher noticed that Gilberto and his classmates seemed to want to keep talking about the subject—Jesus’ second coming. They all said they wanted to be ready. The teacher remembered and acted on my husband’s counsel to spend as much time as necessary on spiritual subjects before continuing into the academic portion of the day. As the class continued asking questions, Gilberto said he wanted his parents to be ready for Jesus’ return. He said his father often drinks and his mother sometimes does, too. Gilberto said he was going to pray that his parents would give up alcohol and give their lives to Jesus.
Later Gilberto’s mother confided in Professora Raimunda, his teacher, “Gilberto told my husband last night that he needed to quit drinking or he would not be ready when Jesus comes back. He said he wanted his papa to go to Heaven with him. I was very surprised by my husband’s reaction. He just looked deeply into my son’s eyes and stayed quiet. He didn’t get angry. I realized that I too need to stop, even though I just drink sometimes. We are so happy with the education our son receives at this school.” Professora Raimunda thanks the Lord for the opportunity she has to share God’s Word with Gilberto and the other children each day.
Noah’s Ark Christian School was founded nine years ago with the twofold purpose of providing a strong academic foundation for children in this depressed town as well as providing a strong spiritual education that will introduce them to their Savior and enable them to build Christian characters for eternity. We began midyear with only two preschool students, but every year our numbers have increased until today we have a state-authorized elementary school with over 100 students in preschool through fifth grade. Our whole family is involved: My husband Aluisio is the principal; I am vice principal, treasurer and English teacher; and our children help with special events, photography, audiovisual needs and other details that help the school run smoothly. In addition, we employ a secretary, eight teachers, three aides, a cook and a part time janitor. The sacrifices we have made to establish and run this school have been far surpassed by the Lord’s faithfulness. Testimonies from the students and their families make it all worthwhile.
Our outreach extends not only to the students, but to our teachers as well. As our school has grown, we have had difficulty staffing with only Seventh-day Adventist teachers. In the case that a non-Adventist teacher is considered, we weigh not only his or her professional qualifications but also the presence of a Christian character and an openness to learn Bible truths. When a non-Adventist teacher is hired, the teacher receives Bible studies with Aluisio twice a week. In addition, all non-Adventist teachers team up with Seventh-day Adventist teachers for religion class so that they can learn how it should be taught.
Professora Erica, one of our new non-Adventist teachers, confided in me how much she learns during the religion class. She said, “When my team teacher teaches the children the lesson, I feel she is speaking directly to me. I am learning things I never knew!” She is so thankful for the opportunity to learn, and we are thankful for her as well, as she is an excellent teacher who provides a wonderful learning environment for her students. Our prayer is that she will continue to grow spiritually and become a member of God’s Kingdom!
As with any school, we have our share of challenging students, but we have a special method for dealing with them. When students are sent to the principal’s office, we pray with them and explain to them the great controversy between Satan and Christ and the consequent battle for their hearts. Many parents have shared with us about the positive changes they have seen in their children’s behavior after attending “The Ark.” The children are learning how to pray, making better choices in their diet and obeying their parents better at home. The children go home and witness to their own families! Parents have often expressed to us that they want their children to stay in the Ark as long as possible. They want us to expand to include middle school so their children can keep attending.
We praise the Lord for the eternal changes happening at Noah’s Ark, and we are continually on our knees for guidance and help from Him. One of our biggest challenges is that our space is maxed out and we need room to grow! We hold classes in a house converted into a school with rooms that are really too small for classrooms. Even though it is not our own, we continue to make improvements to the facility out of necessity. Not only that, but our rent is due to increase next year. That’s why we’re praying for donations to be able to purchase our own land and build a facility that can grow with us. Then, if the Lord wants us to add middle school and eventually high school classes, we will have space to do so. If we remain as only a preschool and elementary school, we will be able to build larger classrooms. We could also build a sorely-needed multi-purpose room large enough for the special presentations that we put on for parents on Mother’s Day, Family Reading Night and other special occasions.
Another benefit from buying our own property is that we will have space to grow a school garden to teach object lessons, science and entrepreneurship. Once we have the land, we can get a low-interest loan for building materials and make monthly payments for our building instead of paying rent. We would be thrilled to have a church group come on a mission trip to help us build and start our garden and orchard.
The school year here runs from February to December. We are praying that next year Noah’s Ark Christian School can continue serving the Lord on its own property! For that to happen we need to raise $30,000 this quarter to purchase land on which to build a larger school. You can help us by contributing to Mission Projects International’s 13th Sabbath Project. Thank you so much for your continued prayers and support!
By Sandy DeSenna of Noah’s Ark Christian School in Brazil. firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations can be sent to Missions Projects International, PO Box 59656, Renton, WA 98058 or online (click here), marked “Noah’s Ark School.”