Tears ran down Petro’s cheeks. “You do not understand! My father will take me out of school if he finds out I am still a Christian!” He turned his face away to hide a fresh stream of tears.
Fifteen-year-old Petro had come to Eden Valley Foster Care Mission several weeks before, but only now had we heard his full story. While staying at his grandfather’s home, Petro had become a Christian. His father, who still practiced witchcraft, had vowed to disown him if he didn’t give up his beliefs. One day he came at Petro with a knife. Lifting it up, he shouted, “I will kill you if you don’t give that up!”
Petro looked up at his father calmly. “You can kill me if you want. I will not give up Jesus.”
His father’s eyes bulged, and the knife fell from his hand. “Obstinate boy,” he muttered. “I will no longer pay for your education.”
For a whole year Petro tried everything he could to fund his own education. He made and sold charcoal, he sold grilled corn at the bus stands and did anything else he could think of to earn a few coins—but eventually he found that these jobs did not pay. Not only that, but in his struggle to support himself he used up the time needed for his studies, and began failing. Dropping out of the government school, he tried again to earn money to at least attend an artisan school. No success—he was exploited by people who paid almost nothing.
Weary of the struggle, Petro devised a ruse: He would go to his father and tell him he had renounced Christianity—but he would still keep his faith in his heart. At Petro’s verbal denial of faith, his overjoyed father decided to send him back to school. Government school was out of the question since Petro had fallen so far behind. Private school was much too expensive. However, Petro’s father had heard of one private vocational school that might be affordable—and his own sister was working there as a cook. After inquiring about the price, Petro’s father sent him to our school—not knowing that our school is Christian!
Eager to learn carpentry, Petro arrived at Eden Valley Foster Care Mission full of hope. When he discovered that his new school was run by Christians, he was even more delighted. Then, a few weeks after his arrival here, Petro’s story came out. We knew we would have to confront him about the deception.
Taking Petro aside, we told him about God’s commandment against bearing false witness. We explained that for Christians, there is no ethical lie—no small lie for a good cause.
Devastated, Petro protested that we did not understand. Tears rolled down his cheeks as we spoke together about “the exceeding greatness of [God’s] power” for the upright, explained in Ephesians 1:19. We spoke about the uncompromising attitude of Daniel’s friends before Nebuchadnezzar, and of Jesus’ presence with them. “God does not change, Petro,” we assured him. “He is the same today and is willing to intervene for you. But He can do it only if you stand on the principles of His Kingdom.”
At last, Petro conceded. We prayed with him for God to grant him wisdom. Then we handed him the phone so that he could call his father.
“Baba,” Petro said into the receiver, “I want you to know that I have never renounced my faith and I am in a Christian school.”
The voice of his father came through loud and harsh. “Petro! Do not tempt me today!” Then his father hung up. We tried to reach him again, but he wouldn’t answer. Petro hung his head low as he walked back to the dormitory.
Kneeling together, we both asked God for a manifestation of His love and power in the life of this young man who had taken his stand for truth. Since we couldn’t expect his father to pay tuition anymore, we prayed specifically for a sponsor for Petro. Furthermore, we prayed that the father would allow him to stay in school, since legally he could come and remove him anytime. At age 15, Petro was still considered a child.
A few days later, the Lord provided a sponsor for Petro. Better yet, his father never came to force him to leave. We praised the Lord! When he was sure that he could stay and we would not send him home for lack of payment, Petro’s childlike joy returned and he set about learning all that he could. Although not the brightest academic student, we found him strong and hard-working with his hands. When Petro’s grandfather came to visit, our hearts warmed to see Petro reading the Bible with him. A little faith hero!
Since his father does not support him financially, Petro takes chores from staff members on weekends or after school—working in gardens, cutting firewood, and doing little jobs with Elisha. This enables him to buy personal necessities and save for the bus ride home for school break. Although normally he is hard working, we did catch him taking a snooze once in the heat of the work! It was 11 am when we found him sprawled on the grass—but after an hour he resumed his work as if nothing had happened. When we asked him if he had a good nap, he gave us one of his bright smiles and scratched his head in embarrassment. We didn’t blame him—it was the day after our school’s graduation, and all of us had lost sleep in the preparation and cleanup.
Before leaving for home on break, Petro asked to buy one of the baskets the girls had made in their craft class, saying, “I want to bring a present to my mother.” For his father, Petro brought a stool he had made himself. It’s beautiful to see Petro’s love and forgiveness for his parents after all he has been through.
Petro is one of hundreds of children Eden Valley has been able to help—children who due to their social status have dropped out of secondary school. Eden Valley Foster Care Mission seeks to empower these young people to lead successful, self-sufficient lives and to give them a personal experience with Christianity. With one Seventh-day Adventist Church member for every 1,818 inhabitants in our region, our team’s goal is to see these young people return to their villages equipped to support themselves and impact their communities. Will you join us in praying for Petro and others like him, that they may become bright witnesses for God in Tanzania?
By Nadege and Elisha Vande Voort of Eden Valley Foster Care Mission, Box 17, Mafinga, Iringa, Tanzania. firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations can be sent to Outpost Centers International, 5132 Layton Lane, Apison, TN 37302, marked “Eden Valley Foster Care Mission” or made online at www.outpostcenters.org. This quarter, donations may also be sent to Mission Projects International marked “13th Sabbath Offering.”