God’s power rescues Ugandans from the darkness of evil spirits.
As a public evangelism effort was being held in southern Uganda, a mother by the name of Marie arrived with her 19-year-old daughter, Kinconco. They had walked over 12 miles from the village of Ireme, and were in desperate search of spiritual help.
Kinconco’s sister had been killed by the spirits. Now, Kinconco herself was possessed. Her mother Marie had sought help from witch doctors, medical clinics, and all the Sunday-keeping churches in the area, including Catholic, Anglican, and Pentecostal churches. In spite of Marie’s efforts, her daughter had not yet experienced freedom and relief from the demons.
Hearing of a new, unfamiliar church in the area, Marie brought her daughter to the Seventh-day Adventists in hope of help. After listening to her story, Adventist evangelists visited the family’s home. They removed all idols and witchcraft-related items. As fearful locals stood nearby to watch, the church workers burned these things publicly in the Ireme village. Then they prayed for Kinconco, and God answered with power. The cries of the evil spirits were heard as they left the young woman, shouting that they would never return.
After her dramatic healing Kinconco applied for nurse’s training, but she was not accepted. One of our donors paid for a sewing course and a Singer sewing machine for Kinconco. She is now a seamstress in her own right, and praises God for His loving care.
In another nearby village lay a young man who had been bedridden for two years. He heard of Kinconco’s release, and he felt sure that his condition was caused by the spirits as well. The same evangelists were asked to come and see him, and as they prayed for him, the paralysis left him. He jumped up and began to dance, praising God.
Later this same young man assisted our ministry in building new churches in both his and the Ireme villages. Most of the villagers turned to Christ, and two new congregations were established by the power of God.
Thanks to the generous donations of our supporters, we have been able to sponsor 150 pastors along the Congo border. Many more souls have been brought into the truth of Christ from these communities. Some of these villages have been under the control of evil spirits, appeased by sacrifices, witchdoctors, and amulets. Now that many have accepted Christ as their personal Savior, the heavy yoke of superstition and spiritual darkness has been broken. In a recent public effort, more than 100 people joined our church through baptism. Some of these came from the darkness of a spiritual cult.
We have seen the tremendous blessing of God on the work in Uganda. Among the Bwamba tribe, six Seventh-day Adventist primary schools have been established as an entering wedge in a primarily Catholic and Anglican community. The schools have high standards and admit around 1600 students. Our sponsorships assist in supporting four teachers and over 200 orphans, that they may receive education. In the classroom, children are given the opportunity to accept the full truth of the gospel, and take it back with them to their homes. Every year, we see baptisms.
Please keep our ministry in your prayers. Presently, we are building a new secondary school to serve the Bwamba tribe’s need for Christ-centered education in the higher grades. We are partnering with another organization to establish a mobile clinic for reaching isolated villages without medical support. Two nurses at the Ebenezer Medical Center in Ntandi are being sponsored so that patients too poor to afford their medical bills can continue to receive care. Our 12 prison ministry workers are blessed annually with many baptisms among the prisoners, and we are building a chapel inside a prison in southern Uganda.
We want to see many Ugandans in God’s Kingdom. Your tremendous support keeps this blessed work of grace moving ahead, as we prayerfully consider the future. We look forward to the glorious resurrection morning, when our Savior returns to take His children home.
Author: Pastor Thor Pedersen is retired and lives with his wife in Australia. He has been doing evangelism in Uganda for about 20 years and is deeply passionate about the work in this in this country.
How You Can Help
Pray for all the various ministries in Uganda and all the workers that they will stay faithful to the truth.
Donate.The work in Uganda is growing rapidly and needs your help! If you feel impressed by the Holy Spirit to contribute to spreading the Three Angels’ Messages, mark your donations “Uganda,” and send to: Mission Projects International PO Box 506 Republic, WA 99166-0506
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. email@example.com. Donations can be sent to Missions Projects International, PO Box 59656, Renton, WA 98058 or online (click here), marked “Noah’s Ark School.”
I had been home for months before the directive came to me. My children were asleep; the house was quiet. I had been reading from the book of Isaiah. The words in chapter six, verse eight, kept going around in my head. “I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I, send me.” I knelt by my bed feeling bewildered. Normally after spending time with God a sense of quietude settled over me, but not this time. Even as I prayed I felt troubled. After some time I urgently pled with God. “I feel as though You are trying to tell me something. If there is something You want me to do, please tell me.” Instantly I heard a voice speak loudly in my mind. “Build a school for Devi.” Immediately following that command I heard these words: “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.” Isaiah 30:21.
It was 1997. I had traveled to Nepal to research the logistics for a future health camp. A Seventh-day Adventist missionary family was living in the Himalayan Mountains in a region so remote it was accessible only by foot, and furthermore, medical care was miles away. They had been praying for a volunteer medical team to visit and I was there to see how feasible that would be.
After landing in Kathmandu, I was immediately surrounded by dozens of dirty, smelly, ragged children as I stepped from the Tribhuvan Airport into the night. A dim street lamp did little to illuminate the mob before me. The children, street children, were shouting and grabbing for me. It was late, I was tired, and there were no taxis! Never had I been in such a predicament. There was a band or strike in Kathmandu, so motorized vehicles weren’t allowed on the streets. A rickshaw took me to a hotel. That was my first experience with street children and it was disconcerting.
Nepal was certainly an adventure! I rode a dilapidated bus, crammed to bursting with local people, animals, and wares. The roof was piled high with boys, bulky sacks, and bamboo cages brimming with clucking chickens. Many young men were wedged between cargo or hanging off the sides. I sat in the last row with a drunken man on the floor at my feet. A woman was squeezed in the middle of the standing pack. She handed her baby for me hold during the long ride. The bus leaned alarmingly around every bend. I felt lightheaded from the strong odors, stagnant air, and swaying.
During my six-hour trek into the mountains on a sometimes precarious, narrow trail, a mule train with tinkling bells trudged past, laden with burlap bags of salt. Lean men with exposed bony legs hauled heavy burdens. They were porters, hired to carry anything and everything that people wanted into these famous mountains. An older man passed with a woven chair strapped to his back. That, in and of itself, was a spectacle, but the chair had an occupant: a sick woman who was being toted many miles to a clinic. A man smaller than me was lugging an armoire up the steep incline! Yes, Nepal was definitely interesting, but God didn’t send me half way around the world as a tourist. He was about to show me something that would change my life.
At that time Nepal had no religious freedom. It was the only Hindu nation in the world. Christianity was strictly forbidden, punishable by prison or death. The missionaries told me about an underground Seventh-day Adventist church outside of Kathmandu so I decided to attend. Pastor Tamsang and his wife Devi explained how they had opened a school for unwanted children. Devi eagerly took me down a dirt track to a small three-sided building with a corrugated metal roof, dirt floor, and woven bamboo doors. I didn’t know what to say because the building looked like a cow shed. Devi was so enthusiastic about the school and the half dozen homeless children living with her. I had never witnessed such benevolence or Christian dedication.
I journeyed home, my mind expanded with all that I had seen and heard. I was saturated in culture shock, yet, sadly to say, the thought of building a school for Devi didn’t enter my mind. I have three children of my own who are dearly loved by me and by God. Are the homeless, impoverished children in Nepal less valuable or less loved by God? Of course not! He died for them just like He died for me and my family. We are equally cherished by Him. Then why is it so easy to dismiss the needs of someone else as if they don’t exist? Why is it that Jesus said to “love your neighbor” and yet I went home and became absorbed in my own life, giving little thought as to how those children would get their next meal or how they would stay warm at night.
God had to shake me awake and shout in my ear in order for me to see His vision of a plan to not only house and educate His children, but to teach them of His love. When God told me, “Build a school for Devi” I couldn’t be certain I had heard correctly. I was a stay-at-home mother homeschooling my children—a very ordinary person who had never done anything “big.” Eventually I told others of building a school in Nepal and no one thought it was possible. I waivered because I knew nothing about fundraising and I knew all too well that it was an insurmountable task.
I believe that God sometimes takes the most unlikely people to do something important. God’s direction, power, and plans unfolded before me. His mercy and love shone forth during the entire process of fundraising, purchasing land, drawing blueprints, laying cinderblock, and government red tape. The money ran out many times. It appeared that the project would fail. Countless times the mission seemed unattainable which led Devi and me to more prayer, more fasting, and ultimately more faith. That God was orchestrating the project from beginning to end was absolutely clear because I had no background or experience to dim His glory.
As the project progressed I received an urgent message from Devi. An orphaned eight-year-old girl named Sabina was about to be sold into prostitution! Devi didn’t know what to do. She had no money to support the girl but she obviously couldn’t allow that precious child to be sold. I answered, “Take in Sabina and any endangered children. God will send sponsors.”
My heart broke as I met the children filling up the beds in our home. How could a person sell a sweet, innocent girl into prostitution or a lovely small boy as a slave? Why is a culture so perverse that a step-parent tosses the step-child out of the home like a piece of garbage? Why is a person considered to be “untouchable” and worthless because they are born with a certain last name and therefore are not treated like respectable human beings? How is a situation so abominable that a mother leaves her newborn infant in weeds bordering the road where ants will eat it? God kept sending us children from dire and diverse situations. Our door was open to them all because Jesus said, “Let the little children come.” Sometimes on my flight home from Nepal, I would turn my face to the window because tears washed down my cheeks. How could God allow me to be involved in rescuing His children? The honor feels too great. Saying “yes” to God is scary, but it is awesome, and truly a privilege!
From this project a ministry was formed. What started with six homeless children has grown to 125 who call St. Devi’s home. Our school has enrolled 400 students. Many graduates have earned degrees, but more importantly, most of our students have given their hearts to the Lord. God continues to direct as our ministry grows.
By Suzy Sims of Trips with a Mission. Trips with a Mission, 108 W Tomichi, Suite A, Gunnison, CO, 81230. 970 641-3429. firstname.lastname@example.org. www.tripswithamission.org.
In 1969, Dr. James A. Twing, and his wife Ethel, a licensed practical nurse, were sent by the Lake Orion Medical Group in Michigan, USA on a six-month rotation to Heri Mission Hospital in Tanzania, East Africa. After they returned from Africa, the Seventh-day Adventist Church sent them on permanent assignment to the hospital. After Dr. Twing’s untimely death in an airplane accident in Tanzania, his widow became a registered nurse, returned to Africa, and spent more than 40 years accomplishing amazing work in ministry. Today, the work of Twing Memorial Ministries is carried on in their memory by her children. Ethel “Mama” Twing passed away in the United States in 2014, at the age of 92.
It was good to be at the memorial service for Ethel “Mama” Twing in Kennewick, Washington, USA. The service was organized by Mama’s daughter, Sylvia Twing Hauner. It was beautiful to hear how much Mama Twing blessed the lives of each one there.
Paperwork was completed in the United States so I could carry her ashes to Africa. The government was extremely helpful and I was able to get through security without much trouble. I had a good trip and arrived safely back in Africa because of God’s protection over me. I felt the presence of God’s angels and His Spirit all along the way. I took my computer bag with me because it had enough room for the cremains of Mama Twing so I could bury her alongside her precious husband, Dr. James Arthur Twing, who passed away in 1972 and is buried on the grounds of the Morogoro field office of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
At Dar Es Salaam airport, my final destination, I experienced a small problem with security, but in the end it was solved. God has His people everywhere to help in time of need. I rested in Dar Es Salaam on Sabbath and then left at 6:00 am on Sunday to Morogoro, which is a three to four hour drive, in order to make all necessary preparations for Mama Twing’s African memorial service.
Sunday was a very busy day because we had to prepare the grave so she could rest beside her husband. By 9:00 am on Monday, people were already in the church, waiting for the service to start at 10:30 am. Monday is a work day, so I thought many people would not attend the service, but the church was packed. The church and graveside service members, groups of people, and choirs participated in a very spiritual and colorful service. Many of Mama Twing’s African children came to the service, some from Dar Es Salaam, others came from far as Kigoma, Mwanza, and Musoma near Victoria Lake. We had to feed the guests for the whole day which is an African tradition when someone respected dies. Thanks to everyone for your prayers, Mama Twing now rests beside her precious husband waiting for the Lord to return.
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” Titus 2:1-14.
School and Evangelism
A Muslim family has a 14-year-old daughter named Amina who suffered from demonic power. Her demon possession was so severe she was unable to continue with her studies in a government school. Her parents took her to different hospitals and village medicine men, but there was no help or healing. The family was advised to take Amina to Twing Memorial School (TMS) for a meeting with the chaplain of the school. The chaplain and teachers prayed for her and she was healed from the demons. After she was healed, the parents decided to seek a transfer of Amina from the government school to TMS, which was granted. Her Muslim parents are thankful to God that Amina is healed. They are now studying the advent message, and Amina has been studying the Word of God in school. The parents have granted permission for Amina to be baptized as a Seventh-day Adventist. TMS is a place of miracles and God is surely working through this school.
We have just concluded 200 meetings in Mwanza City. Over 4,000 have been baptized! Many people came to witness the huge event. They were shocked to see so many people. Among the many people there were Seventh-day Adventists from Tennessee. They were touched by what they saw. They said, “We have never seen such an event or have read about your work in a newsletter. We are not rich people, but we will ask our friends and Sabbath school to send funds to Twing Memorial Ministries.”
It has been some time since Twing Memorial Ministries has built a church for a new congregation. A church can be built for as little as $5,000 US. Your gifts in support of a church building will help fellow church members worship in a more comfortable setting—out from under the trees in the sun, wind, and rain.
“’Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake.’ Psalm 115:1. Such was the spirit that pervaded Israel’s song of deliverance, and it is the spirit that should dwell in the hearts of all who love and fear God. In freeing our souls from the bondage of sin, God has wrought for us a deliverance greater than that of the Hebrews at the Red Sea…. The daily blessings that we receive from the hand of God, and above all else the death of Jesus to bring happiness and heaven within our reach, should be a theme for constant gratitude. What compassion, what matchless love, has God shown to us, lost sinners, in connecting us with Himself, to be to Him a peculiar treasure! We should praise God for the blessed hope held out before us in the great plan of redemption, we should praise Him for the heavenly inheritance and for His rich promises; praise Him that Jesus lives to intercede for us.” God’s Amazing Grace, 352.
By Pastor Musa Mitekaro of Twing Memorial Ministries, Tanzania, Africa. Website: www.twingmm.netasi.org. Donations: Twing Memorial Ministries, PO Box 6, College Place, WA 99324.
Greetings to all of you! We have gotten off to an interesting start in the mission field this year. There has not been as much progress as we hoped, but there has been enough that we do not become discouraged. We are still praying for our brother Christian Henry who has been falsely accused and jailed for the last year. We are also praying for a young pastor who has resigned from the Mission of Senegal. Although he no longer works for the mission, I have kept in contact with him and he has agreed to work with me on some projects because he wants to continue laboring in the mission field. And, as another update from our last story, we have not heard from our brother Doucoure, but we keep him in the Lord’s hands. There have been difficulties and distress all around, but God is the Master of all things, and there are many blessings to tell about as well.
My student Paul has continued coming to church. He enjoys reading his Bible and is very happy that he was able to get Bibles in French and English. He has traveled to Guinea Bissau to visit his brother and we hope that he will share what he is learning with his family.
Clair Soleil, our church school, is growing! We have 60 children—an increase from 40 last year. The children are witnessing to their parents, praying before meals and talking about Jesus. One student’s family withdrew her because she prayed and talked about Jesus so much at home. The grandmother had an especially difficult time with the behavior, because she held a position with the Muslim religious association. However, we pray that the seeds sown will grow into a wonderful harvest for the little girl and her family. The staff presses on, teaching the children to pray and worship their Creator.
At the farm, we are growing a few things in pots—sweet peppers, chilies, and tomatoes. We have also embarked upon a process of soil enrichment in an attempt to combat the termite problem. The trees have been trimmed to prepare for the rainy season and I have been told that we need to graft the trees in order for them to bear abundantly. We have completed the construction of a storage room/power station. And with bricks left over from this storage building, we plan to build a chicken coop. In another building, we still need to finish the bathroom. This is the building where visitors or newly converted brethren can stay if they encounter opposition from their families.
As of March 1st, we have electricity! Thank the Lord! Solar panels were mounted on the roof of the storage room and the
batteries are on the inside. Now we can get a refrigerator and use our blender. I am so happy! It was over a year ago that I met with a local solar panel dealer and got an estimate for a small system. We had gotten many estimates since 2011, but had never been able to move forward with any of them. But providentially, through my association with Mission Projects International, a lawyer representing the estate of an aunt (who died in 2010) contacted me. It seemed that they were looking for me because I had a share in the inheritance. The funds received covered most of the cost for the system. I thank the Lord for His blessing.
English classes are ripe ground for sharing the good news, and I have had two wonderful experiences that I want to share with you. In our free discussions, the conversation often turns to religion and I usually use the opportunity to sow seeds among the Muslim students. But recently I had the chance to share with Christians, as well, because a Pentecostal student was in one of my classes. He was very lively and it was clear that he loved the Lord and wanted to witness for Him among his Muslim brothers. It was an interesting experience to explain certain scriptures that were not clear to him. Later, I shared some literature with him and he said that he would like to study the Bible with me.
I have also been able to share the Desire of Ages and the Great Controversy with another Christian student’s mother. People of all faiths seem to be aware of the times and are looking for answers. It is my prayer that the Lord will give us the wisdom to utter a word in season to these people.
Much of my work here is for the church members. There is still a lack of knowledge about doctrines and counsels given to edify the church. It has been a part of my mission to fill in this gap by promoting the reading of the Spirit of Prophecy and making copies of these books available to interested members. Please pray for the church members here. The vast majority of the members are students and the attractions of the world are very strong.
One of the colporteurs has pointed out the need for small, inexpensive books about health that also contain Bible verses. I am looking at the possibility of putting a pamphlet together that can be translated into Pulaar, Manding, and Wolof: three common languages in Senegal. This is a project that I have suggested to a young man who resigned. He is interested and I hope to begin work on the first draft soon.
The economic crisis has caused a lot of difficulties here in Senegal, as food and gas prices rise and propane is in short supply. But these problems open doors, because people are looking for solutions to their problems and we have that solution—Jesus! Please pray for the people of Senegal, that they may hear the voice of Jesus calling. Also pray for the church members—may we rise to the occasion and seize the opportunities that God presents to us so that we can witness to His people here. Also pray for me, for obedience and courage, and to work solely for His glory. Now is the time to work, for the night is coming. May God bless and keep us all!
By Deborah Ndione. Email: email@example.com. Support for the work in Senegal can be sent through Mission Projects International, PO Box 59656, Renton, WA 98058.
As a teacher in the public school system in California for 13 years, I had always wished that I could teach my students spiritual truth as well as academic content. So many children were without spiritual direction in their lives, made obvious by their behavior in the classroom, and seeming to worsen each year. I dreamed about what it would be like to be able to teach from the Bible each day, pray with the students when they were having trouble, and give parents spiritual direction. Never would I have imagined that I would start a school that would do just that in the near future, in the Amazon, of all places!
My husband Aluisio and I and our two children moved to the Amazon area of Brazil in 2006 with the purpose of spreading the Three Angels’ Messages and supporting Seventh-day Adventist churches with revival and reformation. Since then, we have had the opportunity to preach and teach in several churches, host youth camp meetings at our rural home, give Bible studies to non-Adventists, host a prophecy series taught by Cody Francis in the middle of town, teach cooking classes, start a children’s choir, work with the indigenous community, provide special music for churches and teach a Last Day Events prophecy class with some enthusiastic Seventh-day Adventist young adults. We have confronted many difficulties and have sacrificed much in serving our Lord, but He has always provided for us and met our needs in miraculous ways.
After our third child was born, Aluisio’s sister Vânia and I felt moved by the Lord to open a private school for kindergarten-age children. The town in which we live is very poor, and there is little chance for academic success. Poverty, alcoholism, drug use, prostitution and all other manner of crime, plus low literacy rates, are stacked against the future of these children. We wanted to provide a safe haven for young children where they could learn about God and at the same time have the opportunity to develop pre-literacy skills so they are better prepared when they enter elementary school, which we also hoped to add in the more distant future. We also planned for how we could reach the families and awaken in them spiritual interest and provide academic support to their children. Vânia would serve as principal and secretary and attend on a daily basis, and I would train the teachers and give instructional support, teach English, and help plan and organize family outreach activities.
In August of 2009, Noah’s Ark Christian School was born. It started on a shoestring budget in a small rented house converted into a school, using my teacher supplies and Julie and Josh’s toys and books. That school year we had only three students, one of which counted for at least five and helped us to increase our patience and forbearance! We did not even have enough students to pay the rent. Vânia invested what she could to be able to pay the bills, with the hope that the next year would improve. When the new school year began in February of 2010, we changed to a larger house a few doors down. We offered morning preschool (pre-kindergarten) and afternoon kindergarten, and our enrollment grew to approximately 20 students. We were able to pay bills and the two teachers, and that is about all. This year, 2011, we have a morning kindergarten class, a morning preschool (pre-kindergarten) class and a morning and an afternoon preschool class for two and three-year-olds. Our student enrollment doubled to approximately 45 students, and we have a staff of four teachers, two aides, a supervisor (myself) and principal (Vânia). Julie and Josh help in the classrooms and JoyAnn, our three-year old, gives her support in the preschool class on the days I work. We continue to struggle to pay the rent, staff and other expenses.
What is in store for 2012? We will be offering first grade in addition to our other classes, and expect our enrollment to double again. We have had many requests for first grade ever since Noah’s Ark opened, and we are pleased to be able to offer it next year.
What makes Noah’s Ark unique? We are the only school in the community that offers small class sizes and a Bible-based curriculum. Our staff is Seventh-day Adventist and our dedicated teachers begin each day with worship in the classroom. Bible lessons are taught and Scripture verses learned to song. The students return home singing verses from the Bible, and families end up learning Scripture. Many children have learned how to pray, and this has made an impact on families. The teachers are trained in developing pre-literacy skills and in lesson planning and delivery. They apply these techniques in the classroom, which is literacy rich. Books, though few in number but chosen for their quality and content, are in each classroom, and the children daily spend time “reading” them and enjoying story time by the teacher. Most students have no books at home and are not read to by their parents. A different character quality is taught school-wide each month, and activities are planned around this theme. Portuguese pre-literacy skills and academic content areas are taught around a Bible-based theme. Family involvement is encouraged and activities are planned monthly to bring the family into the school. Some examples are family reading night, Mother’s Day presentation, Father’s Day outing, back to school night, open house, parent-teacher conferences (twice a year) and marching in the Independence Day parade, just to name a few. Nearly all of our family activities have a spiritual base and provide opportunities for parents to learn spiritual truth as well as parenting skills.
Believe it or not, one of my favorite areas of supporting our teachers is through discipline. When a student is unruly in the classroom, the teacher is to talk privately with the child and point out what the offense is and why it is wrong. The child is encouraged to confess and apologize for the wrong committed and the teacher and child pray together and ask the Lord’s help. If it continues or if the teacher is unable to give that attention at the moment, the child must leave the room and go through the same process with me, or Vânia in my absence. Never in a public school classroom did I have the opportunity to pray with the children. Generally, children’s hearts are softened, and the behavior improves, although they also learn responsibility for their behavior through the consequences they face afterward. Certain children have been a formidable challenge, but as the Lord does not give up on us, we do not give up on them.
Time after time, surprised parents have shared with us the positive changes in their children’s behavior at home since attending the Ark. Character traits learned at school are being transmitted to home, memory verses being sung, stories from the Bible shared, some children are bringing healthier snacks and many of these little children are teaching their parents to pray before they eat. A family of one of our students has been participating in Bible studies with Aluisio for several months, and their lives have been strongly impacted. Due to this family’s influence, more families not affiliated with the school have also been receiving Bible studies and attending church. We anticipate several baptisms resulting in the near future.
All this has been very encouraging and makes the struggle worthwhile. However, Noah’s Ark is in peril and in danger of sinking. We must add first grade next year to be able to stay afloat, and we have outgrown our school. Furthermore, the landlord has demanded to have the property back. The property is now in dispute, as we cannot simply vacate the building midyear with nowhere to go and need to have a location at the end of the year to be able to receive new registrations. It is very difficult to find property to rent in town, and very expensive. We are continually struggling, partly due to the financial drain on rent. We are in need of funds to purchase available, reasonably priced land (which is easier to come by) and build our own school. In doing so, we would no longer need to pay rent and would have money to be able to run smoothly. We would also have the space to be able to add a grade level each year until we have a complete elementary school. As part of our project we would also like to have a bakery on premises to be able to furnish a healthy snack for the students and reinvest a portion of all sales back into the school to provide scholarships for needy children and pay for further school construction. Furthermore, each class would have a small gardening project in which they learn to plant and care for a single crop. Sales of these (mostly to families with students at the Ark) would go towards purchasing books for our scant classroom libraries and paying for study trips and other special events.
Where the money will come from to fund this project, we do not know. But we do know that God is more than capable of providing the means if it is His will for the Ark’s doors to stay open. Our school has worked hard to earn a very good reputation in the community, and we cannot imagine it being His will to close it down and let the light go out that has benefited so many children.
Please pray for Noah’s Ark Christian School, and if you cannot come to the Amazon to visit us, please visit us at www.facebook.com/NoahsArkChristianSchool or our website, www.noahsarkchristianschool.org. Tax deductible donations may be thankfully received through Mission Projects International. May the Lord bless each one of His people as we all strive to hasten His soon coming.
By Sandy De Senna. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations for the De Sennas’ work can be sent to Mission Projects International, PO Box 59656, Renton, WA 98058, and marked “De Sennas.”
I was suddenly awakened out of a deep sleep when something cold and clammy landed on my face. Surprising myself with an automatic overhead sliding slap to the face, I felt the unidentified creature jump off and found myself unable to sleep, wondering what it might have been. I wished I could turn the light on to see what it was, but then I would wake up everyone else. As we are living in the heart of the Amazon forest in an unfinished house, it could be a number of things – giant beetle, frog, flying cockroach —the possibilities are numerous. If only I could let the light shine and reveal the truth. As my heartbeat slowed, my thoughts drifted off to our ministry here. These last three years have been full of trials for our family of five, but rich blessings have more than compensated. Our lives have taken twists and turns we did not anticipate, but finally we are seeing lives being changed as a result of the Lord’s work through us.
We moved to the small town of Rio Preto da Eva in the Amazon Basin to proclaim the Three Angels’ Messages, seeking to aid in revival and reformation in the Seventh Day Adventist churches in Northern Brazil. Churches in this area are plenty, but they are spiritually poor. Few Seventh-Day Adventists are even aware of the purpose of the Seventh-day Adventist Church or have heard of present truth; most have not read any Spirit of Prophecy; vegetarianism is almost unheard of; many church services mimic those of the other non-Seventh-day Adventist churches with loud, rhythmic music and dress that mirrors that of the world. The town itself is polluted with drugs and prostitution, government corruption, alcoholism and poverty. There is a great need for light to shine in this part of the world.
Our ministry is focused on teaching, in a variety of forms. Aluisio and I have preached present truth in several Seventh-day Adventist churches. After hearing the message, many have joyfully embraced the truth and are studying deeper, eager to learn more. Unfortunately, it has also resulted in suspicion and rumors, and doors to preaching have been closing. We also taught Sabbath School at the small church in the indigenous community. The chief’s family was most affected and instituted many changes in their lives as a result, especially regarding Sabbath observance. We have developed friendships with members of different indigenous tribes and are becoming familiar with their culture. Aluisio has led classes on Sabbath afternoons based on Last Day Events for Adventist youth and adults. Many young peoples’ lives were impacted as a result of his teaching and they have spread the message to other towns, cities and states. Recently, Aluisio preached at a camp meeting held for three large city churches and shared present truth with them, and the message was eagerly received. We are in the process of planning our own camp meeting here at our home.
Brazil Aluisio preaching at Feb. campmeeting
Teaching has included not only adults, but children as well. Sandy taught Sabbath School for the children at the indigenous community’s church, with very good results. We also started a children’s choir at the encouraging of our two oldest children, Julianna and Joshua. They performed a Christmas program for one of the churches and for our rural neighborhood. Now we are working on an Easter program. Each program uses hymns and Bible verses to tell the story of Jesus and ends with our hope of His soon coming. We are seeking to reach out not only to the churches but to the non-churched as well.
Our teaching is making a big impact in the community as a result of a kindergarten school Sandy began with Aluisio’s sister, Vania Scheffel. Noah’s Ark Christian School is unique in both its purpose and design. One of our goals is to provide the children of Rio Preto with a strong base for literacy learning so they can be well prepared when they enter first grade and experience academic success. However, the more important goal is to reach these children and their families for Jesus, most of which are not Seventh-day Adventist. Religious instruction is woven into the curriculum and incorporated throughout the school day. We also have plans to hold health, cooking, Bible study and child training classes for the students’ parents. Enrollment is limited, as most families in Rio Preto cannot afford tuition and we cannot afford to run the school for free. However, we do not want to serve only the wealthy in our community and have included in our project design the seeking of individuals with means, who would sponsor an underprivileged child’s tuition. We trust that the Lord will provide sponsors at the right time.
Since our family has moved out of a small rental house in town into our own house on our property (three years in the making and a long way from being finished), teaching has taken another turn. Aluisio has been holding early morning Bible studies for interested people in our neighborhood. One young man, Xeta, walks a long distance, often through the mud, facing ridicule from friends who scoff at the positive changes in his life. He used to go on drinking binges and nearly lost his life from alcohol abuse. He has given that up and spends a lot of time studying his Bible and is hungry for Bible truth. He recently kept the Sabbath for the first time and frequently attends Friday evening and Sabbath morning worship with us. Another man that works with Aluisio often arrives before sunset each morning to be able to participate in the studies. He has begun studying the Bible in his home as well, and he and his common-law wife and her son attended church with us recently. Other young people in our neighborhood have been attending Bible studies held at our house on Sabbath evenings. They are hungry for truth as well, and a core group faithfully attends each week, with others that attend sporadically. We just held our first church meeting here at our home, and several neighbors attended, including a Seventh-day Adventist family that has not attended church for a long period of time due to the distance of the church from their home. As our neighborhood is rural and up to 25 kilometers away from town, many people do not have the means to attend church, which is one reason why we are holding church meetings twice a month at our home.
Trials have been many, as our financial situation became critical and we could nolonger support ourselves. Our land development projects that we started for financial stability have not produced an income yet. Our house took much longer to build than we ever dreamed and offered us one challenge after another. Our situation became so extreme that our United States church family sent us funds to complete house construction enough to be able to move in, and sent us some monthly support. Though our needs are many, the Lord will provide a way and will provide for His own. The light must continue to shine here in Rio Preto da Eva and spread to surrounding communities.
As my thoughts tumble and jumble in my mind, I drift into an apprehensive sleep, praising the Lord for what He has done for us and what He has allowed us to do for Him. The challenges that we ha v e faced over t h e l a s t three years have often made our way seem dark, but when we see the fruits of our labors and lives being given to our precious Lord, light shines on our path and gladdens the way. It’s all worth it. I am willing to risk even cold, clammy unidentified creatures on my face to bring souls to Jesus and help hasten His soon coming!