Editor’s Note: In the Oregon Conference, “it’s all about Jesus!” But that’s not just a corporate mission statement. It is a reality lived out each day by scores of faithful Adventists throughout the Oregon Conference. This year, we’re focusing on Loving Jesus and Others. This is Emily’s* story. Emily is an Oregon member who is loving others in an unexpected way. We’re excited to bring you this story because it is a beautiful example of one faithful person walking through the door God opened to love others while sharing Jesus with them. Enjoy!
“Hello, I’m from Africa and I’d like to be your Internet friend.”
For most people in America, that’s an invitation to “Delete” the message and move on. For Emily*, it was an invitation to make a new friend. She was on the Adventist Singles website, and she immediately felt the message was for her, personally, sent directly from God.
“Hello. I’m Emily. Who are you?”
Please don’t get me wrong. If Emily had asked my advice, I would have told her to “move on,” “delete the message,” and said, “This is a very bad way to get involved with someone you will likely never even meet.”
Emily didn’t ask, instead she followed what she knew was a direct leading from the Holy Spirit and opened the door to friendship.
Kumi, it turned out, does live in Africa, has a good family, preaches regularly at his Seventh-day Adventist church, and teaches math at a nearby Christian elementary school. No big requests. Just, “Hello.”
The school, Emily learned, did not allow Kumi to teach about Sabbath or any other Adventist doctrine, but encouraged him to share God with the students. That frustrated Kumi, since he felt God calling him to teach the truths of the Bible along with the math.
Kumi asked Emily if, by chance, she might have access to some Bibles. “I would really like to have a supply of Bibles and Christian literature to share with the children and their parents,” he requested. So, Emily went to work collecting
Bibles and other Christian reading material. “I must have sent a dozen big boxes to Africa,” Emily says.
The next school year the government changed Kumi’s school assignment to a large Seventh-day Adventist school right across the street from a mosque. “We have 700 students in Primary and an additional 300 in Middle School,” Kumi told his Internet friend. “Though there are 40 teachers, only three of us are Adventists.”
The friendship grew, Emily learning more and more about Africa, Kumi’s family, and the challenges of teaching Bible in an Adventist school where only 10% of the students, and less than 5% of the teachers, are church members.
“How do you teach Bible?” Emily asked.
“I do my best to prepare a Bible lesson for all of the teachers to give each morning,” Kumi answered, “but I am having a terrible time keeping up with writing the lessons and preparing for my math classes at the same time.”
“How about if I write the Bible lessons for you?” Emily asked.
“Really? Would you?”
Suddenly realizing why she had responded to Kumi’s friendship invitation, Emily went to work. She gathered her collection of Bible translations, her Ellen White books, and The Bible Story books, and went to work.
She began in Eden and slowly worked her way through the Old Testament stories. Then she moved to Matthew and kept going right on through the entire New Testament.
Kumi was ecstatic! “The children love the Bible lessons,” he emailed Emily. “And the teachers are learning things about God that they never knew!”
Emily was very careful with each lesson, making sure that it began with a simple prayer, and then told the Bible story in clear primary school English. Wanting to be sure that the students could easily identify with the people in the stories, she asked Kumi to send her a list of 30 common names so she could include those in the stories. She also checked on local customs, favorite foods, and scores of other things she could include to help the children feel the stories were written for them. At the end of each story she included another prayer, the same one for each lesson.
“I want the children to feel comfortable praying,” Emily says, “so I give them a different prayer at the beginning and the same prayer at the end. That way everyone can pray without being afraid of saying the words wrong.”
Every week Kumi meets with the teachers and goes over the Bible lessons for the week. “These are strange words for our teachers, and I want them to understand the Bible stories well so they can answer all of the questions the students will ask.” In recognition of his work, Kumi has been named chaplain of both the primary and middle schools. In this role he has conducted several weeks of prayer and helped lead children to accept Christ as their personal Savior.
“The children ask many questions,” Kumi reports, “and we work hard to answer to their satisfaction. They all happily enjoy the lessons. So far, by God’s grace, we have had 30 souls surrender their lives to Christ. Thank you, dear Sister, for your great contribution in making our dream of presenting Christ and the Good News about Jesus to these little children come true.”
One of Kumi’s friends works at a local TV station. When he heard Kumi had been given the chaplain duties, he arranged for “The Chaplain” to come to the station and hold a 30-minute call-in show each Saturday evening. “The topics should be from the Bible,” the station manager told Kumi, “not about doctrine and stuff. Okay?”
The program was so successful that it was extended for more shows, and then given regular billing on the station. It has become a major success, with people from all over the country calling in to discuss spiritual topics with “The Chaplain.”
When Emily finished the Bible she opened Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories and began rewriting those messages into stories the African children would understand and love.
“It took a lot of reading, writing, testing the stories, and the rewriting them better,” Emily says. “Now I’m beginning a series for the middle school children, most of whom are teenagers. It’s been a long time since I was a teenager!”
Emily’s been writing stories for a couple years and now has sent Kumi a collection of 150 lessons, each one “personalized” for the children in Kumi’s school. “They tell me that it’s like God blowing in to bless them at the beginning of every school day.” Emily says with a shy smile.
“I only do this for two reasons. First, to help introduce Jesus to those who do not know His name. Second, to help students in get the best possible Christian Education. When people learn what I’m doing, I hope they are inspired to do something themselves, to get involved in sharing the good news with other people around the world, and to serve Jesus every day.”
*Emily was shy about sharing her story, but allowed us to share if we changed her name.