Fulfilling a Mother's Dream
I was her miracle child, she called me Samuel, and this is my story.
Turning Points for Mother
DREAM LADY: They met in high school, Samuel
and Amy; parted when he returned to Brazil;
united in marriage when he returned to England;
and have been together ever since.
Regina was a faithful Catholic who lived in the South of Brazil. After she married Nerocy, a retired colonel, they tried for many years to have a child. Unfortunately, all the medical exams showed it was impossible for her to conceive. About that time, Regina started taking Bible studies with an Adventist family in the neighborhood, and when she found the story of Hannah (in 1 Samuel 1 and 2), she immediately identified with her. Regina’s prayer from then on became: “God, if you give me a child, I will join this Adventist movement and dedicate him to your ministry wholeheartedly, just as Hannah did.”
At first nothing happened. But as the weeks went by, her prayers intensified until the great day when she discovered she was indeed pregnant! Following yet again the example of Hannah, she was going to name the child Samuel, which in Hebrew means “heard of God.”
However, all was not well. Soon after my birth the doctors realized that one of my legs was shorter than the other. This meant I would have to wear braces until I was 19 years of age. When my mother heard this she postponed the surgery for seven days, against the doctor’s counsel, and went to the best place she knew—her new Seventh-day Adventist family.
After a week of fasting and prayer with the church, Mum* brought me back to be examined once more. She has always told me this was one of the most frightful moments of her life. And once again God came into action. No other explanation could be given as to how and why I’d been completely cured.
Following this event, both my mum and dad gave their lives to Christ through baptism. And a few years later, as with Hannah, God gave my parents another child—my beautiful sister, Sara.
My upbringing reflected my calling. I knew from the beginning that God had called me to be a minister. This shaped my early years as Mum would spend her days teaching me the Bible and how God had also called others to serve Him. I knew what I wanted, and I believed nothing would change my destiny to be a minister of the Almighty.
Then I became a teenager!
For some reason my father became convinced I should be a diplomat. He had always been a person of high authority in our state, even managing to retire as a colonel at the age of 40—which is still unheard of. Yet his dreams had always been of becoming a diplomat. His other problem with pastoral ministry was the low salary. Somehow, he managed to convince me to leave my calling and become a diplomat. I was 13 at the time.
REUNION: In June 2004, nine years after their scary London adventure, the Neves family (sister Sara, Samuel, Mom, and Dad) reunited in London (here outside the Tower of London) to remember God’s leading. Dad Neves was then 87.Meanwhile, my mother was impressed by God to send me abroad. She felt it was her turn to send Samuel to Eli, and so she started looking for boarding schools in England. She heard of Newbold College and thought the 1995 General Conference in Utrecht, Holland, was a good way to find out about Newbold or other schools. And so all four of us left for what turned out to be the most amazing trip of our lives—four Brazilians, one car, 21 days, and 11 countries!
The excitement built up as we came to the Newbold booth at the conference. But almost unbearable disappointment soon followed. My mother couldn’t hold the tears as my dad translated to her the words of a Newbold official saying I was too young to study at Newbold and there was no other school that could take me. I can remember vividly how her faith was shaken. For hours all we heard was: “God told me you would study in England; God told me you would study in England; God told me you would study in England.” This went on for about two days.
From Bad to Worse
The last three days of our trip rapidly went from happy to sad to desperate. We had left England as the last part of the trip. The plan was to visit London and Newbold and then return on Friday evening to catch the ferry back to Belgium, then fly to Brazil Saturday morning. We visited everywhere in London, but decided not to go to Newbold, knowing there was no place for me there anyway.
That last Friday was cloudy, and so we considered going straight to the ferry back to Belgium. However, my dad suddenly changed his mind and was adamant he had to go to Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guards at 11:00 a.m. The problem, however, was that 5,000 other people had the same idea.
Without any parking space in sight, he told me to get out and film the event so that he could at least watch it at home. I got out and started filming as Dad circled the palace. When he’d gone around twice and I was still not finished filming, he dropped off my mum and sister so they could find me.
That was a mistake. He told my mum he would park the car and come back for us. However, the only car park we knew was one on the other end of London.
We waited until the ceremony had finished, and then until everyone had left. By 2:00 p.m., we started getting very worried as Dad still hadn’t returned to us. (At the time Dad was 77, and really didn’t adapt to the “wrong” side of the road. Driving on the left did not come easy for him.) From my father’s previous driving pattern, I just knew he’d never find the car park, let alone come back to meet us.
By 3:00 p.m., I suggested to my mum that I should go by bus to the car park to see if he was there. She at first said no. She’d already lost her husband and was not about to let her 13-year-old son cross London with the only £5 note we had. Eventually, after convincing her, I asked for information and then took the right bus to the shopping center to which my dad was headed. But the car was not there.
Miraculously I made my way back to Buckingham Palace. My dad had not returned, and both my mum and sister were crying desperately. I assured them everything would work out—after all, it always does in the movies!
FIRST STEP: This Pathfinder would grow up to fulfill his mother’s aspiration to see him as a leader in the church she’d chosen.By 5:00 p.m. it was time to do something. We went to a police officer and I managed to scrape together the words: “Brazil, family, lost, father, car, park, go, lost, help, Brazil.” The police officer looked as cold as always, and just called a taxi. I was so excited–it was just like the movies!
Our Desperation Deepened
When we arrived at the Brazilian embassy, there were just three people there. When we told them what had happened and after paying for the taxi, an embassy official named Marcus took us to all the hospitals and police stations in the area and, finally, to a hotel near his house. With every place that my dad could not be found, my mother became more and more desperate.
By now we had missed the ferry (which we’d already paid for) and, consequently, our flight back to Brazil. We had the passports, my dad had the money, and so neither of us could go anywhere. Our credit cards were all close to the limit, so we had no more money to buy another four tickets back to Brazil. My mother cried all night in prayer, and my sister and I cried ourselves to sleep. We had run out of options. It’s a great thing that God hadn’t!
The next day we went for breakfast and tried to eat something. As we were going up to our room afterward, the public phone downstairs started ringing. Immediately my mum looked back at me and said: “Sam, you can pick it up because it’s your father.” I realized the near impossibility of that happening, but I couldn’t resist the authority with which Mum had ordered it.
“Hello,” I said.
“Ah … please … Brazil family …”
I couldn’t resist the tears as I heard my dad scrape together some English words as he tried to find us.
His side of the story was equally remarkable. He only found that car park at 7:00 p.m., and hoped that we would be there. He thought what he’d actually told my mum and sister was to get me (from my picture-taking), then take a bus to meet him at the particular car park. When he realized we were not there, his military mind pointed to the only place we had in common: Newbold College.
But how would he get there from South London? Nevertheless, he embarked on the journey, asking a street drunk to direct him to Bracknell (where the college is located). At 8:00 the next morning, the impossible once again proved possible through God’s providence. My dad arrived at Newbold College!
On the campus he met with Brother Oliveira, a Brazilian teacher who has lived near Newbold for many years. Dad was able to call our airline in Belgium to try to change our flight. And from Belgium he received the good news that the Brazilian consulate in London had found his family and they were in a particular hotel. Which is how he came to put a call through to us.
Marcus (from the consulate) then found a Seventh-day Adventist church, which sent a member to take us to Newbold College. Entering the gates of the college and seeing the little red car my dad had rented was one of the best moments of my life.
TIME OUT: Prayer warrior that she is, Regina Neves, nevertheless, knew how to relax, taking time to let her hair down and wear a funny hat in a London toy shop.Soon my mother realized the reasons behind all of what had happened. Brother Oliveira, after hearing the whole story over a nice lunch at his house, said: “Well, Sam is too young for Newbold, but there is this other school….” My mum immediately lost her appetite, and hope started flowing through her once again. He continued: “It is called Stanborough School, and [it’s] not too far from here. They can definitely take him.” The dream was alive once again.
The Final Hurdles
When we went back to Brazil and found out all the details and requirements, reality hit again. The school was too expensive, and the only way to pay for it would be to sell our house.
My father disagreed with that idea on two levels. He didn’t want to sell the house, and he didn’t want to be away from me. (My dad and I were very good friends. We’d go everywhere together, even with my other friends from school. And the very thought of losing me was devastating him.) This meant my mother’s knees would need to meet the ground even more.
Suddenly my dad agreed with the sale, but on the condition that I would go and study to be a diplomat. I agreed with him, and although my mum didn’t, she saw this as God’s way of working through the heart of a colonel. A few weeks later our little mansion was gone, and I was enrolled as a pupil of Stanborough Secondary School in Watford, England.
I arrived at the school on November 28, 1995, with a mission to learn English and become a diplomat. But it was on a Friday night some three months later that a friend, Jonathan Ferreira, said to me—out of nowhere: “Sam, there is nothing else you can be but a pastor.” He didn’t know my story. And something happened inside me that I still can’t explain. Since that night I’ve never looked back on my decision to follow my call to ministry.
When I finished my studies at Stanborough School I went back to Brazil and completed my B.A. in Theology in 2004. That same year I was called by the South England Conference to ministry back in London. I then married my childhood sweetheart, Amy, whom I’d met while at Stanborough School. The South England Conference sponsored my M.A. in Theology at Newbold, and I’m now a youth pastor at the Holloway Adventist Church in North London.
I have no idea what the future holds for me, but I know one thing, at least: “God knows exactly where I need to be and how to get me there.” And that’s what really matters.
*“Mum” is a British variation of “Mom.”
Samuel Neves is a pastor at the Holloway Adventist Church in London, England.