Lessons From a
Adventism in the Inter-American Division
By Alejo Aguilar
Studying in Seventh-day Adventist schools demands a huge amount of effort and sacrifice. In fact, some people cite this fact when trying to excuse their indifference toward Christian education. Unfortunately, we share this challenge in the Inter-American Division.
Is the investment and effort by the church, the parents, and every student to study in a Seventh-day Adventist school worth it? Is there actually a difference between a young person studying at a Seventh-day Adventist school and someone who does not enjoy that privilege?
Well, life itself has provided me with an answer. At the same time, I have learned two great lessons that I will p illustrate by means of a life story. Indeed, the following testimony provides a glimpse into what mission-driven education in Inter-America’s Adventist universities is accomplishing for their students.1 Rightly applied, these lessons are closely related to the fulfillment of God’s mission for His church.
Do Not Let Your Past Stop You
The eldest of eight brothers, Pablo Sáenz—or “Pablito,” as friends affectionately call him—began his life in a singular way. He was literally born into the hands of an uncle, since he arrived so suddenly that there was no time to call a midwife, even his father.
When Pablito was just 4, the exposure of long walks in torrential rain in Chiapas, southern Mexico, left him with a bad case of bronchitis. Throughout his childhood he suffered the weakening effects of that infection. In spite of it all, by 12 he had become a lay preacher who, regardless of distance, embarked on the mission of preaching in the many churches of the area.
This mission made young Pablo realize the importance of music in church. He decided to learn how to play the guitar. As he developed his musical talent, he made the most of it by praising God and sharing His Word. Pablo eventually recorded two albums, including some songs he composed himself.
It was the time he spent in Seventh-day Adventist schools, however, that left the most indelible mark on his life. Thanks to Adventist education, Pablo’s life, he admits, is today both different and truly meaningful. Here are two lessons that, in addition to his studies, Pablito has learned thanks to Seventh-day Adventist higher education.
Learn to Value God’s Plans For You
“If I had not left my home with the goal of getting an education in the Seventh-day Adventist school,” Pablo admits, “I would now be working in the beanfields and cornfields, and picking up cacatés [a sort of breadnut fruit common in the mountain regions of southern Mexico].”
The Lord, however, had other plans for him, which were definitely beyond Pablo’s own expectations. Just one year before he had to decide about going to college, Pablo began working as a colporteur. Consistent with God’s plan for his life, this service activity motivated him to decide to attend Linda Vista University in southern Mexico.
Attending a Seventh-day Adventist institution of higher learning was a dream come true, a joy that, when looking backward, however, produced mixed feelings in Pablo. On one hand, remembering the multiple setbacks he experienced in getting there left him with an aftertaste of sadness and nostalgia. On the other hand, he began to enjoy his current situation, as he got an ever-clearer picture of the promising future awaiting him on God’s side. Pablo felt his God was a God who had not only helped him to get where he was, but also Someone who would assist him in making his greatest dream come true—eventually make it to his heavenly home. There is no doubt that God’s plans for us are the best!
Learn to Depend on God More
“During my stay at Linda Vista University,” Pablo recalls, “I had to work with cattle on the farm, and also as an assistant blacksmith and carpenter. I was able to accomplish all this, however, because God made most of my health issues disappear a few months after I got to school.”
Depending on God taught Pablo that getting involved in the Lord’s plans not only helped him to master his health issues, but also to make him aware of anything else that might move him away from God’s plans for his life.
Pablo also learned to trust God when he set out to get financial resources to pay for his studies. His father had always opposed his son’s decision to study theology, and made it clear that he would not pay for his tuition. But not even this significant setback prevented Pablo from studying. He is now completing his theology degree at Navojoa University, another of the Inter-American Division’s esteemed academic institutions, this one in northwestern Mexico.
"Life is too short,” Pablo states. “Every minute is a privilege, and we must make the most of it for the sake of God and humanity. We should never forget to depend on the Lord’s help. This is something that I learned only after attending an Adventist school.
“I do not say this because I have the privilege of studying at an Adventist university. But I thank God for helping me obtain that education, and I feel He has enabled me to be a persuasive preacher. I know that God has definite plans for my life. The time spent at Seventh-day Adventist schools has helped me to better understand and value those plans as I strive to acquire the tools I need for effectively accomplishing those divine plans in the future.”
The Work of Redemption
One of the priorities and ultimate goals in our schools is to foster a spirit of service and a deeper longing for eternity. We also understand that to educate is to redeem, and that God has specifically entrusted us with the task of working toward the redemption of souls. We must keep asking for His help to wisely carry out such a solemn responsibility.
There is still a lot to accomplish in order to fulfill our mission in the Inter-American Division. We wish to commend and thank all those who, as God’s plans for their lives were unfolding, made the commitment to follow through in spite of every setback and roadblock. The testimonies of their bravery renews our own courage to keep believing and accomplishing the mission that our Great Master has entrusted to us!2
1 The Inter-American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church operates 14 universities. In those classrooms, God is daily manifested in the lives of their 19,608 students and 1,354 teachers, according to Gamaliel Flórez, director of the Education Department of the division (as of May 2013).
2 The author would like to thank God for allowing him the privilege of being part of the theology faculty at Navojoa University, where he also began his training for the ministry, and where during the past 10 years he has been able to meet many students with lives impacted by Seventh-day Adventist education.
Alejo Aguilar is a professor of theology at Navojoa University in northwestern Mexico.