Muslim Teens Join Adventists in Refusing Sabbath Exams
Teachers speak of a double miracle at an Adventist school in the former Soviet Union.
By Andrew Mc'Chesney
Muslim students at an Adventist school in the former Soviet Union were so confident that God would intervene to change the day of their state finals from a Sabbath that they stood in solidarity with their Adventist classmates in refusing to take the exams at a public school, even if it meant that they would not graduate.
The teens’ faith paid off.
At the last minute the government of the predominantly Muslim country authorized the exams to be rescheduled, astonishing Adventist teachers who had spent days agonizing about the situation.
Even more remarkably, the authorization came from the office of a deputy minister who had recently forced the Adventist school to remove the word “Christian” from its name.
“The Muslim students decided to stand firm on the principles of not working and studying on the Sabbath that they had learned at the Adventist school, and this was a wonderful decision,” said Guillermo Biaggi, president of the Adventist Church’s Euro-Asia Division, whose territory includes most of the former Soviet Union.
“God not only inspired someone in the government to change the day for the exams—He also inspired the students and awarded their trust in our Creator and Redeemer,” he said.
The story about the Sabbath exams emerged at recent year-end business meetings conducted by the Euro-Asia Division. Adventist World is not identifying the school or its location, to avoid complicating its work.
“The Only Hope Left Was God”
The school, which teaches 280 students aged 6 to 17, experienced a difficult 2013-2014 academic year as it faced various challenges from the authorities and other people unhappy with the presence of a Christian school in a Muslim country, school and church leaders said.
But nothing prepared the teachers for a surprise Education Ministry decree saying that final exams for ninth and eleventh graders nationwide would be held on Saturday.
The teachers began to pray. A few of the school’s eleventh graders came from Adventist families, but the majority were Muslim. None of the ninth graders were Adventist.
Every attempt to delay the exams by a day, to Sunday, seemed to fail. No local education officials wanted to shoulder the responsibility of authorizing the change. The school principal sent a letter to an Education Ministry official who promised to help, but he didn’t reply.
“The only hope left was God,” the principal said in a statement provided by the Euro-Asia Division.
She gathered the students together to explain the situation. She said the school was still trying to reschedule the exams but could not promise success. She also said she had made arrangements with a nearby public school to offer the exams to those who wished to take them.
“This gave each student the opportunity to make his or her own decision, knowing full well the consequences of the decision,” the principal said.
Eleventh graders who failed to take the exam would not graduate. Eleventh grade is the last class before graduation from high school in the former Soviet Union.
Just two days before the exams the principal suddenly received a phone call from the Education Ministry. The caller, an administrative assistant to a deputy education minister, said that her boss had written a reply to the principal’s seemingly lost letter and that the school could send someone to pick it up.
The principal said she lost all hope with the phone call, because the deputy education minister was the same person who had forced the school to change its name a few weeks earlier.
And that wasn’t all.
“Before the phone call, we had hoped that maybe we could give the exams on a different day and not be noticed by the education officials,” she said. “But now that the government had given an official response, it would be impossible to conduct the exam unnoticed.”
The principal was in for a shock. She recalled that when she tore open the letter from the ministry, she exclaimed, “That’s impossible! How the Lord is good!”
It turned out that the deputy education minister had left his office on an extended business trip, and the school’s request had been passed on to another ministry official, who had authorized the exams to be given on Sunday.
The principal eagerly shared the news with the students. But when they showed little emotion, she thought that they had misunderstood her and repeated the story. Then one of the students broke the silence with an explanation that the principal found even more incredible than the government’s last-minute permission to reschedule the exams.
The student said: “We never had any doubt that God would help resolve the situation.”
The principal found out that none of the students had signed up to take the exams at the public school on Sabbath. As she spoke with them, she learned that they had seen so many manifestations of God’s power during the difficult school year that they had decided God would not abandon the school over something as simple as Sabbath exams. The Muslim students had decided to join their Adventist classmates in standing faithful to the biblical Sabbath.
“Children from non-Adventist families saw how God is leading our school and believed with all their hearts that the problem would be resolved,” the principal said. “It was only we, the Adventist teachers, who were distraught with worry.” n