Recruiting students to attend Seventh-day Adventist colleges and universities is one of the most adventure-filled jobs in the church.
Imagine traveling to distant exotic places (like North Dakota, Kenya, California, Hong Kong or Brazil), where you spend exhaustive hours talking with students and parents about life goals, personal finance, educational achievement and spiritual commitment. And all the time you think about the challenges a student will face by traveling to a new and different community like Berrien Springs, Michigan. It's never easy, but it's always exciting.
The recruiting adventure is best when you are constantly praying for God to lead you to the students He has prepared for your visit. Recruiting is far more than finding students and enticing them to come to your school. It's following God's lead to the families whose prayers He is answering through you.
Like last August when Niels-Erik Andreasen, Andrews University president, flew to Brazil with a small recruiting team and visited several Seventh-day Adventist high schools and colleges.
"We came to Instituto Adventista Petropolitano (IPAE) near the city of Rio de Janiero," says Niels-Erik. "I had been studying Ecclesiastes and had chosen to use a little story from chapter 9, verses 13 and 14 for my sermon."
The "little story" is one you probably haven't read recently. It's about a small town that was attacked by a powerful king—and was saved by a man who was poor but wise.
Niels-Erik told the story directly from Scripture and listened carefully as his words were translated into Portuguese. Nowhere in the presentation had anything been said about where the story is found in the Bible.
"When the translation was finished," Niels-Erik remembers, "I was sure that no one in the room had ever heard the story before, and so told the students that I would give a full one-year scholarship to anyone who could give me the text where the story is found. I knew I was safe."
What Niels-Erik didn't know was that the angels had been preparing one very special student for his visit, and for his sermon.
As an IPAE senior, Francisco Silva Jr. had been worrying about his future. His dream to be a Seventh-day Adventist pastor seemed impossible, yet his daily prayer was for God to "open the doors so he could go to a university and study for the ministry." His mother constantly encouraged him, but his work as a colporteur in the favelas of Rio wasn't bringing in enough money to even cover his high school costs.
The night before Francisco prayed his "pastor" prayer and then opened his Bible to study. Instead of the verses he had been reading that week, the pages opened to Ecclesiastes.
"It was like an angel's voice," Fernando remembers, "telling me to study Ecclesiastes nine."
Francisco listened closely to Niels-Erik's sermon, thinking about the Ecclesiastes stories God had led him to study the night before. Then he heard the offer.
"I have decided to award a full one-year scholarship to any student who can tell me the text where this story is found."
Francisco burst from his seat as if angels were lifting him to their shoulders.
"I know, I know the text!" he shouted. "It's from Ecclesiastes 9:13, 14, and I'm going to Andrews University to study to become a Seventh-day Adventist pastor!"
It was a cheer-filled worship service.
Dick Duerksen is the "official storyteller" for Maranatha Volunteers International. Readers may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.