March 1, 2013
Online Journal - “What Makes Your School So Special?”
Shad Lehmann, Educational Superintendent, Manitoba-Saskatchewan Conference, Saskatoon, SK

After I graduated from Canadian University College, my first job was in the small community of Hazelton, British Columbia.  During my three years there I had many unique experiences which lead me closer to God; the following story is one of those experiences. 
On our way back from a grade 9 class trip in Terrace, BC we came upon a long line of traffic.  The students were content playing games in the car and the driver didn’t want to get out in case the line happened to move, but I felt crowded in the front seat and, wanting to find out the cause of our wait, I got out of the car and began walking down the road.  It did not take long to find out that a mud slide had blocked the road. 
After walking about two kilometers along the road, I turned around to head back to the car.  Before going very far a man in his late 60’s asked me if I knew why we had to wait.  I explained what I knew and we began to talk.  He explained that he was on a retirement trip with his wife and son.  He also told me that he had taught microbiology at the university level and now owned a company that created vaccinations.  He then said “and what do you do for work?”  I explained that I was a grade 5-9 teacher in a small Adventist Christian school in Hazelton.  I knew that this would open up a discussion that I was unprepared to defend.
The first question came quickly and without hesitation: “How can you teach in a school that believes in creation?”  And before I had the chance to formulate an answer the next questions came: “What makes your school so special?”  I will admit that I had very little to add to the conversation, but God lead me to ask a few questions as he made his statements to support evolution.  God also lead me to keep quiet and not try to defend myself or creation as this man built his argument.  As the conversation neared the end and traffic began to move again I asked this retired gentleman one last question.  “As an evolutionist do you believe that there is something after this life and do you believe in the greater power of God?”  It turned out that this one simple question had stumped his evolutionary thought.  He had to think about the thousands of students that he had taught, and even the many lives he may have contributed to helping with his company’s vaccinations.  After a long pause he finally responded with a disappointed look in his eyes: “Well, I guess not.” 
Over the years I have prayed that the one last question I asked was enough to get a rigid evolutionist thinking about God.  But he also made me think: What makes my school so special?  During our conversation he pointed out the many things that would make our schools far weaker than the secular system.  I would argue that in many cases our perceived weaknesses are actually what makes us strong, however this does not answer the question as to what makes our school so special? 
There are two quotes from Ellen G. White which I feel should embody every Seventh-day Adventist school and show how special they are.  The first comes from the book “Education”, page 17: “It is the work of true education to develop this power, to train the youth to be thinkers, and not mere reflectors of other men’s thought.”  In a world of perceived choice our children need to be able to think and make their own decisions, and not just be swayed by the world.  
The second comes from “The Ministry of Healing”, page 143: “Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, “Follow Me”.  If we look at the order of this statement we see the best way for our teachers to reach their students and the best way for our schools and students to reach the community around them.  Our schools must be Christ-centred institutions that teach students to be thinkers, but above and beyond that, to prepare students to reach others for Christ through service.  What makes Seventh-day Adventist schools special is that we are training students to be Christ-centred, thinking leaders who will follow Jesus’ method of service to others to reach people for His kingdom.  No secular school can contribute to God’s kingdom in this way. 
So the question stands, “What makes your school so special?”