Gabrielle Umana shares how touched her life through a small group study while attending the University of Michigan. Her candid and sincere testimony will inspire you to trust God and wait on him to give you deliverance in times of trouble.
by Joi McClellan, CAMPUS Missionary 20-21
You might be tossing around that ‘term’ in your head and thinking “Hm, I haven’t heard of that in a while.” In fact, you may not have seen a young adult in your church before the Divine Service since the last time the sweet ladies at church served breakfast. We are known for skipping. You don’t have to rub it in, we’re guilty. And yes, I have lived up to your low expectation. I was a delinquent Sabbath Schooler.
Since entering young adulthood, Sabbath School has never held much intrigue. I felt that most churches did not see its purpose and invested little to nothing in it, and frankly, neither did I. Going away to college, I quickly fell into the habit of being a regular Sabbath School absentee.
As the pandemic broke last spring and everyone was booted out of normalcy, like most other extroverted people in the world, I realized what a great loss this was to community and started searching for long-lost means for creating it. God came through in a most unexpected way. A well-meaning but annoying friend (annoying, that is, because she knew I was not a Sabbath School fan) was convinced that she and I must start a Zoom Sabbath School class. I was not in the least interested.
After reluctantly and barely participating for a couple of weeks, I was dragged further into what I meant to be a theoretical discussion on how to advance the potential of this Zoom class. That discussion quickly changed into a practical and joint execution. My friend and I started brainstorming about the fundamental elements and goals for a Sabbath School, considering resources that could actively plug the growing number of participants into the Word, and ways to build a space for Christ-centered friendship. If we were going to invest in this class, make people wake up and be present early on a Sabbath morning, it must be worthwhile. We wanted a Bible study that could keep us all on the same page, yet something with ample space to dive directly and actively into the Word. The topics needed to be straightforwardly relevant to our currently off-kilter lives. The newly minted General Conference InVerse Bible lessons were the perfect fit.
From March through the entire summer, there was a consistent, large, and geographically diverse Sabbath School group made of Adventist and non-Adventist students and young professionals alike. Being a part of this class I began to see the potential of what a young adult Sabbath School community, digging into the Word could produce. Organically, a vibrant Bible-centered community was birthed and each person was fully engaged and practically challenged.
Fast forward to August. The first weekend I arrived at CAMPUS in East Lansing, I attended my final Zoom young adult class. I had not realized how much my heart had been changed to love and value Sabbath School, and now found myself eager to engage in the Sabbath School in this new community. To my surprise, however, I found that the University Church did not currently have a young adult class. It did not take long for one of the CAMPUS fellows, Grady Yonas, and I to put our heads together, pray, and seek the steps necessary to start a safe, in-person young adult class.
Throughout the last eight months, the young adult class has been running, mostly in-person, but for phases of time on Zoom during holidays and lockdowns. There have been lulls and highs, but overall the class has experienced more consistency than I could have expected. There are non-Adventist young adults who come and participate— some who only come to church for Sabbath School and have only stepped into the Divine Service twice. In fact, the commitment has been the highest among those without an Adventist background.
The fundamental goals for this class have been similar to but further built upon what was done over Zoom. Our goals have been to maintain a discussion-based Bible study in which each person is engaged. Engagement is not based on whether a person has previously studied the Sabbath School lesson or not, but a study in which we together learn practical hermeneutical approaches to the Bible and walk away with not only theoretical but applicable lessons. In addition to Bible study, it has been our goal to see those who study together grow closer as a spiritual community that goes outside of the Sabbath School hour. Though every goal has not been reached perfectly, as leaders, we constantly and prayerfully reevaluate to further grow.
Personally, being a facilitator for this Sabbath School class has challenged my spiritual commitment and deepened my passion for studying the Word within community— not relying on someone’s pre-chewed exposition of the Word but digging into it, learning directly from the text and discovering together. By the kindness of God, He has taken me from being a dispassionate Sabbath schooler and has made me useful in a most unlikely area of His work.
Upuia Fineaso, Missionary Intern 2020-21 Detroit Program
Upuia Fineaso watched her parents’ conversion into the Adventist Christian faith at the age of five. She grew up going to a church Sunday with her mom’s family, and then to church on Sabbath with her dad’s family. Her dad was a back-sliden Adventist. However, her mom responded when bible workers came to promote an evangelistic effort in Sacramento CA. Her dad slowly started coming and soon both her parents made the decision for baptism and rebaptism into the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Although she had never felt a call to foreign mission, she always wanted to carry on what the Bible workers did when they helped her parents come into the church through inner city evangelism.
Upuia enrolled at Hartland College, graduated in 2019 with a health ministry degree, and became more familiar with CAMPUS when Jermaine Gayle came as a Resident. Then her classmate, Grady Yonas came as a Resident. While Upuia was applying to nursing school, she attended GYC Louisville and was praying for God to open up opportunities for ministry. The morning messages were from Sikhu Daco, and one morning she spoke about taking a year to be a missionary. Sikhu also talked about the importance of ‘purposing’ in your heart as Daniel did to follow God. She asked her parents about doing OYiM+ and went to ask parents, and her parents told her to wait; she took the advice and admitted it was her biggest regret.
Mission work was not in her parents plans. However, when God desires for a person to be in missions, and that person desires to do His will, He will give that person another opportunity. At GYC Houston, Upuia was praying once again that God would lead her to a ministry. Pastor Steve Conway talked about starting a Center of Influence in Detroit near Wayne State University. Originally Upuia looked for an OYiM opportunity in her home Potomac Conference, but there was none. So when she saw Pastor Conway again at another GYC, she asked him about the Detroit Center of Influence. At the end of the conversation, she was led to fill out the application at the CAMPUS booth.
However, Upuia had to submit her application three separate times due to the application shutting down. The application usually takes about an hour to fill out due to the essay questions. CAMPUS nor Upuia could figure out why the application continued to shut down. So, she interpreted the difficulty as the enemy not wanting her to apply to the program. Upuia preserved and after a month she was able to submit the application.
Now, she had to tell her parents, but she waited until she knew she was accepted. After her interview with the Conways, they let her know she would receive an answer in two weeks. Two weeks passed, and God impressed her that she needed to tell her parents. However, she delayed another week. Her mom was out of town and when she returned, God gave her the courage to talk with her mom and dad about being a missionary at the Center of Influence in Detroit. Two days later Pastor Conway reached out and extended an invitation for her to be a missionary in Detroit as a missionary.
“This is the first time I have diverged from their expectation for me about the future.” She admits “They want me to serve the Lord, but they also want me to be successful.” Her parents are more content now, but there was a lot of denial from March until July. Then August hit and she made preparation for leaving. This is when the reality of her leaving settled into the home. Up to this time, Upuia was a full-time student at her local community college and working part-time as a barista. This allowed her to help around the house, care for her younger siblings homeschool, and transport her brothers to functions; both her parents work full-time. Upuia loves her parents and deeply appreciates their advice, yet she also realizes that God is the one who led her to come to Detroit to help establish a Center of Influence near Wayne State University.
Originally she understood that transportation would be provided and she would not need a vehicle. So when someone offered to give her a car to use, she declined. Then a month before she was to come to Detroit, she learned she would need her own car. She went back to the person who offered her the transportation, and the couple was happy to help her. Now she has been able to drive to and from ministry opportunities this fall. God worked out all the details. In reflecting on her decision she shared, “God was so clear, I could not question. I would have been a fool to stay home and ignore the facts of his providence.”