Soccer on Sabbath
To Sabbath School teachers: This story is for Sabbath, January 20.
leaning lived for soccer. He played soccer whenever he had free time after school in his hometown in northeastern India. When he moved to another town to prepare for state exams, he found other teens who played soccer and joined them on Saturdays.
But Cleaning was astonished to hear people singing hymns and praying to God on the other side of the soccer field as he played on Saturdays. The field was located beside the campus of a Seventh-day Adventist school and church.
Cleaning had been raised in a Christian family. He had studied at Christian schools all his life. But he had never heard of Christians worshipping on Saturday.
As he chased the ball around the field, he wondered, “Why are these people worshipping on Saturday instead of Sunday? Who are these people?”
Cleaning passed the state exams and completed 10th grade. He applied for 11th grade at a school in the town where he had prepared for the state exams, but he was rejected. Disappointed, he asked two friends for advice. Both boys planned to study at the Adventist school beside the soccer field, and they encouraged him to join them.
Cleaning applied to the school and was accepted. He was happy.
As the months passed, he learned why people had sung hymns and prayed to God while he was playing soccer on Saturdays. At the school, he read in Genesis 2 that God had set aside the seventh day of the week, Saturday, as a holy day at the end of the Creation week. He saw in Exodus 20 that God had reminded His people about the importance of keeping the Sabbath in the Ten Commandments. He realized that Jesus Himself had faithfully kept the Sabbath while living on earth and had never changed the day of worship to Sunday.
Cleaning told his parents that he wanted to join the Adventist Church. His parents, however, balked at the idea. Not wanting to disappoint them, Cleaning reluctantly decided against baptism.
Cleaning’s hometown didn’t have an Adventist church, and he missed Sabbath worship services when he returned home for vacation. He spoke to his parents and 10 brothers and sisters about what he had learned about the Sabbath at school. But they didn’t want to listen.
“It’s good that you are a student at the Adventist school,” his mother said. “But you don’t need to become an Adventist.”
Father sounded a more ominous note.
“If you choose to become an Adventist, you will have no part in this family,” he said. “You will be thrown out of the family.”
After graduating from 12th grade at the Adventist school, Cleaning enrolled in a non-Christian college in the same town. But he felt uncomfortable. He sensed that he didn’t belong. He longed to study in a Christian college.
While playing soccer one day, Cleaning heard from an Adventist teammate about an organization of Adventist student missionaries called the 1000 Missionary Movement. Cleaning liked the idea of being a student missionary, and he sought out the local leaders of the organization.
Before long, he joined the Adventist Church and spent eight months as a student missionary, teaching fourth-grade children.
His parents were not pleased that he had become an Adventist. But he no longer lived at home, and there was little that they could do to punish him.
Meanwhile, a desire grew in Cleaning’s heart to become a pastor, and he enrolled at Spicer Adventist University.
Today, he is a second-year theology major who is hoping to reach the hearts of young people through soccer.
“My aim is to become a pastor and also reach young people in the community through soccer,” he said. “I would like to open a soccer academy and minister to young people. As you know, many young people love soccer. Through this sport, I want to reach young people and bring them to Jesus Christ.”
He said he has found freedom in knowing and following the Bible.
He longs for his family to enjoy the same freedom.
“I strongly believe in the words of John the apostle in John 8:32, ‘And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,’” he said. “Please, pray for me as I prepare to become a minister of the gospel.”
This quarter’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help build or rebuild six Seventh-day Adventist schools like the one where Cleaning first learned about the seventh-day Sabbath in India. Thank you for planning a generous Thirteenth Sabbath Offering on March 30.