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Adventist Mission

A Big Heart

My dog’s been shot!” Brayden blurted out in tears to his friend Payton. “Would you speak at his funeral?”

My dog’s been shot!” Brayden blurted out in tears to his friend Payton. “Would you speak at his funeral?”

Twelve-year-old Payton had never conducted a funeral, but wanting to help his friend, he agreed to do what he could. “I planned the whole thing out,” he said. “The dog is buried in my yard—Brayden and I dug his grave.” After Payton did the eulogy, the boys added the dog’s dish, collar, and squeaky toy before filling the grave.

When Payton and his family first moved into the neighborhood, Payton befriended Brayden and learned about the struggles he was facing at home. “I told him that I was a Christian, and shared my beliefs with him,” said Payton, “and then he told me, ‘I want to try that out!’ ”

Brayden began spending more time at Payton’s house and often spent the night—especially on Fridays, so he could go with Payton and his family to church the next day. Before long Brayden’s cousin Hunter wanted to stay with Payton, too. “So I was housing three people in my room,” Payton explained.

While Payton’s bedroom may be small, his heart is big. He befriended another neighbor, Wyatt, whose father committed suicide. At age 13 Wyatt had been kicked out of several public schools, and his mother didn’t know what to do with him. Payton spent time with Wyatt and invited him to come with him to Pathfinders and to church, along with the other boys, but Wyatt’s mother would not allow her son to join in.

Over the next three years Payton often shared his faith with Wyatt, and one day after hearing that they might be moving, Wyatt handed Payton and his sister, Stormy, a note. The note is so precious that Payton keeps it in the family safe.

“Dear Payton and Stormy,

Before you move I want to thank you. When you first came I had lost my way. I stopped going to church and didn’t plan on coming back. When we became friends I was trying to act tough, but on the inside, I wanted to be more like you, Payton. When the hard times came and I lost my father, talking to you was a comfort. I learned about God through you. You were and still are a hero, inspiration, and role model to me. Your parents should be very proud of you, knowing that you helped me find Jesus.”

Brayden’s Testimony

The Brown family had such an impact on Brayden that he too wanted to share his testimony:

“Paul Brown and his family are a true blessing to me. A few years ago when they moved in, my stepgrandfather asked Paul if I could mow his yard. Paul agreed, and soon a connection grew between me and his family, and I found out what nice people they are. His kids, Payton and Stormy, are very upbeat and friendly. Their mother, Christie, is really nice and is always there to help me.

“One day I asked Payton why they were always away on Saturdays. I thought it was weird that I couldn’t do any work for them on that day. Payton invited me to come to church with them. I liked it, but after a while started slacking off. Six months later I was back—this time to stay.

“I joined the Pathfinder Club. As we were coming back from a campout, Payton, my cousin Hunter, and I were talking about school. Hunter and I didn’t like our school because there were so many fights. Hunter said that he hoped someday to go to a Christian college. Payton asked, “Why don’t you just go to a Christian school?” Our parents agreed to let us go to Highland Adventist School here in Elkins, and Paul found sponsors for us. I like the school a lot. The teachers and staff are really nice, and the students are friendly, not fighting.

“One day as we were going to church, Payton said he wanted to get baptized. Hunter and I said that we wanted to get baptized with him. So we all took Bible studies together and were baptized on November 2, 2013.

“The church members are the nicest people I’ve ever met. They are always there for you. And the pastor, Don—there’s something about his preaching that just sticks with me. I like the people here a lot—they are like my second family that I’ve always wanted.

“Being able to come here and know about the Seventh-day Adventist Church has been a real blessing to me. No one else in my family is Adventist. They don’t understand why I don’t do some things I used to do. My stepdad can’t understand why I don’t eat pork—all my life I’ve eaten it, and at first it was hard not to eat it. But I’m glad I went off of it. I’ve seen a change in my weight and my personality. Everything is better since I was baptized.”