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Adventist Mission

Yelena, 16

Skipping School for Church

To Sabbath School teachers: This story is for Sabbath, February 13.

By Andrew McChesney, Adventist Mission


leven-year-old Yelena was walking home from school in Dmitrovgrad, Russia, on a Saturday afternoon when she suddenly remembered that she used to go to church on Saturday.

She hadn’t thought about church for a long time, and she wasn’t sure why she was thinking about church now. But an unusual desire welled up in her heart to go to church. She called Mother on her cell phone.

“Mother, remember we used to go to church on Sabbath?” she said. “Can I go there now?”

“Of course, you can go,” Mother said. “You don’t have to ask.”

Yelena arrived just in time for the sermon. She slid into a seat in the back and listened. Afterward, she saw her old Sabbath School teacher.

“Come again,” the teacher said.

Yelena smiled shyly. She wanted to
come back.

Yelena’s parents divorced when she was small, but they had taken her to church until she was 5. Then they had gotten tired of seeing each other in church and quit going to church all together. Yelena went to public school and had classes six days a week, from Monday through Saturday.

As soon as school ended at 1 p.m. the next Sabbath, Yelena immediately returned to church. She didn’t understand the sermon, but she tried to make sense of it. She liked being in the church where she used to worship as a small girl. She liked being among the other children in the church.

After a while, she started skipping classes at school so she could go to church earlier on Sabbath. A month passed, and she invited her older sister, Oksana, to go with her. Oksana, who was 13, agreed, and the two went together. Then Mother noticed that Yelena and Oksana were going to church, and she started going with them.

But then some church children moved away with their parents. Other children stopped going to church. Then Mother stopped going. Yelena also stopped going every Sabbath.

A church member noticed Yelena’s absence and asked her to help with the sound system. Yelena agreed, and now she had to go to church every Sabbath because the church members needed her. As she went, she also began reading the Bible and books by Ellen White regularly. She especially grew fond of “The Great Controversy.”

Mother saw that Yelena liked Sabbath School and was making good friends with the adults in the church. She started going to church again.

After communion service one Sabbath, Mother turned to Yelena with a serious question.

“Do you want to be baptized?” she asked.

Yelena had already thought about it, and she immediately said that she wanted to give her heart to Jesus.

Yelena took baptismal classes and was baptized. The water in the baptismal tank was terribly cold, but a warm joy flooded over her when she came out of the water. She had made the best decision of her life. She had given her heart to Jesus.

Yelena never went to school on Saturday again. Mother wrote a note to the principal, asking for Yelena to be excused from Saturday classes so she could worship God. The school gave her permission. But Yelena also had to make up Saturday schoolwork, and she struggled to make good grades.

Today, Saturday schoolwork is no longer a problem. After that school year, Yelena learned about Zaoksky Christian School, an Adventist day and boarding school located about 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) away from her hometown. She couldn’t afford to pay tuition, but a church member offered to help. Today she is 16 years old and in the eleventh grade.

“It is awesome to study here,” she said. “The teachers are kind, and they help me with my studies. I am very glad that we don’t have classes on Saturday.”

Part of this quarter’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help Zaoksky Christian School construct its own school building on the campus of Zaoksky Adventist University. Currently the boarding school borrows classrooms from the university, and your offering will help the children meet in their own classrooms. Thank you for planning a generous Thirteenth Sabbath Offering. Please pray for the children who are studying at the school.