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Adventist Mission

Cesiah Y. Pimentel de Penniecook

School Built on Prayer

To Sabbath School teachers: This story is for Sabbath, March 18.

By Cesiah Y. Pimentel de Penniecook, a missionary from Mexico who teaches at the school of medicine and is the wife of Eustace A. Penniecook


his is the story of how a dream came true with the help of your Thirteenth Sabbath Offering.

In 2016, a Thirteenth Sabbath Offering was collected to help build a school of medicine at the Adventist University of Central Africa on the outskirts of Rwanda’s capital, Kigali.

For years, church members across the East-Central African Division had dreamed of having a medical school. There was a strong need for healthcare in the region.

The division president appointed a team to explore the possibility of opening a school of medicine. When the General Conference president visited the country, he met with Rwanda’s president and was invited to open the school.

The project, however, encountered numerous hurdles. Some people questioned whether it would ever happen. The list of challenges was topped by the need for money and a candidate to serve as the school’s first dean.

God provided funds from church members around the division. Then church members from around the world joined in by contributing to a Thirteenth Sabbath Offering in 2016. Dr. Eustace A. Penniecook from Costa Rica, who was teaching at Montemorelos University in Mexico, was invited to lead the project as the first dean, and he relocated with his family to Rwanda.

But that was just the beginning. The remaining challenges were many: fulfilling regulations, developing the curriculum, coordinating construction, and finding furniture, equipment, and faculty and staff.

Prayer became a key part of the project. Church members prayed across the division. Church members prayed around the world. A prayer group formed online for church members to pray in Costa Rica and Mexico, where Dr. Penniecook and his family were from.

“What should we pray about specifically?” the leader of the online prayer group asked day after day as church members gathered at 3 a.m. Rwanda time to pray.

Even non-Adventists prayed. One day, a non-Adventist couple visited the construction site.

“We are waiting for this school to open so we can send our daughter here,” the father said. “We know that you are facing many challenges. But we have a prayer group for this school, and we know that God will allow this institution to develop young minds.”

Finally, the curriculum was approved, and the school of medicine was finished and inaugurated on September 2, 2019. All that was left was a final state inspection of the premises.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Much-needed equipment was delayed at closed borders. But when all hope seemed lost, God intervened, and special permission was given for the equipment to be shipped to the school.

After two total lockdowns in Rwanda, the state inspection team finally was able to visit the premises and approve the school. The school prepared to accept its first cohort of students in January 2021.

Young people were identified as potential medical missionaries in every union of the East-Central Africa Division. Students were sought with the academic level and knowledge of English needed to meet the divine calling to serve as leaders in medical missionary work.

Another COVID-19 lockdown delayed the start of classes. International students were asked to stay at home until the lockdown was lifted. But four students were already en route to Rwanda and could not cancel their trips. So, they spent the lockdown in Rwanda, far away from the homes in South Sudan, Ethiopia, Cameroon, and Liberia.

Slowly the weeks passed. Finally, the school opened on March 8, 2021.

Today, the school of medicine is in full operation. Challenges remain, but school leaders have no doubt that God is in control.

Thank you for your Thirteenth Sabbath Offering that helped build the Adventist School of Medicine of East-Central Africa. Part of this quarter’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will build homes for new faculty members at the school. Thank you for your prayers and for planning a generous offering next Sabbath.