Mission Field at Home
To Sabbath School teachers: This story is for Sabbath, June 24.
ictor and Eunice longed to serve the Lord as Seventh-day Adventist missionaries in a faraway country like Angola or Mozambique. But a 1974 revolution in their homeland, Portugal, seemed to end their dreams.
Things, however, were not as they appeared. When the Portuguese military ousted the authoritarian government, the laws changed. For the first time, the Adventist Church could open schools in Portugal. The revolution opened a new mission field at home.
In the months after the revolution, Victor and Eunice’s church congregation were drawn to Ellen White’s advice on education. They read, “In all our churches, and wherever there is a company of believers, church-schools should be established; and in these schools there should be teachers with a true missionary spirit, for the children are to be trained to become missionaries. It is essential that the teachers be educated to act their part in instructing children of Sabbath-keepers not only in the sciences, but in the Scriptures. These schools, established in different localities, and conducted by God-fearing men and women, as the case demands, should be built upon the same principles as were the schools of the prophets” (Review and Herald, July 2, 1908, par. 1).
The congregation decided to open a church school.
Eunice, a public-school teacher and fourth-generation Adventist, accepted an invitation to teach at the school just outside the city of Porto.
Her decision took a big leap of faith. The Adventist Church had never operated a school in Portugal, and everything had to be started from scratch.
“It was like going to Angola or another mission field,” Eunice says. “We had no tradition to follow. It was all new.”
Church members bought land for the school, and classes started in 1975. A small classroom hosted the first students — a group of children from the local church.
Enrollment grew as the school gained a name. Adventist parents from other churches began sending their children to the school. Influential non-Adventist families also enrolled their children, including a local pharmacy owner and the city mayor.
Eunice taught at the school until her retirement. Victor, who had worked for 21 years building electrical engines, went back to school and became a teacher. Both he and Eunice served as the school’s principal at different times.
Over the years, Portugal’s first Adventist school has turned out many mission-minded children, including a union president and at least 14 pastors and four literature evangelists.
Victor and Eunice have rejoiced in seeing children give their hearts to Jesus in baptism.
One of their favorite memories is of an older student, a young man of about 18, who came to the school from a non-Adventist home. He befriended a young Adventist woman working as a volunteer at the school. The two began to date and later got married. Today, the couple are faithful church members and have two grown daughters, one who is a physician and the other a Pathfinder leader.
Victor recalls a time when the city wanted to honor him for his contribution to education. City leaders proposed naming a street after him. “No, no,” Victor told them. “I don’t need that. I don’t need to be recognized. I would prefer that you name a street after the school.”
So it is that one of the city’s streets is named in honor of the Adventist school.
Victor and Eunice are now in their 70s. Looking back, they express joy that they answered a call to be missionaries at home.
“Back then, we were thinking about going to Angola or Mozambique as missionaries,” Victor says. “But because of the revolution we could not go. Then we realized that the mission field was here, too. The school and teaching have always been a mission to me.”
Eunice remembers a conversation that Jesus had with His 12 disciples after many other people decided not to follow Him anymore. Jesus asked the Twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” But Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:67, 68; NKJV).
Eunice agrees with Peter.
“‘If not You, who will I follow?’” she says. “If there was an Adventist school, then that was the place where I had to go.”
Education is a major way that the Seventh-day Adventist Church shares the good news about Jesus’ soon coming in Portugal. Part of today’s Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help expand Adventist education by opening an elementary school in Setubal, Portugal. In all, the Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help five mission projects in four countries. Thank you for your generous offering.