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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 said a few words and prayed, the boys added the dog’s dish, collar, and squeaky toy before filling up the grave.

When Payton and his family first moved into the neighborhood, he became friends with Brayden and learned about some of the hard things he was going through at home. “I told him that I was a Christian and I shared what I believed about God,” 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 them to church the next day. Before long, Brayden’s cousin, Hunter, wanted to stay too, so Payton had two other boys sharing his room.

One day, Brayden, talked about how much he appreciated Payton and his family. Here’s what he said:

“A few years ago when Payton and his family moved in, my step-grandfather asked Mr. Brown if I could mow his yard. He agreed, and soon we became friends and I found out what nice people they were.

“One day I asked Payton why they were always away from home on Saturdays. I thought it was weird. Then Payton invited me to come to church with them.

“I also joined the Pathfinder Club, and started going to the Highland Adventist School here in Elkins. Mr. Brown found sponsors for Hunter and me. I like the school a lot. The teachers are really nice, and the students are friendly.

“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 are Adventists. 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 stopped eating it. I’ve seen a change in my weight and my personality. Everything has gotten better.

Another Friend

Payton is also friends with Wyatt. Even though he was just 13, Wyatt had been kicked out of many schools. Payton invited Wyatt to come with him to Pathfinders and church, but Wyatt’s mother would not let him go. Over the next three years Payton kept being friendly to Wyatt.

One day, after hearing that Payton and his family might be moving away, Wyatt handed him and his sister, Stormy, a note:

“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, an inspiration, and a role model to me. Your parents should be very proud of you, knowing that you helped me find Jesus.”