Our school planted a little church in Arvika, Sweden, a couple years ago, by the help of a generous family with roots in that area. The wife of the Union president where I live was was given a project from her grandfather, who wished that the money would be used to start a church and do mission work in what happens to be one of the darkest, most satanic part of Sweden (Sweden is well-known for its witchcraft and sorcery), where he lived.
When the president and his wife met Matteson at ASI in the US, the couple asked Matteson to help get this project going, and the fruits are wonderful. There have been a couple baptisms, and several community members are attending regularly, we have our own Bible-worker there, and there is another family doing amazing work there as well.
This Sabbath was a special one, because the newly born daughter of this family was to be dedicated. They had invited Elder Torkelsen to do the dedication, and since he was visiting here in Scandinavia to see family, and the ministries he supports, he was able to do it.
The dedication was beautiful, the family has two gorgeous children, and everything is wonderful. But that is just one of my blessings. My biggest blessing has its own beginnings that go back to my early teen years, when I was 14.
When I was 14, I was sent to a school called Advent Home, a school for troubled, at-risk youth. Yes, to answer the question that just entered your mind, I was a troubled youth. I was not the polite, friendly, nice person I try to be today. I had many issues with my parents, probably having to do with my identity as an adopted child, among other things. I was in a depression, some-what bipolar. One minute I would be a sweet, homeschool child, and the next moment, I would be screaming out at my parents in anger, yelling hurtful words and destroying things. This is a long story, which has many details, and I am not proud of this past, but, I am thankful to God for this intervention.
When I went to this school, I found out quickly that the only way for me to be able to leave the school was to finish the “Maturation Therapy” program in use there. It meant that I had to genuinely become a well-behaved, mature youth, and I would be there until I did so. After resisting this plan for about five months, I decided I had to do what it takes, and six months later I was graduating from the program, and moving on to regular high school. The program was really good, and even though I did not enjoy any of it (it was made not to enjoy, but to learn), I learned so much, and it turned my life around. I learned to be the nice, friendly person I strive to be today. And so much more. But that is a personal testimony for another time.
Fast-forward a few years, I was in Honduras, during my internship with Matteson. My classmate, Annie, was telling me about a dream she had. She wanted to start a school for troubled youth. When I heard this, I remembered my days at Advent Home, and I told her if she wanted to do something like this, my family owns a large piece of property in the mountains of Washington State, and she could possibly use it. She thought about it, but decided she wanted to do it in Canada, where she lives.
When I heard this, I started thinking. What if I did it anyways, on my property. What if I opened a school of my own for troubled youth, and used this piece of heaven that I call home as a safe plays for youth to turn their lives around, and learn to have the relationship with God that I have today.
I called a staff member from Advent Home, and asked her what she thought. She quickly responded, “Advent Home has just closed. You MUST do this. There are youth all over the US that need a program like this, and we cannot do it anymore.”
I then called the director, and asked him about my idea. He said, “You may use my program. You may even have my donor list, and any information you may need. I will even advise you on your board.”
I quickly got on my knees and praised God, and also asked, “Lord, what shall I do? I am only 20 years old, with no experience being a parent, or a director of any ministry, and I certainly do not have a qualifying education.”
I told my parents the plans, and they said they would share it with a couple church members that have experience working with troubled youth. (My parents used to work at Advent Home before I was born, and are very supportive of this idea). When they told me what the church members had said, I knew the Lord wanted this to happen. Both said that they would give everything to help this ministry happen. I already had two staff, a curriculum/program, and 30 hectares of land to use.
So, the blessings kept pouring in, people were getting interested, and doors kept opening. It seemed as though The Lord was saying, “This is the way, walk ye in it.”
Then, I started getting discouraged. What is a young adult like me doing something like this. I would be giving up my dreams of becoming a missionary pilot, marrying a nurse and living somewhere like Papua New Guinea serving God through in the jungle, risking my life for the salvation of souls. (Or would I?)
Finally, this Sabbath arrives. The Union president and I are chatting about life back home in Washington State, and I decided, why not ask him about this idea of starting such a school.
So I asked, and his response blew me away. “There is a HUGE need for such a school. The one we used to have(Project Patch) is no longer Adventist and they are teaching and using dangerous psychology practices.”
It gets even better. I told him I want to work in close union with the Church, and establish a relationship of trust. He said, “Then I am the guy you need to talk to. I’m all for it. Let’s MAKE it happen.”
WHAT??? Make it happen? He didn’t even say, “Well, I would need to talk with my board, and you would need to get legal documentation and so on and so forth, in order for us to consider your proposal*.”
If there was ever a prayer answered, it was this one. I have my Seventh Day Adventist church union on my side!! God is so good.