by Glaucia Monteiro
It was the summer of 2017, and I had an important decision to make. I wanted to attend an Adventist university after graduating from my community college in Massachusetts, but I wasn’t sure where to go.
In that moment I chose to put the choice in God’s hands, asking Him for a sign. “Let the school that offers me the most scholarships be the one you have chosen,” I said. The Lord answered my prayer by showing me opportunities at La Sierra University. Soon after, I broke the news to my mom and then to my very conservative church. The pastor tried to persuade me to go to Southern instead, as La Sierra was “too liberal,” and my faith in God “would decline.”
The funny thing was, my faith was already declining. Yes, I attended church and participated in outreach, such as singing in hospitals and in nursing homes, but I was doing it all out of a sense of obligation. I didn’t yet understand that many of us have grown so accustomed to appearances that sometimes we let those appearances determine whether or not someone is a good Christian. I didn’t feel like I fit in, but I felt the need to keep up the pretense that I did.
Before I knew it, I was in California, all alone. One of my first classes on campus was the History of Seventh-day Adventism with professor Robert Roth, where we learned about the background of the church—not just the good but the bad, too. During one class session, something clicked. I saw that the church didn’t always get things right, and suddenly, I felt a sense of belonging. I had been an Adventist for 22 years, but no one had ever told me that there were struggles, confusions, questionings, and plain wrong assumptions of scripture. I had thought the church was perfect, and that I didn’t belong there because I was flawed.
In the aftermath of this class, it became clear that I needed to change my major to Religious Studies. I realized that even though I knew about God, I didn’t know Him on a personal level. “How can I love Someone I don’t know?” I asked myself. In my new-found sense of belonging, of being imperfect among other imperfect believers, I decided to get to know Him myself
In my excitement, though, I did something impulsive: I changed my major in the middle of the quarter and dropped all my science classes. This left me as a part-time student with half of my financial aid gone. I owed $3,000 on my school bill, and I only had a deadline of one week to pay it. How could I possibly get that amount of money so quickly? Again, I turned to God. I told Him that if He took me out of that impossible situation, I would serve Him for a year. And that is how the following year, I found myself living in Majuro, Marshall Islands teaching Bible to grades 6 to 12. It wasn’t always easy, but the Lord had led me to the right place. I made lifelong friends in Majuro, while also growing closer to God and helping change the lives of children.
When I wrote this article, I was sitting in my dorm room at a Collonges-sous-Saléve in France where I studied French through ACA. If you had asked me back in 2017 if I pictured myself traveling the world and fortifying my relationship with God, I think the answer would have been “yeah, right.” But at this point in my life, I can confidently say that I know God a lot more than I did before I arrived at La Sierra. And it’s all thanks to the open-minded teachers I’ve had, who encourage their students to ask the hard questions.
At La Sierra, I learned that God is my loving creator. In Majuro, I learned to know Him, trust Him, and love Him. And now that I have completed my time in France, I look forward to what the rest of my La Sierra experience has in store for me and my walk with my Savior.