Dwayne Duncombe II, a 6th grade student at Peterson-Warren Academy in Inkster, Michigan, and speaker on the final night presented on The New Earth, said he was excited to present. “It was also very enlightening. | screenshot Lake Region YouTube channel.
Lee, an eighth-grader, was involved in the “Countdown to Eternity” livestream series which began on Nov. 15 and was hosted by students from four Lake Region Conference schools.
The focus of the seminars revolved around the book of Revelation and end-of-time events and each night a different topic was presented. The series was streamed on both Lake Region’s YouTube channel and Facebook page.
“This evangelistic series has strengthened the students' spiritual life,” said Helen Bryant, Ph.D., Lake Region Conference Education Superintendent. “They were asking theological questions such as, ‘What is the mark of the beast?’ I know seeds have been planted and I believe the Lord will do the rest.”
Each night “Countdown to Eternity” began with a welcome and opening prayer, followed by a health nugget and the Countdown theme song. The message for the evening followed, flanked by a review quiz, closing remarks, and finally closing prayer—all done over the course of the series by 60 students from Shiloh, Peterson-Warren, Capitol City and South Suburban.
Several students, such as Lee who was the speaker for the second night, weren’t new to public speaking. Nevertheless, when she gave her sermon entitled “End Time Events in Bible Prophecy, she said, “I was kind of scared, and a little bit nervous since it was going to be put on TV.” But she was emboldened to speak the name of Jesus.
Dwayne Duncombe II, a 6th grade student at Peterson-Warren Academy in Inkster, Michigan, and speaker on the final night presented on The New Earth, said he was excited to present. “It was also very enlightening.”
While the students didn’t write the sermons, everyone, including Duncombe, agreed it was a positive experience. He said, ”I was learning from preaching it, also.”
Peterson-Warren Academy Principal Lynette Jefferson explained, “It was also a revelation for them, to learn some things that maybe they haven’t particularly heard before. It was a two-fold blessing: We shared [the gospel] with others and prayed that they understood some new things, but also it helped the students to grow spiritually.”
2020 has been a year unlike any other; nevertheless, the challenges it has presented also provided opportunity. “We have high expectations of our students,” said Fabiola Andre, principal at Chicago SDA Christian School. In the face of such pressure, the students of Lake Region Conference certainly rose to the occasion, not only just during this series, but also throughout the school year.
Seeing Peterson Warren Academy’s student body present “Countdown to Eternity” back in 2017, “left an impression on me,” said Superintendent Bryant. So much so that she reached out to the series creator and Detroit’s Burns Avenue member, Tim Gardner, Ph.D., for assistance in bringing the evangelistic series to the schools in 2020.
The schools began laying the groundwork for this initiative on September 13. Keeping students on course with their regular classes, while simultaneously hosting a virtual evangelistic seminar was no small undertaking.
Under normal circumstances, a production of this magnitude would have come together a bit more effortlessly; however, due to the quarantine and the ongoing rise of COVID-19 cases, school principals had to dig deeply into their supply of creativity and resourcefulness to film and record the series.
“We physically had to coordinate the picking-up of students,” recounted Alexandria Miller, principal at South Suburban Elementary School in Park Forest, Illinois. Although students were recorded at nearby churches, the effort in coordinating filming times and transportation, making sure students remember their respective scripts, while following proper physical distances was no easy task. “The teachers need to be given an award!” said Bryant.
Over the next two months, Gardner spent his time editing the student’s video recordings, piecing them together with music, and aligning them with the format of the program. “It was quite an aggressive timing schedule. [We were] praying each step of the way,” Gardner recalled with amusement.
Gardner pointed out that there were obstacles along the way. “Of course, if ever you have that kind of undertaking, the enemy gets busy. It was a battle, everyday some issue would come up,” he said. However, “I can honestly say, God guided our whole process. Every issue that came up, every challenge that came up, God’s spirit was right there, and he helped us to overcome every obstacle that came up. It was incredible how all the pieces, the kids, the teachers and the principals, everything started coming together. It all came together, and God gets the glory for all that.”
In reflecting on the “Countdown to Eternity” program he created in 2008, Gardner said he was proud seeing the students of LRC execute the seminar. “Personally, I am amazed at what God can do with willing vessels. Be it kids, or elders, or laypeople. If you are willing and obedient. . . it is an awesome privilege to be used by the Spirit of God.”
Elijah Horton, Chicago-based freelance writer