How a local Adventist church embraced a young professional immigrant.
At the age of 26, Tendai Dete had to embark on one of the biggest changes of his life. After rising through the ranks as an accountant for seven years, the global accounting firm he worked for decided to transfer him from his home country of Zimbabwe to Houston, Texas, in the United States.
Three months into his internship in Houston, Tendai’s superiors noticed his strong work ethic and made the transfer permanent.
In the summer of 2015, Tendai had moved halfway around the world to a place where he had no family, no friends, and no cultural attachment, which left him feeling lonely and overwhelmed.
“I had to deal with an extreme amount of culture shock,” Tendai says. “When I came to Texas, I didn’t know anyone and felt very out of place.”
While growing up in Zimbabwe, Tendai regularly attended church with his mother. He loved the feeling of community he experienced from being involved in church activities and participating in Pathfinders. Tendai longed to find that same sense of community again, which led to his discovery of the Houston West Seventh-day Adventist Church in Houston.
He began attending the church regularly and was instantly attracted to the church’s vibrant young-adult community. He met other young Adventist professionals and shared some of the challenges that he faced as a Christian working in a secular environment.
“There are times when work is highly demanding and very stressful,” Tendai says. “My faith is the anchor that holds me down.”
As Tendai became more comfortable at his new church, he started getting more involved in young-adult Bible studies, Friday-night vespers, and Sabbath School. Tendai naturally started to become a well-connected piece of the church. In the same year Tendai arrived in Houston, he became the main young-adult Sabbath School teacher and began teaching weekly Sabbath School lessons and even preaching a few sermons during the main service.
The congregation eventually asked Tendai to take over the young adult leader position in 2016, following his nomination by the previous young adult leader, who had been mentoring him. Being the young adult leader meant Tendai had to attend church board meetings to discuss young adult events and activities with other board members.
During one of these meetings in 2017, just after receiving his Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license, Tendai was approached by the church’s treasurer, who had noticed his accounting skills. Tendai was invited to be a part of the church’s finance committee and, within a year, was made assistant treasurer. After one year of mentorship, Tendai was made the full-time treasurer of the Houston West church and is currently working in that position. “I owe a lot of my successes to those who came before me,” Tendai says. “Without the mentorship I received from my church leaders, I wouldn’t be the leader I am today.”
“Many young adults want to be involved in church leadership,” Texas Conference young adult director Justin Yang says. “However, they are still waiting to be given the keys to leadership. It is the responsibility of church leaders to allow their young adults to be groomed into leadership positions. It is essential for church leaders to develop new leaders who can take the church to the next level and on to a brighter future.”
Although Tendai is no longer in a young adult leadership position, he is still very involved in many young adult programs at Houston West church, especially the church’s contemporary service, which is primarily led by young adults.
In Tendai’s native tongue, his name means “be thankful to God.” He hopes to continue showing God his gratitude through his excellent work ethic, and he is open to going wherever the Lord leads him.
The original version of this story was published in Winter 2020 edition of the Texas Conference The Flame magazine.