Just before the Pennsylvania school closed temporarily, students say, they saw God is real.
“God is real.”
Those three words changed lives as God moved powerfully on the campus of Blue Mountain Academy (BMA), a Seventh-day Adventist school in Hamburg, Pennsylvania, United States, and in the lives of students.
Young people and staff gathered for a Friday evening bonfire at the end of a week of prayer. They had just learned that the school would be closing because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As they prayed and sang together, senior Esteban Grajales suddenly felt the need to go and talk to six friends. He knew he needed to go immediately.
Esteban asked others to pray and invited Henrique da Silva to go with him as he went from room to room in the dorm. “God is real,” he told each student. “And if He’s real, He wants your heart and your commitment.”
“I came to BMA because I wanted to grow close to God,” says Wilson Guerrero, a sophomore. “That night, Esteban visited my roommate, Kyle. They talked to him about God. I felt like the words were for me. They asked if I wanted to make a decision [for baptism], so I did.”
Sophomore Oscar Martinez had been feeling alone while sick and staying in his room. “Although I was born into a Christian home, I never felt God near me,” he shares. “However, while I was sick, I had a moment with God. I prayed, cried, and asked Him to show me who my real friends were.” That Friday evening, Grajales visited Martinez. “He told me, ‘God is real,’” Martinez continues. “I felt that God was talking to me and answered my prayer. That’s why I want to do my part and give myself to Jesus.”
Sophomore Gabriel Donati had told campus pastor Sang Hae Kim that he wanted to put God first in his life and be baptized. That very night, Grajales and da Silva visited his dorm room and asked Donati if he wanted to be baptized. “The opportunity was available for the next day,” he states. “I was happy about that.”
That Saturday (Sabbath) morning, six young men committed their lives to Christ through baptism. In the evening, students headed home as Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf closed schools due to the pandemic. Staff members prayed and wondered what would happen to the spiritual revival beginning across the campus as the school became quiet.
Students didn’t want to see their new commitment to prayer and Bible study to end. Instead, they wanted to share it with others. As the school transitioned to distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, students initiated a call to prayer each night at 9:00 p.m. for a week. Each evening, words of encouragement and Scripture, along with the invitation to unite together to pray, were shared on the BMA Facebook page.
At the end of that first week, sophomore Christina Gibbs spoke for a vespers devotional that was live-streamed through Facebook. Instead of ending after a week, the evening prayer time continued with students recording short worship messages, sharing Scripture, singing songs, and always praying. Each night for the rest of the school year, another student from somewhere in the world takes to the BMA Facebook page to share a message of God and hope, praying for their world and the BMA family.
“I am so proud of our BMA students and staff!” said Gary Gibbs, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Pennsylvania. “Throughout this school year, we have witnessed the Holy Spirit powerfully at work on campus.”
Gibbs believes it is a culture that permeates from the top down and includes not only faculty and staff but also the students’ parents.
“Principal Burney Culpepper and his staff are dedicated to BMA being a safe place where students not only excel academically but where they prosper spiritually. Every parent interested in their child’s spiritual welfare is being greatly blessed by BMA,” he said.