Light in the midst of darkness: Adventist teens share how the pandemic has affected their spiritual life
Voices filled the air, shoulders rubbed up against each other, friends linked arms and swayed back and forth; Hankin’s Hall was filled with high schoolers praising God. Before 2020 this was a Campion student’s everyday worship experience. Throughout a full year of living with the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been unable to worship together in the same way. How can we help each other connect to God through a mask? How can we show our love for each other from six feet away? Despite all the restrictions, God has still been at work at Campion.
Milka Mendoza, senior at Campion, felt it was especially hard being separated from her friends. “COVID has made it a lot harder to stay close with God. A big thing for me is being able to worship with my friends. Because we have to be home most of the time, that has happened less this year.” Despite the circumstances, Milka has managed to stay positive. “Through this pandemic, I have felt God’s presence closer than ever. Why? Well, because despite everything that has been happening, He has still found a way to bless me and the people that I love. Waking up with good health is one of the biggest blessings.”
The pandemic aroused doubt in many people, including Jayden Anggormas, senior. “My spiritual life was affected a lot by this pandemic. There were a lot of problems and doubts because I was worried about how my life was going to turn out.” Jayden realized that he had to let go of his doubts and just trust God. “I started to notice others around me lose their faith because the in-person contact was gone. It was really tough, but I found it to also strengthen my faith. Despite the discouraging setbacks, it reminded me that God is stronger. He can work through situations that are even worse, and by keeping this close to my heart, I was able to become closer with Him.”
Teens may find themselves wondering where God is in the midst of the pandemic, but some have been able to use this time to gain a clearer vision of God’s kingdom. “It honestly feels a little difficult to understand why God has "allowed" COVID to happen,” explained Mark Zelaya, senior. “However, if the world was perfect, we wouldn't look forward to heaven. I think that maybe God is allowing this to happen because He wants us to see how messed up and cruel the world is, and the sooner we accept that the sooner we'll want to be reunited with Him.”
Jayce Treat, Campion News Team
Levi Meszaros, husband of Chaplain Nancy Meszaros, has been officially hired as assistant chaplain to finish out this school year. Pastor Joe Martin retired from teaching Junior Bible this semester, so Chaplain Nancy took over those classes, giving her a full class schedule. Levi has been instrumental this whole year in assisting with music and the sound system for spiritual meetings, so it was natural for him to officially take on the role of assistant chaplain.
“I am glad that I can work at this school, and it’s a blessing for me that I can work with my wife,” Levi reflected. “My primary role is the behind-the-scenes work. For example, during the week of prayer, I was responsible for the speakers, sound, worship team, and slides. In the future, I would like to be able to help students’ spiritual growth with better and more uplifting programs.”
Jayce Treat, Campion News Team
After preparing throughout the first semester, the instrumental groups of Campion Academy serenaded the Campion Church last Sabbath.
Allegro Vivace Ringers performed first and played Let the Bells Peal. For children’s story Music Ring Supreme played I’ve Got Peace Like a River. The groups also accompanied the congregational worship music. To end the Sabbath celebration, Caritas Chamber Strings played Brandenburg Concerto for postlude.
It was a highlight to hear live music performances during the COVID pandemic.
Last week, 23-year Army Chaplain and award winner Dick Stenbakken enacted six key elements of the Gospel story every night for Campion Academy’s Week of Prayer. Throughout the week, he told the stories of Jesus through the Gospel John, Peter, Judas, a leper, a blind man, and finally, a Roman Centurion. The main purpose of these meetings was to help students better understand Jesus’ character through the experiences of first-person presentations.
“I’ve never seen Mr. Stenbakken’s performances before,” commented Haley Beckermeyer, sophomore. “They personally made me look at my life in a whole new light. They showed me how to see the Bible characters from their point of view rather than just reading the story. I felt like I could really experience the characters, like we lived in the same time period.”
Although never being trained in it officially, Stenbakken pointed out that all preachers and teachers have to “dabble in drama” at some point in their lives. “I’m a visual learner, and many other people are too. So when you see the character, the hammer, the nails, and the leprosy spots, it makes an impression that just describing it can’t do,” he explained.
Kylie Wehling, a junior, said, “I think it was cool to see what the characters in the Bible might have actually looked like. It was very interactive, relatable, and Mr. Stenbakken really captured my attention with his presentations.”
Not only are these drama performances influential to the audience, but he continued to describe how the presentations have changed his own life very deeply. “In order to develop a character, I need to get the story behind the story. I have to dig way deeper into the biblical text, as well as the historical and cultural background. As I immerse myself in the character, the message that character has comes alive. When it comes alive to me, then it does the same for the listener.”
In order to continue growing from this Week of Prayer, Stenbakken advised students to, “Study the Bible, and enter into it as an actor of the story, then read it again from a different point of view. Suddenly the story will become very real and personal, instead of something on paper. That’s the ultimate way of encountering God.”
Sami Hodges, Student News Team
The Campion Adventist Church and Campion Academy created a joint Fall Fest-themed Drive-in Vespers that brought the community and campus together last Saturday evening.
Lead Pastor Micheal Goetz explained that even though the usual combined events such as Prayer and Lunch (PAL) and Fall Festival can’t be held due to COVID-19, “We are unwilling to do nothing and act like life is on pause. So we took an idea that brought everyone together as safely as possible and had spiritual and social focus.”
Members from the community were invited to attend Campion’s special vespers, where they could listen to the music, drama and speaker from inside their cars in order to promote social distancing. Meanwhile, students in chairs that were spaced apart in the front of the parking lot.
As part of the worship time, Campion’s drama class acted in a Reformation Day skit to commemorate the actions of Martin Luther who sparked the Protestant Reformation. Literature evangelists shared their personal stories of witnessing before Pastor Matt Hasty challenged the audience to seek their identity in Christ.
After vespers, Campion Academy students and the community enjoyed a BBQ dinner and activities such as hayrides, doughnut eating, and egg tossing contests.
“I really enjoyed hanging out by the fire with everyone. It was warm and we had so much fun talking. We went to the baseball field to eat some doughnuts and it was good,” said Blet Htoo, sophomore.
Campion church member, Suzie Sendros commented, “My favorite part of the night was riding on the hayride to the field of games and competing for the top prize of doughnut eating champion or egg tossing queen!”
“What stands out most to our family was the camaraderie between the staff, students and community members, the laughing and singing and having some light hearted moments together!” Sendros reflected.
Tiffany Dien, Student News Team
Campion Church welcomed back the student body for the first Sabbath of the school year after an absence of nearly five months. “I love our church community, but our full community includes Campion Students,” commented Pastor Micheal Goetz. “It’s only been half of us for the last four or five months. It felt whole again. And you could tell the energy and enthusiasm was different.”
The church is now hosting two services to accommodate both students and community members. To keep doors open, the church can only hold 50% of its normal capacity in order to effectively maintain social distancing guidelines. “The two services are fun because there are less people in each; I get to look into more eyes when there are less people each service,” Pastor Goetz continued. “But it’s sad at times when I’m in a service and I wish that those in second [service] could hear the singing in first, or that the students in first could meet and connect with some of the great people in second. I want everyone to experience it all.”
Students attended the first service and were spaced apart so that they nearly filled the main sanctuary. “Church was definitely different because of Coronavirus, but it was enjoyable,” said Haley Beckermeyer, sophomore. “Being able to use our Bibles interactively and play games at Sabbath School was also really fun!”
After only having church online and outdoor vespers during the quarantine, the church officially invited members back to the building the last weekend of May. Last Sabbath was also the first time the church was able to use the new addition for the children’s Sabbath School classes.
On the first Sabbath of every new school year, Campion holds a special campus dedication, and this year it was spread out over the two services. Students were involved with music and children’s story, new faculty members were introduced, and the Rocky Mountain Conference Vice President of Education Lonnie Hetterle led a prayer over the students and staff.
Erin Johnson, a teacher at Campion, said, “I really enjoyed the service because it reminded us why we are here. While we are doing God’s work, we need a lot of prayer.”
Campion may have uncovered a new tradition worth continuing by allowing the senior class one last chance to make a lasting impact on fellow students. During the week of May 4th-8th, Campion hosted its last Week of Prayer for the academic year. This particular Week of Prayer was unlike any other, not only because it was held virtually through private zoom calls and was live streamed on Facebook, but because it was hosted entirely by the senior class. Chaplain Mrs. Eickmann and Technology Director Mr. Eickmann also worked very hard behind the scenes to make transitions between activities, speakers, and prayers seamless. Though current circumstances should have held the school back from gathering to learn about God’s Word, the message was clearly broadcast: focus on Jesus.
Mrs. Eickmann challenged the seniors to host all of the meetings from beginning to end. Responsibilities were distributed during senior Bible classes. Whether tasked with creating questions for Kahoot (an online quiz game) which brought many laughs to participants, sharing a favorite memory from years at Campion, or delivering a personal message reflecting Christ’s character, each and every senior had a part in ministering. Sydney Halvorson, a sophomore at Campion says, “Having the seniors host Week of Prayer was really cool. It gave us some insight into what their personalities are like, and it was nice to hear some of their favorite memories at Campion.”
Junior, Ireland Anthony, agreed that hearing from seniors was unique and a blessing. “I really loved the fact that it was all about the seniors this Week of Prayer because it’s their last one at Campion!” She continued to say, “something that stood out to me was that I have never heard some of the quiet seniors speak before, and they did a really good job.”
Mrs. Eickmann expressed, “I was super pleased with how Week of Prayer went. I was blessed every single day by those who presented. The seniors made me proud of how they stepped up, were real, and shared from their hearts. They inspired me! I loved having the seniors host it.”
Having seniors present the last Week of Prayer for the school year may become a new tradition at Campion Academy. The delivery of testimonies and memories allowed students to turn their eyes away from the worries, cancellations, and uncertainties this year has brought them and simply focus on Jesus.
Delanie Kamarad, guest contributor
Campion Academy is excited to welcome Nancy Meszaros as the new chaplain for the upcoming school year. Nancy was born in California but calls Ohio home, which is where she lived most of her life. She attended Andrews University where she started off as majoring in Pre-Med and Religion. During her second year, through the influence of her friends and family, she felt God was calling her to be a teacher and chaplain. Meszaros reflected, “Everyone was telling me that I was called to be a teacher and chaplain. I love the Bible and explaining it to others. I decided to switch my major, and I have never looked back.”
Meszaros comes from Armona Union Academy in California where she also worked as a teacher and chaplain. After visiting Campion, Meszaros shared, “I love how the student body was excited, energetic, and friendly. I could feel excitement in the air for learning about God.”
When asked about her goals as chaplain for Campion Academy, Meszaros explained, “One goal I have is to become a cohesive unit. I want to make sure we are all able to work close and well together. I want to see us all grow as a campus. I am excited to create events that bring solidarity and enjoyment for the students.”
She is married to Levente Meszaros who grew up in Romania. He is a professional opera singer and shares her love for ministry. They both are looking forward to moving to Colorado. “It has always been a dream for my husband and I to move to Colorado. The mountains are beautiful and the air is fresh and clean. I am excited to enjoy going hiking,” she said.
Some things Meszaros loves include music, being with youth, puzzles, and escape rooms.
Campion Academy is looking forward to having Meszaros as a part of our campus. Principal Reeder shared, “I was impressed with Meszaros’ desire to be a servant to other people. She loves to teach young people through Bible class, and we are excited to have her join us at Campion.”
Megan Michalenko, Student Editor
When I was young, I lived in El Salvador, where there were massive rain storms. Every once in a while, it would get so bad that church would be canceled, and we would have church at home. My family would put on our own mini church service with a sermon, offering call, and everything. Of course, that was before there was such a thing as online-church. Now, it’s a lot more convenient to have church at home. However, it still takes a lot of work to make it happen, and there are many dedicated individuals who have put in the work.
Many churches already have a media team and a live streaming system in place, but there have been other obstacles they have had to work together to overcome. Since outreach is such a huge part of the Adventist church's mission, it has become a major goal for pastors all over the world to make sure that they can still reach out and connect to their church families and the community. The church staff and members have been doing things like driveway visitations (while still respecting the parameters of social distancing), calling to pray with people, spirit weeks, and Instagram take-overs to name a few. Church leadership is encouraging people to get creative and find even more new ways to stay connected.
There are many volunteers who have also contributed and are making an impact. Sabbath School teachers record sabbath school lessons for kids. Whole families have joined together to provide music for Sabbath Schools and for the main service. Pastor Micheal Goetz of Campion church says, “We have seen an increase in individuals and families who are coming up with their own way to care and show ministry to other people. And that's really what the church has dreamed of being about.”
Many Campion Academy students have stepped up to help in their home churches. Ben Maxson, a junior at Campion Academy, says, “I run the video camera and help with sound and slides. I also help the associate pastor with the church’s social media presence. I also go with my parents when we visit people’s houses and just stand outside and talk. I love that I can stay active and help out my community.”
Many other students including musicians, Andy Obregón and Kylie Wehling, and speakers, including Robyn Quillin and Erick Maldonado, have all been involved in Campion Academy Friday night vespers. Campion Academy is also planning to have an online week of prayer the first week of May, hosted by the senior class.
Social distancing may have physically separated the church members, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t still gain a blessing by worshipping together at a distance.
Ashley Reyes, Guest Contributor
Last Monday evening began the first week of prayer for the second semester of the school year. The first three nights, students shared their personal testimonies. The final three days, members of Coming Out Ministries gave their testimonies as well. Each night the speakers shared personal stories on how God has worked in their lives and what God has done for them.
The theme song for this week of prayer was “Scars” by I Am They. The song had an overall theme of embracing the hard times you go through, and using the scars to get closer with God. This theme was also carried on into the messages of each speaker. Each one talked about their scars, and how they brought them closer to God.
Eddie Camacho, a senior, was the first speaker of the week. Eddie started off the first night with a relatable story about growing up Adventist, but learning the importance of finding God on his own is the only way to have a real relationship with him. The second speaker, Delanie Kamarad, talked about the importance of leaning on God and family when times are tough. Jayden Anggormas told his story while paralleling it to the biblical story of Samson. He talked about what his “Delilah,” or temptation, was and how God helped him overcome it.
“The students' testimonies really had an impact on me. I could really relate to some of their stories and it really helps in my own life to see what others go through and how God can help them through it,” reflected Lindsey Smith.
“The students had a lot of courage to stand up there and share what they had gone through,” noticed Lizzie Pearson. “It showed me how blessed most of us are to be where we are in life”.
Over the last three days, leaders of Coming Out Ministries gave their stories. They shared their scars: from homosexuality, to being transgender. Their message focused on sexual purity and overcoming through the love of God. They wanted everyone to know God can work in you no matter where you are in your walk with Christ. “I was heavily impacted by the openness of the speakers. Their testimonies encouraged me to develop a deeper relationship with God so that when hard times come, I can fall on Him,” shared Madi Jordan.
The end of the week of prayer was closed with Vespers Deluxe which is a special monthly Friday evening worship that is open to the community and includes an afterglow of doughnuts and praise time in the tower. Many students were in tears as they sang, being moved by the Holy Spirit.