Connecting Columbia Union Seventh-day Adventists

Justin Montero and Spencerville youth pastor Stephen Finney pray with Jacob Harris at Harris’ baptism. Photo credit: Juliana Baioni

Spencerville Adventist Academy Offers Student a Second Chance

Story by Heidi Wetmore

When Jacob Harris was 8 years old, his family moved from Liberia to Maryland so his father could serve as a Lutheran minister. Harris was bullied in school because he was not from the United States. He decided that he didn’t want to be different and started hanging out with gang members. That decision led him to an unhealthy lifestyle including drugs, fighting and crime.

Harris began burglarizing homes and stealing cars. One day while he was out, a SWAT team came into his house. His cousins, at home at the time, were terrified. This shocked Harris and he realized that they were being caught up in the consequences of his actions. He wanted to change. Arrested and charged with grand-theft auto and burglary, among other things, Harris prayed and promised God that he would change his life.

After his trial, all charges were dismissed except for disruption of the peace. He went to a special private school to help him overcome his drug addiction. But after that year away, Harris relapsed and began hanging out with old friends. A military school stint didn’t help either. Back in Maryland, he drove by Spencerville Adventist Academy (SAA). He applied and told the admissions team his story.

Registrar Dawn Thompson felt especially convicted to vote for Jacob’s acceptance. “He was so transparent and honest in his answers. He seemed to feel certain that our school could make the difference in his life that he so desired,” says Thompson. “He had maintained good grades throughout and I felt that he just needed to have a chance to change his life.”

Harris began a new life as a senior at SAA this year. During November, Chad Stuart, Spencerville Seventh-day Adventist church senior pastor, held an evangelistic series at the church and the academy simultaneously. Harris attended the school meetings and wanted learn more about the Sabbath, the state of the dead and the doctrine of hell. “It all made sense to me, but I wanted to know more,” he says.

Harris began taking Bible studies with Justin Montero, a Bible worker with a similar past. They connected, studied together and Harris was baptized in March at the Spencerville church.

Before graduating Harris was active in the spiritual life on campus and preached and rapped his testimony at various churches and chapel services. The SAA Broadcast Journalism class has made of video of his story. When asked what the future holds for him, Harris says, “I would like to study theology. I just like learning about God for myself.”

Feature photo caption: Justin Montero and Spencerville youth pastor Stephen Finney pray with Jacob Harris at Harris’ baptism. Photo by Juliana Baioni


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