Although Noemi only attended our school for the last three years of her education, those were years of transformation where God worked powerfully in her life. Read Noemi’s story below in her own words as she is drawn in by the love of God, and that love changes her life forever.
We choose to build beautiful buildings so that our students will know the value of their education — and their value — and so that our students can attend classes without worrying about their surroundings
"WHAT AM I DOING HERE?"
When I first saw the school, I was amazed. How big, how beautiful it was. Where I studied before, it was a little room, really small. There were 27 students in my class and we were all the way in the back of the school. It was so hot because the roof was made of tin and only one window opened.
So it was a huge change coming here, seeing the buildings and how beautiful it all was. When I saw the school for the first time, I wondered what classes would be like. It was difficult at the beginning with rules and how demanding they are here. I felt a lot of pressure, and had a lot of homework – and actually had to do it, not like in my other school where it didn’t matter. Here it did.
At the first devotions, I didn’t know any of my classmates. They put us at the front and when they started to sing, suddenly everyone closed their eyes! And I was like, “This is so weird.” In our class there were three girls who had already been here a while, and there were three of us that were new. Out of us new students, though, I was the only one who wasn’t a Christian. So when they started to sing and pray and raise their hands, I just closed my eyes and thought, “Oh my God, what am I doing here?”
I really didn’t know what was going on. I had never seen that before. I felt so out of place, the most out of place I’ve ever felt. I was worried the teachers would punish me for not doing the right thing, and all I really wanted to do was sprint out of the room and tell my mom to put me back in the public school because what was all this?
"I knew that I would learn here. I knew I was in a good place."
A BETTER SCHOOL
I always believed that this school was better than the others. I knew that I would learn here. I knew I was in a good place in a good career stream, and I thought it might help me find work quickly when I graduated. My parents had already paid tuition, had already bought all my school supplies. I couldn’t ask them to move me to another school and buy a new uniform. That would be a double expense. And I was excited about my English class, because my English teacher was a Canadian who spoke English, not like in other places where they don’t really teach you English. I was really impressed by that.
So many times I said to my mom that I wanted to leave because I didn’t want to be here. And she said, “Well, if you want, I’ll take you out of the school and you can go somewhere else,” but at the public school, teachers don’t show up. We came at 1:00 PM, and sometimes at 4:00 PM we were already out. And there weren’t many classes. Sometimes, like in my English class, the teacher would come one day and then be gone for a month. We only ever learned the verb “to be.”
So, I didn’t want to go back to that again. I stayed. But there were a lot of times where I didn’t like it. The teachers were so demanding, and there wasn’t any free time in classes where the teachers left us and we didn’t have to do anything. My classmates, too, were so peaceful. The only thing they talked about is God!
LITTLE BY LITTLE
It didn’t sit well with me, how all they talked about was God and the Bible. I was so bored then. I missed my old friends. Everyone was telling me: “Behave yourself, God loves you, God says such and such.” How annoying, how boring that they only ever talk about that.
I felt like this place was a prison. And I would tell my friends from my old school: “I just don’t like it, it feels like a prison. I feel like there are teachers waiting and watching in every corner and I can’t talk with anyone!”
But over the months, God was talking to me in devotions. They slowly started changing me, little by little. At the beginning, I was scared of them. When I saw someone crying in devos, I thought they were crazy. And when they started to talk about “liberation” and “freedom” it scared me. What was happening to them?
In devotions, my way of thinking started to change. Sometimes I was bored, but the next moment, I was listening and opening my heart and my mind to what the teachers were saying. My classmates were talking about going to church, and I felt weird that they went and I didn’t. I thought maybe I should go, just to see what happens.
I learned the worship songs. At the beginning, I sang because I liked the songs, but little by little, that changed and I was actually participating in devotions. I started to feel a change. I was starting to worship. I started to tell God how beautiful He was, that He was marvellous, and I didn’t feel so weird about it anymore. And I wasn’t doing it out of fear of punishment anymore, either. So I started to sing, to pray.
(Top) Noemi presenting a project in English class; (middle) Noemi and classmate, Alejandra; (bottom) Noemi talking with visitor Kiara in English class (April 2019)
Noemi in an Independence Day parade, representing our school (Sept 2018)
“I DIDN’T WANT TO BE THE SAME ANYMORE”
My teacher Eva said that they saw a change in me after my first camp. In ministry [at camp], when I saw that people were starting to cry, I thought that was really powerful. It scared me, but I also started to feel it too. I started to feel peace, joy, love. I remember that I hugged Eva, and there I accepted Christ. In that moment I said that I didn’t want to be the same anymore.
Something in me had changed over all those months. I didn’t see my friends the same way. The way my old friends talked had started to make me feel uncomfortable. I loved clubs before, but after camp and feeling the presence of God… it was something marvellous. I gave thanks to God for choosing me, and decided to make a change in my life. I erased my bad music. It was really hard for me because music was something that I felt like identified me, it was a part of me. But I started to get rid of it, to make changes in my life.
It was so hard to leave worldly things behind, but I knew that in that camp, that God had done something in my life. Raising my hands or being on my knees felt like something worthwhile, and I started to really like devotions. The last time I went clubbing, I felt bad. I felt like someone was watching me. I thought, “I don’t want to be here anymore.” My friends were all shocked. They said: “What’s happening? That school changed you. You don’t want to dance anymore; you’re not like you were before.” Before, I loved clubs, but in that moment, I decided that I wouldn’t go to a club ever again. And I’ve never gone since.
I was Catholic, so at a certain age, I was supposed to have my Confirmation, but I told my mom that I didn’t want to. There was something in me that had started to question things. My mom said to me: “You told me when you entered that you wouldn’t become a Christian! We are Catholic and we have to stay that way.” I started listening to worship music at home, and my mom asked me why I was listening to that. “But you don’t even like that music!” she’d say. “Ah, it’s because you’re an hermanita [a sister of the church] now.”
And when I accepted Christ, my brother kept calling me hermanita and saying that I believed other things now. “Ah, here comes the Christian.” My family told me that what I was doing wasn’t right. My mom would say: “Maybe it’s for the best if we take you out of this school, because they’re changing you. We’re Catholic! You have to be Catholic. You have to be confirmed.” But I didn’t want to.
When I accepted Christ, I had to accept the change in my home, that they didn’t accept what I was doing. I think they missed who I was before. (I don’t even know who I was before.) Before, when I would go to parties, I would drink because it was fun, but I didn’t want to anymore.
"I gave thanks to God for choosing me, and decided to make a change in my life."
Noemi and the Bilingual Secretarial Skills class with their teacher, Eva
“I WANT THAT TOO”
My first year [at the school] was just about learning and leaving things behind. The first step. The next year, I decided that I wanted to follow Christ even more, because I saw the teachers, and they had such stable lives in God. Most of my relatives have problems due to their vices, and I didn’t want that for my life.
With Eva, I was amazed to see her husband working here, and that they were unified in their work and so happy. Eva would tell us that they went to church together, that they had a small group, and with all of that, he didn’t even drink! Most of my family drank. And Samuel and Eva were faithful to each other and to God. I said, “I want that too.”
I felt like because of my family, I had chains. I didn’t want those to be a part of my life. I didn’t want to get married to someone with vices. I wanted a family like Eva’s family. Or I saw Pastor Jervin and his wife Jasmin working here together. How can it be possible that they’re like this? I’d never seen this before. My mom always told me: “Men either like women, or their vices.” But in this case, they didn’t like either. So I saw those perfect marriages, and they were always under the hand of God. That impressed me so much, seeing their lives.
A GREATER DESIRE TO KNOW GOD
So this year [in Grade 12] I decided that I wanted to learn more. In Grade 11, I could never get up the courage to go to church. There was always something in me that stopped me. But my teacher Manuel invited me to his small group. He told me it was important that I come, and I kept saying “Maybe yes, maybe no.”
In February, we had to find a practicum placement and I hadn’t found one yet. No doors were opening for me. So I prayed and asked God. I was desperate! I said to God: “Well, if you give me this, I’ll go [to church].”
The day after I prayed, I found a place for my practicum. But I didn’t want to hold up my end of the deal. I was walking around with an unkept promise. So one day, without thinking, I told Manuel that I would go to small group that night. And I went and even from the first day, I liked it.
I started to feel closer to God. I started to read the Bible more. At first I didn’t even know where the books were, like “Where’s Daniel? Isaiah?” But I started to practice more each time, and I started to get involved more outside of the school. Each time, I left small group with a greater desire to know God. I had times of intimacy with God at night. I would read the Bible because I wanted to. And now, I felt good at school. I liked school. I followed the rules. Sometimes I would hear other students saying: “The school is so demanding!” and I would say: “No, man, you just have to follow the rules and everything will be fine!”
"Now, I felt good at school. I liked school."
Noemi at graduation (Nov 2019)
A CHANGE IN ME
Ever since I accepted Christ, I loved devotions. It feels like something totally different. There was something inside me compelling me to worship. But fights began again with my family. My grandparents, my aunts and uncles didn’t like that I was going to a small group. My grandma started to tell my mom that she shouldn’t let me go. My aunts and uncles made fun of me. They said “So you’re going to wear long skirts now, right? You’re going to marry an evangelist? If you marry an evangelist we’re never coming over to your house.”
I had to decide that it didn’t matter what they said. When they went to parties, they wouldn’t invite me anymore. They would say: “You don’t like parties anymore, so we won’t invite you.” When they went on trips and brought presents for their nieces and nephews, they would bring something for everyone except for me. They said I wouldn’t accept it, now that I was an hermanita.
Little by little, the rejection of my family stopped bothering me. The love that the teachers showed me and the relationship that I had with God was growing, so it didn’t matter to me anymore that they didn’t invite me to go with them, that my siblings made fun of me.
When I came home from small group, I started telling my parents what we talked about, what I had learned about God. I started to talk to them about the Bible. I wanted them to feel that love of God that I had felt. I wanted them to experience it too, and I wanted their marriage to be stable like the ones I had seen here. But it’s been difficult.
Now, my mom has told me that if I want to follow Christ, I can. She said that I’m old enough to make my own decision. I continued on in the small group, which has helped me a lot. I’ve learned so much there, and I’ve built relationships with a lot of people. I began true friendships, not like the ones I had before. Not like the ones I thought I had before.
This has been a year of a lot of changes. I don’t listen to worldly music anymore. I just listen to Christian music. Before, I watched telenovelas [soap operas with inappropriate content], but not anymore. There’s been a lot of changes in my life, and I hope that one day my parents recognize that.
One day, my teacher Manuel came to visit our family. I was really nervous, because I thought they were going to say something. But they said: “God is good” and “How good that you know God.” Sometimes they ask me to pray for them, and say: “We know that you have more contact with Him than we do.” So there has been a change in them, too. They’ve seen a change in me and I know that one day they’re going to know God too.
THE BEST PRIZE
The school has changed me so much. I thought it was going to be just another Christian school, just in name. But ever since that first devotion, I know that God did something in me, and over time he’s been perfecting that work that he started. I’ve started the process to serve in the church, and I want to be baptized, even though my family doesn’t want that. But maybe with time, they’ll accept it.
I’m finished my last year, and professionally I’m ready, because I have the best teachers. And I have the best prize, which is that I know God in my heart. I want to serve God, and I want my life to be blessed by Christ.
In November of 2019, Noemi graduated from our high school with honours.