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“I grew up thinking that I must go to another region or country so that I would be considered an authentic missionary. Well, things have changed and so have my perceptions of mission work and being a missionary. Today, the mission work is in our very own backyards,” says Sheldon Schultz.

Mission in Our Backyards

By Sam Nagala

June 10, 2009

On Tuesday, June 2, I had the privilege to visit the Aboite Christian School in Fort Wayne, Indiana. As I walked the halls and talked with the students and staff, I caught a glimpse of how a small number of dedicated people with a big vision can make a world of difference. 

In the Fort Wayne area alone, there are over six thousand refugees from Myanmar (Burma), who have immigrated from the refugee camps of Thailand. These refugees, who suffered much persecution, came to America because they were forced out of their country by the military due to decades of ethnic tension. Members of the First Fort Wayne Seventh-day Adventist Church felt a burden to help these struggling families and found a beautiful, effective way to go about it. The ministry to the refugees really took off in the summer of 2007 when the school board chairman, Mac McAllister told Sheldon Schultz, Aboite Christian School Principal, “Go, find us some students. We will find a way to fund them.” Within two weeks, Schultz had recruited eight Adventist Karen (pronounced kah-REN) refugee children.

Once these students enrolled, their friends began asking if they could come as well. Praise God, they were able to raise tuition assistance for a total of eleven students so far. I grew up thinking that I must go to another region or country so that I would be considered an authentic missionary. Well, things have changed and so have my perceptions of mission work and being a missionary. Today, the mission work is in our very own backyards,” says Sheldon Schultz, as he reflects on this exciting missionary endeavor.

It was obvious by the way the students and teachers interact, that the refugee children feel like part of the family. Not only does the school provide them with a sense of belonging, but they have experienced academic growth and spiritual enrichment. Several students commented to their teachers in how they notice their English skills are better than the refugees who attend public school. During both of the annual spelling bees in 2008 and 2009, at least one Karen student won the spelling match in their grade category. Their English, math and writing skills have improved immensely. Best of all, one Karen student committed her life to God through baptism into the SDA church even though her Buddhist parents were not happy with her decision. Nevertheless, they value the school and continue to allow her to attend.

Some of these students and their parents have experienced and witnessed terrible persecution when in Myanmar. One of the students witnessed a Burmese army officer pour a pot of boiling water over the head of a twelve year-old boy, killing him simply because he would not tell where the Karen men of the village were hiding. Some bare scars of hand-grenades, beatings, bullet wounds and other methods of torture. To these children, spending each day in a safe, loving, Christian environment is the most life-changing gift anyone could give them. Currently, the Aboite Christian School has to turn many students away because of lack of funds. Please pray that God will pour His blessings out on them so that they can enroll three times as many needy refugee children and have funds left over to build a much needed gymnasium.

Did you know, according to the US Department of Homeland Security, there are 2.6 million refugees currently in the United States? They are in desperate need of a loving Christian friend to not only help them survive in a foreign country, but to lead them to Jesus. Here are some suggestions in ministering to the Burmese and Karen refugees near you.


  1. Learn why they are here, about their history, and culture.
  2. Befriend them.
  3. Pray for their salvation and their physical, emotional, and social needs.
  4. Reach their hearts through education. Organize fund-raising events with your local church and/or community to enable refugee children to attend Adventist schools. Provide after-school programs for children and youth to keep them safe and out of trouble and/or provide English classes and/or tutoring.
  5. Show the compassion of Jesus by helping them with transportation to church, doctor’s appointments, filing legal papers, shopping for groceries, etc.
  6. Lead initiatives to help provide community gardening projects and job search/training programs.
  7. Health care professionals can help provide free medical and dental treatments plus preventive health care seminars and cooking classes.
  8. Provide SDA Karen Bible workers to bring the gospel to them by donating to Adventist Southeast Asia Projects (ASAP).
  9. Contact ASAP ( or Terri Saelee (, the North American Division Refugee Coordinator, for more ideas and support in reaching out to them.
     Hsa Law being baptized
     by Pastor Ramon

     Staff (L-R) are:
     Stephine Wines, Sara
     Ensign, Sheldon Schultz,
     Nadine Schultz.
     Kevin Schultz helps
     Yeh Yeh make a clay
     handprint for Mother's Day.

Aboite Christian School Students. Grades Junior Kindergarten through Grade 8, 2007-2008 School Year.
Pee Tur and Yeh Yeh enjoy the school swings.

Sam Ngala, a native of Myanmar, is studying at the Andrews University Theological Seminary and working at Adventist Southeast Asia Projects.