A Sandwich, a Random Act of Kindness and a New Opportunity

December 22, 2021 | Education | Michael Lee

Stephanie Gonzales was standing in line at Subway ordering lunch one afternoon, when she saw Paul Munilla, a Sandpoint Junior Academy board member, reading a book. She struck up a conversation with him about the book, and as divine providence would have it, the conversation steered into the topic of Christianity.

He offhandedly shared with her that he was a member of the Sandpoint Seventh-day Adventist Church, that we have a school, and that she should come check it out sometime, almost without giving it another thought. Since Gonzales was ahead of him in line, she finished her order and ended up paying for his lunch. “I had just been blessed with a little extra money, and I wanted to pay it forward with an act of kindness,” she later would say. Munilla hardly had a chance to thank her, and didn’t get to talk much more with her before they parted ways.

That chance-meeting planted a seed that would lead Gonzales and her daughter, Baylee, to take a tour of SJA. “I had been wanting to get Baylee into a new school, especially a faith-based one, but I never thought it would be possible to make that happen,” Gonzales mentioned, as she recounted her visit. She also shared that she had had a negative experience in her last church congregation and was looking to find a new church community.

When Baylee met her teachers in the classroom, there was no doubt that this was where she needed to be. “You were so kind and welcoming," said Gonzales. "And when we saw that Mrs. Wall was the music teacher, it was great, because she was Baylee’s choir teacher in the after-school program at her previous school.”

Baylee was accepted at SJA and has been thriving as a student. When asked about her experience so far, Baylee said she “loves doing math” and that “friends here are more exciting [than in her last school].” 

“Baylee always comes home excited about history and science and Bible and shares what she is excited about,” beamed Gonzales. “She wasn’t excited about school before. This is a more positive environment. Ever since she started here, she is a whole new kid. Even other people who know her are noticing.”

It wasn’t until Baylee joined other SJA students in helping to lead praise and worship one Sabbath morning that Gonzales saw Munilla again. At the church, Gonzales and her daughter were greeted and welcomed multiple times and were also invited to stay for lunch. Gonzales' positive experience, her connection with the school as well as the initial conversation with Munilla, led to her to say, “I felt like we were connected naturally and normally when I visited the church. I want to get in the habit of coming to church regularly.”

It is wonderful when the church and school work in tandem to provide a positive experience for newcomers. In a world where tribalism and politics threaten to divide communities, our churches can be a haven where Jesus is lifted up, and all people are drawn to Him.