After attending a Lutheran school and getting a chance to study God’s Word in depth, two brothers become members to prepare for adulthood.
“At the time, I didn’t appreciate it fully,” says Anthony Lleonart, reflecting on his time studying at a Lutheran high school. “After graduating, I could see how devoted the teachers were and how they were really the essence of the Great Commission.”
Anthony and his older brother Alex first had a chance to study the Bible consistently while attending Divine Savior Academy (DSA), Doral, Fla. Now in college, the brothers appreciate the chance to have spent their high school years surrounded by teachers devoted to God’s Word. The brothers also attend church to maintain their relationship with God and grow in their faith.
A Christian start
Alex and Anthony were raised in their parents’ home in Miami Springs, Florida. “We didn’t grow up going to church,” Alex says. “I knew who Jesus was, but he wasn’t a main focus.”
Starting at kindergarten, they attended a religious school in their area. The school offered a religion class and church service once a week. During those early years, the brothers heard vague references to the Bible and its characters. “I thought the Bible was full of stories and myths,” Anthony says.
When Alex neared the end of eighth grade, he had to decide where to attend high school. One option was the local public high school, just two blocks from his house. “My mom told me of another school that was similar in size to the one I had attended from kindergarten to eighth grade,” Alex says. The school was Divine Savior Academy, 20 minutes away.
Beginning with his first day at Divine Savior Academy in 2010, Alex noticed the kind attitude of the teachers and students. He also realized his religious studies would be different at this school. “We had a religion class every day, and during it we studied the Bible. We looked at passages and what they meant,” he says.
Devotions for students were held twice a day, and chapel once a week. “Every day, the Word of God was present in the school,” Alex says.
A time to grow
After Alex attended Divine Savior Academy for one year, Anthony joined him there. Anthony also quickly realized that religion was a main part of the school’s curriculum. “They talked about Jesus and the Word of God differently,” he says. “I heard it in a certain way—it opened my eyes.”
The brothers enjoyed their time in high school. Alex was part of the second high school class to graduate. As a sophomore, he joined the boys’ basketball team. “It was the first time I had been on any basketball team,” he says. It was his first season, and the team’s second. The previous year, the team hadn’t won any games. During Alex’s first year with the team, they didn’t take home any wins either. The following year, however, the team had its first win. It ended the season with a total of three wins. “I liked the camaraderie and the training, pushing ourselves every day,” he recalls.
Both brothers viewed academics at the school as a rigorous regime. The dedication of the teachers made learning easy. “I was in a music class at DSA and learned to read notes and even play the ukulele,” Alex says. He took some honors classes and found the subjects intense and useful. “The academic basis was great and helped me at college.” He also took a web design class and learned the basics of coding. Anthony also enjoyed basketball, track, and serving as treasurer on the student council.
But for both brothers, the religion classes continued to be especially meaningful. “Each year the religion topic was different,” Alex says. The first year of high school included a look at the gospels, the second year covered the Old Testament, and the following years delved more into doctrine and maintaining faith during the college years.
Coming to church
Alex’s religion classes had created faith, but he had not learned the importance of attending church. The church associated with the school was located on the same campus, but he had not yet gone to any services. But looking ahead to college, Alex realized he wouldn’t always be surrounded by Christian teachers and daily doses of God’s Word built into the school day. “During my high school years, I had learned from the teachers to take care of my faith and not lose it. In the second half of my senior year, I knew I wanted to nurture it so it wouldn’t go away,” he says. “I decided to go to church to thank God for what he’s done for me and also to grow in my faith.”
One Sunday during the final semester of Alex’s senior year, he told Anthony he was thinking of going to church. “I asked if he wanted to come along, and he agreed.”
Anthony found church to be a natural progression after his school studies. “During my junior year, we went through the finer points of the Bible’s teachings and WELS, and I found my faith was in line with what I learned. It made me want to go from being a guest at church to becoming a communicant member.”
The two brothers took membership classes and joined the church.
After graduating from high school, Alex remained in the area for the following two years, getting an associate degree at a nearby collage. When Anthony finished high school, the two of them headed to the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida.
The move would take them away from their home congregation, but the brothers were prepared to continue their church attendance. “During senior year in religion class when we were discussing ways to maintain our faith, we had to look at a church we were interested in attending that was near the college we were enrolled in,” Anthony says. “I knew I was going to the University of Florida, so I looked for a WELS church near it.”
He found Zion, which also had a campus ministry. After moving to Gainesville, Alex and Anthony started attending Zion and became involved in the campus ministry. “We meet once every two weeks and read books together. Sometimes we watch a movie and evaluate it from a spiritual basis,” says Alex. Anthony serves as president of the campus ministry.
The chance to stay close to God’s Word helped Anthony with the transition into college. “Moving to Gainesville meant I was living for the first time on my own at 18 years old,” he says. “Things have changed, and college brings new challenges, but the campus ministry has kept me grounded.”
While the two don’t know exactly what the future holds, they are grateful to have a firm foundation in the Word of God. “It’s a blessing to be part of two churches and have the peace of God,” Alex says. “God loves us no matter what. We don’t have to worry about classes or how things are going. My identity is not defined by what my grades are—God loves us regardless.”
Author: Rachel Hartman
Volume 107, Number 06
Issue: June 2020
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- Confessions of faith: Brad Harris - 2020/10/28