The official history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church began in 1860 with the choosing of its name and the incorporation of a small publishing association in 1861. With this humble beginning, Adventist believers started to view themselves as an organization. They united into local conferences, and the Michigan Conference was established in October 1861. Up to this time
The Ministry Expands
By Anna Galeniece
The official history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church began in 1860 with the choosing of its name and the incorporation of a small publishing association in 1861. With this humble beginning, Adventist believers started to view themselves as an organization. They united into local conferences, and the Michigan Conference was established in October 1861.
Up to this time, Ellen White’s messages had been directed mostly toward supporting the believers in their faithfulness to God and biblical doctrines, sustaining the publishing work, and pointing to the need of church organization. Now the time came to enlarge the vision of Adventists so they would start to see the expanding mission of the church. Thus, in May of 1863, 20 delegates from six of the seven state conferences1 decided to get together and organize the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists as the central governing body.
On June 5 (sometimes dated June 6 because it happened after sundown on Friday), 1863, just two weeks after the first official General Conference session, and several years after the consolidation of the church’s main doctrines, the Whites were visiting the Hilliard family in Otsego, Michigan. While there, Ellen White was taken into a vision that lasted about 45 minutes. She was given a comprehensive health reform message2 that God wanted her to deliver to the believers. This was not the first time she was shown the need for a healthier lifestyle. In 1848 the Lord revealed to her the danger of using tobacco, tea, and coffee,3 and in 1854 He revealed that houses of the saints should be kept tidy and their appetites must be controlled.
FAMILY PORTRAIT: James and Ellen White pose with sons Willie (middle) and Edson (far right) for a family picture in 1865, two years after the death of Henry (inset, left).
The comprehensive vision at the Hilliard home not only included the benefits of having a healthy body and surrounding environment, but also presented the close connection between health and spirituality, which is not just a personal matter of the believer. Ellen White saw that this message “should wake up minds to the subject”5 because of its social and mission implications. In addition to these new understandings, the year 1863 ended up with a missing page in the White family album. Their eldest son, Henry Nichols, became sick with pneumonia and died on December 8, at Topsham, Maine. It was a heavy blow to the parents, especially to his mother, to lose their 16-year-old son, a “sweet singer,”6 because of their ignorance of simple home remedies with which they became acquainted in the near future. Just two months after the death of Henry, the family’s third son, Willie, became sick with the same disease. This time the mother applied hydrotherapy with fervent prayers that sustained and healed the boy.
However, the results of the great controversy battle—sickness, pain, and death—did visit the home of God’s messenger several times. Earlier, the White’s fourth child, John Herbert, had died at the age of just 3 months in 1860.
The Learning Continues
The year 1864 marked at least several important events in the ministry of Ellen White. First, she published the fourth volume of Spiritual Gifts, subtitled “Important Facts of Faith: Laws of Health, and Testimonies Nos. 1-10.” It included a 32-page chapter describing the comprehensive health message revealed to her on June 5, 1863. At the same time she finished the pamphlet Appeal to Mothers.
A visit to James C. Jackson’s medical institution, “Our Home on the Hillside,” in Dansville, New York, in early September of 1864 was another significant event that took place. On their trip to Boston, Massachusetts, the Whites stopped at this medical institution and became impressed with the natural treatment they observed there.
Ellen White, however, did not fully agree with Jackson’s approach to health reform. She had a better understanding on the subject from her health visions. Thus, she continued the writing on health-related topics and published six pamphlets entitled Health: or How to Live in 1865. Through the subjects of health, nutrition, and lifestyle Ellen White called people to faithful observance of God’s natural laws.
Extensive travel, preaching, writing, the publishing work, leadership responsibilities, and a number of other obligations, in addition to various family tasks and poverty, took a toll on James White. On August 16, 1865, he collapsed from exhaustion and became stricken with paralysis, the first of a series of strokes that also affected his personality. Thus, in addition to her burden of being a prophet, writer, speaker, counselor, and mother, she had to also take care of her sick husband.
In December 1865 the Whites were able to travel to Rochester, New York, and stay at the home of friends. They assembled together on Christmas Day to pray for James’s deteriorating health. During that time she was taken into a vision in which she was instructed on how to aid her husband’s recovery. She was given important guidance on establishing a health-care institution in which the proper principles of health would be implemented and taught to the patients. This vision, integrating health reform with religion (Rev. 14:12), became instrumental in preparing the church for a wide mission and, consequently, for the second coming of Christ.7
Six months later, during the General Conference session in May 1866, Ellen White counseled church leaders on the need of establishing a health-care institution. They accepted the new challenge of health education and treatment. This decision led to the launching of a new journal, The Health Reformer, and the Western Health Reform Institute, the forerunner of Battle Creek Sanitarium, just months after the session.
Obedient Servants To be a faithful instrument in God’s hands includes not only preaching and teaching others about something good, but also following the revealed will of the Lord all the way through. Thus, obeying God’s directions even during the cold winter weather and against the advice of their friends, Ellen took James for a preaching tour to northern Michigan as an aid to his recovery. At the very end of 1866 this trip was crowned by James’s partial restoration of health, and their ministry expanded. For a while the Whites engaged in farming and writing, but a 20-week itinerary in 1867 took both of them on another trip during which they held 140 meetings. It “drove Ellen into unabashed public speaking.”8 She presented messages to small and large crowds equally. For example, in September 1867 Ellen White spoke at the “convocation” meeting in the Illinois-Wisconsin Conference. Then she spoke at a similar meeting in Iowa. The success of these two meetings encouraged the General Conference to sponsor the first official camp meeting in Michigan in September 1868, where she spoke to about 2,000 people.9 When God calls people to perform something for Him, He equips and gives them strength, courage, and power. This is clearly seen in the life and ministry of God’s messenger in advancing the mission and message of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
1 Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, and Wisconsin; Vermont sent no delegate. 2 Ellen G. White manuscript 1, 1863; Ellen G. White, Spiritual Gifts (Battle Creek, Mich.: Seventh-day Adventist Pub. Assn., 1864), vol. 4a, p. 153; Review and Herald, Oct. 8, 1867; Apr. 2, 1914; Apr. 30, 1914. 3 Ellen G. White, Selected Messages (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1958, 1980), book. 3, p. 273. 4 Ellen G. White, Manuscript Releases (Silver Spring, Md.: Ellen G. White Estate, 1990), vol. 6, p. 221. 5 Ibid., vol. 5, pp. 105, 106. 6 Ellen G. White Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), vol. 1, p. 103. 7 Ibid., pp. 485-494. 8 Arthur L. White, Ellen G. White: The Progressive Years, 1862-1876 (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1986), vol. 2, p. 185. 9 Gary Land, “Camp Meetings,” The Ellen G. White Encyclopedia (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 2013), pp. 676, 677.
Anna Galeniece is director of the Ellen G. White Estate Branch Office, Adventist University of Africa in Nairobi, Kenya.
Loving a God who knows us better than we know ourselves. Discovering a surprisingly colorful picture of God in the Psalms, Some time ago a friend of mine told me that this is a true story.
Visions of God
Discovering a surprisingly colorful picture of God in the Psalms
By Paulo Cândido de Oliveira
Some time ago a friend of mine told me that this is a true story. A religious man was smoking a cigarette under a truck trailer. Someone asked him why he was smoking under the truck. He answered: “Because down here God cannot see me.” Understanding God is the foundation of any spiritual life. Because I grew up in a nominally Catholic country, for me this vision had to do with grandeur, solemnity, and distance. It was a matter of place, time, and right behavior. I was taught that God lived in heaven but that we could meet Him three times a week, if faithfully attending church services, and that I should behave well in His presence. In my daily life I perceived Him more like a grouchy old neighbor, constantly snooping around to catch and punish me for doing something wrong. I would mostly avoid Him except in desperate situations.
Later I met a very different God in the book of Psalms. I found Him on the streets, in shops, on corners, and in homes—always involved in the lives of people. I was surprised to see a colorful picture as He reveals Himself amid life’s messiness. The vision of God in the book of Psalms introduced me to three characteristics of God that changed my view of Him and paved the way to spiritual vitality.
Present, Not Distant
The first characteristic, and maybe the most striking reality in the Psalms, is that God is always close to us (Ps. 139). The distorted vision of a distant God seems to be a widely shared assumption. It is easier and safer to deal with a distant God. He is less intimidating, more mysterious, and, perhaps, holier.
Much to my surprise, the Psalms showed me that the closer I got, the more I saw Him as the one who lives enveloped in the light of glory (Ps. 104:1, 2) and whose power and majesty is beyond human comprehension (Ps. 8; 139:6). I was surprised to realize that the holy God of the Psalms did not focus only upon my sins and shortcomings (Ps. 130:3, 4). The direction of a heart loyal to God seemed to be more important than the state of the heart (Ps. 106). The sacred poems and hymns invited me to come boldly and humbly to find security, peace, and rest under His shadow (Ps. 91:1, 2). In this intimate closeness I understood where lives are transformed and where we receive the strength to be faithful. Then it was just a matter of allowing Him to pull me toward Him. I suddenly realized that we could neither leave nor come into His presence. Rather, with no possibility of secrets, we exist in His presence (Ps. 139:7).
"I was wrong. God is not distant, silent, or angry."
Active, Not Silent
A second characteristic is God’s active engagement in human history (Ps. 135:6, 7). The distant God I knew was also a silent one, rarely seen or heard. I was puzzled as to how He could be mostly absent and mute in the face of misery and vastly unconcerned with humanity’s chaos. In awe I watched the slow unveiling of the face of a God who doesn’t leave humanity to its own fate, or nature to its own laws. The Psalms revealed Him as exercising control over everything (Ps. 103:19), including nations and nature (Ps. 9:7, 8; 104:14, 15, 27, 28).
Today, social and natural upheavals create a sense of uncertainty and anxiety. But the assurance in the Psalms is that God holds the future—our future—in His hands (Ps. 16:5). It was comforting to learn of His care for the one He knits together in a mother’s womb (Ps. 139:13), and I finally came face to face with His providence (Ps. 138:7, 8). He hears our prayers and responds with protection, freedom, and salvation (Ps. 18:5, 6, 16-19). His eyes follow us as beams of light in the darkest night. He hears those who are in desperate debt (Ps. 103:8) and is a refuge when we face danger (Ps. 57:1). He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry (Ps. 107:8), while faithfully standing on the side of the needy (Ps. 109:31). Furthermore, He reminded me that He lovingly blesses the faithful and the unfaithful alike (Ps. 104:5-31). I smiled in surprise as I recognized how He makes Himself known, full of compassion and mercy (Ps. 111:4).
Loving, Not Angry
Finally, His third characteristic pointed me to the silhouette of a loving God. When I started out, I saw the picture of an angry, unhappy God. But the pictures hanging on the walls of the book of Psalms are not of a frowning face. It was a breath of fresh air to understand that He has a sense of humor (Ps. 2:4) and gives joy and happiness (Ps. 4:5-8). He specializes in turning darkness into light (Ps. 18:28) and even enjoys joyful noise (Ps. 100:1, 2). I wanted to run to Him when the Psalms revealed that He was not the grouchy God seated on a cloud with lightning in His hand ready to strike those who disobey Him. Now I could enjoy Him as the source of contentment (Ps. 126).
I couldn’t get my eyes off Psalm 136, in which He insists on declaring Himself as the loyal loving one. The authors of the Psalms—David, Asaph, Korah, Moses, Heman, Ethan, Solomon, and Jeduthun—all trusted God (Ps. 130:5) and understood that to know Him is to trust Him (Ps. 9:10).
Israel’s history is full of terrible acts of infidelity toward God. They range from envying Moses and Aaron to sacrificing children to demons. Israel rejected the Promised Land and ate food in honor of Baal. Yet in spite of all the evil actions of Israel, He still responded with mercy and care (Ps. 106).
I was wrong. God is not distant, silent, or angry. He longs to give prosperity and blessings to our families (Ps. 128; 144:12-15).
If those who argue that God doesn’t exist are fools (Ps. 14:1), so are those who think God won’t see them under a truck trailer. Fortunately, God doesn’t leave us alone to construct a black-and-white god after our own image. The real God, in the real world, walks on our dirty streets and listens to our most mundane and trivial conversations. He wets His hands wiping the tears of the poor and the scared. He smells tragedy and hears the agony of the lost. He smiles at children playing. He joins in joyful songs at our weddings and takes note of the vows of young couples. He whispers creative ideas into the ears of poets and gives new harmonies to musicians. He is the God of everything that is human: truly, a safe dwelling place (Ps. 90:1).
Paulo Cândido de Oliveira was born in Brazil and currently serves in the Middle East. He is married to Liliane, and they have two daughters. God the eternal Father is the Creator, Source, Sustainer, and Sovereign of all creation. He is just and holy, merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. The qualities and powers exhibited in the Son and the Holy Spirit are also revelations of the Father. (Gen. 1:1; Rev. 4:11; 1 Cor. 15:28; John 3:16; 1 John 4:8; 1 Tim. 1:17; Ex. 34:6, 7; John 14:9.)
Does God always do what He says He will do? And the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day”
A Promise Is a Promise
By Dennis Meier
“And the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day” (Gen. 18:1).*
The fire that completely destroyed Malden Mills on December 11, 1995, in Lawrence, Massachusetts, was one of the biggest factory disasters in the history of the state of Massachusetts. Following the tragedy, affecting thousands of workers, Malden Mills CEO Aaron Feuerstein announced that he would keep his employees on payroll—and that he would rebuild. Most clothing factory insiders had expected Feuerstein to take the huge insurance check and rebuild the factory in Asia where most North American mills had relocated. Was he really serious or was this just a public relations stunt? In Genesis 18, God shows His faithfulness by visiting Abraham’s camp and enjoying the blessings of a shared meal. God not only comes to eat delicious food. He has come to visit with his friend Abraham. In fact, there is a special reason for this meeting, since this is not the first time that God has come to Abraham. In the course of the conversation the reason for this particular meeting becomes clear. If you look closely, you will find that only a few verses earlier (Gen. 17:21) a similar encounter had occurred. God had said to Abraham: “But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year.”
The Reason for the Visit
God’s visit at the Oaks of Mamre has a backstory. God comes to repeat a promise that was either not taken seriously or not heard correctly. Somehow Abraham must have “heard” the promise without really “believing” it. We can use our “sanctified imagination” to picture the scene. While all the others are talking and enjoying the sumptuous meal, God unobtrusively leans over to Abraham, and there ensues the following dialogue:
God: “Abraham?” Abraham: “Yes, Sir?” God: “About the talk three months ago—do you remember?” Abraham: “Of course, Sir, the thing with the covenant and the great nation and the circumcision, right?” God: “Yes, exactly. So Abraham, what do we need for a great nation?” Abraham: “People! Many people!” God: “Well, Abraham, where should they come from? Remember My words!” Abraham: “Well, obviously from me—and Sarah.” God: “That’s right, Abraham. Let’s be direct: I spoke to you three months ago and I said that in one year Sarah shall have a son. Do you remember?” Abraham: “Yes, but I thought that . . .” God: “Apart from thinking, what did you do, you and Sarah, along the lines of multiplication?”
Then God repeats conspicuously loud the words: “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son” (Gen. 18:10).
Now we know why God had to visit Abraham in Mamre. Three months had passed, and nothing had happened. God’s promise had been “heard” as an empty phrase. Perhaps the promise had been spiritualized. Perhaps Abraham reasoned, as theologians often do, that there was a hermeneutical problem, a problem of interpretation. In any case, action did not follow the promise.
A promise that is not applied, not lived out, remains an empty phrase or becomes an oracle.
God Visits Us
Followers of Christ have a whole bag full of promises in their luggage. God has given them to us. Sometimes they are applicable to everyone; others are very personal.
A promise that applies to all of us, and is meant as seriously as the announcement of the birth of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah, is the following sentence spoken by Jesus: “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). We have to realize how radical this promise is. It is not dependent on whether we feel Jesus close to us. It is also not dependent on whether we always do the right thing. Dogmatic correctness is not a condition for its fulfillment. It applies unconditionally to all who are partakers of the kingdom of God (verses 18, 19). There are times in our lives that we’re not sure if Jesus is with us. Serious illness, disappointment, or depression may cloud our sense of God’s nearness.
But there is another lesson: God’s second visit teaches us that it is not about religious words, but about the fact that promises may require action on our part. Abraham would have the promised child only by enjoying his conjugal obligations with Sarah. The fulfillment of the promise comes through action; through action we express our confidence in God.
After I had preached about this concept, a church member who had suffered greatly from an illness asked me a tough question. He wanted to know why his prayers for healing had not been answered. Others had prayed for him according to James 5, and he had read the promise of healing literally (James 5:15: “The Lord will raise [the patient] up”). How could he in a practical way claim this promise and live it? The answer, however, does not lie in a mechanical do this and then that will happen. Promises are trustworthy pledges of a loving relationship. In Jesus’ promise found in Matthew 28:20, the Master says that He is there until the end. Then He is there—even if we do not notice it. Why? Because only One who loves me and wants to be near me can make such a pledge. This promise is also true for disease and illness. It could mean that healing is not always a visible improvement for us; it could come only later, and sometimes only in the resurrection. But even that is also a matter of trust.
The promise is lived in faith, and faith grows in a relationship; a relationship in turn grows when we invest in it. Relationships are the perpetual motion (perpetuum mobile) that scholars have sought after for centuries: they are driven by their own energy, which they themselves produce. Strictly speaking, therefore, it is not about claiming a promise in order for it to be fulfilled (the so-called name-it-and-claim-it theology), but rather to act, because we know the One who has promised. Then we can move forward, because we know God is there. Through prayer we can take Him with us into our daily life. We can let go. The text simply says: With God, nothing is impossible (cf. Gen. 18:14).
A Fulfilled Promise
God’s promises were fulfilled. Sarah actually became pregnant and gave birth to a son. In the letter to the Hebrews Sarah is praised for her trust in God (Heb. 11:11).
By the way, my sick church member is much better. And CEO Aaron Feuerstein kept his promise. Keeping his employees on payroll during the reconstruction of the factory in Massachusetts cost him more than $25 million and ultimately control over his company—but he did what he said he would do.
God keeps His promises. No matter what you’re going through, He does not leave you. The promise applies. Now get up and live it.
On the brink of losing everything, Zuki and Pali Mxoli went forward anyway. Zuki and Pali, husband and wife, clasped hands as they stood together on a small grassy mound and gazed at the beginnings of a new Adventist church.
Builders for God
By Sandra Blackmer
Zuki and Pali, husband and wife, clasped hands as they stood together on a small grassy mound and gazed at the beginnings of a new Adventist church. What are we doing? they each silently asked themselves. How foolish can we be? Pali looked at her husband and spoke out loud the words they both were thinking: “Is God really leading in this project? Are we truly following His plan?” Zuki didn’t answer at first. Instead, he drew her to him as he began walking around the two-story structure still in early construction, peeking inside windows. He envisioned children singing and praying in Sabbath school classrooms while adults sat together in comfortable pews, studying the Bible. The community room would easily hold a few hundred people, providing opportunity for fellowship, eating meals together, and planning outreach programs. It would be an impressive structure, a place that would honor God and welcome visitors. But it could cost him and Pali everything they had—everything! Does God truly expect that from us? he wondered. Maybe we should just explain and apologize to the people and move on. Surely they will understand. Zuki’s inner turmoil threatened to overwhelm him, but he let his thoughts drift back to when the project first began.
Zukisani (“Zuki”) Mxoli, a successful architect and property developer living with his wife, Palesa (“Pali”), and five children in Johannesburg, South Africa, always made time to share his faith with others. Not only did he talk about God with friends and coworkers—Zuki was also a lay preacher and evangelist. Leading out in numerous Weeks of Prayer and evangelistic meetings, Zuki rejoiced whenever he saw people accept Jesus as their Savior. “I’d always had a passion for evangelism,” Zuki says, “but sometimes I struggled between running my business and soul winning. On one hand, I had to rush about to try to make money, to make a living for my family and me; on the other hand, I needed to prepare sermons and preach. It was a big dilemma.” Zuki and Pali began praying about the situation, asking God to resolve the conflict. The Lord impressed them with the Bible text: “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). The Mxolis took this to mean that God wasn’t asking them to give up their business, but instead to use it as an evangelistic tool. So the question was “How do we minister to others with a contracting business?” The answer? “Build a church.” “We found a congregation in Katlehong that had purchased a site and a basic steel structure but had no money to construct the church,” Zuki explains. “They had been struggling to raise funds for many years. They were worshipping in a very small classroom—a lot of people stuck in one small room—and trying to build a church. They invited us to come and preach, and while we were there, that’s when it hit us: Ah! We can help these people! We have the skill, the means, and the money! We were blessed with considerable profits from building projects, so we decided to use the profits from one project to build a church for this group for free. We encouraged the members to continue raising funds, however, so they could pay for specific things they wanted for their church. The profits from the rest of our building projects would be used for our family’s living expenses. We would do this once a year: find a group that needed a church and build it for them for free, and the rest of the income would be for us. “That’s what we thought would be good and fine and acceptable to the Lord,” he says.
Not Going as Planned
Zuki told the church members that God would provide the means, and that his company would build their church at little or no cost to them. The people were ecstatic! Things, however, didn’t go as planned. Right after the builders had set the foundation and began building up the walls, the project from which Zuki planned to use the profits to build the church fell through. The local municipality leaders challenged the land agreement, and because of that the bank refused to fund the client any additional money. The church-building resources dried up almost overnight. “We asked ourselves, ‘Now what?’ ” Zuki explains. “Do we tell the church folk, ‘Look, we’ve done this much, so you can now finish at your own pace?’ Or do we continue? We decided to continue.” Zuki began using profits from other building projects, funds that were to cover his family’s living expenses, for the church project. But it wasn’t just a small church with four walls and a roof that Zuki had designed. It was an expansive, impressive, two-story facility estimated at US$300,000. “As recorded in Exodus, God was specific regarding the building of His sanctuary,” Zuki notes. “He required fine linen, pure gold, the best wood. So we decided that we must do our best for this church to glorify God.” At first Zuki and Pali were not overly concerned about losing the project money; the Lord had blessed their business, and they believed they still could provide the funding. New projects generally arrived quickly at their door. But now, for some reason, that wasn’t happening. “We weren’t getting any work at all,” Zuki says. “I did everything that I’d been doing for the past 15 years, but it wasn’t working. So, basically, we dried up our savings in order to fund the church construction.” The situation, unfortunately, went from bad to worse. With no new work coming in—in spite of all Zuki’s efforts to “put the company out there”—and with almost all their income being used to fund the church, the couple was barely scraping by financially. In time they no longer were able to make even their mortgage and car payments, and the bank eventually threatened to repossess everything.
Confronting the Challenge
“Repossession was the biggest challenge we were faced with,” Zuki says. “We weren’t sure what to do. So together we prayed to God. When we stood up from that home prayer corner, we looked at each other, and in unison we said, ‘We continue with the church.’ ” In spite of the counsel of their lawyer and accountant, who told them to “stop being foolish,” Zuki and Pali pressed on, remembering 1 Corinthians 2, where it says that the things of God “are foolishness” to those who are unbelieving, but not to those who have “the mind of Christ.” It wasn’t an easy decision, though. The financial stress was causing turmoil and stress at home, and the couple sometimes felt confused and discouraged. That’s when Zuki would say to his wife, “Let’s just drive to the plot. Let’s just go to the site.” “We would spend two hours there, just walking around as the people were working,” Zuki says. “Then so much peace would come, and we would feel assured that this was what we must do, no matter the cost to ourselves.” He adds, “The church folk didn’t know about our situation. They were just praising God for the wonderful thing that was happening. And those smiles! They gave us the strength to continue. We just knew that God wanted us to build this church. And our personal focus began to change. Instead of praying for money to buy homes and cars, we were simply praying, ‘God, help us to finish the church.’ ” Finally, after not making house and car payments for three months, the bank set the date to repossess everything of value belonging to the Mxolis. It was to happen in three days, at noon. Pressure of what people would think, particularly the church people, weighed on the couple’s hearts; even stronger, though, was their commitment to stay true to God and what He had called them to do. So they trusted in God’s care and moved forward in faith.
The Lord Steps In
Three days before the bank was to shut them down, Zuki received a phone call. It was from a businessman in Durban, about 550 kilometers (340 miles) from Johannesburg. He needed an experienced contractor to oversee a construction project for him in Johannesburg and asked whether Zuki would be interested in taking on the job. He had recently learned about Zuki, he said, when he drove by “a beautiful church building coming up” and stopped to take a look. The people there explained that the property developer was building the church for the congregation at his own cost. The businessman, who was a Christian, thought, Wow! If there is anybody I can trust, it’s someone who will give their money for a church. He soon contacted Zuki and offered him the job. And it was no small project. “It was huge!” Zuki says. The businessman flew to Johannesburg that same day, and by the next evening the paperwork was done and the contract signed—a process that usually takes months to complete for a project this large, Zuki notes. The man then asked for Zuki’s bank information so he could transfer funds for the deposit. Early the next morning, the day the bank was to repossess Zuki and Pali’s home and other assets, Zuki checked his bank account, hoping that the usual 5 to 10 percent deposit was there. Instead, he saw that the businessman had advanced him 50 percent of the funding! “I called him right away and said, ‘You made a mistake. You put in too much money.’ He responded that it was no mistake and said, ‘I trust you, because you have given your all to building God’s church.’ ” The noon deadline arrived, and so did the people to repossess the family’s vehicles and other belongings. But Zuki stopped them and said, “We want to make arrangements to pay you.” They responded, “No, we don’t want to talk to you about any arrangement, because you’ve been promising for so long. We’re just coming to pick up your stuff.”
“No, no, no, you don’t understand,” Zuki said to them. “We’re not wanting to negotiate. We want to pay you off! We just need to know: Do you want a check or cash?”
“It was the greatest moment of our lives,” he says.
The Work Continues
The church in Katlehong, named the Thembelihle Seventh-day Adventist Church, has since been completed, and people are worshipping there. Zuki’s business is booming again, and the couple’s financial concerns are in the past. So what are they doing now? Under the auspices of their newly developed ministry called “The Word Lives Ministry Co-mission,” they continue to donate and build not only churches for God, but many other facilities as well. These include, among others, an administration building and classrooms for the Maluti School of Nursing in Lesotho, a science building for Rusangu University in Zambia, a library and chapel for Kanye Adventist Hospital in Botswana, married housing quarters for Helderberg College in Cape Town, and office headquarters for the Zambia Union Conference in Lusaka. Sometimes Zuki pays the total cost of construction; other times he partners with the church members or organization and pays perhaps half the cost of the project. The requests for help are pouring in, and Zuki and Pali continue in faith to take on donation projects—which now extend into seven countries.
“Once we take on a project, we make the commitment and then we ask God to provide the money—and He does,” Zuki says. “Our faith in Him is growing every day.
“We tell people, ‘This is not just a Zuki thing; this is a God thing. What He’s done for us and what He is continuing to do in our lives He can do in anybody’s life. You just need to take that step of faith.’ ” n
Sandra Blackmer is an assistant editor of Adventist World.
“Yes, we can be creative and Christian at the same time.” —Winston Lee, via e-mail
I am writing regarding Andrew McChesney’s article “Adventists Urged to Study Women’s Ordination for Themselves” (November 2014). I read the article with interest; and I was surprised by information in two paragraphs.
First, the Position 2 section asserts that Junia was a woman; however, it hasn’t been confirmed.
Second, in the Position 3 section, God’s exception of granting Israel a king is mentioned. Because of their choice Israel sank into apostasy and were overthrown by Babylon. Not a very cohesive argument for women’s ministry. Are we being led down the same path? Graeme Dodd Gawler, South Australia, Australia
Trending on Twitter
I have loved how the children of God in South America are so serious and passionate about God’s work (see “South American Adventists Make Bible a Hot Topic on Twitter,” October 2014). May God bless them abundantly. May we be moved to do the same, if we are not doing so yet. Joel Mutungi Kigali, Rwanda
Faith in a Shop Window
I’m writing about the news article “Britain: Faith Showcased in Shop Window” (October 2014). Yes, we can be creative and Christian at the same time. My prayer is that the youth would step up and use their gifts to create and innovate evangelism such as seen here, in a addition to what we already have. We live in a postmodern age, and we need to explore new and relevant ways to reach this mindset. Praise God for this creative effort! Winston Lee via e-mail
World Health and Colon Cancer
Peter N. Landless and Allan R. Handysides always write interesting and informative World Health columns. As an ardent reader of Adventist World, I cannot help reading this column; each article is both educational and inspirational. The article “Colon Cancer” (August 2014) is truly an eye-opener! At a frightening rate, many people (even non-alcohol consumers) are being diagnosed with color cancer. There is no doubt that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is blessed with an incredible health message. Indeed, God intended that we should “prosper . . . and be in [good] health” (3 John 2). Devon L. Sanderson Wilmington, Delaware, United States
Adventist World Language Editions
Greetings! I enjoy reading Adventist World. I have a question: In how many languages is the magazine printed? Bheki Nyathi South Africa
Adventist World is printed in English, Korean, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Indonesian, and German. In early 2014 the magazine launched several more editions of its smaller format, Adventist World Digest, bringing the total of digests to 20; with four more languages being added by this month, Feb. 2015. Our Web site is readable in 12 languages. So one can read Adventist World content in at least 32 languages. Visit our homepage at www.adventist world.org to learn more.
I am new to Adventism, and I like Adventist World. I especially enjoy the articles on Bible study and the Bible Questions Answered column. D. Jones Bonnyman, Kentucky, United States
Thank you for the wonderful work you are doing through this publication. It helps us get information from our fellow brothers and sisters. Christine Nabunjo Kampala, Uganda
Where In The World Is This?
ANSWER: In St. Petersburg, Florida, United States, a group of Jewish Adventists celebrated the Feast of Dedication (Chanukah) by being baptized. Here the candidates pray before going into the water.
Greetings from Ireland. I am typing this Adventist World Bible lesson from the beautiful city of Dublin. Last evening, during the question-and-answer period at our evangelistic meeting, someone asked, “Pastor, although I am a Christian, I am desperately afraid when I think about the coming of Jesus. I really do not understand why. Can you please help me?
>Greetings from Ireland. I am typing this Adventist World Bible lesson from the beautiful city of Dublin. Last evening, during the question-and-answer period at our evangelistic meeting, someone asked, “Pastor, although I am a Christian, I am desperately afraid when I think about the coming of Jesus. I really do not understand why. Can you please help me?”
Heroes Worth Following
By Mark A. Finley
Ours is a society of hero worship. The idols of the twenty-first century are sports stars, pop musicians, Hollywood icons, and multimillion-dollar business executives. But as we seriously consider it, one generation’s stars fast become distant memories. The shining lights on the billboards of this world fade fast. Wearing a T-shirt advertising “Superhero for Hire” is as close as most of us will get to being real heroes. In this month’s Bible lesson we will study two biblical heroes worth following, and One who stands head and shoulders above all others. Their legacies have endured for millennia, and shine bright with each passing generation. Daniel and Joseph are two examples of the way God blesses those who trust Him unreservedly, commit their lives to Him completely, and follow His guidance, wherever He leads, willingly. But even their dedication falls short of the ideal set by the living Christ, who reveals what it means to be truly committed to the Father’s will.
How did Daniel distinguish himself in Babylon from the rest of the Babylonian youth? Read Daniel 1:8 and compare Daniel’s attitudes as a teenager with those at the end of his life in Daniel 6:4, 5, 10. A study of Daniel’s life reveals his unswerving loyalty to God. From the time he was taken as a teenager and brought to Babylon as a captive, until his encounter with the political princes of Persia at the end of his life, Daniel maintained his absolute, unbending commitment to the God of heaven.
How were the temptations of both Joseph and Daniel similar? Read Daniel 1:5, 8 and Genesis 39:7-9. Notice the similarity of their responses as well.
Both Daniel and Joseph faced fierce temptations that appealed to their fleshly desires. But both made resolute, unwavering decisions. They followed the counsel given later in the book of James: “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
Although Joseph ended up in prison, and Daniel excelled at the head of his class at the University of Babylon, what blessing did God give both these stalwarts of faith? Read Daniel 1:9, 17-20 and Genesis 39:21-23.
Read Proverbs 3:1-10, and list all the promises God makes to those who are faithful to Him. How many promises do you find? In what areas of your life do they relate?
Both Daniel and Joseph faced enormous challenges in their lives. They both went through trials and experienced difficulties. But the blessings of God upon their lives far outweighed any challenge or difficulty they faced.
How does Daniel and Joseph’s loyalty to God find a later example in Jesus own life? Read and compare John 8:29, Matthew 26:39, and Hebrews 10:7 to discover a powerful insight on living the Christian life.
Jesus was totally committed to doing the Father’s will. His surrender to the Father’s will was uncompromised. This one basic decision is the key to living a victorious Christian life. The fundamental question is “Am I totally committed to doing the Father’s will when it conflicts with my own?”
What promise did the Father give to Jesus because of His humble obedience and submissive spirit in doing the Father’s will at any cost to Himself? Philippians 2:8-11.
What promise does Jesus Himself give to all who “forsake all” and follow Him unreservedly? Mark 10:29, 30.
Like both Joseph and Daniel, we too will face challenges when following Jesus. But the blessings of God upon our lives will be abundant. We will have the joy of His presence here, the knowledge of His daily guidance, the certainty of His provision for all our needs, and the glorious good news of eternal life through the salvation He so freely provides. That is something worth living for.
Muslim Teens Join Adventists in Refusing Sabbath Exams
Teachers speak of a double miracle at an Adventist school in the former Soviet Union.
By Andrew Mc'Chesney
Muslim students at an Adventist school in the former Soviet Union were so confident that God would intervene to change the day of their state finals from a Sabbath that they stood in solidarity with their Adventist classmates in refusing to take the exams at a public school, even if it meant that they would not graduate.
The teens’ faith paid off.
At the last minute the government of the predominantly Muslim country authorized the exams to be rescheduled, astonishing Adventist teachers who had spent days agonizing about the situation.
Even more remarkably, the authorization came from the office of a deputy minister who had recently forced the Adventist school to remove the word “Christian” from its name.
“The Muslim students decided to stand firm on the principles of not working and studying on the Sabbath that they had learned at the Adventist school, and this was a wonderful decision,” said Guillermo Biaggi, president of the Adventist Church’s Euro-Asia Division, whose territory includes most of the former Soviet Union.
“God not only inspired someone in the government to change the day for the exams—He also inspired the students and awarded their trust in our Creator and Redeemer,” he said.
The story about the Sabbath exams emerged at recent year-end business meetings conducted by the Euro-Asia Division. Adventist World is not identifying the school or its location, to avoid complicating its work.
THE SCHOOL: The Adventist school has 280 students aged 6 to 17.
“The Only Hope Left Was God”
The school, which teaches 280 students aged 6 to 17, experienced a difficult 2013-2014 academic year as it faced various challenges from the authorities and other people unhappy with the presence of a Christian school in a Muslim country, school and church leaders said.
But nothing prepared the teachers for a surprise Education Ministry decree saying that final exams for ninth and eleventh graders nationwide would be held on Saturday.
The teachers began to pray. A few of the school’s eleventh graders came from Adventist families, but the majority were Muslim. None of the ninth graders were Adventist.
Every attempt to delay the exams by a day, to Sunday, seemed to fail. No local education officials wanted to shoulder the responsibility of authorizing the change. The school principal sent a letter to an Education Ministry official who promised to help, but he didn’t reply. “The only hope left was God,” the principal said in a statement provided by the Euro-Asia Division.
She gathered the students together to explain the situation. She said the school was still trying to reschedule the exams but could not promise success. She also said she had made arrangements with a nearby public school to offer the exams to those who wished to take them.
“This gave each student the opportunity to make his or her own decision, knowing full well the consequences of the decision,” the principal said. Eleventh graders who failed to take the exam would not graduate. Eleventh grade is the last class before graduation from high school in the former Soviet Union.
Just two days before the exams the principal suddenly received a phone call from the Education Ministry. The caller, an administrative assistant to a deputy education minister, said that her boss had written a reply to the principal’s seemingly lost letter and that the school could send someone to pick it up.
The principal said she lost all hope with the phone call, because the deputy education minister was the same person who had forced the school to change its name a few weeks earlier.
And that wasn’t all.
“Before the phone call, we had hoped that maybe we could give the exams on a different day and not be noticed by the education officials,” she said. “But now that the government had given an official response, it would be impossible to conduct the exam unnoticed.”
The principal was in for a shock. She recalled that when she tore open the letter from the ministry, she exclaimed, “That’s impossible! How the Lord is good!”
It turned out that the deputy education minister had left his office on an extended business trip, and the school’s request had been passed on to another ministry official, who had authorized the exams to be given on Sunday.
GRADUATING CLASS: Muslim and Adventist 11th graders at an end-of-school party.
The principal eagerly shared the news with the students. But when they showed little emotion, she thought that they had misunderstood her and repeated the story. Then one of the students broke the silence with an explanation that the principal found even more incredible than the government’s last-minute permission to reschedule the exams.
The student said: “We never had any doubt that God would help resolve the situation.”
The principal found out that none of the students had signed up to take the exams at the public school on Sabbath. As she spoke with them, she learned that they had seen so many manifestations of God’s power during the difficult school year that they had decided God would not abandon the school over something as simple as Sabbath exams. The Muslim students had decided to join their Adventist classmates in standing faithful to the biblical Sabbath.
“Children from non-Adventist families saw how God is leading our school and believed with all their hearts that the problem would be resolved,” the principal said. “It was only we, the Adventist teachers, who were distraught with worry.” n
Gunmen slay the men in Guatemala and the Philippines.
Adventists worshiping in a rented apartment in Erbil, a northern city of more than 1.5 million people in northern Iraq, on Sabbath, Nov. 22.
The news headlines coming out of Iraq might be horrific, but a new Adventist church is being built in the north, Adventists are inviting neighbors to Sabbath worship services in Baghdad, and ADRA is opening an office to provide humanitarian relief.
“Many wonderful things are quietly taking place behind the scenes,” said Homer Trecartin, president of the Adventist Church’s Middle East and North Africa Union, who visited Iraq for four days recently.
Iraq has been the subject of prayer for Adventists worldwide amid an outbreak in militant-led violence against minority groups, including Christians. Ted N. C. Wilson, president of the world church, asked for special prayers in August and said no more than 50 Adventists remained in the Middle Eastern country.
Trecartin, who confirmed that about 50 remained on the membership books, said he was inspired to see a small but vibrant church community during his visit.
Adventists who have fled the violence and moved to Erbil, a northern city of more than 1.5 million, are grateful to the ruling Kurdish authorities for helping them to register the Adventist Church there and for giving them permission to build a house of worship, he said.
“Construction is well under way on a building that will have a church hall, offices, and two apartments,” he said. “For now the members gather each Sabbath in a rented apartment, where friends, neighbors, and occasionally some refugees join them.”
The number of church members is small, and they live far away from their former homes, but they are actively reaching out to those who are worse off, he said.
Together with George Shamoun, the leader of the Adventist Church in Iraq, the members have used their own money, donations from others, and a special contribution from Adventist Frontier Missions to build toilet facilities in several centers for internally displaced people, to distribute food parcels, and to hand out winter clothes and blankets.
CHURCH IN THE WORKS: George Shamoun, leader of the Adventist Church in Iraq, visiting the construction site of an Adventist church in Erbil, Iraq.
Even more humanitarian work is expected to be carried out soon with the registration of the Iraq office of the church-operated Adventist Development and Relief Agency, or ADRA.
After much work, the Iraq office was registered with the authorities, and it is in the process of bringing in staff and setting up projects to provide even more assistance, Trecartin said.
A few Adventists still live in Baghdad, and they are sharing Jesus with their neighbors, he said. Every Sabbath the church members meet for a worship service filled with friends and neighbors.
“Please continue to keep the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Iraq in your prayers,” Trecartin said.
—Adventist World staff
El Salvador: 4,800 Baptized
HUGE TURNOUT: Evangelist John Carter speaking to some 52,000 people at the Estadio Cuscatlan stadium in San Salvador, El Salvador, on Nov. 29.
Australian evangelist John Carter praised God for the more than 4,800 people who were baptized during a three-week evangelistic series in El Salvador, a Central American country mired in crime and turmoil.
“We were impressed by the spiritual hunger of the people,” Carter said after speaking to a near-capacity crowd of 52,000 people on the closing day of the series in Estadio Cuscatlán, the largest stadium in Central America and home of the El Salvador football team. “Glory be to God.”
The stadium event in the capital, San Salvador, in late November marked the climax of 93 evangelistic campaigns organized by Carter. He teamed up 93 pastors from across Central America with 100 local pastors to hold simultaneous meetings over three weeks.
Former El Salvador vice president Ana Vilma de Escobar, who was among a group of current and former government officials at Carter’s meetings, told the evangelist that he had shared a message about Jesus that her country desperately needed to hear.
“These meetings are just what is needed at this time,” she said.
—Vania Chew, South Pacific Adventist Record, with additional reporting by Adventist World staff
Kenya: 8 Dead in Massacre
At least eight Adventists were among the 28 bus passengers massacred by Muslim extremists in northern Kenya on a Sabbath morning, the East-Central Africa Division said.
Al-Shabaab militants stopped the Nairobi-bound vehicle in late November and quizzed passengers to determine whether they were Muslims. Eyewitnesses said those who answered unsatisfactorily were taken aside and shot.
It’s likely that the Adventists on the early-morning bus were on their way to church at the time of the attack.
“Our hearts ache for the families who have lost loved ones, including children, in the senseless and brutal killings,” Ted N. C. Wilson, president of the Adventist world church, said in a statement.
“We cannot understand the horrible actions that have taken place,” he said. “However, the Holy Spirit as the Comforter can bring encouragement and sustenance amid such traumatic tragedy. We have prayed for these families who are suffering great loss.”
Blasious Ruguri, president of the East-Central Africa Division, said he was “tongue-tied” over the “meaningless, devilish” killings.
“I cannot imagine Jesus delaying too much longer!” he wrote in reply to e-mailed condolences from Wilson. “He just needs to come yesterday. Pastor, with this trend of events, this world has become unlivable.”
—Adventist World staff
India: 50 Children Teach
MARCHING FOR HEALTH: Students from Miryalaguda Seventh-day Adventist High School sharing the Adventist health message with residents of Miryalaguda, India.
Fifty children gave health seminars and marched with banners in a city in southeastern India as they joined Adventist Church efforts to find a new way to share Jesus in that part of the country.
At a cost of only $200, the students from Miryalaguda Seventh-day Adventist High School shared the Adventist health message with several thousand of the 115,000 people in Miryalaguda, said Robert L. Robinson, administrative assistant to the president of the church’s Southern Asia Division.
“We were experimenting to see if this would be a good approach to begin reaching the cities in the state of Andhra Pradesh with the gospel message,” said Robinson, who attended the event.
By all indications the experiment worked, he said.
The students, wearing blue school uniforms and accompanied by police escorts, gave health lectures at three separate locations recently. They also marched with self-made banners bearing such slogans as “Alcohol Is a Demon Drink” and “Smoking Is Injurious to Health.” Robinson estimated that 2,000 people heard the lectures and many more saw the march.
The initiative also caught the attention of the local newspaper, which published an article that gave additional attention to its purpose. About 50 million people live in Andhra Pradesh, the eighth largest of India’s 29 states. Only about 1.5 percent of the population is Christian, with Hindus making the majority of 92 percent.
—Adventist World staff
Uganda: Appeal Over Sabbath
The leader of the Adventist Church in Uganda has made a personal appeal to the East African country’s president to expand religious freedoms to allow Adventists to avoid requirements to work and study on Sabbath.
President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni did not immediately reply to the request, made by John Kakembo, president of the Uganda Union Mission, at a fund-raising drive for a new church in the capital, Kampala. But he praised Adventists as honest.
“Let your light shine for others to see so they can praise your Father in heaven,” Museveni said in a speech.
It was not the first time that he has been pressed about the Sabbath. Jan Paulsen, during his time as president of the Adventist world church from 1999 to 2010, raised the issue with Museveni while a local court was considering an appeal by Adventist students against taking university exams on Sabbath. The court did not back the students.
Sabbath observance can be a challenge to many of the 261,000 Adventists who live in Uganda, a country of 36.9 million. “I have lost six jobs because of the Sabbath,” church member John Nyagah Gakunya said during a recent discussion about Sabbath observance on Adventist World’s Facebook page.
But Gakunya said he was not discouraged. “I remain faithful to God, and I would say it’s not a loss to serve God,” he said. “Honor God, and He will honor you.”
—Samuel Mwebaza, Uganda Union Mission communication director, and ANN and Adventist World staff
I suppose your question is really about how God related to this practice, and what motivated the kings to have so many wives. Apart from the corrupt cravings of human passions, there were other social and political reasons for this practice. I will summarize God’s will on this issue, examine the purpose of marrying so many Israelite women, and finally explore the reason for having no Israelite royal wives
Understanding the Adversary
Why does 2 Samuel 2:1 say that God incited David to take a military census, while 1 Chronicles 21:1 says Satan did it?
By Angel Manuel Rodreguez
Second Samuel 24:1 says, “Again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he incited [sut] David against them, saying, ‘Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.’?” According to 1 Chronicles 21:1, “Satan rose up against Israel and incited [sut] David to take a census of Israel.” I will examine the use of the term satan in the Old Testament, some terminological connections with other passages, and finally suggest a possible way to harmonize these passages.
1. Use of the Term Satan: The Hebrew word satan means “adversary, opponent” and is used to designate human beings who act as adversaries or opponents of others (e.g., 1 Kings 11:14, 23). It also designates the angel of the Lord, who functioned as an adversary to Balaam (Num. 22:22). Obviously, this is not a demonic figure. The noun is also found in Job 1:6 and 2:1 and in Zechariah 3:1 for the adversary of God’s people. Scholars usually argue that when the noun satan is accompanied by a definite article (“the satan”) it refers to a function (“an adversary/opponent”) and is not a proper noun (“Satan”). Since the term without the article appears only in 1 Chronicles 21:1, it is considered a proper noun (“Satan”). But other scholars have argued that it is precisely when the noun is accompanied by the article that it functions as a proper name. One could wonder whether this debate is that important.
2. Linguistic Connections: There are clear linguistic connections between Job 2:1, Zechariah 3:1, and 1 Chronicles 21:1. In Chronicles Satan “stands” (‘amad) against Israel and incites (sut) David to sin. The use of the verb “to stand” (‘amad), together with the noun satan, is found in Zechariah 3:1, establishing a connection between the two passages. In both cases satan opposes the servant of God. The verb “to incite” (sut) appears in conjunction with the noun satan in Job 2:3, also establishing a connection between these two passages. In Job he incites God against Job, and in Chronicles he incites David against God. The author is aware of the usage of the term satan in the other passages, and his use of the term satan (“Satan”) most probably reflects the meaning of the term in the other two books. In other words, he is not contrasting his use with that of the other passages; the presence or absence of the article is irrelevant. The Old Testament describes a being who opposes God and His plans for His people (e.g., Gen. 3:1-5; Lev. 16:8-10, 20-22; Isa. 14:12-14; cf. Rev. 12:9).
3. The Narratives in Chronicles and Samuel: The role of satan is quite clear in the three passages we have discussed. First, he is the adversary of God’s people, opposing the divine disposition to forgive them (Zech. 3:1). He even opposes the way God rules His kingdom (Job 1:6; 2:1). Second, he incites people to disobey God. Third, he wants evil things for God’s people. He is unquestionably a divine archenemy. According to Chronicles, Satan stood against Israel as the enemy and incited David to take a census, knowing that as a result people would suffer. Why is taking a census a national sin? Different types of censuses were taken in Israel without any penalty (e.g., Ex. 30:11-16). Perhaps, as many have suggested, the difference here is that this is a military census taken without divine approval that expressed reliance on human military power. It was a breach of Israel’s covenant with the Lord.
If this is the case, the differences between 1 Chronicles and 2 Samuel are insignificant. The wrath of the Lord, mentioned as the cause for the census, is clarified as God allowing Satan to incite David to take the census. In His anger God does not intervene to protect David. Nevertheless, God is still the sovereign Lord who authorizes the action of Satan and brings the plague to an end. He uses this experience to lead David to find a place for the building of the Temple. He does not give Satan complete control over His people (see Job 1:12; 2:6). n
Angel Manuel Rodríguez lives in Texas, after retiring as director of the General Conference Biblical Research Institute.
The story of Annie Smith’s life is one of both tragedy and triumph. Her life was cut short, but she died with a firm belief in Jesus and the “blessed hope”
A gifted young woman in early Adventism
By Nathan Thomas
The story of Annie Smith’s life is one of both tragedy and triumph.
Her life was cut short, but she died with a firm belief in Jesus and the “blessed hope” for eternal life after the resurrection. Her triumph was her assurance of salvation and eternal life; her tragedy was in contracting pulmonary tuberculosis, which meant almost certain death before the days of antibiotics. She died at 27 years of age, ending a promising career as the most important poet of early Adventism, years before our church was named or organized. She will live on forever in the world of music since three of her hymns were included in The Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal.
Annie Finds the Truth
As a teenager Annie Smith accepted William Miller’s teaching and became a devout “Millerite.” When Jesus did not appear on October 22, 1844, she devoted her time to her studies and her poetry. In 1851 her mother suggested she attend one of “Father” Joseph Bates’s lectures while she was away visiting friends in another town. She was not really interested until she had a dream in which she saw a tall, elderly man lecturing and using a chart. To “please mother,” she attended the meeting, arriving late and taking the only seat left. After the meeting Bates met Annie for the first time and told her that he also had had a dream that she would be there. In a short time Annie was converted to the truth of the seventh-day Sabbath, the sanctuary doctrine, and the third angel’s message. She remained an absolute believer in that faith the rest of her life.
With her newfound faith, she started sending poems to the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald at Saratoga Springs, New York. James White, editor, quick to recognize literary talent, asked her to come and work at the Review office. She declined because of poor eyesight, but James and Ellen White, in dire need of help, replied “come any way.”
Upon arrival from her home in New Hampshire, she was prayed over and her eyesight was completely restored. Her work at the Review involved proofreading and copy editing, a job she handled quite efficiently.
Though she worked at the Review for only a couple of years, this 23-year-old young woman contributed 45 poems to the Review and to a new periodical, the Youth’s Instructor. She also was a prolific hymn writer for the Adventist cause. She borrowed the tune from a popular hit called “’Tis Midnight Hour” and turned it into the beautiful hymn “How Far From Home?” (number 439 in The Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal). Another of her popular hymns today is “I Saw One Weary” (number 441), in which she wrote specially about Joseph Bates and James White. The third person in that hymn she described could have been J. N. Andrews, or her brother, Uriah Smith. Historian Arthur Spalding is convinced that in the third stanza she was writing about herself and simply substituted the “he” for “she.”1 At any rate, the “blessed hope” of the Second Coming was always on her mind. She did a prodigious amount of writing in the four years left in her life and could have possibly surpassed Frank Belden, Ellen White’s nephew, as the most important hymn writer for our young denomination, had she lived to old age.
An Example of Her Talent
As an example of her poetic talent, Smith wrote a poem upon the death of Robert Harmon, Ellen White’s brother, who was fully converted before he passed away. Hymn no. 494 in the old Church Hymnal was first printed in the Review and later set to music as “He Sleeps in Jesus.”
“He sleeps in Jesus—peaceful rest— No mortal strife invades his breast; No pain, or sin, or woe, or care, Can reach the silent slumberer there.
He lived, his Savior to adore, And meekly all his sufferings bore. He loved, and all resigned to God; Nor murmured at His chastening rod.
‘Does earth attract thee here?’ they cried, The dying Christian thus replied, While pointing upward to the sky, ‘My treasure is laid up on high.’ ? He sleeps in Jesus—soon to rise, When the last trump shall rend the skies; Then burst the fetters of the tomb, To wake in full, immortal bloom.
He sleeps in Jesus—cease thy grief; Let this afford thee sweet relief— That, freed from death’s triumphant reign, In heaven will he live again.”
On a more romantic note, there is reason to believe that Annie was interested in John Nevins Andrews, but he ended up marrying another. If her heart was broken, she didn’t have long to sorrow, for after two years at the Review she returned home fighting a losing battle with tuberculosis, or consumption, as it was commonly called. Tuberculosis was a scourge during the nineteenth century, and both Annie Smith and John Andrews succumbed to it.
Annie Smith deserves to be called our denomination’s first important poet and hymn writer. On returning to her home, she wrote as much as her health would permit and collected her poetry those last few months of her life. She gave this collection to her brother, Uriah, who later became famous in Seventh-day Adventist circles as editor of the Review, as well as a writer and a teacher. Uriah printed the collection only a few days before she died. It is entitled Home Here, and Home in Heaven.
So Much in So Little Time As young as she was, with only two years to establish herself as an artist, poet, songwriter, and editor, Annie Smith made an important and singular impact upon the later Seventh-day Adventist Church. For instance, when the General Conference first organized our church at Battle Creek, Michigan, on May 21, 1863, the delegates chose to sing Annie Smith’s “Long Upon the Mountains” (no. 447), which meant so much to those attending the conference of our newly formed church.
Today, after 150 years of our church hymnology, we may state that Annie has left a legacy that will go on forever. Her hope was in the return of Jesus and His salvation for all the faithful. The last stanza of the hymn “Long Upon the Mountains” could be a fitting epitaph for the young woman who lived and died with the “blessed hope” in her heart:
“Soon He comes! With clouds descending; All His saints, entombed arise; The redeemed, in anthems blending, Shout their vict’ry thro’ the skies. O, we long for Thine appearing; Come, O Savior, quickly come! Blessed hope! Our spirits cheering, Take Thy ransomed children home.”
Annie Smith has won a place in our hearts and in our history. As our pioneer poet and musician she reinforced James White’s love of music and made it an integral part of the Seventh-day Adventist educational system. Seventh-day Adventist interest in music and hymn singing no doubt starts with James White and Annie Smith.
Annie died on July 26, 1855, and is buried in the family cemetery at West Wilton, New Hampshire.
1A. W. Spalding, Origin and History of Seventh-day Adventists (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1961), vol. 1, p. 245; see also appendix, p. 404. 2Ellen G. White, Spiritual Gifts (Battle Creek, Mich.: James White, Steam Press, 1860), vol. 2, pp. 164, 165.
Nathan Thomas is professor emeritus of history, Pacific Union College, Angwin, California.