Living a life of faithfulness means different things to different people, but all of them have something in common: Trust in God.
Journeys of Faithfulness
The concept of “faithfulness” is intricately woven throughout the fabric of a person’s lifestyle and belief system, particularly that of a Christian. Some describe it as remaining loyal to someone or something regardless of the circumstances.
Others say it entails “standing firm” for convictions and principles. Synonyms include fidelity, devotion, dependability. Faithfulness evokes an image of what is best in humankind as we relate not only to one another but also to our Creator.
Stories of faithfulness to family, friends, country, and God abound, inspiring and encouraging us to become better people—more caring, more courageous. Sadly, inour weakness and in spite of good intentions, humans often fail.
We don’t reach that pinnacle of “greatness and goodness” we may long to achieve. God, however, has no such limitations. Faithfulness is part of His character (Ex. 34:6, NIV); it helps define who He is. “Great is [His] faithfulness” (Lam. 3:23, NIV).
In describing those in the Bible who suffered reproach and persecution for “His name’s sake,” Ellen White doesn’t laud the faithfulness of these men and women, but gives the credit fully to God:
“These examples of human steadfastness bear witness to the faithfulness of God’s promises—of His abiding presence and sustaining grace.”* After all, it is He alone who is truly faithful. The short narratives that follow come from West Africa,
New Zealand, Malaysia, Tchad, and the UnitedStates.
They describe personal journeys of faith that reveal the character and love of the God whom the writers believe in and worship. May these stories inspire you to love and trust Him more.—Editors.
*Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles (Mountain View, Calif: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), p. 575.
Faithfulness in Adversity
By Julene Duerksen-Kapao
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Prov. 3:5, 6).
August 19, 2009: The date changed my life, my plans, everything. The weeks leading up to August 19 included a family trip from New Zealand to California to visit my family, and a weekend trip with my 4-year-old son to Melbourne, Australia, to speak at a women’s conference.
During the conference I got a headache that no matter what I did—sleep, medication, water—would not budge.
The days following my return from Australia were a blur of bizarre symptoms, including blurry vision, light sensitivity, headaches, exhaustion, balance issues, lack of appetite, and weakness.
On August 19 a colleague where I taught walked with me upstairs and noticed I could not lift my right foot without tripping. “You’d better go to the emergency room” were his words after hearing the other symptoms.
Eye exams, X-rays, EKGs, and an array of tests did not bring clear answers. “You may have had a stroke” or “It may be a fast-growing tumor,” I was told. The final stop was an MRI. As I lay in the noisy machine, head held firmly in place, I prayed Psalm 23.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” I had no idea what the future held, but I knew God’s hand was on my life. I asked God for the MRI to show answers, so no matter what the outcome was I would know what I was facing.
About 8:00 p.m. the emergency room doctor asked me to go to a private room. “You have multiple sclerosis.” And there it was, my answer. Literally “many scars” on my brain and spinal cord.
I cried. I prayed. I questioned. I went home. I rested. I cried some more. My husband, Rouru, and our two small children prayed a lot. We had no idea what this meant and how this reality would impact our lives.
Within 10 days I was admitted to the hospital for extreme nausea, balance issues, and muscle weakness. I lost my ability to walk and talk. I could not move my head. I was overcome with sadness and loss.
For the next nine weeks Rouru would hold my hand, sing and laugh with me, and pray. Through the chaos, the not knowing, the fear, and the sense of loss I heard God.
One night I had a dream in which I awoke to a bright light. I jumped out of my hospital bed—even though I couldn’t walk at the time—and ran to the window. It was the Second Coming! I was overwhelmed with peace and the warmth of Jesus’ love.
His clear words washed over me: “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51, 52).
In that moment I began a new life—a life of peace and total acceptance of the chaos now consuming me. God showed me that we all have scars, some seen and others unseen.
I determined to live and live well, and so my neurologist, my family, and I chose the most aggressive approach: six-month chemotherapy treatment starting October 2009. For the first treatment I was in the hospital; the second, my husband pushed my wheelchair; third, I pushed a walking frame; fourth, crutches; fifth and sixth—I walked!
The oncology nurses gave me a standing ovation! The journey has been chaotic, traumatic, frustrating, blessed, and hope-filled. During the past more than five years my faith has been tested and grown dramatically. I am blessed to experience my human brokenness and have had an opportunity to live knowing my scars. I am better now.
I work full-time in a fulfilling and challenging job. I am on daily staying faithful Against the Tide By Melodie Roschman medication to prolong remissions and decrease severity of relapse. I play with my kids. And I live in the hope of the Second Coming.
Staying Faithful Against the Tide
By Melodie Roschman
They’re everywhere.” Our guide gestured dramatically at the city surrounding us. “And they’re targeting you. So look out for each other. And be careful.” We were on a three-week tour through Europe, taking in incredible historical buildings, eating delicious food, and making stumbling attempts at learning at least a little French.
It was nearly a paradise, except, we were advised, for all of the pickpockets and thieves. “Marseille is a city where they’ll steal your wallet as fast as they look at you,” we were told. Later, in Paris, we were ever vigilant: on the metro, in the markets, even at the top of the Eiffel Tower.
Pickpockets, it seemed, would hunt you to the ends of the earth. Most troubling were street beggars. Holding out their children, asking for directions, begging on the steps of buildings. We were warned that they would prey on your generosity and rob you blind.
It felt wrong, but we got used to avoiding eye contact, huddling together, walking past outstretched and empty hands. For the most part, people were never as persistent as we had been told they would be. No babies were thrust into our arms. No one was ever robbed.
When they held out their hands, we shook our heads and stepped around them. We pretended they were invisible.
One day, though, leaving a church, my friend Matt couldn’t take it anymore. I looked up to discover that I had left him behind on the steps, where he was stooped, handing a few euros to an old woman wearing a shawl. Soon he jogged to catch up with me. “I couldn’t say no,” he said simply.
Instantly I felt ashamed, humbled by his instinctive generosity regardless of counsel. Matt’s simple act reminds me of evangelist Tony Campolo’s words: “God puts the wealth in our hands, without any guarantee from us that we will use what
He gives us in a way that pleases Him. He trusts us.
Ought we not to do to others what He has done for us? On that great day when I stand before Him, He will ask if I gave to the needy. I do not think it will wash if I say, ‘I thought about it, but they did not look trustworthy.’ ”* While the rest of us, out of fear, obediently treated these people as less than human, Matt reached out.
He bent down and smiled, and he gave to the least of these. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (Matt. 25:35, 36, NIV).
A Reckless Faith
By Olen Netteburg
Walking from our hospital in Bere, Tchad, to Nigeria, you traverse tribes speaking Nangere, Maraba, Lele, Mesme, Moussaye, Keira, Toupouri, French, Arabic, and that’s before reaching the Cameroon border. A woman came to our hospital.
Nobody could understand her, but she brought her sick baby girl.
We rapidly diagnosed her with malaria and started intravenous quinine. The mother clearly had no money, but we did what we always do: we treated the child for free and gave mother and child food to eat. Her baby required three days of continuous IV treatment before she started eating again.
We kept mother and baby at the hospital for four days while trying to figure out what to do with this family.
One day I noticed the mother reading her Bible and saw the word “Hausa,” a language in northern Nigeria. I cautiously put forth the only Hausa word I knew, “Sannu” (hello). Her eyes lit up in amazement, and she replied vigorously, “Sannu! Sannu! Sannu!” shaking my hand like I was her long-lost friend.
Imagine a land with more than 120 languages and nobody understands you! Providentially, one of the women who works for us, Naomie, spent years in Nigeria and speaks fluent Hausa. I immediately called for
Naomie, who came and talked to the mother.
We learned that her name was Nagodé, and we heard her incredible story.
A man from the Tchadian Nangere tribe moved to Nigeria for work. He met and married Nagodé. They had a girl, whom they named Blessed. Boko Haram, a terrorist group, began targeting and killing Tchadians. Caught in an ambush, the husband fled into the wilderness, disappearing for months.
And that’s when Nagodé’s optimism became apparent. Absolute, reckless optimism. Nagodé wondered if her husband had returned to Tchad, so she did what any recklessly optimistic person would. She set off to look for him. She crossed into
Cameroon and went from church to church, asking for just enough money to get to the next church.
She arrived in Tchad and tried to ask where she could find the Nangere tribe. As she traveled farther from home, it became progressively more unlikely to find people speaking Hausa. She began spending days in each village, seeking people who spoke Hausa.
Nagodé arrived in Kelo, a village 42 kilometers (26 miles) from Bere, and learned she was close to the epicenter of the Nangere tribe. So she trekked the 42 kilometers to Bere the exact same way she had covered the previous hundreds of kilometers, on foot and with her two possessions strapped to her back: Blessed and her Hausa Bible.
Through it all, Nagodé’s foolishly optimistic belief in that which she had no evidence—her faithfulness—never wavered. Once she was in Bere, she found that her troubles were just beginning. Nagodé spent three days living and sleeping in the market, searching for somebody who understood her.
She did not eat the few crumbs she found, but gave them to Blessed. When Blessed fell ill with malaria, a stranger brought them to our hospital. We fed Nagodé. As she started to get her strength back, she began to smile as well. Life returned to her eyes, as it did to the eyes of Blessed.
Through it all, Nagodé continued to read her Hausa Bible every day. Naomie, herself a single mother of four boys, came to me in tears on Nagodé’s behalf. She begged me to allow her to take Nagodé and Blessed to her house.
I don’t know the ending to this story. I don’t know if Nagodé will find her husband. I don’t know if he’s been killed by Boko Haram, hiding in the African bush, or looking for his wife and child in Nigeria, Cameroon, or Tchad. But I know God put
Naomie in Nagodé’s path at exactly the right time.
I know Blessed would have succumbed to malaria without the free lifesaving medications given by our faithful donors. Nagodé’s optimism, determination, and faithfulness saved Blessed’s life, and probably her own as well. Nagodé has a reckless optimism put into action. Would Peter agree that’s an alternative definition of faithfulness?
Buoyed by a mother’s instinct and a Hausa Bible, Nagodé took off blindly in search of what she had confidence and assurance in, despite the lack of what any logical person would consider a decent plan or evidence of success. Mother and child are well-fed, healthy, and happy.
Nagodé thanked me endlessly, ceaselessly wishing God’s blessings on me for the free care Blessed received at our hospital, care made possible by the faithfulness of our supporters. But little did Nagodé know that her own faithfulness, her reckless optimism, had already blessed me.
Faithful to Sabbathkeeping
By Raymond Adivignon Hounnonkpe
The biblical story of Daniel and his friends—their commitment to live according to God’s principles—has been a powerful support for me. Following Jesus means carrying His cross, including when it comes to keeping the Sabbath.
I grew up in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast). In 2001, I traveled to Benin, where I stayed with two of my older brothers while I continued my education. The younger brother was an Adventist. I began attending the Adventist church, and was baptized in May 2007.
Even though I was now an Adventist I continued taking exams on Saturdays until I earned my diploma to enter university. Then I took the entrance exam for a teacher’s college, and was accepted. So in November 2009 I left for Natitingou in northern Benin to continue my university studies. We had classes and exams on Sabbath.
I managed to miss classes in order to go to church, but when it came to tests, I missed church to write the tests.
My conscience was troubled, but I didn’t know what to do. I went to church irregularly. I asked some brothers in church to pray for me, but the prayers didn’t seem to help. Midway through my second year in university, however, God helped me make one of the most important decisions of my life. A calculus exam was scheduled for Sabbath. I hesitated.
Should I take the test on Sabbath or not? A testimony by our pastor about his daughter’s decision to stay faithful to the Sabbath greatly strengthened me. I also reread the story of Daniel and his friends, as well as stories of the Reformers in The Great Controversy.
I decided not to take the test, not only this one, but all future tests as well. I was ready to give up even my studies for the glory of God. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but God’s Spirit helped me. When the Sabbath came, I went to church.
My friends couldn’t understand it. Several of them asked me questions.
It was an opportunity for me to share my faith with them.
I didn’t write the test, and God showed me His power. My teachers decided to give me the same grade I had received so far in the class. This miracle encouraged me to be even more faithful to God. Until the end of my studies in Natitingou,
God strengthened me to be steadfast in my decision to keep sacred His holy day.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the last of my Sabbath challenges. Graduation ceremonies at the end of my three years of study were held on Sabbath. But I chose not to attend, even though, by God’s grace, I was the head of my class. Again, this was a chance to explain about the Sabbath to my friends and teachers.
In 2014 I was given the opportunity to take an entrance test to study statistics in Senegal, West Africa. When I learned that there would be classes on Sabbath, I didn’t go. Some of my relatives didn’t agree with me, but for me, only God’s will was important. I decided to continue my studies nearer my home.
Tests scheduled for Sabbaths still continued, but I always chose to keep the Sabbath and not take the tests. The final exam was also scheduled for Sabbath, but the Lord intervened, and my teachers allowed me to take it on a different day.
Keeping the Sabbath holy is a challenge for many people.
My experiences have helped me understand that we must not be afraid to commit ourselves fully to God. Despite all the obstacles, God has consistently sustained me. I am now studying for my doctorate in mathematics, supervised by a professor who previously was disappointed in me because of my stand for the Sabbath. Our God is marvelous and powerful.
Nothing is impossible for Him. Let us choose to trust Him.
Giving Away God’s Blessings
By Faith Toh
In the hills of Sabah, surrounded by the mountains of Malaysia, lies a little village. To get to this village, you have to navigate a bumpy 36 kilometers (22.4 miles) off road to a river. Crossing the river is uncertain.
During drier months the crossing is smooth. When it’s monsoon season, the water level rises too high, and crossing is impossible.
If you make it across the river, there is another bumpy ride up to Bambangan village. It’s a beautiful place, and if you climb up the tallest hill, you can see the back of Mount Kinabalu in the distance. The people of
Bambangan are subsistence farmers. One school serves them and a neighboring village about a 40-minute trek away.
The school, called Sekolah Rendah Advent Bambangan (or Bambangan Adventist Primary School), employs three instructors who teach grades 1 to 6. This year 53 children are enrolled, but actual attendance can drop to 20 during harvest season, planting season, and rainy season.
In a place where parents barely have enough to feed their children, paying school fees is sometimes a luxury they cannot afford.
For the past 13 years Ester Gerber has been faithfully supporting the work of Bambangan School, and tirelessly mentoring its students. Ester was born in a tiny village in Germany, the sixth child of a poor family. It wasn’t easy for her parents to make ends meet, yet they made sure she completed her education.
Ester is passionate about education. For her, supporting the school means more than just contributing financial aid to help pay teachers’ salaries or sponsoring school fees. She says, “Making the world a tiny bit better for someone else is not just giving one push and then saying ‘OK, it was nice meeting you. Goodbye.’
People need to be treated with respect, fairness, and justice, regardless of whether they are rich or poor, educated or uneducated. . . . No matter where someone comes from, they should always know they are princes and princesses of our heavenly Father.”
Stephen* is a graduate of Bambangan School. Influenced by wayward friends at secondary school, he was on a slide down the wrong path. He had so much potential, but he didn’t seem to be interested in learning. Ester was adamant.
She told him, “OK, young man, I will not force you; it will be your own free will. But I would love for you to change schools for your last year. Would you please consider?” Stephen ended up switching schools.
“For the first couple of months, he sent me one message after another,” Ester recalls, “begging me to please allow him to go back to his old school because he was so miserable.” But eight months later Stephen started to tell Ester how his life had changed bybeing at the new school.
He became a spiritual leader, involved in church activities. “He still has some ways to go, but God will lead him,” says Ester. “We can improve their lives; we can even improve their physical wellbeing,” adds Ester. “But unless we manage to bring them the good news and help them accept Jesus as their personal Savior, what have we achieved?”
Ester, who continues to mentor students,is quick to assert that “it is not my faith that keeps Bambangan going. Bambangan is keeping my faith going. “Sometimes I feel like I just don’t have any energy left. But then God gives me strength, and I can fly and soar on wings like an eagle. God has really blessed me, blessed my family.
I need to pass the blessing on to others. I’m not really giving something away, because I’m getting so much more back.”
* Not his real name.