March 11, 2009

Brothers of the Sword

2009 1507 page18 caposh Rietman couldn’t sleep. Two small television sets, one at the foot and one at the head of his bed, blared the voice of evangelist Lyle Albrecht throughout his bedroom.

Ben and Charles, Josh’s older brothers, shared more than just the small room with Josh. Week after week they stayed up late watching the Three Angels Broadcasting Network (3ABN), excited about the new truths they were discovering from the Bible. The brothers wanted to tell everyone, beginning with their family. Josh’s sleep could wait.
Before stumbling upon 3ABN the brothers, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, were typical “professing” Christians. Ben, Charles, and Josh attended church regularly when they were young, but by the time the boys reached middle and then high school, church attendance dropped to only special occasions.
In 2005 Ben, the oldest, began to feel the Holy Spirit nudging him in a new direction—toward a better life.
“I had just graduated from high school, and I was working at a grocery store,” Ben said. “I got to a place in my life where I thought, Isn’t there something more?”
On an impulse Ben decided to pray, asking the Lord to reveal Himself in some obvious way.
2009 1507 page18While flipping through the channels one day, Ben paused on 3ABN. The biblical sermons and new ideas fascinated him. He especially enjoyed the prophecies of Daniel 2, and was shocked when he learned that Saturday was the biblical Sabbath.
“I figured, man, I’ve got to tell my dad about this,” Ben said. “We’re going to church on Sunday instead of Saturday. There’s no scriptural support for going to church on Sunday.”
Ben brought up the topic while driving back from church with his family one Sunday. His excitement was not shared. A family argument followed, and Ben’s parents clearly were not interested in studying any new ideas. But younger brother Charles was not as resistant.
Charles had recently started reading his Bible seriously for the first time in his life, and now he had some questions of his own. For the next few months he and Ben watched 3ABN in the evenings, with Josh as their captive audience.
“Ben had his television right at the foot of my bed,” Josh said, “and Charlie had his television right up by the headboard of my bed—so it was like I [was] trapped; I got it from both sides.”
Josh tried wearing headphones when he was in the room. After a sermon was finished he assumed his brothers would turn off the TVs, so he took off the headphones. But 3ABN’s back-to-back sermons kept going long after he turned off the light.
Josh listened, and the personal testimony of Lyle Albrecht touched his heart. It wasn’t long before all three brothers were watching 3ABN together and digging into their Bibles to study the truths they heard about.
New Lives and a New Name
Three months passed, and Charles and Josh were convinced that God didn’t want them to continue working on the Sabbath. Their employers at the grocery store where they both worked told the brothers that giving them every Saturday off was out of the question. They simply weren’t allowed more than two Saturdays off a month.
Convicted, Charles and Josh turned in their notices. Their parents, however, were less than understanding. They thought their sons were making a mistake, but Charles and Josh put themselves into God’s hands.
About three months later their prayers were answered when Charles got a job at Target, where his personal beliefs were respected and Sabbaths were not a problem. Thanks to his older brother’s work ethic, Josh was also offered a job a few weeks later.
The Rietman brothers began attending the Wyoming Seventh-day Adventist Church just outside Grand Rapids, Michigan. They discovered a welcoming community and soon gained a reputation among their new friends for being passionate about the Bible. Church members called them “The Brothers of the Sword.”
Charles and Josh were baptized on September 3, 2005, with Ben following three months later. But God still had big plans for The Brothers of the Sword.
Growing in Faith
Early in 2006, fresh from an inspiring trip to the Generation of Youth for Christ (GYC) conference in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the brothers began to think seriously about evangelism. They were disappointed by their parents’ reaction to their attempts to share their newfound faith, and wanted to find out what they were doing wrong.
“After we came across this message we just had the natural desire to share it,” Josh said. “But you get to that point where you see that people aren’t accepting it like you are, and it’s discouraging. . . . What the Lord led us to do [was to] get trained so we could do it again in the right way.”
2009 1507 page18Nathaniel Gibbs, a Bible worker and friend of the Rietmans, suggested the Mission College of Evangelism in Portland, Oregon. The independently supported Adventist Bible school offered a three-and-a-half-month training program preparing students to be active Bible workers.
The brothers were skeptical at first. Not only was the school about 2,000 miles away, it also cost $4,000 per person, with a minimum of $2,000 needed at enrollment. The Brothers of the Sword felt God wanted them to go, but they didn’t have the money.
A year passed, during which Ben, Charles, and Josh each made the decision to attend the mission college. They prayed and waited, asking God to make it possible for them to go.
Charles didn’t want to leave his engineering internship, fearing he couldn’t take the three and a half months off. Shortly before leaving for mission college, his coworkers threw him a farewell party and told him the position would be waiting for him when he got back.
Ben struggled for months with his decision and self-described “faith problems.” He didn’t know how they could pay tuition.
“I prayed and asked the Lord if He would give me a sign,” Ben said, “and He did. The next day I got a check in the mail from the company I was working for.”
The unannounced bonus check was for nearly the exact amount of the $200 room deposit at the Mission College of Evangelism. But even after the sign, Ben said he still had some doubts: he had a car loan to pay off, and his dad was the cosigner.
“I didn’t want the loan to fall on my dad and to reflect on his credit if I couldn’t pay,” Ben said.
Ben decided to go to the loan officer and see if his father’s name could be taken off the loan. He wasn’t hopeful, because he knew it was against bank policy for someone in his financial position, but to his surprise the loan officer removed his dad’s name with no problem. God had quieted Ben’s doubts.
Telling the World
In January of 2007 the brothers set out for Portland, Oregon, and the Mission College of Evangelism. They still weren’t sure what they were going to do about the tuition cost, and Josh had only enough money to cover their bills for three weeks.
One evening, shortly after arriving at school, the brothers shared their testimony with a group of students and faculty. They explained that they didn’t know how they were going to be able to stay at the school without financial support.
2009 1507 page18“They brought us into the middle [of the group], put their hands on us, and . . . prayed for the situation,” Charles said.
Their friends prayed that they would get the entire $12,000 they still owed. The group also committed to giving the brothers $4,600 toward their tuition.
Not long after the prayer an Adventist from California, Jim Clifford, contacted them and told them the Lord had put a burden on his heart to support them. He gave them $8,000—entirely paying off their bill.
Ben, Charles, and Josh graduated from the Mission College of Evangelism on April 27 and were promptly sent to the New York Conference as Bible workers. After a year in Rochester giving Bible studies, planting churches, and holding meetings, the brothers moved to Albany for a year to continue their work. They are happy to be working for the Lord and are now beginning a third year as Bible workers in Buffalo.
Throughout their conversion and then education at the evangelism school, the Rietman brothers believe God has been preparing them for the work they are now doing.
“These experiences give me confidence that the Lord has led me and that He will finish what He starts,” Josh said. “Because of these experiences I know that God can do the same for those that I meet.”
Ben, Charles, and Josh also feel a growing passion to teach others how to become personally engaged in spreading the gospel. They want everyone to share their excitement about evangelism.
“God wants all His people to play a part in the Great Commission,” Ben said. “Whatever your hurdle may be in sharing the truth with others, God can break it down when you move forward in faith with Him.”
Ben, Charles, and Josh are content to let God’s plan unfold in their lives and have dedicated their lives to serving Him. They are simply trying to let Christ shine through them to a world that is desperately in need of the Savior they have so recently come to know and love.
“The Lord uses us,” Charles said. “There is no better place to be than in His hands.” 
Matthew Herzel, a recent graduate of Southern Adventist University, is a photography intern for Adventist Review.