In 1976 I was working as a sales representative for a natural food distributor. While I was working there, our company participated in a huge weekend event with a booth in the Fieldhouse of DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois, United States. It was very well attended by crowds of people going from booth to booth, trying samples.
On my first break, I discovered that the booth two down from mine was selling vegetarian pizza slices with non-dairy cheese and loaves of whole-wheat bread. I had recently become a vegetarian and was always looking for new things to eat that would fit my new diet. I had never heard of dairy-less pizza, but it smelled and looked so appetizing! A little later, I finally got up the nerve to buy a slice and, after one bite, was convinced. It was the best I had ever tasted!
On Sunday, after the fair ended, everyone was taking down their displays and packing up to head home. As I finished my cleanup, the woman from the pizza booth walked up and handed me a loaf of homemade whole-wheat bread and said, “Here, we wanted you to have this.” I was a bit surprised, because no one in Chicago gives anything away for free!
Then she said, “You should come to visit us sometime; we live in Michigan.” Cautiously I asked, what it would cost? She replied, “Nothing. Just come visit and enjoy more vegetarian food. You’ll love it.” I asked when, and she said, “In two weeks, come up Friday night and stay until Sunday afternoon.” I heard myself say, “OK, two weeks … I’ll be there.” After giving some directions and contact information, she returned to her booth, leaving me in a daze.
What have I agreed to? I thought.
Healthy Food Serves as Opening
I decided not to go alone, so I invited a friend to go with me. He asked another friend and, two weeks later, the three of us headed to this place called Oak Haven. We drove up from Chicago to Pullman, Michigan, arriving Friday evening at about 8:00 p.m. We went by these big entrance arches, then down through a wooded forest area to a retreat-looking building, where we saw people had gathered.
We had no idea that it was the beginning of Sabbath or even what that meant. We walked into a room where about 50 people were seated in chairs facing the front, and a man in suspenders was talking happily about someone named Jesus. At the end of his talk, he said, “Let’s kneel for prayer to close our Sabbath meeting.” I was confused and wondered what kneeling for prayer was about. I turned to my two friends and said, “We had better kneel because we are their guests!” They refused, but I knelt and, for the first time in my life, listened to someone pray.
We stayed that weekend at one of the homes at Oak Haven and experienced many new things. The vegetarian food was fantastic, and there was plenty of it, although the two meals a day took some getting used to. We left Oak Haven Sunday evening and drove back to Chicago.
My mind was filled with all sorts of questions. "Who are these people? Where does their happiness come from?” I felt drawn to their healthy lifestyle, especially the vegetarian food.
Once a month for the next nine months, I “invited” myself back to Oak Haven. I would make these trips alone, since my friends had no interest in finding out more about these “weird” people. I met many interesting people over the next few months.
One time at Oak Haven, I was sitting in a rocking chair after the afternoon meal when a girl came and sat beside me. In almost every sentence, she included the phrase, “Isn’t that a blessing?” As time went on, I began to understand what God's blessings were about. I learned about many of them from Cindy, a girl with whom I roomed at Oak Haven. Cindy blessed me by inviting me to her church, and soon I was attending regularly. The North Shore Seventh-day Adventist church family was welcoming and friendly. Their pastor, Stan Cottrell, made me feel right at home. Cindy started encouraging me to stay for the Bible study.
Experiencing an Inward Peace
Another blessing was learning to pray. At the entrance to Oak Haven was something called the prayer gate; when people arrived or left, they would stop at the prayer gate and ask or thank God for safety as they traveled. People didn’t just pray at the gate; they prayed at meals, at meetings, in their rooms, while they were walking — it was a genuine part of their life. They would address God as their Friend and thank Him for everything! Their prayer lives were a wonderful example to me and, because they prayed for me too, I soon had an inward peace that was so different from that to which I was accustomed.
One Sunday evening as I left Oak Haven to go home, I approached the prayer gate in my car and was suddenly impressed to stop and pray like all the others did. I stopped the car, got out, and knelt by the side of the road and prayed for the first time in my life. I thanked God for the beautiful weekend I had experienced and asked for safety on my trip home. As I ended my prayer, a voice came out of nowhere saying, “Jayney Marie Scandiff, do you love Me?” I jumped up and looked around; there was no one in sight, so I thought I was just hearing things. I knelt and started to pray again. Suddenly, the voice spoke again, and this time I was sure I heard it! I looked around and still could not see anyone, so I shook my head to clear my thoughts and decided to start praying again. As I started to pray, the Voice spoke louder and clearer, “Jayney Marie Scandiff, do you love Me?” I jumped up this time, sure that I had heard the voice of God! I answered and said, “Yes, God, yes, I love you!”
When I got home, I called Pastor Cottrell and asked to be baptized as soon as possible, on Saturday (Sabbath). That was 45 years ago, and since then I have been doing the work God gave me to do — health education. What a blessing being a Seventh-day Adventist has been! What a blessing our health message has been for me!
My story is really about the power of God reaching out to me. I often think where I would be today had it not been for the people in the booth two down from mine. God invites each of us to share the Good News. My “birth” took nine months; it may take years for others, or a day, and it starts when we tell others what Jesus has done for us. I was given the true “Bread of Life” by that one loaf of bread given to me that Sunday afternoon at DePaul University in 1976. When we have an experience with God, we are overcome with a desire to share Him with others.