While getting ready for church each Sunday morning, our family listened to religious broadcasts on the radio. My father was pastor of a German Baptist church in NorthDakota, and we lived in the parsonage next to the church. Dad’s ears perked up one Sunday when he heard about a free junior Bible correspondence course offered by the Voice of Prophecy. He thought it would be good for me, his 10-year-old daughter.
Mother wasn’t so eager because she thought it was a Seventh-day Adventist program. But she lost the argument and decided it wouldn’t hurt for me to learn more about the Bible.
The Adventist Connection
Mother knew something about Adventists, because one had proposed to her when she was a teenager. But she wasn’t interested in marrying anyone who didn’t share her Baptist beliefs. After she and Dad married and were homesteading in the prairies of Saskatchewan, Canada, some Adventists had held tent meetings. Mother, making a diary entry about trouble in their Baptist church, wrote: “It is sad, but in situations like that the Adventists are right there to indoctrinate the weaker Baptists to become Adventist.”
Three months later Mother attended tent meetings. She had many questions and was fascinated by how Adventists took Scripture from all over the Bible to prove a point. She took notes and studied them at home. Mother had questions for the Adventist preacher and took them with his answers to her Baptist preacher to review. The Baptist agreed with some, but not with others.
Mother’s diary indicates she attended many of the meetings but was not convinced, particularly about the state of the dead and the Sabbath.
A few years later Dad entered the ministry and went to a Baptist seminary in Rochester, New York. A couple of Mother’s diary entries while there tell of attending a baptism at an Adventist church. Nearly 20 years later, while pastoring in South Dakota, mother was again exposed to Adventist teachings, this time while serving on a temperance committee on which an Adventist woman also served.
In the Parsonage
We began receiving the German Signs of the Times in our home. The Signs was still coming to our home when I began receiving the Voice of Prophecy lessons. As the Bible lessons came, I eagerly completed them and looked forward to the comments returned with the corrected lessons. One Monday came the shocker in lesson 13 when the calendar proved that Saturday was the seventh day, and that the Bible said it was the Sabbath. I found Dad in his study and asked if he knew we were keeping the wrong day. He got rid of me just as promptly as I had arrived.
I went in search of Mother and learned that she had gone to the post office. Upon her return, I excitedly asked if she knew we were keeping the wrong day. Her response in the affirmative floored me, and I asked why we didn’t keep the right day. Mother informed me that she just mailed a book back to a friend that she had recently read until she was convicted about the Sabbath.
This wise friend had sent a copy of The True Sabbath and asked Mother to return it with her opinion. Mother knew what she thought, but being an honest person she had to read it before returning it with her comments. Mother shared her conviction in the Monday mail. Ironically, this woman was the sister of the young Adventist who had proposed to Mother years earlier.
My Voice of Prophecy lesson asked if I accepted the Sabbath and what I intended to do about it. Mother said I should ask them to pray for us. I was not to say anything about it in town as my father was a Baptist preacher. I quietly finished the rest of the Bible lessons.
That year my older brother unexpectedly came home from El Toro Marine Base in California, where he was stationed. He began to talk to my father about moving to California, where he could make a living as a carpenter. Mother’s health would improve in a warmer climate, he said.
Mother and I began to pray. When Dad took my brother back to the base, Mother told him that if he decided to put money down on a house, to try to have it near a Seventh-day Adventist church. We moved to Santa Ana, where Mother, my twin brothers, and I were baptized into the Adventist Church within the year.
Why the Delay?
I often wonder why it took 38 years to the day from the Sunday Mother was baptized as a Baptist until the Sabbathshe was baptized into the Adventist Church. Why couldn’t she have married an Adventistas a youth? Why wasn’t she convicted of the truths when she heard them at the tent meetings? Were there lives she needed to touch as a Baptist minister’s wife?
I don’t know the answers to these questions. I also don’t know why some of my loved ones have left the church, even some preachers.
Many of us pray for family members who have never accepted our truths, or those who have left the faith, perhaps children raised in this message and sent through our schools.
It’s easy to become impatient as years go by and we see no results. But Mother’s experience reminds me that the Holy Spirit never gives up. Thankfully, His pleading brought conviction to my mother at last. We must have the patience of the Holy Spirit as we persevere in prayer for our loved ones that His pleading may bring conviction.
Esther Garner lives in Myrtle Creek, Oregon.