March 5, 2019

Two Adventist Review Editors Recall Living In 1969

The year 1969 saw some epic changes in United States society.

Lael Caesar & Stephen Chavez

The world was both different and similar 50 years ago. So was the Adventist Church. How so? In this issue two Adventist Review editors recall living in 1969; after which we reflect on difference and similarity in war, music, media, and worship. You can surf your memories too—if you’re one of the more than 90% of today’s population who were alive in 1969.

1969: I Remember

Memories of how the Spirit moved

When I left home for Caribbean Union College (CUC), I knew where I was going. CUC was my parents’ alma mater; my older sister was an alumna; lots of colporteurs from there had told me about the place.

Outward Bound

When I arrived on campus along with the younger brother many thought was my twin, we knew we had come for much more than just becoming employable. We had come to a place of God, a school of the prophets, a nursery of character completion that aimed at heaven. More than anything else, we knew we would be part of a prayer band: participating in a prayer band was a nonnegotiable element of CUC attendance. We learned this from the colporteurs—men who traveled to far countries like ours where good people like my parents gave them lodging, where they spent their days knocking on doors and offering people wonderful medical encyclopedias and religious books, if someone opened the door when they knocked.

Inward Turned

Soon enough my brother and I were part of a little group that met every evening after dorm worship for prayer that ministered to inner spiritual needs before we committed the rest of the evening to study, idleness, or both.

In time I modified my definition of colporteurs: they didn’t have to come from overseas, be male, or even be students. I also discovered the significance of nightly prayer band: it was explosive. With no thorough grasp of what was happening inside us and all around, we found ourselves swept up into a spiritual passion beyond our capacity to either fathom or control: the dark little corner under the college printshop could no longer accommodate the prayer group; nor could the brief quarter hour or so between dorm worship and study periods. Sometime in 1969, with quiet suddenness but without any zapped lightning or rolling thunder, the prayer band became uncontrollable: we had to continue after study periods; we had to find a larger room; night after night dozens of young men flowed quietly toward the music room when the official thing to do was resort to bed or study hall as dorm lights were switched off at 10:00 p.m. The music room prayer sessions stretched to interminability. The revival, as we came to recognize it, reached Linda Austin Hall at the other end of campus, because now young men and their girlfriends were talking about prayer. Soon enough, a tide of prayer was sweeping through Linda Austin Hall as well.

Then the prayer group’s leaders requested audience with college administration. Audience granted we came before them to explain that from now on we would be one with them in work and service. We apologized for earlier contempt of their attempts to make us better and cynicism about their rules for orderly campus life. We had been converted, though none of us has ever since been able to explain how it happened—except for the prayer band. One non-Adventist prayer band member decided for baptism. Friends on the fringes of church life became mainstream witnesses for the gospel. Some casual ministerial students decided that gospel ministry was serious business. For Lael-Jonah, the resistance of years to God’s call to pastoral ministry dissolved into “Here am I, Lord: send me.”

Lael Caesar, an Adventist Review associate editor, is still committed to that surrender, “Here am I, Lord: send me.”