Seventh-day Adventist believers found indications of God’s presence in a blizzard that paralyzed the eastern United States over the weekend, closing churches and forcing them to spend Sabbath at home.
Millions of people sought shelter as the winter storm blew through 20 states, dumping 14 to 34 inches (35 to 86 centimeters) of snow on cities such as New York, Baltimore, and Washington by late Saturday. At least 17 people were reported killed nationwide, mostly in traffic accidents, and thousands of homes were left without power. Some areas, including New York City, imposed a blanket ban on street traffic for safety reasons.
The heavy snowfall, which began Friday, was forecast to continue until Sunday.
Stranded at home, Adventists took to social media to share Sabbath thoughts as well as photos of the growing mountains of white fluff outside their windows.
Jiwan Moon, director of Public Campus Ministries for the Adventist world church, said he has not seen so much snow since he moved to Maryland from a city near Toronto, Canada, in 2013.
“Just finished our Sabbath worship at home … and the road disappeared. We’ll be stuck in our house for awhile,” Moon said on Instagram. “[I’m] reminded of God forgiving our sins and making us as white as snow.”
His sentiment was echoed by the Adventist Church’s North American Division.
“’Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow!’ Isaiah 1:18. Thank you, Jesus!” it said in a “Happy Sabbath!” post on Facebook.
Ted N.C. Wilson, president of the Adventist world church, saw a parallel between being prepared for the blizzard and Jesus’ Second Coming.
“It is important to be prepared for what is coming ahead — whether it be a blizzard in Maryland (it has begun today) or the prophetic unfolding of the last days,” he wrote Friday on his Facebook page.
He posted photos of wood being sawed for his home furnace and an emergency power generator being prepared in the event of a blackout.
“The generator is ready to go if electric power goes out during the blizzard,” Wilson said. “Let’s be connected to the heavenly power source for a powerful witness as we participate in Total Member Involvement in anticipation of Jesus’ coming!”
Total Member Involvement is an initiative of the Adventist world church aimed at encouraging each of the church’s 18.5 million members to become actively engaged in evangelism and witnessing.
Some Adventists looked for ways to assist neighbors with food, water and, if necessary, shelter as they waited out the storm on Sabbath. The church’s Columbia Union Conference, whose territory includes Washington, directed Twitter and Facebook readers to an article on how to cope with the blizzard.
Other Adventists took their young children outside to play in the snow and curled up on the couch to watch a Sabbath sermon online. Adventists churches across the eastern United States were closed on Sabbath.
Chad Stuart, pastor of the church in Spencerville, Maryland, who just returned home from a two-day refugee summit in Croatia, tweeted that he had relinquished the pulpit for the day to watch pastor Randy Roberts preach at the Loma Linda University Church in California.
“Since we're snowed out @SpencervilleSDA, I’m joining @lluchurch and @RandyLRoberts for worship this Sabbath,” Stuart said.
Church member David Reile posted a photo on Facebook of his television set tuned to Hope Channel’s “Hope Sabbath School” hosted by Derek Morris, associate secretary of the Adventist world church’s Ministerial Association. A warm, cozy fire could be seen burning in a fireplace beneath the television set.
“Happy Sabbath even in a blizzard,” Reile wrote.