ASI president Steve Dickman walked with Daniel M. Matte, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Uganda, to a private residence near the church’s headquarters in the U.S. state of Maryland.
He knocked on the door. No answer.
The pair went to the next house. Again no answer.
At the third house, the person who opened the door shooed them away.
“We tried not to be disheartened by this initial response,” Dickman said in relating the experience to world church leaders at Annual Council this week.
The two men knocked on the fourth door. The elderly woman inside looked surprised to see two men standing outside on a street drenched from a recent downpour.
“We’re with the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” Dickman announced, following a script provided by GLOW literature evangelists.
Matte handed the woman a couple GLOW tracts, each containing a nugget of biblical truth.
“We came today because we would like to pray for you,” Dickman said. “Is there anything that we could pray with you about?”
The woman nodded. She was facing surgery in a few days. Then she asked Dickman and Matte if they could also pray for her family and for her church.
Matte’s prayer left her visibly touched. Seeing this, Dickman asked, “Are you a reader?”
The woman confirmed that she enjoyed reading, so Dickman presented her with
The Story of Hope, a 128-page book with selected material from the larger book The Story of Redemption by church cofounder Ellen G. White.
The woman looked at the book and exclaimed, “Oh, I have some other books by this author!”
“You know,” Dickman said, “she is one of my favorite authors.”
“Mine, too,” the woman said.
As Dickman and Matte turned to leave, the woman warmly thanked them for their visit. She said most people who knock on her door are soliciting for something but she was grateful that they had blessed her with a prayer.
Dickman and Matte were among dozens of pairs — mostly Annual Council attendees teamed up with young literature evangelists — who went door to door in an unusual mission outreach program last Sabbath afternoon. The group, carrying GLOW tracts,
Story of Hope books, and about 200 umbrellas, boarded 13 buses at church headquarters in pouring rain around 3:30 p.m. The rain, which was part of Hurricane Matthew, halted as the buses left the parking lot and only began to fall again when they returned about two hours later.
“How many of you returned grumpy, disheartened, and drenched by rain?” Nelson Ernst, director of GLOW ministry, part of the church’s U.S. Pacific Union Conference, asked during a presentation of the outreach effort to Annual Council. “I see none of you returned grumpy, disheartened, and drenched by rain.”
Ernst described the two-hour break in rain as a miracle and thanked a prayer team at church headquarters and a group of people praying in California for their support. The prayer team met in a chapel on the second floor of church headquarters to pray for the outreach effort — and for the weather not to spoil things — during the entire event.
The Sabbath outing was organized by the General Conference, the administrative body of the Adventist world church, to encourage world church leaders to more fully embrace literature evangelism and to set an example for church members everywhere. Forty-nine young people paired up with church leaders were experienced literature evangelists associated with the Souls West school of outreach evangelism in California. Combined they had knocked on more than 1 million doors.
Tiffany Brown, a young adult, told Annual Council attendees that she didn’t knock on anyone’s door on Sabbath afternoon.
“My door was the bus driver,” Brown said.
When church leaders and their partners left Brown’s bus, she approached the bus driver with a question.
“Do you know what we’re doing out here?” she asked.
“I have no idea,” the bus driver replied.
“We are Seventh-day Adventists,” she said. “Have you heard of us?”
The bus driver said he had: both his former wife and his mechanic are Seventh-day Adventists.
Brown queried about the bus driver’s religious background. He said he was raised Roman Catholic, became a Muslim, and later studied with Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“Now I don’t have any church at all and consider myself nondenominational,” he said.
Then he asked: “I have questions about several things, including the name of your church. Why are you called Seventh-day Adventists?”
Brown said: “First of all, we believe that we are saved through grace by faith and not of ourselves. We believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. That’s why our name has the ‘Seventh-day’ part, because we believe the Sabbath is a special day given to us by God. It is our date with God. We are called ‘Adventist’ because we are looking forward to the soon coming of Jesus.”
“OK, but why don’t you keep the Sabbath?” the bus driver said. “Why don’t you rest on the Sabbath like you say? I don’t go to church, but at least I don’t work on Sunday.”
Brown said: “If you take a look at the calendar, you will see that the first day of the week is Sunday, and then Monday and Tuesday. The last day of the week is Saturday, which is the Sabbath.”
The bus driver was astonished.
“Oh, I get it now,” he said. “It makes sense.”
The two spoke some more about the bus driver’s religious experience, and Brown gave him several of the same GLOW tracts that others were handing out door to door.
“I am excited that even though I didn’t get a chance to go door to door, I got a chance to be a missionary for God right there on the bus,” Brown told Annual Council.
While Brown was speaking with the bus driver, Adventist world church president Ted N.C. Wilson and his wife, Nancy, were heading to their first house with a young adult partner, Yolanda Martinez Santos. As they walked along the sidewalk, a car pulled up beside them with a waving woman driver inside.
“I want you to pray for me!” she yelled from the window.
It turned out that Williams Costa Jr., communication director for the Adventist world church, had given the woman several GLOW tracts as he had left the same bus as the Wilsons. But for some reason he had not prayed with her — and the woman saw that other people were getting prayer.
Seeing Wilson’s welcoming smile, the woman stopped her car in the middle of the street and raced to the sidewalk. Wilson asked about her personal needs and then prayed for her.
“We prayed for someone even before we got to the first house,” Wilson said at Annual Council.
A few moments later, the trio knocked on the door of the first house. At first no one seemed to be home. Then they heard a noise, and the door opened. A woman who didn’t seem completely presentable peered out.
“I am Ted, and this is Yolanda,” Wilson told her. “We are from the Seventh-day Adventist Church. And we want to give you …”
Before he could finish, the woman burst out: “Seventh-day Adventist? I’m Seventh-day Adventist, too!”
Wilson’s group quickly learned that the woman was not a church member but linked to a group in another U.S. state. She had recently moved to Maryland and had no connections with any local Adventist church.
The woman got dressed and called her husband to the living room to meet the visitors.
“We were in the house 15 minutes talking to her,” Wilson said. “She was just aglow that we were connected to the Seventh-day Adventist Church.”
Before leaving, Wilson prayed with the couple and took their contact information.
“We are putting them in contact with a local church that will embrace them,” Wilson said. “Another two people for the kingdom of God.”