After a stormy, rainy night we left early. The fresh and crisp morning promised a gorgeous day. Today we were headed towards New Hampshire and ended up in Vermont, connecting the sites where Adventists lived and witnessed 160 years ago.
As Jim Nix, our faithful tour guide reminds us repeatedly, Adventist pioneers were real people and not grim-looking individuals who stare back at us in black-and-white photographs. Matter of fact, taking a picture in the nineteenth century was a drawn-out and often painful process. One had to stand in front of the camera for minutes while the photographer opened the lens to allow the right amount of light to do its magic. Photographers even used metal contraptions that would hold the person being photographed absolutely still. No wonder these people often looked grim and pained! Can you imagine feeling the metal spikes at neck and head level while standing motionless for minutes? I sure prefer the ease of my digital camera.
We saw many interesting people today. We met students and faculty from Southern Adventist University on their own journey to discover Adventist roots. We met the Lajoie family: they own the birthplace of Annie and Uriah Smith in West Wilton, New Hampshire, and are graciously opening their home for Adventist tour groups to catch a glimpse of life in the prosperous Smith household in the 1820s-era Old Tavern building. They are not members of our faith community but they know Annie’s and Uriah’s stories. I wonder how they feel about these Adventists searching for their roots? What is their take on the Adventist message that completely transformed the lives of two young people from West Wilton?
Every day I learn about new facets of members of our group. Taj Pacleb, working as an evangelist for the Central California Conference, is a young adult who loves sharing the Adventist message. I am sure that understanding early Adventism will empower him to preach more passionately to a twenty-first century audience. This morning, Roman Hintz shared his touching story of surviving the horrors of World War II as a Polish refugee in Nazi-held territory, and how he finally arrived in the New World of freedom, opportunities, and a church family that embraced him and his family. Over lunch, we met Peggy Schauffler who runs a wonderful vegan restaurant in Keene, New Hampshire. If you ever take your own route following your Adventist roots in New England you must plan a stop at her restaurant and enjoy healthy wholesome food (www.countryliferestaurant.com).
What kind of story would I hear if Annie Smith—poet, and unofficial managing editor of the fledgling Adventist paper in Rochester, New York—could speak into the microphone of our tour bus and open her heart? I think I would hear enthusiasm, optimism, passion, deep convictions, and the seemingly limitless energy of young adults. I can still feel that passion today when I speak with my teenage daughter about topics that she is passionate about. When Adventist teenagers get it, nothing can stop them. That was a vital part of the success story of early Adventism. They were few; they had limited resources—and yet they were ready to move forward, convicted by truth and assured of divine appointment. I need to rediscover that drive in my own life.