One hundred and fifty miles from the nearest Adventist church, twenty miles from the nearest railway station, and seven miles from the nearest telephone, I stopped my car by an unpainted cabin in the wilds of Ontario. Here lived a Voice of Prophecy student. During my visit the woman there told me she had been observing the Sabbath the best she could for some months. "My sister-in-law is taking these lessons too, and would like you to call on her," she said.
Back among the rocks about a mile I found this relative in another rough cabin. Yes, she thought the lessons were according to the Bible, and believed them all. "But I wish you could stay to meet my husband; he believes these things too. And he'd like to see you."
I found her husband to be an interested and zealous disciple of the Voice of Prophecy radio program. He told me he had handed out radio logs "all around here." He wanted me to stay overnight and visit a brother of his the next morning. We found this brother at work putting up a log cabin, but he laid aside his hammer and saw to talk with me. He assured me that he believed we were right, and that he listened often to our radio program with pleasure. He said that he would surely attend our meetings if we started to hold them in that section.
As I drove away, my guide said, "I have another brother who lives down this way ; he listens to your program. I wish you would drive over to see him too." And this brother proved as favorable as the first. I thought to go on after that, but the man had other relatives who listened to our radio program. Wouldn't I spend a little more time and call on them too? All seemed to be enthusiastic believers in the message, as far as they understood it.
Noting there were children of church school age in these homes, I was impressed to tell this man of our educational program as we drove back. He took hold of the idea at once. "My brother George and I are carpenters," he said. "We'll put up a log church on my property, and prepare one room in it for a school, if you people will provide the teacher." So we arranged that I would return in the spring, hold meetings, organize the believers into a church, and start a school the next fall.
But something happened during those winter months. The interest died down, and the man whose enthusiasm had sparked the interest in that neighborhood advised me not to return. It was a bitter lesson, but one to be remembered in follow-up work. When an interested neighborhood is found, that is the time to bring interests to decisions. Delay is dangerous.
Another mistake that has impressed itself upon me, is that of baptizing those who live in isolated parts, and then deserting them. These students have never known the stabilizing influence of church fellowship with us as most of our present isolated members have at some time. The pull of old church acquaintances is strong, and they soon come to feel neglected when their new church provides no opportunities for Sabbath services in their community. We have learned that a large percentage of these soon resume attendance at their own church, or join some other congregation nearby, and give up the faith, if left alone for too long.
One of our interested students led me to a partial solution of this problem when he asked that I call on some of the pillars of the church he formerly attended. I did so, and enrolled them all in the Bible course. One was the church clerk, and when I asked for names of other members who might be interested, he laid the church list on the table before me and told me to call on them all. I was thus enabled to enroll almost the entire membership of that particular church.
Thus encouraged, I extended my calls to nearly every farm within that little community. Sixty-five of the hundred families visited enrolled for the course, and twenty-seven of these soon sent back their first test papers. A good interest is practically certain to develop, and the new Sabbathkeeper in that section should not remain isolated for long. I may add that I have since followed this plan in every community where a solid isolated interest is found, and with similar results.
In carrying out this plan, I obtain from the student the names and church affiliation of his neighbors. Thus instructed, I greet each neighbor with, "Mrs. Blank? You attend the____________ church here, I believe?" I then introduce myself as a representative of the Bible school and ask for a few minutes' time. Since most denominations operate Bible schools of some sort, and since I seem to know the church of which they are members, I am almost always granted ready admittance.
Once inside, I speak briefly of world conditions and the approaching crisis, and assure them there is a divine way out. Then I produce one of the lessons, show how it is built up, tell them the course is free, supported by the freewill offerings of those who wish to give, and invite them to enroll then and there. When asked what church operates this Bible School, I tell them, "We have the Seventh-day Adventists to thank for launching this wonderful plan. More than half a million people of all denominations are benefiting by it, many of them ministers and Sunday school teachers." I have been surprised to note the general lack of prejudice manifested when the answer is worded in this way.
Where possible, I call back a little later with a tactful lay member, ostensibly to learn how the new student is enjoying the lessons, but primarily to introduce my fellow worker. From then on, that member is to call when the student reaches his lesson on the millennium, on the Sabbath, on the state of the dead, and at the conclusion of the course. However, information on the lesson sent out is supplied the member from our local Bible school office. Thus the interests are safeguarded and developed, and the conference is duly notified of those places where a genuine interest has appeared and where public meetings are needed.
We are looking forward to the time not far distant when we shall have so many efforts of this type going on that we shall have to depend upon our entire, consecrated church body to help our ministers and lay preachers to care for the large number of interests.
These, in brief, are the methods which this follow-up work is driving us to adopt in the Ontario-Quebec Conference. It is heartening, in fact electrifying, to recall that vision which predicted such methods as a prelude to the final outpouring of the Holy Spirit:
"In visions of the night representations passed before me of a great reformatory movement among God's people. . . . Hundreds and thousands were seen visiting families and opening before them the word of God. Hearts were convicted by the power of the Holy Spirit, and a spirit of genuine conversion was manifest. On every side doors were thrown open to the proclamation of the truth. The world seemed to be lightened with the heavenly influence."—Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 126.