The religion of Christ, exemplified in the daily life of His followers, will exert a tenfold greater influence than the most eloquent sermon."—Counsels on Health, p. 289. In these words the servant of the Lord has spoken of the greatest single influence in sanitarium soul winning—the daily life of the worker.
Another equally pointed statement is found on page 278 of the same book: "It is not large, expensive buildings; it is not rich furniture; it is not tables loaded with delicacies, that will give our work influence and success. It is the faith that works by love and purifies the soul; it is the atmosphere of grace that surrounds the believer."
It is true that cleanliness and attractive surroundings and good food play an important part in the life of the sick, but most effective is the "atmosphere of grace" produced by the life of the workers.
At the Washington Sanitarium we are frequently told of the effects of the kindness of the workers and of the pleasant atmosphere within the institution.
A successful businessman came to the sanitarium several months ago. He had had two strokes, his joints were painful and swollen from arthritis, and he was discouraged and depressed by a marriage that had failed. He was so engrossed in his troubles that he did not know or care where his relatives had brought him for medical care. Days gradually grew into weeks, and he began to wander out into the lobby and to become friendly with other patients.
In time Bible studies were begun. One day he told me, "My life was devoted to business and to becoming a financial success—perhaps even more so because of my unhappy home life. In my social life I tried to compensate for my unhappiness by joining clubs, by playing golf, and by social drinking. Now everything is changed. I want to devote my life to God. The kindness of these people overwhelms me, and I want to be like them. But how do I know that God will accept me?" As the days went by he needed frequent reassurance that God forgives. He learned to pray; and he told me that he dedicated his life to God each time he prayed. He was most anxious to continue to learn more of the truth on his return to his home.
We have a Jewish man who is here for the second time within a year. He summed up his problem with the remark, "I know that it isn't physical help I need; it's my soul that needs something." He returned to the sanitarium because he thought he could find the spiritual help here. He had been reading books of a spiritual nature, among them Joshua Liebman's Peace of Mind. The trouble with all the books he has read, he says, is that they touch his intellect but leave his heart cold. Now he is reading Patriarchs and Prophets, and is finding inspiration.
This man was reared in an orthodox home, but he rejected religion because of the inconsistencies and the illogical traditions he observed. During Bible studies he asks questions freely—questions like, "Who is the Lamb that is spoken of so frequently?" "What is the difference between the Old and the New Testament—does one contradict the other?" "How can the Jews reject Christ when there is so much about Him in the Old Testament?" Another question that he brought up was this: "In vespers I see people who are in real pain—some are crippled. And when the chaplain prays he often tells of God's love for them. How can he say that God loves them when there they sit in such a condition?"
He is thrilled with the harmony of the Scriptures, and the hope of a real life and eternal life is giving him a new hope and aim. He is totally unprejudiced and open minded.
Today, just as we were about to begin a study, he said he had something he wanted to discuss first. He had been angry three times that morning—at his doctor, at a friend, and at his wife. He wanted to know what he should do about it. After we had discussed confession and forgiveness, he said, "You see how this is changing my thinking and my way of life. Until now I would never admit being in the wrong. As a matter of fact, I would try to justify what I had said or done."
I think of another patient—a woman who became an Adventist about fifteen years ago, and drifted away because she felt she could not hold up under the strain of opposition from her husband. Her heart remained in the message even though she lost personal contact and fellowship with the church.
About three months ago her husband was in the sanitarium for chest surgery. And about a week ago she needed hospitalization and was admitted for medical care. Almost as soon as she arrived she requested Bible studies for her husband. She felt that this was the time to reach him, and wanted me to come during visiting hours, when her husband would be with her. When I arrived and she told him that we were going to have a Bible study, he picked up his hat and said, "Well, I'll leave. I have an errand to do before I get home." But at her request he stayed. When the study was over he said, "When are you coming again? I am interested."
These three instances represent people of different faiths—one is a Protestant, one a Jew, and one a Roman Catholic. Yet each has been touched and is responding to the atmosphere of kindness and interest on the part of those who minister to their needs in time of illness.