Camp meeting season always brings a blessing to those who are present. Some, however, find attendance impossible for a variety of reasons. This report from New Zealand could well suggest a method other conferences might follow with profit. The cost for the use of the long-distance telephone for each Sabbath service was less than $100, not exorbitant, surely, when we think of the results. Having recently visited that field, we can testify to the enthusiasm of the membership covering this very interesting project.—EDITOR.
An important part of the church program in North New Zealand is the annual camp meeting. In this fair land where summer comes at Christmas time, we are still able to conduct the old-fashioned type of camp meeting but with the addition of many modern amenities. January, 1964, produced one of the largest in the history of this conference, many claiming it to be the best ever, which, of course, it should be as the church grows in grace. We estimate that we had at least 1,600 people living on the grounds during the ten-day camp, with more than 1,000 visitors coming in for the weekends.
Our overseas visitors often tell us that ours is one of the most beautiful campgrounds they have seen. This, of course, pleases us, for we, too, deem it beautiful. It is named Haskell Park in honor of S. N. Haskell, who pioneered the work in New Zealand. It is situated twenty-five miles south of the city of Auckland. Because half of the population of our conference lives in the northern half of the North Island, our camp is well located. However, the capital city is Wellington, at the extreme south of the North Island, 400 miles distant. Many of our people from that end of the conference are unable to attend the camp, and how to include them in our blessings has always been a problem.
During 1963 L. J. Cherry ran an evangelistic campaign in Wellington with gratifying results. Forty-eight new members have been baptized. In the Hutt church twelve miles away, R. W. Howes added an additional twenty-five members. Now, how could we pass on some camp blessings to these good people? Then came an idea. Could we not link the camp to the south by telephone landline at least on Sabbath? If so, then a combined meeting in the beautiful Hutt church could share the blessings. Telegraph officials were approached, and they were very willing to cooperate with us on the scheme. Before the appointed time all connections had been prepared.
Our guest speaker, A. S. Maxwell from the Pacific Press, took the divine service on the first Sabbath of the camp meeting. Very early in this meeting we felt that God was drawing near to His people. As the speaker developed his theme, we began to wonder how our "broadcast" was being received and prayed that God would bless His people at both ends of our conference. As our people responded to the call for consecration, it revealed how truly God is waiting to move upon our hearts.
No sooner had the service closed than messages of congratulation came from the south, both from members and post office technicians who had monitored the whole service. Transmission had been near perfect. The telephone line connected to our amplification system in the tent had carried the message of God to the public address system in the Hutt church. Members felt as though they had been in the large tent with us, and post office officials were deeply impressed with the whole service. Our hearts were thrilled by the success of our venture.
Then we awaited eagerly the next Sabbath morning service, the last great day of the camp meeting. This was conducted by our division president, L. C. Naden. Again a large crowd had gathered in the Hutt church to share in the blessings of this last great day of the feast. With so many waiting on his words, he sensed the responsibility of the occasion. In a striking way he presented the message of the hour, and once again the Saviour of the world was lifted up for all to see. The address closed with an altar call, and truly the Spirit of God was there to bless. As the crowd of worshipers streamed out in front of the tent rostrum in rededication to God, a voice was heard to say, "Surely God is in this place."
So great had been our preoccupation with the service that we had almost forgotten our landline to the south, but no sooner had the service closed than Pastor Naden was called to the telephone. The church leader in the Hutt church waited to give the good news of the reception. During the appeal the congregation had risen and moved out to the front of the Hutt church, just as though the preacher had been present personally. In this wonderful hour God's people, divided by a distance of 400 miles, had been drawn closely together in the bonds of devotion and consecration to God. The hearts of all were lifted in gratitude to God for His great goodness. Our camp closed with a wonderful missionary meeting and a record offering of £3,700, which surely must indicate God's love in the hearts of His people.