SEVERAL years ago I met a dedicated woman who first embraced the Advent message in 1944. Soon after her baptism she entered the colporteur work. Her training as a teacher eventually placed her in one of our schools. This good soul told me a heartbreaking story with a thrilling climax. As you read the story you will understand why this editorial carries a rather strange title.
She said, "I was very young in the faith, not well grounded, especially in the Spirit of Prophecy, and I fear my prayer life was quite feeble. Satan saw to it that I came up against many things to trip me. I also had many doubts—things I just did not understand. Unfortunately, I confided in a member of our church, a lifelong Adventist, hoping to get some help. She only listened but did not explain a single thing.
"We had either a young intern or a newly ordained minister, I'm not sure which, in our church. He very harshly reprimanded me for joining with a Methodist Ladies' Aid Society for the poor in a district where I had moved. I lost my temper and resolved to withdraw from our church, and wrote them to that effect. At that time I was keeping the Sabbath and as far as I knew, living the message. The church disfellowshiped me, and I was never visited again. I learned later that the members testified that I had expressed doubts and stated that I did not believe we were the remnant people of God. This latter charge was not correct, because I was in complete harmony with our position stated under Question 20 in the book Questions on Doctrine. That has been my belief all the time.
"Fourteen lonely years elapsed. I loved the Adventist Church, and once in a while I would attend Sabbath services. For some time after I was disfellowshiped, I still kept the Sabbath. Just before last Christmas, as I was sitting in my home in_______
I thought of what it must mean when Jesus comes and the lost call for the rocks and mountains to fall on them to hide them. As I sat there I looked up and thought I could never hide from my Redeemer. I resolved to take whatever punishment God ordained without complaint.
Ingathering and Singing
"About a week or ten days later I heard an Ingathering band singing on my street, and when I answered the door, a very kind-faced woman stood there. We started talking, and I mentioned that I used to belong to the Adventist Church and had even taught in our schools. She asked me if I would go to church with her the first part of January after she returned from visiting her daughter. I agreed to this. She brought me several copies of the Review and Herald and the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly. I started daily lesson study just as I used to and resolved to go to church the next Sabbath instead of waiting for her to take me. As soon as I entered the church, everyone was so kind and friendly. I felt 'This is home!'
"I went to one of the front seats, and when the minister and the deacons knelt to pray, I looked up and resolved to ask for rebaptism, and at once the power and love of God so fell on me that I almost shouted for joy. After the service, the pastor of this very large church asked me where I belonged. I told him that at one time I was a member but now was out of the church. He quietly replied, 'We must see to that.' I said, 'Yes, we will.' My re-baptism took place a month later. Somehow the promise, 'I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten' (Joel 2: 25), came to me, and my one hope was to give the remaining years of my life in service for God.
In Spite of Rain
"The woman who came Ingathering that night later told me that she had been praying to be led to someone who had left the church and who was longing to Lorne back. That evening the singing band wanted to stay home because it was raining, but because she had such a definite conviction that they should go in spite of the adverse elements, they listened to her and went to work."
As I conversed with this precious soul, it was difficult for me to understand how this could happen. Here was one of God's lambs that had been misunderstood and rebuked so severely that her faith faltered. Fourteen needless, lonely years! Time irrevocably lost because some failed to show Christian love. The exercising of tact and wisdom based on the principle of love would have spared her months and years of agony and heartbreak.
The second obvious lesson is that a spiritual Ingathering program is not only needful but an absolute necessity. What would happen to our churches if before going to the homes of the people, the members were involved in earnest prayer, asking God to lead them to those who have wandered away from the fold. The familiar strains of a hymn can flood a longing soul with memories of the past which in turn trigger a renewed march to Zion. May this year see a total emphasis on reclaiming and winning souls during the Ingathering season rather than on a statistical record of mere dollars. Let us keep our theology straight, brethren. There is great joy in heaven "over one sinner that repenteth." It is our prayer that the Ingathering campaign this year will produce just that kind of joy in the celestial courts.