POSSIBLY the evangelist best known to the public of Australia next to Billy Graham is George Vandeman. This is so because of the tremendous impact made by the It Is Written telecast over the fourteen TV channels that have carried it since its introduction as a pilot project in Australia in 1964. It is estimated that 80 percent of the population of Australia have at one time or another since 1964 been able to tune in to It Is Written.
The extent of the effectiveness of the program will perhaps never be fully known until the numbers of the kingdom are finally made up; but evidence of its effective impact upon both our own people and the public, and particularly upon our administrators, can be shown by the fact that the conference that launched the first It Is Written program over television in Australia in 1964 has again launched the program in 1967 over the identical station and at prime viewing time.
Some Trans-Commonwealth Union Conference Impressions
West Australian Conference
It Is Written began in Perth on April 17, 1966, and has been screened continuously since that time. Hundreds of people have demonstrated some form of interest in spiritual values by making contact with the Perth It Is Written office, either by mail or through the several telephone offers. It is clearly understood that It Is Written on television is a long-range evangelistic project. With the view of reaping some of the interest that has been created, a city evangelistic effort under the preaching ministry of A. G. Fletcher was begun on April 16 this year. Pastor Fletcher began his mission in the Piccadilly Theatre seven weeks before Pastor Vandeman began his series of meetings in Perth.
With a thrilling air of expectancy, the first meeting in the Vandeman series was held on Saturday night, May 27, in His Majesty's Theatre.
As a result of the evangelistic services, well over four hundred non-Adventist families requested literature. In a concentrated program of visiting by the mission team, assisted by the departmental leaders and administration, all these people were visited and encouraged, largely during the week in which the meetings were conducted. Many people have indicated a strong interest, and a desire to take all steps necessary for a full communion with God.
A strong work has been and is being done by the It Is Written program in Victoria, where the program has been beamed from four leading TV stations. The following story, related by H. C. Barritt, radio-TV secretary of the Trans-Commonwealth Union, is typical of hundreds that could be told.
"A miracle of God's grace began in 1965 when It Is Written was first released in Melbourne. Key figures included Mr. and Mrs. Keith Smit; their daughter Katrina and son Michael, now aged ten and eight years, respectively; Brother Norman Tyack, of the Warburton church; Pastor George Vandeman; and most important of all, our loving and interested heavenly Father.
"Initial contact was established when Brother Tyack, a dedicated and hard-working layman, called on Mrs. Smit during the first It Is Written survey. This call aroused spiritual interest and focused attention on the telecast. Mr. Smit's strict and rather harsh religious upbringing had built up a resistance to religion as such, but Pastor Vandeman's kindly and logical messages and Brother Tyack's pleasant personality finally won his approval and confidence.
"Katrina and Michael took an exceptionally keen interest in Pastor Vandeman's television messages, and of their own accord wrote him a beautiful letter which commenced, 'Dear friend of Jesus,' and in which they stated, 'we can hardly wait until Jesus comes.' In due course they were thrilled to receive a personal and greatly treasured reply from Pastor Vandeman. Their enthusiasm has been an inspiration to their parents.
"The impact of the telecast, plus the sincere and tactful presentation of weekly Bible studies by Brother Tyack, has resulted in growth in both grace and knowledge, until today we rejoice with the Smit family as they move toward full membership in God's remnant church."
South Australian Conference
In the first six months there were 2,277 people taking the correspondence course. This built up to 3,245 by the time of the final telecast on June 11 this year.
Pastor Vandeman's personal appearance and reaping campaign (June 9-14) have already produced a good harvest of souls. The attendance at the first public meeting was nine hundred. This number, contrary to the usual evangelistic experience, grew to 1,500 by the third meeting, and dropped to 1,150 for the week-night meetings, when it was difficult for country folk to attend. A total of 1,186 books were sold, there were 520 requests for literature, and 105 indicated their intention to keep God's true Sabbath or requested further information.
Because of the interest created, an extra minister was brought in from the country to help the six ministers already in the city. These men are all studying with as many persons as they can manage. The president and all departmental leaders are giving Bible studies, and so are a number of our qualified laymen. Others are being trained to help.
The Trans-Tasman Union
It Is Written has been conducted in five centers in the Trans-Tasman Union Conference. Two of these centers were small cities of 25,000 to 35,000 population in rural areas. One other was a highly industrialized complex center surrounded by nearly a dozen satellite industrial towns, with a total population of more than 200,000. The other two centers were state capital cities, one with a population of a little over half a million, the other the big metropolis of Sydney, where nearly 3 million people live.
The approaches and responses in each area have been different. In each area people are now rejoicing in the Advent message because of It Is Written. Many more have seen and heard it and as a result are favorably impressed with the way Seventh-day Adventists let the Bible interpret itself. Further, the program has warmed the hearts of our church members and has "got through" to many youth and older people who have hesitated for years.
In the state of Queensland, where It Is Written was telecast for approximately a year, in Brisbane and Rockhampton a good number of people have been baptized. When Pastor Vandeman recently visited Queensland, even though it was more than a year after the television series had ended, a great many people came to his three public meetings (as well as It Is Written baptized church members) because they remembered the telecast and said they were sure that Pastor Vandeman had a message that met today's needs. Many non-Adventist friends requested that the telecast be repeated.
North New South Wales
In the North New South Wales Conference the It Is Written program has been presented in two areas. Lismore, a town of 25,000 in the far north of the conference, where the It Is Written program was first released in Australia, and Newcastle, an industrial city of 120,000 population.
The Newcastle program began in May, 1966, and is still being featured. We learned many lessons from the pilot program in Lismore. We learned that reaping is done by door knocking. We learned that fruit takes time to mature, and there is a right time to pick it. There are ten churches in the area covered by the Lismore television station, and our enthusiastic people in these churches have this year strongly sponsored a return season for It Is Written.
This new series began on June 5, 1967, and just three weeks after it began Pastor George Vandeman was there in person.
A civic reception by the Mayor of Lismore and a crowded city hall indicated an evident interest in the It Is Written speaker and his message. From the one public meeting conducted by Pastor Vandeman in Lis-more, one hundred literature requests were received.
George Vandeman came to Newcastle when the It Is Written fruit was ripening. The city hall was more than crowded for every meeting of the series. One hundred non-Adventists signed the Sabbath decision card and more than five hundred requested literature.
A. N. Duffy has conducted public meetings, and results are gratifying. Significant numbers of new believers are already attending our churches. It is certain that the visit of Pastor Vandeman to North New South Wales put us in touch with many vitally interested It Is Written viewers with whom we had had no previous contact.
It Is Written was launched in Sydney on June 5, 1966. At the time of the Vandeman crusade in the Sydney showgrounds, June 16 to 20, 1967, fifty-four telecasts had been completed. In that comparatively short period of time, 5,533 people had applied for the Faith Bible Guides while the total number of requests for offers reached 7,466. With the introduction of a Bible award incentive at lesson 25, more than 25 per cent of all students are regularly returning test papers. Over two hundred people are receiving Bible studies at the present time.
Pastor Vandeman's public meetings met with tremendous success; attendances ranged from 4,000 to 5,000 people each night. The total offerings—five thousand dollars—were beyond all expectations. Fourteen hundred people requested sermon outlines, and 217 non-Adventists signed the Sabbath pledge.
Five hundred active visitors and the entire membership of the Greater Sydney Conference have stated that the It Is Written project, culminating in Pastor Vandeman's personal visit, has brought a spiritual revival into our midst.
E. F. Giblett, Radio and TV Secretary T.T.U.C.