One weekend in September 1995,1 was the guest speaker for the sixth and last camp meeting of the year. As soon as I arrived at the campsite, I made it a point to visit the graves of some of the early Adventist missionaries from Germany who were awaiting the sound of the last trump. The visit refreshed my soul. Even more, what was happening to the living saints strengthened me. More than three hundred souls had been baptized during the previous five camp meetings that year. And now I was looking forward with a child's eagerness to making another call during this last camp meeting.
On Friday I preached in the power of the Holy Spirit. A visiting choir graced the meetings with uplifting music. Heaven seemed so near that one could touch it! The sermon ended on a high note, and I requested the choir to provide inspiring gospel songs as I made the altar call. I gave the call and then, as usual, waited for the Spirit to touch and move souls to come forward. Not a single person stood up! I repeated the call four times, but no one responded! I began sweating as the entire congregation sat motionless but with eyes fixed on me! The conference departmental director, who was my host and who was sitting on the rostrum with me, came to my aid. He repeated the altar call three times, but no one responded or moved to the front! The meeting ended. I marched from the platform with my head down.
After shaking a few hands, I headed straight for my guest house. On entering the room, I locked the door, sat on my bed, and poured out my heart to God. "Lord, what has happened? What have I done wrong? I asked. I spent many hours that night turning over every aspect of my life in search of some hidden reason why the Lord had dealt with me that way.
Toward the early hours of Sabbath morning, sleep overtook me. I woke up and prepared for the worship hours. I spent Sabbath School alone, sitting under the shade of a tree near the meeting place, trying to understand why no one had answered the altar calls the previous day.
When Sabbath School was over, a church elder came to tell me that it was time to get ready for the divine service. I prayed for a few more seconds, stood up and turned to the church elder with a request that I know sounded strange to him. I told him to immediately fill the baptismal pool with water. Puzzled with my "order," he reminded me that no one had answered my altar calls the previous day. He then asked who I expected would be ready for baptism. I replied that I too did not know who was going to be baptized or where they would come from, but that he should nevertheless see to it that the pool was made ready. As I passed the district church pastor near the entrance to meeting place, I also told him to make sure that the baptismal pool was filled. Equally puzzled, he instructed the head deacon to see that arrangements were made for a baptism.
As the service began, I could see the church elders and deacons going in and out, making the preparations. I approached the pulpit that morning, pleading with God to demonstrate His glory. I preached from Matthew 7:13,14.
The time for the altar call arrived and accompanied by choir music, I gave the invitation. At first only two came forward. Encouraged, I pleaded more, and another two moved toward the altar. Then three responded. 1 said I would wait as long as the Holy Spirit spoke to souls in the audience. Another one stood up, then three more. I then made one last call. Would one last soul accept Jesus as his or her personal Savior? Twelve people stood up making a total of twenty four! The congregation burst into amens and the choir into praise. I stepped down from the pulpit to shake the hand of each person.
I stood there amazed and overwhelmed by the working of God. When one of the church clerks handed me the list and addresses of those twenty-four people, I discovered what had happened the previous day. Of the group only two were local people. Others had traveled that morning from as far away as 40 kilometers. Four of them came determined to join the church that day if there was going to be baptism. An elder from a neighboring district confided in me that three girls baptized that afternoon were from his church. One young woman said she had recently come home from a neighboring country where she had been engaged in prostitution. Then and there she decided to give her life to Jesus. "I am through with this sinful life," she told me. "I am giving my soul to Christ right away." A friend of hers also came forward, and both were baptized that Sabbath.
Suppose, overwhelmed by the apparent debacle of the previous day, I had not given that call that Sabbath morning. Suppose my faith had not been sufficient to request that the baptismal tank be filled. Suppose. . . .Well, the miraculous intervention of God defies such suppositions.