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Extraordinary Ordinaries

“Eeeh, Eeeh, Eeeh, Eeeh,” the car horn blared madly.


The elderly woman lay crumpled on the hilly San Francisco street.  A hysteric crowd encircled her while someone shouted, “Call an ambulance, quick!”  Minutes later the limp body was rushed to the hospital. 

Although unable to communicate, the 78 year old Seventh-day Adventist matron strikingly recalled a decades-old conversation in the quiet of the hospital room.

“The work is making wonderful progress, isn’t it?”

“It is,” Ellen White replied, “but more must be done for the black people.”

“I feel the same way.  But what?  The prejudice against anyone trying to help them is so strong.”

“They come from God’s hand just as we do.  Our church owes them the gospel, especially after what has been done to their race. Deep prejudice will be encountered, and intelligence and tact has to be used—but we must work for them nevertheless.”

The woman looked thoughtful.  What could she do?

“Sister, God is calling you to do a special work among the colored people.”

“Me? What can I do?” she replied incredulously.

“God wants you to build a sanitarium for His precious children in the South.  Will you do it?”

Nonplussed but positive, she promised, “I will.”

But years whisked by and other exigencies engrossed her.  Now this: In California—for the General Conference, of all things—in a hospital bed a step from the grave.  She did not want to die, though.  The spark of life was still in her and she had a long-ago promise to keep.

“Oh, God, Forgive me for not making good on my promise.  If you restore me so I can work again, I will build a hospital for Your people.”

She did recover fully, and after years of the exhaustive undertaking, Riverside Hospital was established in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1927.

Nellie Druillard—pioneer in education and hospital establishment.[1]


James White sighed.  The young man wouldn’t go away and wouldn’t take no for an answer.  He had even tried pawning him off on other people, but it was of no use.  Day after day he had taken his pesky guest on errands, but his company was draining.  As a last resort he gave his best pitch to Brother Godsmark.  Would he take the youngster into his home to help on his farm?  As soon as possible, when a tent, in as far out as a location as possible, was available, they could let the zealot preach away. 

Wonder of wonders, the Godsmarks agreed.  And before you knew it an opportunity arose for the man to prove his calling.  The sermon, however, was a disaster.  How to tell such an earnest soul that he was about as called as a corn stalk?

Brother Godsmark was the one who broke it to him.  “Well, you say you are called to preach, but maybe you are called to preach in a non-traditional way…Like maybe a home preacher.  Yes, yes, you can personally visit people’s homes and preach to them face to face.  You’d still be sharing the gospel…”

Indefatigable, the young man didn’t take this suggestion as a rejection, but an opportunity.  He gathered up some Adventist literature, and set out to preach to the entire world, home by home, person by person, family by family.  Off he went, selling books door to door. 

His first week didn’t go well; he only earned 62 cents.  But taking apparent failure as wild success, the ambitious man urged the Review and Herald to publish a new book, and bought the first print run from his personal savings.

George Albert King—father of colporteuring.[2]     


His wife left him for the glitzy life on the East Coast after he discovered Seventh-day Adventism under a tent on a starry night in a lonely Wisconsin town.  Suddenly he was a fifty-year old single father of four girls with an unsteady business selling trees. 

But fate eventually smiled on him.  He met a woman who had the promise of a stable homemaker—her cooking was legendary—and the man moved with his all-woman family to Iowa.  There he was active in the tiny, pastorless Adventist church teaching Sabbath school.  Although in poverty, he continued to give all he had, and in a short time had adopted two needy little girls.

Determined to witness for his faith as much as possible, the father of 6 girls and his wife decided to go out on a limb and order 50 special editions of Signs of the Times to distribute to the people of the town.  The man picked up the package excitedly a week later, and since the post office was packed, he began passing out his package’s content right then and there.  When asked the price of the little periodicals he was distributing, the man said they were free, but if people chose to give a donation he would accept it.  In under an hour he had passed out 47 and collected $4.  Mysteriously, ten days later another package of 50 more Signs arrived.  The man was baffled, but his wife sagely replied that God was behind it.  So he dutifully dispersed the literature to townspeople, farmers, and businessmen alike.  This batch of 50 yielded $26, paying for the order many times over.

By now the man and his wife realized that they had struck upon something big.  After ordering and unloading more publications, the couple sent the profits to the local conference, only to receive the reply that funds gotten by begging from the “Gentiles” would not be accepted.  But the couple insisted the money go to missions and eventually the conference relented.

At first deemed crazy, the man’s amazing tales were soon featured in the Adventist Review.  Yet it was slow going.  The couple constantly wrote letters to church leaders to drum up support for this new program of evangelism.  It wasn’t until the full endorsement of Ellen White was garnered, however, that the innovation took off.  But success didn’t slow this man down.  He led by example, continuing to distribute for donations, urging church leaders to get the members to try it out for themselves.  He was eventually made the official consultant for the Ingathering program at the General Conference.  

Jasper and Emma Wayne—first couple of Ingathering.[3]   


As much a mark of God’s people as is the presence of the gift of prophecy, the Seventh-day Adventist movement has displayed the spectrum of spiritual gifts Paul outlines in I Corinthians 12-14 and Ephesians 4.  Much more than just pastor-powered, our church has largely been driven by the efforts of so-called laypeople, as outlined in the above stories, which feature an empowered senior citizen, an apparently talentless young adult, and a couple that overcame the stark setbacks of life to take their place in the annals of faith.

The church will only realize its divine purpose when its scores of millions of laypeople use their God-given gifts to reach a waiting world. 

[1] Rosa T. Banks, A Woman’s Place: Seventh-day Adventist Women in Church and Society (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1992), 54-55.

[2] See “George King Centennial Jubilee,” Atlantic Union Gleaner, April 8, 1980.

[3] See Richard G. Bowes, “Jasper Wayne—Adventist Innovator 1 & 2” (Adventist Review, October 27, November 3, 1983).

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