I found myself in unfamiliar surroundings. The past two years had brought about changes that were almost unfathomable. I had moved from Chicago to Indiana, experienced a significant job change, had a major life transformation, and now found myself in a tiny town in Michigan working at school that I had never known about. There on the campus of Andrews University, I began a journey I had not planned, a journey that with each step gave me a deeper love and appreciation for my new life.
This next step had me working as the manager of the Gazebo, a small restaurant open after the cafeteria was closed. As I stood there in the sea of stainless-steel prep stations, ice cream machines, and pizza ovens, I reflected back with amazement on the whirlwind year I had just had.
A little less than a year earlier, I had been baptized as a Seventh-day Adventist. Five months ago I had gotten married to my wife, Debbie. After those two life-changing events, I wondered if God was calling me to full-time ministry. However, I soon realized that I needed to go to school for that, and I had no money. While I was working at McDonald’s, my convictions on the Sabbath were tested, and I decided to seek employment elsewhere. This is when the opportunity to manage the Gazebo opened up.
Although I had a lot of experience in restaurant management, my employment at the Gazebo was a result of God’s direct guidance. One of the benefits of being an employee of Andrews University was the opportunity to take a free class. This free class availed me the opportunity to “test” God’s call to devote my life to full-time ministry.
I had not attended a class in almost five years—since I had graduated from high school. But there I sat in Griggs Hall. The class was called “God and Human Life.” At the front of the room stood an unimposing man who spoke with a deep bass voice and a distinct accent that I had not heard before. As I looked at the syllabus and heard him speak, I knew I was in for quite a ride.
As he began his “devotional,” I was astounded by the things he was saying. I had never heard anything like it in my life. He made the Bible so plain, yet revealed its depth as well.
About midway into that first devotional, it became obvious to me that the “devotional” was actually part of his teaching technique. In that moment, this professor became a mentor and an example to me of expounding the Scriptures through teaching. I began to really love the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It was in this professor’s classes that I felt convicted that God was calling me to the ministry. He invested time and energy into me as he mentored and discipled me in Adventism.
As my education continued, other professors took time and energy to disciple me. I learned about leadership, grace and mercy, and kindness and gentleness from the chair of the department. Others instilled in me a love for the original languages of the Bible. I was challenged to study the book of Revelation more deeply and inspired to engage in deep theological thinking. Each one of these professors took an interest in me. I knew they loved me, and I knew they wanted what was best for me.
In addition to my time in the formal classroom at Andrews, I spent time in another classroom. I don’t mean to be sacrilegious by saying so, but Pioneer Memorial Church was that classroom. Calling it a classroom doesn’t diminish the holiness or awe I sensed in that place. But it was a place of intense learning for me. There I often attended both services, just to take in the message and fully understand it. Later in my time at Andrews University, as the student religious vice president, I worked closely with the pastoral staff at Pioneer Memorial Church. Pastor Dwight Nelson became another mentor and coach. He imparted to me a deep love of the Scriptures and of excellence in preaching.
There have been many others since then who have been instrumental in my spiritual and professional development. I love the Seventh-day Adventist Church because it is a church steeped in making true disciples of Jesus. I love the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the leaders of our church because of their dedication and investment in people. I love the Seventh-day Adventist Church because it has enabled me to do things and go places all over the world that I would not have had the opportunity to do had God not called me to be part of this amazing movement.
For all these reasons and more I love the Seventh-day Adventist Church. But most importantly, I love the Seventh-day Adventist Church because it first loved me.