WEST SALEM, OHIO — One of the highlights of the recent 2018 Annual Council was Andy Weaver’s incredible testimony shared with World Church delegates on Monday, October 15.
Andy Weaver and his wife Naomi were born and raised in the Amish community, a Christian traditionalist group related to the Anabaptists. They are known for their quiet ways, plain clothes, and excellent craftsmanship. With their own hardware and bulk food stores and insurance provided by the church, they are largely independent from the world.
Although he loved his religion, Andy never quite felt at peace. He struggled with the idea of an eternally burning hell, of a God who would torture people through all eternity. He would lie awake at night wondering if he was “going to spend time with God in eternity or burn for a billion years.” It was after Andy and Naomi married and Naomi began experiencing some health issues, their quest for peace and answers began. They discovered, to their surprise, many of her health issues could be resolved by changing their diet. It was also around this time Andy became acquainted with a neighboring farmer, a Seventh-day Adventist, who had recently moved into the community.
One day Andy’s brother mentioned he had found a compilation of early Anabaptist teachings, The Martyr’s Mirror. “Andy,” he said, “you need to get that book. It’s a life-changer!” Although externally everything seemed all right, Andy was experiencing inner turmoil. Something was strangely missing in his spiritual walk.
He bought the book and enthusiastically began reading the early Anabaptist history. As he read however, he became outraged by some of the letters. They insisted on righteousness by faith. To him, that was unimaginable. “You can just accept Jesus in your heart, receive His righteousness and now you are a child of God?” It sounded too simple. This experience drove him to the Bible. He began reading, really studying the Bible in a completely different way.
One Saturday, he asked his Adventist neighbor for a ride to the hospital to visit his nephew. When Andy got into the truck, the friend asked a few questions, then began preaching on the theme of the Great Controversy, enjoying his captive audience. The scenario repeated itself all the way home from the hospital.
Andy told his friend he had not been brought up believing this way, so he couldn’t believe it, referencing 2 Timothy 3:14. The friend countered by quoting Mark 7:7: “In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrine the commandments of men.” Andy was in a predicament. How could he reconcile the two verses? This led to long hours of personal Bible study.
One day, the Adventist neighbor brought Andy a copy of The Great Controversy. He found he already knew much of the history from reading The Martyr’s Mirror and got a little bored with the book. When his friend found out, he brought Andy a Desire of Ages. It sat on a bookshelf for months. Andy came home one winter evening, sat down in a chair by the fire and picked up the Desire of Ages, turning to the first chapter. That, he says, is when his life dramatically changed. Some of what he read he had been familiar with, but the pieces had never fallen into place.
“One of the things I remember reading was, ‘Christ was treated as we deserve so that we may be treated as He deserved,’ and I’d never thought about that,” Andy says. “It used to make me angry that Jesus sat in Pilate’s judgement hall and he wouldn’t talk…I was the type of person who would waste no time in defending myself when people challenged me. Why would Jesus not take this opportunity? But reading Desires of Ages changed my perspective. By God’s grace I have learned that if God is our defense, we don’t have to defend ourselves.” As he continued to read, and passages confirmed what the early Anabaptist church had taught about righteousness by faith, he realized, “I have found the truth! This has to be the truth!”
As Andy dug deeper into the scriptures, he began sharing with his friends and relatives what he’d learned about the Mark of the Beast, the Sabbath, and other biblical truths, honestly believing once they heard, they’d accept it and revival would sweep through the church. What he and his wife encountered, however, were threats of excommunication for speaking heresy. They had no desire to leave the Amish community or be shunned by family and friends, so they quieted down for a while. Andy was completely miserable. He knew he had found the truth but could not do anything with it.
One day he stood in his workshop, too depressed to do anything. He had burned all of his Spirit of Prophecy books months before, thinking his convictions would eventually go away. As he stood there in his workshop, he remembered he had kept one copy of The Great Controversy to give to a Baptist friend. “Maybe I can find something encouraging in that book,” he thought. He went to the barn, retrieved it and began reading the chapter on Martin Luther and his separation from the Church of Rome. That was when the Lord spoke to him in a very direct way. “Andy,” He said, “I have suffered long with you and I have a calling for you.” Andy responded, “Lord, if you will help me, I’ll do what you want me to do. I’ll follow you.”
Andy and Naomi were excommunicated from the Amish faith in 2013. While an extremely difficult time for them, they firmly stood by their conviction that what they had learned from the Bible was true. As they discussed the potential of becoming part of a different outside culture, Naomi suggested, “We could adopt this truth while still holding onto our Amish heritage, couldn’t we? What prevents us from maintaining our lifestyle, which we love dearly? That way while we live in this community, we still fit in—even though the church doesn’t accept us.” So, that is what they did.
The rest is history, Andy says. He found a gold mine of truth, a truth that brings hope—even to Plain people who look innocent and peaceful, but who are hopeless and brokenhearted—and he is on a mission. “God has called us,” he says, “to bring this message to our people. It’s a mystery to me why the marvelous truth of the Three Angels’ Messages has never really been introduced to the modern day Anabaptists, the Amish and Mennonite people.”
In 2015, the Weavers, with the help of friends, formed West Salem Mission, a supporting ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. West Salem Mission exists to share the beautiful truths of scripture and the Three Angels’ Messages in the West Salem, Ohio, community and beyond. They have a growing congregation, a school, and are actively involved in outreach and evangelism. Andy says, “While we love the Amish lifestyle, the most exciting thing on this earth, other than the assurance of salvation, is the fact that I can be part of a world-wide Church that believes just what I believe. I love the Seventh-day Adventist Church.”