Stories & Commentaries

Camp Meeting: Still Here After 150 Years!

Camp Meeting: Still Here After 150 Years!
Camp meeting with Ellen White in attendance

Ellen G. White attends the Moss, Norway, camp meeting in June 1887. Photo from the Ellen G. White Estate

From the very first camp meeting of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, held in 1868 on the farm of E. H. Root in Wright, Michigan,[1]to the 111 camp meetings held in the North American Division (NAD) in 2018, the benefits of these gatherings are still countless.

Having preached at many camp meetings the past few years, I am encouraged—and amazed—that many members still attend. What attracts church members to drive for miles with tent or camper, stay in on-site cabins or off-site motels, bring food for picnics, and bear the dusty, hot summer heat to attend a camp meeting? Most campgrounds are in remote, rural places in conference territories. Most of our members live in urban places. Why do we keep holding camp meetings? Why do urbanites keep returning?

Here are five of my observations about camp meeting, and why Adventists still attend.

It solidifies our biblical faith.

From Palau to Bermuda, from Alaska to Newfoundland to Florida—and everywhere in between—Adventists in the NAD still have the hope that Jesus is coming again soon. That hope is forged and solidified when we come together to open God’s Word and are reminded that this world is not our home. Faith in God is renewed at camp meeting and, as quiet as it’s kept, it is a great place to deal with, or combat, errant theology. Ellen White wrote that camp meetings were “to promote spiritual life among our own people. . . . We need to meet together and receive the divine touch.”[2]Camp meetings keep us spiritually focused. They also give us an annual, corporate, and personal renewed-faith possibility.

Day to day living is encouraged through fellowship.

This annual gathering encourages cross pollination with like-minded believers from many congregations. Whether in cities or in rural towns and neighborhoods, our fellowship helps us relate to each other’s common struggles and victories. Fellowship is like iron sharpening iron (see Prov. 27:17). It was huge in the early church as they broke bread together and prayed (see Acts 2:42). Isn’t it just as important today?

First Adventist camp meeting

The first camp meeting for the Seventh-day Adventist Church was held in Wright, Michigan, in 1868. Photo from Loma Linda University Photo Archive; Dept. of Archives and Special Collections

It helps keep the focus on mission.

Camp meetings done superbly require significant time, energy, and finance. The investment given by conferences to camp meeting yields significant spiritual optimism, evangelistic momentum, and mission feedback that can be felt throughout the entire year. When conference churches or constituencies join together, newfound stories and experiences are shared and mission is solidified.

Most church members attend on weekends.

Camp meeting attendance is largest on the weekends. Because of this, some conferences conduct only weekend seminars and preaching services. But even in these situations, it is an annual occurrence of focus and intentionality.

The Lord blesses abundantly.

It’s true that you get what you desire or expect from camp meeting. But one thing is certain: the Lord blesses human efforts on these dusty grounds. When I hear such things as “I’ve been attending camp meeting for 32 years” or “I’ll never miss camp meeting again” or “I was baptized at camp meeting,” I know the Spirit of the living God accompanies our human frailty in a meeting that’s been around a century and a half.

What spiritual benefit have you discovered at camp meeting? What urbanite friend could you invite to experience the concentrated exposure to nature while listening to practical seminars and powerful preaching? I invite you to experience at camp meeting the refreshing outpouring of God’s Spirit on your life.

— Ivan L. Williams Sr., is director of the Ministerial Association for the North American Division.


[1]Arthur W. Spalding, Origin and History of Seventh-day Adventists (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1962), vol. 2, p. 10.

[2]Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), vol. 6, p. 32.

kmaran Wed, 02/13/2019 - 19:23

The Soldier Who Saved Just “One More”

The Soldier Who Saved Just “One More”
President Harry Truman awards Cpl. Desmond Doss the Medal of Honor. Photo courtesy of the Desmond Doss Council

President Harry Truman awards Cpl. Desmond Doss the Medal of Honor. Photo courtesy of the Desmond Doss Council

February 7, 2019, marks 100 years since Desmond Thomas Doss’s birth in Lynchburg, Virginia. Doss, who passed away in 2006, grew up to be one of the greatest examples of love and kindness of the century as he served as an unarmed U.S. Army medic in World War II. Not many would go into the bloodiest battle of the war without a weapon. Armed only with his faith and a prayer, the story of his courage and conviction is now known by millions, thanks to Mel Gibson’s movie, Hacksaw Ridge.

Doss didn’t set out to be a hero, but his story shows how faith, love, and patriotism can change the world. (Just ask the families of the men he saved.)

A retreat was ordered during the battle on Hacksaw Ridge, Okinawa, Japan. But Doss refused to leave the wounded on the battlefield. He went back into the firefight to just save one. Then he went back again and again. Doss knew he couldn’t win the war by himself, but he could at least try to save one life at a time, including the very men who hated and distained him because of his faith and values. On that day, Doss saved at least 75 men.

Conviction and Courage

Desmond’s stance on keeping the Sabbath and refusing arms angered his commanding officers. His fellow soldiers thought his behavior odd and they bullied him. But Doss stayed true to his convictions. Eventually, he was allowed to serve as a medic and not carry a gun.

Doss became the first conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a single shot. Out of more than 3,500 heroic individuals to be awarded the Medal of Honor for “above and beyond the call of duty, only his citation reads,”FAR above and beyond the call of duty.”

For Doss’ heroics on the battlefield, President Harry Truman awarded Cpl. Desmond Doss the Medal of Honor, America’s highest award for courage under fire and risking his life to save the lives of his fellow soldiers.

In 12 hours, Doss accomplished more than just saving 75 men; his actions have touched and changed millions of people around the world. He will continue to be admired and respected for generations.

Just One More

There’s a real spiritual battle taking place in the world. Like Doss, we are also on enemy territory. Jesus asks us to fulfill “the Great Commission” by making disciples from every nation, tribe, and language. Doing this might seem hard for many of us. Instead of being overwhelmed by the task, however, what if we were to pray the simple prayer of Desmond Doss, “Lord, please help me get one more,” as we find ways to play a small part in God’s great rescue operation? 

Like Desmond, each of us can make a difference in someone’s life. Stand up for those who are bullied. Befriend people who are lonely. Encourage those who are down. Serve people in need. Forgive those who wrong you. Live like Doss, who lived like Jesus.

In a world where there is so much hatred, there is no better way to change the world, except helping to change one life at a time and making a difference in the lives of our fellow humans.

If someone such as Desmond Doss can make a difference, we can too. Who is your one more?

— Jeanie Allen and Roger Rusted are from the Desmond Doss Foundation; click here for more information.

kmaran Wed, 02/06/2019 - 10:09

A Legacy of Empowerment

A Legacy of Empowerment
Three members of the “Little Rock Nine” - Ernest Green, Carlotta Walls LaNier, and Terrence Roberts - stand together on the steps of the LBJ Presidential Library on November 13, 2014. Photo by Lauren Gerson.

Terrence Roberts (right), stands with two other members of the “Little Rock Nine,” Ernest Green, Carlotta Walls LaNier, on the steps of the LBJ Presidential Library on Nov. 13, 2014. Photo by Lauren Gerson

It was one of the most iconic moments in biblical antiquity. God spoke to Moses and enlisted him in the divine work of deliverance. Moses would not deliver Israel from sin; that work was reserved for the Messiah. Moses would, however, prefigure the work of the Messiah by delivering Israel from slavery in Egypt. This single event of deliverance in the Exodus would forever change the course of human history.

The initial call of Moses often arrests my attention. This call was unique. Unlike the disciples (who were approached by Jesus), or the prophets (who simply heard the voice of God), in the call of Moses God chose a multimedia presentation complete with pyrotechnics and miraculous displays using nature and animals as props.

I love the way the apostle Stephen tells the story of Moses’ call in the book of Acts just before he was stoned to death. The King James Version translates this calling with a repeated phrase. God says to Moses, “I have seen, I have seen the affliction of my people which is in Egypt, and I have heard their groaning, and am come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send thee into Egypt” (Acts 7:34, KJV).

The phrase “I have seen” is repeated twice, accentuating the emphasis God places on this call. Even in the New International Version God is translated as saying, “I have indeed seen,” which also highlights the importance of this calling.

Yet the King James Version translation gives me overwhelming pause whenever I read it. God is pronouncing with definitive clarity that His patience has run out on oppression; thus He has chosen to enlist Moses to execute His judgment. The rest is history.

Legacy of Empowerment

When I survey the history of the Bible, it’s obvious that God has always been active in the work of deliverance, liberation, and empowerment to those who are oppressed. The prophets all spoke of God’s judgment against those who sought to abuse His children. What gives me courage is that God has never ceased this work.

In 1865 Sojourner Truth spoke with power saying, “It is hard for the old slaveholding spirit to die, but die it must.”[1]

In 1868 Ellen G. White wrote that slavery is “a sin of the darkest dye.”[2] Then in 1894 James Edson White boarded a steamboat and traveled throughout the South to establish schools and share the Advent message among African Americans. As a result of that movement, Oakwood University was established in 1896; and a steady stream of leaders have also emerged to add to the legacy of empowerment.

E.E. Cleveland

Adventist Activism

These leaders include James K. Humphrey, who founded the First Harlem Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1929, and later started Utopia Park, a self-sufficient community designed to combat poverty and poor health. By the mid-1940s another leader, E. E. Cleveland (above photo), was already a seasoned evangelist conducting revivals all around the world. In 1957 an Adventist teenager by the name of Terrence Roberts helped desegregate Little Rock’s school system.

The list of Adventist activism and accomplishment is too long to list here. Yet the mission is incomplete.

As long as there is poverty, injustice, and oppression, the Lord still has a work for us to do. He challenges us still today, saying that whatever we do for “the least of these” (Matt. 25:40, KJV) it’s as though we did it to Him directly.

I want to be on the right side of history. How about you?

— Carlton P. Byrd, Ph.D., is speaker/director for the Breath of Life Telecast and senior pastor of the Oakwood University church in Huntsville, Alabama.

[1]Sojourner Truth, “Personal Letter to Amy Post,” Oct. 1, 1865.

[2]Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific  Press Pub. Assn., 1948), vol. 1, p. 359.


kmaran Tue, 02/05/2019 - 10:55

Generations of Adventist Health Care

Generations of Adventist Health Care
Jenna, nurse

Jenna, also a registered nurse, works at Avista Adventist Hospital — almost 100 years since her great-grandmother Bernice trained in Boulder-Colorado Sanitarium as a nurse.

Like the passing of a torch, committed Seventh-day Adventists have passed the privilege and responsibility of working for the church’s healing ministry from generation to generation. Within the Adventist Health System, soon to be known as AdventHealth, children in countless families have followed in their parents’ footsteps, continuing the legacy of extending the healing ministry of Christ in hospitals and care sites across the country.

For one family, that legacy spans four generations of health-care workers and begins circa 1910 at a camp meeting in Denver, Colorado. Anna Mardian gathered several of her children and attended a series of evening meetings hosted by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. What she heard in that tent changed her life, and she was soon baptized into the Adventist faith. Little did Anna know how much that decision would influence the course of her family for generations to come, beginning with her daughter, Bernice.

A Nurse in a New World

Two of Anna’s daughters knew they wanted to pursue a vocation in medical missionary nursing. Bernice was the first to set out on this adventure. With a heart for helping others, she registered in the nurses training school at the Boulder-Colorado Sanitarium, one of the earliest extensions of the Battle Creek Sanitarium, the very first Adventist sanitarium, originally built in 1866. The Boulder, Colorado, facility was built in a cool mountain setting to help miners suffering from tuberculosis.

There, Bernice became a registered nurse and learned the principles of healthful living, such as the healing power of sunshine, water, and fresh air. After graduating in 1923, Bernice did private-duty nursing and accepted an assignment that was an adventure far from home: she packed up and headed into the Wild West to take care of an elderly rancher with a broken hip. As it turns out, that rancher in Rock Springs, Wyoming, needed Bernice as a nurse, and with the passage of time, his son, Edmund Blair, wanted her as his wife.

Later Boulder-Colorado Sanitarium, the facility where Bernice started her nursing career, would be replaced by a new facility six miles away called Avista Adventist Hospital. Today Avista Adventist Hospital remains part of Adventist Health System’s Rocky Mountain Region.

nurse Bernice, upon graduation

Bernice [Mardian], upon graduation from nursing school in 1923

Raising a Family of Faith

In the early 1940s Bernice and her husband left Rock Springs and moved to her home state of Colorado. There they raised their two sons, making sure that Adventist education was a central part of the boys’ upbringing. Partly because of this devotion, one of their sons, Mardian J. Blair, would later serve as CEO of several Adventist hospitals—Adventist Hinsdale Hospital, Portland Adventist Medical Center, and Florida Hospital—as well as Adventist Health System. Today Adventist Hinsdale Hospital and Florida Hospital are two of Adventist Health System’s longest standing facilities.

As Mardian and his wife continued their commitment to God and church, three of their five children followed in his footsteps and chose a career in health care.

From Generation to Generation

These days, Mardian’s daughter Robyn works as director of mission strategy for Adventist Health System, continuing the development of CREATION Health and expanding the whole-person lifestyle initiative in churches, schools, and hospitals. CREATION Health, which stands for choice, rest, environment, activity, trust in God, interpersonal relations, outlook and nutrition, is a contemporary expression of the same message of biblically-inspired healing that the Adventist Church has held since 1866.

The Torch Continues its Journey

Just as the overall legacy of Adventist health care continues, so too does the Blair family generational legacy that began in the early 1900s in Boulder, Colorado. Today Bernice’s great-granddaughter Jenna, also a registered nurse, works at Avista Adventist Hospital — almost 100 years since Bernice trained in Boulder-Colorado Sanitarium as a nurse.

Jenna remembers the day she fully realized the connection of her work to her great-grandmother’s: “I was doing a CPR recertification in a boardroom where there were all of these artifacts from the Boulder Sanitarium” she says. “It was so cool to look around and see these things that I know my great-grandma was a part of and could have touched.

“I feel connected to my great-grandma in the sense that I’m caring for patients similar to the ones she cared for,” Jenna continues. “I’m dealing with the same heartbreak and advocating for patients just as she did. I’m doing these things with newer scrubs and computer charting, but it’s the same work — bringing comfort and healing.”

A Legacy of Care

Thanks to the steadfast commitment of generations of Adventists such as the Blairs, organizations such as Adventist Health System have offered unique whole-person care for more than 150 years, reaching almost 14 million people each year. With a total of five hospital systems in North America, nearly 100 hospitals, 140,000 employees, and nursing schools across the country, the legacy of health and wholeness lives on.

— Heather Quintana is a freelance writer and editor of Vibrant Life magazine.

kmaran Wed, 01/09/2019 - 21:36


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