From Convict to Colporteur
by Brenda Nieves
“Ibelieve this book saved my life,” says Joshua Holly enthusiastically, holding up an ASI edition of Patriarchs and Prophets. Holly first found the book propping up a TV in his prison cell. “My cellmate handed it to me and said, ‘I think you’ll like this.’”
Holly had been raised in a home that considered itself “Christian,” but where drug use was a family affair, much like playing games or watching TV might be for another family. At age 17, he was sentenced to the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. In prison, Holly was introduced to gang life and became more deeply involved in drug use. After seven years, “I’d earned myself a spot in maximum security,” he says wryly. It was there that God spoke to him.
“My best friend had committed suicide about a year before, and now I had hit such a low point that the thought of death was starting to appeal to me as well. I remember I was leaning against the door of my cell, completely and utterly depressed. God had to wait until I was that low before I was ready to listen. Suddenly, all the hair on my arms and on the back of my neck stood up. I could feel the Holy Spirit in the room. God clearly told me, ‘I am real and the Bible is true.’”
Up until that point, Holly says, the only use he’d had for a Bible was tearing out its pages to roll cigarettes. But now he picked up the Bible and started to read Romans. For the first time, he learned of hope for a changed life. The encouragement came to “keep reading.” He began a period of intense Bible study, reading 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Holly estimates that over the next six months, he probably read the Bible 40 or 50 times.
Yet, despite his deep familiarity with the Word, he was confused. “Genesis was very confusing—I still believed in evolution, thinking that God had used it to create the world, and I couldn’t figure out who Lucifer was. God knew the burning desire of my heart to understand these things.” That’s when his cellmate, who had also become a Christian, pulled the book from the stack that was holding up the TV. As Holly read Patriarchs and Prophets, the Bible began to make sense. Holly’s questions about Lucifer were answered, and he realized that the Old Testament was not a collection of moral fairy tales, but rather true stories. He read the book through once, then again, with his Bible in hand.
God continued providentially providing for Holly’s spiritual growth. The same week that he found Patriarchs and Prophets, the prison TV system began showing sermons from Pastor Leo Schreven’s Prophecy Seminar. But Holly still had more questions and God had more answers.
Holly was moved to a new cell. Under his bunk, he found a stack of books taped together as a prop for doing push-ups. Holly broke open the stack and took out a new volume, The Great Controversy—another ASI edition. Turning to the chapter, “America in Prophecy,” he started reading, and for the first time, Revelation 13 began to make sense. He read the entire book.
After eight years and three months of incarceration, Holly was released. His first Sabbath of freedom, he found Adventist Fellowship, a church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that Pastor Schreven had invited him to through the Prophecy Seminars shown on the prison TV. Holly was baptized. “The thing is,” says Holly, “I didn’t understand the idea of being ‘dead to self.’ I thought that it was up to me to live up to the rules—but I really didn’t understand why I needed to keep those rules.”
With his immature faith and a family atmosphere actively working against his new Christian values, Holly easily slid back into his former lifestyle. “Sometimes I would try to recommit my life to God, but in the back of my mind, I was always holding something back.” It wasn’t until he found himself running from a gun pointed at his head that Holly was ready to completely surrender.
Just at that time, a judge gave his mother, who was also struggling with a drug addiction, an ultimatum: rehab or prison. It was time to act. With his desire for a new life and his reluctant mother in tow, Holly drove to City of Hope, a family-run Seventh-day Adventist rehabilitation center in Oklahoma City, where they both entered the rehab program. There, they discovered the heart of the gospel: a new life in Jesus. His mother was baptized into the SDA church for the first time, and Holly was re-baptized—this time dying to self and being raised to a life powered by Jesus Christ.
As part of the six month program, participants were required to attend the Oklahoma Conference camp meeting where Holly shared his testimony with anyone who would listen. Hearing about his experience with Ellen White’s books, “someone told me about colporting. Right then, I sensed God speaking to my heart again saying, ‘You can make a living doing that.’” Holly was excited. He’d never had trouble finding work, but he frequently ran into problems because he always kept the Sabbath, even after returning to his old life after his first baptism. “Over those seven years, I’d lost three or four jobs because I wouldn’t work on Sabbath.” The other problem was that his coworkers continually introduced the very temptations he needed to avoid. Selling books sounded ideal.
God provided the books and the means, and Holly started knocking on doors. “The first time money [for a book] hit my hand, I thought, ‘I just got paid to share my testimony!’” He was elated, but he found the work exhausting. “I could only do it for two or three hours at a time. I was pouring out my story at each door.” Holly began searching for colporteur training and a team to work with.
In January 2018, Holly was accepted as a theology student at Ouachita Hills College (OHC), an ASI member institution, where tuition costs are kept low through the income generated by student canvassing. With the training he’s received at OHC, Holly says that he’s now easily able to canvass eight hours a day.
Working with a team of OHC students, Holly has sold various books, but the ASI editions of the Conflict of the Ages series remain his favorites. “I want to have a trunk full of these books [to sell] for the rest of my life. They are so beautiful—the cover art, the way they’re laid out. The paper isn’t dreary; it’s a nice white. And they have the most beautiful illustrations. When I’m showing these at the door, if I can just get people to listen long enough for me to open the book, 99 percent of the time they buy it.”
“Josh’s testimony shows the value of the work that ASI has done by investing in these books,” says Magda Rodriguez, president of OHC. “In Testimonies vol. 2, page 246, we’re told that ‘one soul saved, to live throughout the ages of eternity, to praise God and the Lamb, is of more value than millions in money.’ Josh’s testimony and his enthusiasm are already having an impact here on the OHC campus, and wherever he tells his story. But it is only in eternity, when we are around the throne of Jesus, that we will see the true worth of our investments here on earth.”
A Limitless Mission for An Infinite God
by Josh Vazquez
remember the day like it was yesterday: August 6th, 2013, the last day of ASI’s Youth for Jesus program. Pastor Scott Moore made a call for baptism and I answered. Before that moment, I never would have dreamed of leaving the life of partying and selling drugs to give my life to Jesus. If you would have told me that day that in six days, I would be on a plane to Eden Valley in Loveland, Colorado to become a gospel medical missionary, I would have thought you were crazy. However, this is where Jesus led me. He paved and paid the way for me to go.
What I learned at Eden Valley is of infinite value. I have been doing gospel medical missionary work for over three years now. The results have been astounding. At my last church in Spirit Lake, Idaho, a town with a population of about 2,000, we used Christ’s method as taught at Eden Valley and outlined in The Ministry of Healing: “Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Savior mingling with the men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘follow me’” (143.3).
Just over three years ago in Spirit Lake, there was an attendance of about 40 members at our church on Sabbath. Through the blessing of the Holy Spirit, the church began to do wellness coaching in the community which led to relationships, friendships, and baptisms. The church began to see and admire the beauty in Christ’s method. They began to help people clean up their yards and plant gardens. They helped people move, cleaned houses, and shoveled snow from roofs and driveways. As they united to go out of their way to help others, a bond began to form between the members that grew deeper and deeper. This work fostered an atmosphere of love that caused an explosion in this church. The little church that once had an attendance of 40 became the fastest growing church in the North Pacific Union, with more than 90 members attending in just two years.
Christ’s method changes the very atmosphere of the church. The members come to life and they themselves change. We had 89% member involvement, not counting involvement in the worship service. The blessing of the Lord follows this work because it is how ministry should be done. “Christ sought the people where they were and placed before them the great truths in regard to His kingdom. As He went from place to place, He blessed and comforted the suffering and healed the sick. This is our work” (CH 501.1).
Wellness coaching is beginning to catch some attention. I believe it is very timely because soon we will not be able to proselytize in the community any more. Last year, we met Mark Finley at the Upper Columbia Conference Camp Meeting, and the next month, he flew us to Virginia to train their team of three Bible workers in wellness coaching. From the reports I have heard, the work is really beginning to spread. There are surrounding churches that are eager to be trained in Christ’s method. Hartland College is in the process of putting together a wellness coaching training program as well.
My wife Hope and I recently moved to Oak Harbor, Washington. We are busy conducting cooking classes, depression recovery classes, and doing wellness coaching with 11 people. Wellness coaching is the best way, that I have seen, to follow up on events and classes held at the church. We have only knocked on doors for an hour and a half in the three months we have been here. People are just coming up to us for help. Church members are signing up their friends. People from the community are coming to the house of the Lord for healing. What a testimony for Jesus!
Wellness coaching renews the physical mind to facilitate spiritual transformation. This principle is given clearly in Romans 12:1, 2: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
Friends, imagine the true success we would have if we renewed our minds before we displayed our precious pearls of truth. What if your church was known as the church that healed the community? What if you were known as the Christian that heals and preaches? You know, I have actually met a man who did this. The Bible says that He had healing in His wings and that the multitudes flocked from all over for physical and spiritual healing. His impact on the world is still felt over 2000 years later and He is calling you to follow in His footsteps today.
Tithe and the Mortgage Payment
by Michelle Pitts
hen my husband, David, could no longer work due to a catastrophic disability from a major car accident, we lost our primary source of income. While we were waiting for social security disability income to be approved, my job was our only source of support. Suddenly, we were faced with an unforeseeable financial crisis that left us having to make extremely difficult choices in our expenditures. It was not long before we had exhausted our savings and all other emergency funds.
One afternoon in 2009, I found myself struggling with a spiritual battle of whether to pay tithe or our mortgage payment. I had recently explained our unfortunate circumstances to the mortgage company and had been granted a temporary modified payment to keep from defaulting on our loan. However, my paycheck was short that pay period because I had to take a few days of unpaid leave to care for my husband, who was in the process of being evaluated for in-home long term care services.
Having been a faithful tithe-payer for many years, I had already experienced countless acts of God’s mighty provision. I knew that withholding tithe, for any reason, was wrong. I also had first-hand experience proving that God’s Word is 100 percent trustworthy. And yet, when faced with the choice of breaking my agreement with the mortgage company or stealing from God to meet our temporal need of shelter, I found myself in an intense spiritual battle with self and Satan.
As I struggled, I began to pray earnestly about the decision. At first, I complained to God that tithe was the ONLY payment that I was not behind on! I asked Him how I could possibly be expected to make such a difficult choice. Couldn’t I be exempt due to the circumstances? How were we going to live on only 40 percent of our former income? We couldn’t even cover our bare necessities and there was nothing else I could do to keep us afloat! I did not know where to turn for help, other than God!
After a while, I realized that my fear was really a sinful lack of faith in God’s promise to provide for our needs. I confessed and repented of my selfish unbelief! I further expressed my sorrow for being more afraid of the potential consequences of not making the mortgage payment on time than I was of stealing from God. I asked Him to give me the strength to take my eyes off of circumstances and simply believe His Word.
It took several hours of praying, but God won the battle and I paid the tithe. Afterwards, I called the mortgage company to pay them the money that I had remaining. Before I could explain to the representative that I only had a partial payment, she told me that the amount due was less than our agreed upon amount because of an escrow overage that had already been applied as partial payment. The amount she told me to pay for that month was EXACTLY what I had left over after paying tithe!
I hung up from the call praising God, in shock at how easily He had solved my seemingly impossible difficulty! He had parted the Red Sea, so to speak, as soon as I had obediently put my foot in the water. Ellen White has said, “Our heavenly Father has a thousand ways to provide for us of which we know nothing” (The Desire of Ages). “We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history” (Life Sketches).
Nothing is impossible with God! Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (KJV). Like the widow woman in 1 Kings 17:13 who gave her last meal to Elijah, I was supernaturally sustained after giving first to God! “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6, KJV).