The Ministry of the Adventist Book Center

November 01, 2006 | Nicole Batten

Eight years ago Christina was struck with vertigo (dizziness), an illness that left her unable to do anything but sit—and even then, reading a book or watching a video was difficult. But as time went on, Christina realized that God had provided a way to teach her how to depend more on Him. Christina began ordering books from her Adventist Book Center (ABC). Amazed, she watched in wonder as the Holy Spirit guided her from one book to next—each in the right order for what she needed at that time.

Then one day when Christina was feeling well enough to browse, she went into the College Place ABC. A book by Ty Gibson, called An Endless Falling in Love, caught her eye. She bought it and took it home. Little did she know that she was about to fall in love with God all over again. She says, “As I read, I was able to envision the incredible love of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. When I finished the last page I was overwhelmed with a love I had never felt before, which soon turned into indescribable joy. Yes, life still had its challenges, but that book changed me forever. I know God placed Ty’s book in my hands to draw me into His arms with a desire I could not resist.”

The work of the Adventist Book Center is one of the earliest ministries of the Advent movement. It started with the first organized institution of the Seventh-day Adventist church—a publishing house. As each new conference was organized, the first department often to be appointed was a “tract and missionary society.” These “tract and missionary societies” later evolved into Adventist Book Centers—and today this is how the printed word is distributed into the hands of church members and non-Adventists alike. The ABC staff are daily being used by the Holy Spirit to connect the right book or tract with the right person—often never knowing how it has changed a life.

Ellen G. White recognized the benefits of this part of our church, saying, “Our publishing work was established by the direction of God and under His special supervision…The publications sent forth from our printing houses are to prepare a people to meet God. Throughout the world they are to do the same work that was done by John the Baptist…Through our publishing houses is to be accomplished the work of the third angel who comes down from Heaven with great power and lightens the earth with his glory.” *

The mission of our ABCs is to provide Adventist church members with truth-filled books for their own spiritual growth and, more importantly, for them to share with non-Adventists. Last year alone, the Upper Columbia ABC in Spokane, Washington, sold over 45,000 sharing books, tracts and DVDs to churches and individuals for the express purpose of distribution in the community. “Placed in one stack, they would stand taller than the Space Needle in Seattle,” says Herman Schreven, Upper Columbia ABC manager.

“Every day the Adventist Book Center staff minister to someone with a spiritual need, and often they are individuals who no longer attend church but still seek spiritual encouragement and guidance through our books,” says Schreven. Recently a woman in her 90s came into the College Place ABC to purchase a Bible. It was the first Bible she had ever owned! Another man who purchased the book Incredible Answers to Prayer said it inspired him to start attending church again.

And then there’s Dennis’s story. Dennis was a former pastor, who had left the church in the 1970s over theological differences. Two years ago in a rare visit to the Adventist Book Center, he accidentally stumbled upon Graffiti in the Holy of Holies by Clifford Goldstein. Dennis says, “That night my life was changed. That book became my own Damascus road experience. In Goldstein’s book were answers to the questions that—had I been given years ago—would have kept me from leaving both the ministry and the church. I read the whole book that night and reread it on Friday. I’ll never forget feeling the warmth of God’s Spirit upon me and the change of attitude that accompanied the reading of the book. That night I gave my heart to Christ and determined to return to the Adventist Church.” Several months later Dennis was re-baptized.

Sometimes it is the staff and managers of the ABCs whose lives are being changed. Mike Schwartz, ABC manager in Auburn, Washington, says, “Over the years working for Adventist Book Centers, I have had a growing sense of the mission behind the job. I have watched God open doors time after time. Sometimes it comes in the form of simply selling a book to someone who was looking for it. But sometimes it is more direct. I have seen customers come in the store just to look around. And in their browsing, they see a title that directly addresses a situation in their lives. God knew what they needed and took them to it, even though the customer did not know he or she needed it. Isaiah 65:24 says, ‘Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.’ We may not always see the direct effect of our book sales, but I know we are part of God’s greater plan. I can hardly wait to get to heaven and hear the rest of the story.”

Health food is also a part of the ministry of many ABCs. Ken Jameson, who drives the Intermountain Bookmobile to locations throughout Idaho, Montana and other mid-western states, tells the story about how God used vegetarian food to reach out to a man who stopped him at a gas station recently.

“The man, who was a non-Adventist pastor, saw the Adventist Book Center sign on my truck and asked me about it. Apparently, two Adventist truckers had spent the previous Sabbath with him and encouraged him to eat a healthier diet because of his health problems. They had also given him a vegetarian cookbook. However, he didn’t know what vegetarian alternatives were available or where to buy them. We went into the trailer and he was surprised to see all the books and food. He asked a lot of questions and ended up buying $50 worth of vegetarian foods to try. Then he asked for one of the bookmobile schedules. He plans to meet me at future stops to buy more products,” says Jameson.

While the basic mission of the Adventist Book Center is to reach out to and serve the customers who walk through their doors, it is more than that. The mission also includes events such as camp meetings, conference retreats, Internet sales, and bookmobiles (a traveling Adventist Book Center store). Schwartz says he finds doing events just as rewarding as working in the store. “I enjoy getting to know people all over the conference and hear what each one is doing for his or her personal outreach. It is exciting when my staff and I can help further these ministries. We want to help churches and members reach their goals and get God’s Word out.”

For example, an Adventist business in Boise, Idaho, regularly buys pocket Signs tracts from the Idaho ABC, and puts them in accounts payable envelopes they send out. After several years of doing this, the owner of the business began to wonder if it was doing any good. Then one day a vendor came in to get instructions for an order and seemed impatient while the owner was talking. Finally the vendor interrupted and blurted out, “I love the little tracts you send each month. I hope you keep sending them.”

The Oregon ABC also helped a church member in his ministry. Jim and his wife, Katie, were planning a mission trip to China that would include visits to orphanages. They wanted to take felts to help teach the children, but didn’t quite have enough funds. Sharon Peil, Oregon ABC staff member, heard about their need. After discussing it with her ABC manager, Steve Hilde, the store donated two felt sets as well as boxes of miscellaneous new felts.

Peil says, “I have worked at this ABC for almost 14 years now, and it has been such a joy to be part of this ministry team. We have many opportunities to share our faith and offer encouragement to our customers. Every day we are learning better ways to humbly represent and serve our God so that each customer feels valued. It is not just a job selling books or vegetarian food; it is about touching lives in a positive and meaningful way.”

* Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 9, p. 138–139.