Jesus Changes Lives in Port Orchard
Within most public evangelism endeavors, there is a doubter.
This is true with Justin Walker, one of eight students from Andrews University's Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary who participated in a three-week evangelism field school in Port Orchard, Wash., in May and June.
“I came in to this series as a proponent against evangelism,” Walker admits. “I thought public evangelism didn’t work. But to watch God transform lives in a way that could never happen without every piece of this experience caused me to do a 180 degree turn. I now see that traditional public evangelism produces results. My mind has completely changed.”
The field school — with a diverse seminary team from Jamaica, Cambodia, India, and all over the United States — resulted in story after story of changed lives from the stories of seminarians to the stories of guests.
Young and old alike experienced a dramatic change during the Revelation of Divine Love seminar. Why, you may ask? Simple. Jesus was lifted up, and Jesus changes lives just like John 12:32 says — “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
Evangelism is about Jesus and evangelism is exciting! When people experience the love of Christ for the first time or the second, it is amazing to see their newfound joy and hope — as these eight stories showcase.
The (Former) Alcoholic
For starters, God brought Mitch to the Revelation of Divine Love meetings. Four and a half months before the series started, Mitch, a severe alcoholic, walked away from his house with a noose in his pocket, a beer in his hand, and a plan to take his life. He had given up, but God hadn’t.
Mitch’s wife took him to the hospital. While in an alcoholic rehabilitation program there, a girl looked him in the eye and said, “Whatever you do, please don’t drink and drive.” She had been hit by a drunk driver and broke almost every bone in her body. It was a miracle she was still alive.
Mitch said he would do better than that and promised to never drink again. After five days there he came home sober. God continued to transform his life. He began reading the Bible and praying every day and a few months later, two seminarians showed up at his door. They had a flyer to the upcoming Bible prophecy seminar, and Mitch was interested. At the meetings, Mitch surrendered everything to Christ and continues to grow in his love for Jesus each day.
The (Former) Unhealthy Coper
One seminar guest had grown up a Christian but due to emotional pain in her life turned to unhealthy coping mechanisms. She began to realize Jesus was a better coping mechanism.
She started to study the Bible with other faith groups, but this left her with more questions than answers. When she received a flyer in the mail advertising the series, she was open and hungry to learn more. It was important to her that everything came from the Bible. After the Sabbath presentation, she told us how clear the Sabbath was from Scripture. She is experiencing healing in her marriage.
Through her experience studying the Bible with Seventh-day Adventists, she said that she has never had so much peace and hope! She was excited to join some of the Bible study groups that follow-up up the seminar and continue growing in her journey with Jesus.
The (Former) Agnostic
God also brought to the meetings a 34-year-old, self-proclaimed agnostic with lots of questions. He wrestled with theodicy (character of God) and other ethical questions in Scripture, such as why God allowed violence in the Old Testament.
After coming to the meetings and talking with Dustin Serns, Port Orchard pastor, and the seminary students, he said, “I have asked my questions to almost every church, and you Adventists have given me the best answers!”
God was working to give him a revelation of divine love. After continuing to study with Serns and a local elder for a couple months, he shared that he now considers himself a Christian again.
Another person who Jesus impacted was Jenny. Jenny’s son and daughter attend nearby Kitsap Adventist Christian School. Prior to the evangelistic series, a few of the seminarians led a school week of prayer. They made a point to visit with families during the week and invited everyone to Revelation of Divine Love.
Jenny’s daughter so enjoyed the week of prayer that she begged her mom to take her to the meetings. Jenny did, which led to Jenny herself enjoying and attending every night of the seminar.
After each presentation Jenny would go home and fill out the accompanying Bible lessons. One night, she pulled out her Bible to look up a verse in the study guide. Her daughter curiously came over and asked in surprise, “Wait, Mom, are you reading your Bible?”
Her daughter’s reply deeply impacted her. Though she grew up Adventist, she realized that she wasn’t living out her faith in a daily walk with Jesus. But that moment made her daughter want to read the Bible for herself as well, and they began to work together through a children’s Bible study guide.
Jenny said, “The seminar brought healing to my relationship with my daughter.” Jenny had a conversion experience and fell in love again with Jesus. Walker, the doubting seminarian, had the privilege of rebaptizing her at the conclusion of the meetings.
The Newly Married Couple
Brandon and Celeste are a newly married couple in their early 20s who had recently moved to the area. Celeste had attended Port Orchard Church a couple times with Brandon, who was baptized as a Seventh-day Adventist in Texas a year earlier. Celeste hadn’t made a decision yet for Christ, but she was open to learning more about the Bible.
Celeste came faithfully to the meetings. During a pastoral visit, Celeste shared she had never learned how to pray. Having grown up Catholic, personal prayer was never taught nor emphasized. They encouraged her to try writing out a prayer to God that night and then reading it out loud. She did! That night was her first personal prayer in her life.
One of the people she prayed for was her brother in Texas, who was an atheist and alcoholic. A few days later, her brother called her and told her that he had gotten sober from drinking and was regularly attending Alcoholics Anonymous. He said that through this journey, he concluded there must be some kind of God. God answered her prayer!
Celeste was overjoyed. Her brother agreed to attend the local Seventh-day Adventist Church with her when she came to visit the following weekend. At the end of the Revelation of Divine Love seminar, Celeste made her decision for Christ and was baptized.
The New Family
Scott and Steffany, another young couple, got introduced to Adventists at the AMEN (Adventist Medical Evangelism Network) free health clinic held by Port Orchard Adventist Church last year. After studying with a local elder and attending the seminar, they celebrated their new life in Christ with baptism. Steffany told us, “No church was giving me straight answers from the Bible, but the Adventists did! God has filled the hole in my heart. He has given us a new family here.”
Dennis, an alcoholic ready to give up on life, became sober after checking himself into a local drug and rehabilitation center four years ago. He later ended up working at that facility where he met a co-worker who happened to be an Adventist. They developed a friendship and began studying the Bible together.
Dennis visited the Seventh-day Adventist church for the first time only a few weeks before the seminar began. During the seminar, he attended the meetings faithfully. At the end of the seminar, Dennis was baptized and found a new life in Christ which included victory over a smoking habit that he had been trying to break for years. Dennis was excited to bury his past in the waters of baptism and begin a new life in Christ.
As Dennis was coming out of the baptistry, he said with a big smile to the pastor, “It feels so good to take a deep breath.” It was the breath of a new life!
As one of those eight seminary students, this experience renewed my excitement for evangelism and gave me practical tools to confidently lead any church I pastor forward in mission. The process was simple and memorable: we hit the ground running with lots of visitation, preparation and praying. I am excited to implement this evangelistic model in my next church. And the good news is that you can too. Will you and your church give evangelism a try?