Seventh-day Adventist Church president Ted N.C. Wilson likes to pass out religious literature.
In recent months, I have seen him give GLOW tracts to everyone from a German bellhop in a Frankfurt hotel to a Chinese airline representative at a Moscow airport. During the 2015 General Conference Session, he presented Ellen White’s book “Steps to Christ” to the mayor of San Antonio, Texas.
Pastor Wilson was thinking about religious literature last week when I arrived in a hotel lobby in Uganda to accompany him and other church leaders to a meeting with the African country’s president, Yoweri Museveni.
“I have a pen for the president,” Pastor Wilson told church leaders, referring to a special pen engraved with the name and logo of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. “But do you have some books for him?”
The leaders had not brought any reading materials.
Pastor Wilson’s wife, Nancy, opened her handbag and pulled out the booklet “Help in Daily Living,” which contains four chapters from White’s book “Ministry of Healing.” Nancy had been giving away copies of the booklet during our two-week trip through Germany, Portugal, India, and Nepal. Uganda was our last stop.
I spoke up.
“I have a nice-looking color ‘Steps to Christ’ up in my room,” I said.
Pastor Wilson glanced at his watch. It was nearly time to leave for the drive to the official presidential residence in the nearby city of Entebbe. He urged me to hurry upstairs for the book.
Why I Had the Books
As I rushed to my room, I marveled that I had packed the book in the first place.
Two weeks earlier, I shook my head “no” when my father asked whether I planned to take any sharing books on the trip with Pastor Wilson. I explained that I had taken five copies of “Steps to Christ” on my previous trip, to Russia, and had struggled to find any takers.
“You should take some books anyway,” my father insisted.
Reluctantly, I bought five copies of “Steps to Christ” at the Adventist Book Center in Keene, Texas.
But the books didn’t satisfy my father.
“Will you take a new Bible, too?” he asked
I often buy a new Bible before a trip just in case I’m asked to give a sermon. I read the Bible on my cell phone, but I don’t like to hold up my cell phone while preaching.
“No need for a Bible, “ I told my father. “I won’t be preaching. I’m traveling with Pastor Wilson, and he’ll do all the preaching.”
My father was not deterred. He reminded me about the time that I bought a Bible for a three-week trip to southern Africa. Although I never preached on that trip, I did meet a friend in Zambia who was about to get married and was delighted that I could offer a Bible for his new home.
“You should take a Bible anyway,” my father said.
I bought a black-leather New King James Bible.
In the Ugandan hotel room, I remembered the Bible as I grabbed a copy of “Steps to Christ,” and I took them both to Pastor Wilson.
Meeting the President
A short time later, President Museveni welcomed us to State House Uganda and immediately began to ply Pastor Wilson with questions about why Adventists keep the Sabbath on Saturday. Pastor Wilson gave a short Bible study about the Sabbath and, later in the friendly conversation, appealed for the country to abolish Saturday exams for Adventist students. To his delight, President Museveni agreed to look into the matter.
Pastor Wilson presented the engraved pen to President Museveni and suggested that he could use it to sign important documents or, more important, to underline verses in the Bible.
Then he handed over the Bible, “Steps to Christ,” and “Help in Daily Living.” He encouraged the president to read all three.
President Museveni, smiling, raised the Bible for the guests to see. After that, he held up “Steps to Christ” and “Help in Daily Living.” His official photographer and a church photographer snapped photos of the president holding the books.
That evening, I e-mailed the photos to my father.
“You won’t believe what happened today,” I said in a Skype call. “The Bible and ‘Steps to Christ’ that you insisted I buy are now in the home of Uganda’s president. Thank you for listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.”
Next week, I will leave for a five-week trip to South America and Europe. My suitcase will contain a brand-new Bible and several more copies of “Steps to Christ.”