I have been struggling to find words — words that you would not dismiss as incredible or even laughable — to describe the past 18 days, which culminated in an amazing way last Sabbath, June 2.
You may be a nonbeliever, an atheist, or simply indifferent to religion. It’s your right to believe or not to believe. So, just a heads’ up that you can skip this story if God doesn't matter to you.
Pitcairn, a remote volcanic island in the southern Pacific Ocean, has a long history of being Christian, or specifically a Seventh-day Adventist Christian community. The principles espoused by the Adventist Church should be credited in large part for the very survival of our nano-population of about 50 people on this tiny a piece of island real estate over the past 228 years.
The principles are simple: Love God; love one’s neighbors as oneself; espouse a healthy lifestyle that includes a diet consisting of wholesome food and drink; and plenty of exercise gained naturally by good hard work and playing together.
Like every other community on Planet Earth, we gradually slipped away from the simple principles, allowing things of this world to creep in and take hold of our society. Our spiritual life suffered as a result, and the reflection of God’s love shining from our hearts became alarmingly dim.
Three weeks ago, our community was in crisis.
God sent help and rescue in the form of Jean-Noel Adeline, an evangelist from the New Zealand Pacific Union Conference, who began a series of intense, deeply soul-searching meetings in the early mornings and evenings at 7 o’clock. It was painful. And necessary. Many tears were shed. Confessions were made, and forgiveness flowed freely.
I tell you now: Miracles can and do happen. I watched them unfold these past 18 days. Decades-old animosity dried up and was blown away by the revelation of our sinful nature when compared to Christ’s character. We learned to give up self and focus on Jesus. We stopped looking for fault in others while examining our own warped character. We prayed together, for each other, and for our community. We asked God to take control once more. From a community in crisis, we have become a community united in 18 days. It is nothing short of a miracle!
I am convicted now more than ever in the belief that God is real and that the gospel story of salvation is the only hope for this world. What has taken place here is happening in other places and can happen in your place, too, if that is what you desire. It’s a scary thing to imagine giving up “things” in your life that only crowd out room for God. But it’s even scarier to consider the alternative of hanging onto those things that are, ultimately, meaningless but have made it impossible for God to live in your heart. There's been a lot of “heart cleaning” going on over the past almost three weeks, and the results are amazing!
Oh … last Sabbath … there were five baptisms in Bounty Bay. Praise God for these precious brothers and sisters. Five more have raised their hands, wanting to be baptized or re-baptized. This is a miracle!
It has been years since anyone was baptized here. Great things happen when “stuff” is removed from one’s heart to make room for Jesus, and it is an awesome feeling to feel those burdens lifted away.
If you’re a nonbeliever or a half-baked Christian and you’re still reading this, I have just one thing to say to you: Don’t look at the people who go to church as an example of how Christians should live. They — we — are mere mortals who stuff up all the time. No one is perfect in any church. Look only to Jesus as your example. Then do your best to emulate Him. He’s the only One who can offer you eternal life — not that woman sitting in the second row or that man sitting next to the pastor on the platform. This thing called salvation — it’s just Jesus and you.