I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
In studying this week’s lesson on being stewards of the gospel I remembered this story which I had previously shared several years ago. When Jesus fed the multitude He had the leftovers gathered so nothing would be wasted. I believe God wants us to be good stewards of the gospel, and I don’t believe God wants literature to be wasted either. Here again is a story of how God used a little forgotten book in the attic, that may have been considered a “left over crumb,” to save a family and countless souls.
Many years ago when I was a literature evangelist, I found myself working one day in the rolling green hills of Northeast Oklahoma. I remember meeting a lot of rejection early in the day. What bothered me the most as I was selling Christian books, was that many saw me only as a salesman, instead of appreciating my passion for sharing Jesus. Rejection plus being misunderstood equaled loneliness for me.
About midday, I walked into a Taco Mayo restaurant for lunch. Long before cell phones were common, or Bible apps created, I carried my Bible with me everywhere I went. I sat down at a table and opened my Bible “randomly” and found this verse,
Those who sow in tears Shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, Bearing seed for sowing, Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, Bringing his sheaves with him. Psalms 126:5-6 NKJV
That verse hit the spot! My career in soul winning was just beginning, and this was long before I would begin Bible studies with a family who would start attending church only after I studied with them for seven years in their home. This was long before I would meet Fred, a man I studied with in Oklahoma, who got baptized after I had already been serving in Texas years later. It was also years before I would meet the members of a small Pentecostal Sabbath-keeping church, who would all become members of the Mineral Wells, Texas, Seventh-day Adventist Church after I studied with them and befriended them for four years. (I say that the entire Pentecostal church became Adventist, which is true. The entire church consisted of five members.)
As a rookie evangelist I only had time to plant seeds, but not to watch them grow. I needed to learn patience. If I could have seen the future harvest, I doubt I would have felt so discouraged as I sat there eating my burrito, before I found that verse full of comfort and hope. Still, I should have remembered a passage that my leader had written inside the Colporteur Ministry book he gave me.
Christ did not fail, neither was He discouraged, and His followers are to manifest a faith of the same enduring nature. They are to live as He lived, and work as He worked, because they depend on Him as the great Master Worker. Courage, energy, and perseverance they must possess. Though apparent impossibilities obstruct their way, by His grace they are to go forward….They are to have power to resist evil, power that neither earth, nor death, nor hell can master, power that will enable them to overcome as Christ overcame. –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Pages 679-680
While I sat in that Taco Mayo in Grove, Oklahoma, back in 1990, my evangelistic career was too young to see the results that years and years of patient work brings. However I had stories and testimonies from veteran laborers, like Denton James, my union publishing director. He and his family found the way, when they moved into a home, and found an old Bible Readings for the Home lying in the attic. Denton found the Adventist church through that book and became a literature evangelist who trained many more people like myself to be literature evangelists. Back in 2008 I worked with his granddaughter in Tampa, Florida. She was serving as an ASI Bible Worker. Not long ago, Denton fell asleep in death after many years of soul winning. All those souls and trained Bible Workers and Literature evangelists can trace their success back to Denton James, who traced his success back to an old book found in an attic.
I often wonder who the literature evangelist was who sold that book to the family that left it in the attic to be discovered by Denton’s family moving in years later. Whoever it was, did they ever get discouraged like I did, that day I was working in Northeast Oklahoma. Whoever it was they may have seen many people get baptized as a result of their labors, or it is possible they saw no one get baptized. One thing is sure, that that literature evangelist went to his or her grave with no clue that years later a man would pick up one single book that had been lying around in an attic for years, dust the cover off and read it, not only becoming a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, but leading hundreds to find Jesus, who would lead hundreds more to Jesus.
Since I don’t know who sold the book Denton found, I can only speculate. Is it possible that was the only book he or she ever sold? Is it possible they quit soon after that because “it just wasn’t working out”? There will be thousands in heaven because of that one single book that lay lost in an attic for who knows how long. I can see the evangelist coming home at the end of that day after selling that one single book, and writing in a journal,
“It was a terrible day today. I worked hard all day long and met nothing but rejection and doors slammed in my face over and over. Finally a man bought just one copy of Bible Readings for the Home, from me, but I heard his wife scoffing at him, saying something like ‘It’s just going to end up thrown away up in the attic with all the other junk you buy from peddlers.’ This is so discouraging I might as well quit. At this rate I will never help anyone find Jesus.”
Or I could have it all wrong, but I do know this. The literature evangelist who left that book walked away from that home having no idea that hundreds would be in the kingdom because of an exchange that probably only took a few moments and netted only a few dollars or cents.
Just like that book, buried in a dark attic for years, so it is with the literature and words I shared on that frustrating day in Oklahoma so many years ago,
The good seed may for a time lie unnoticed in a cold, selfish, worldly heart, giving no evidence that it has taken root; but afterward, as the Spirit of God breathes on the soul, the hidden seed springs up, and at last bears fruit to the glory of God. In our lifework we know not which shall prosper, this or that. This is not a question for us to settle. We are to do our work, and leave the results with God….. “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” Psalm 126:6. -Ellen White, Christ Object Lessons Page, 65.
It is true as well of the seeds you sow.