Missionary Report from the
GENERAL CONFERENCE CANVASSING DEPARTMENT
To be read on Sabbath, December 29, 2012
The Special Sabbath School Offering
will be gathered on Sabbath, January 5, 2013
“The message of truth is to go to all nations, tongues, and people; its publications, printed in many different languages, are to be scattered abroad like the leaves of autumn.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 79.
“Writing and publishing were the primary means of spreading the advent message early on. Without even one cent of capital, Joseph Bates and James White began with a broadside, a pamphlet, and a paper. Seven years later, in 1852, through the liberality of Hiram Edson, the cause was furnished with its first equipment, a Washington hand press. After three more years, the Michigan brethren provided a wooden envelope for the printed page; and the publishing work in Battle Creek saw steady growth.
“On the West Coast, the Pacific Press was founded in 1874. The first overseas publishing was done in Switzerland in 1876; in Norway in 1879; and in England in 1880. By the time of the General Conference in 1901, there were twenty publishing houses and branches, eleven of them in lands outside America. Publications were issued in thirty-nine languages.
“The circulation of this printed matter in the very early years was in the hands of the evangelists and the unorganized church members. In 1854, John N. Loughborough first demonstrated the feasibility of selling books to the audiences who came to hear him.
“The next significant development was the formation of the Vigilant Missionary Societies by Stephen N. Haskell in 1869-1874. Their central organization was the International Tract and Missionary Society. Practically the entire church membership, as well as the children, rallied to help circulate tracts and magazines. This proved to be seed sown in fertile ground, and throughout the United States and overseas a spiritual crop sprang up for early harvest.
“Then, in 1881, George A. King persuaded a skeptical leadership that, with more attractive publications, books could be sold by subscription and thus support a body of volunteers.
“From that point on, the annals of the colporteur work were filled with experiences of faith and faithfulness, as well as with anecdotes ranging from the humorous to the heroic and the sublime. Young or old, the Christian colporteur is an ambassador of the King. ‘I am not an ordinary book agent,’ was the frequent response of the colporteur to the scornful remark, ‘I have no time to waste with a book agent!’ No, he was not an ordinary book agent but a bearer of the life-giving word. ‘I am not selling books to make a living but to give life. I know you will be interested in my work, as all your neighbors are.’
“ ‘Well, come in; but I can give you only four minutes.’ The lady listens. Her husband comes in and requests that the full canvass be started again for him. A neighbor calls at that moment. Two books are sold. ‘I am so glad you told me that and that I had a chance to get one of those good books. But oh, think how near I came to turning you away!’
“Time and again, the unseen angel of the Lord subdues savage beasts, protects the human messenger from harm, directs the canvasser’s steps to needy and receptive purchasers, and changes hostility to a cordial welcome.” –Arthur W. Spalding, Origin and History of Seventh-day Adventists, Review and Herald Publishing Assn., Washington, D.C., 1962, pp. 219-242.
I am happy to report that the canvassing work is going forward in numerous countries. Seminars have been held in the last several years in many places. In 2005, Sister Raquel Orce and I visited Tanzania; members, Bible workers, and ministers from different African countries were invited to attend a Publishing and Canvassing Seminar. The Lord blessed the attendees, and now the canvassing work is going forward with success in Africa.
In South America, the canvassing work is advancing with great zeal. Many young people in Peru are joining in the canvassing work. Let us pray for all of the leaders who are training the youth to become ambassadors for Christ.
Various countries have requested that the General Conference conduct a Canvassing Seminar in their country; but because of a lack of funds, we have been unable to visit them. Our goal is to have hundreds of colporteurs visiting people in their homes, towns, and cities; but your financial support is essential. Just think! If we have two canvassers in every church, this will arouse interested souls, revive the missionary spirit, lift up the spiritual condition of the church, and bring financial blessings to the individual members who carry out this work.
“And they came unto the brook of Eshcol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bare it between two upon a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates and of the figs.” Numbers 13:23. This is an illustration of the harvest that will follow when courageous canvassers go out to distribute truth-filled publications in neighborhoods, towns, and cities.
May the Lord bless you as you share your blessings by supporting the canvassing work. One day you will rejoice to meet those who were saved by your sacrifice. And the greatest joy will be when someone approaches us in heaven and says, “Thank you for visiting me in my home; thank you for the book you gave me. Now I am here with Jesus and will be with the saints for time and eternity.” May the Lord bless the General Conference Canvassing Department, and may He bless you as well!
–Joel N. Barnedo
General Conference Canvassing Leader