by Connie Vandeman Jeffery—
My father, the late George E. Vandeman, wrote a pivotal book in the 1980s titled What I Like About….In it, he described how seven different denominations/religions positively impacted the world and contributed to the faith community to which I belong—the Seventh-day Adventist church. He talked with the leaders of each church and discovered all there is to “like” about them. Later, Doug Wead, a speechwriter and senior advisor to President George H. W. Bush, said, “When we passed the book out at a White House prayer breakfast, everyone turned to two chapters—the one about their faith and then the one about the Adventists.”
I inherited my faith from my parents. Born into an Adventist family, I was the youngest child and only girl, with a preacher father, a homemaker mother, and three older brothers. Baptized at age 12 by my dad in a small church in Spencerville, Maryland, I had the innocent, passionate faith of a child. It would be years before I realized I had to make my faith my own. I couldn’t rely on my parents’ faith to see me through.
In my freshman year of college, I took a class that changed my life—Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ, taught by Morris Venden, a pastor and teacher for whom I had the greatest respect. I started reading The Desire of Ages, which has turned out to be my favorite Ellen White book, along with my Bible. I fell in love with Jesus for the very first time as a young adult. As I developed my own personal relationship with Him, I looked forward to spending time each morning reading, studying, and praying before I started my day. This was the beginning of making my faith my own.
Then life happened, as life always does. The ups and downs of it. The mountaintops and the dark valleys. Illness and death of loved ones. Marriage and a child. Raising that child to have a faith of his own. The joy of watching him get married and have children of his own. The innocent joy and laughter of my adorable granddaughters. The pain of watching a spouse suffer illness. The devastation over a job loss. The gratitude for a new job. A journey through depression. The tears and the happiness of life as it is happening, right now. Living in the moment, viewing the highs and lows through the filter of faith.
What do I like about my faith? I re-read Dad’s book. In the last chapter, he says it so well:
There are good reasons why so many earnest Christians are looking towards the Adventists. They believe this group has gathered together gems of light, the truths championed through the years by all denominations—the neglected truths of the centuries. First of all, the faith in Christ of the Lutherans. And then the baptism by immersion of the Baptists. The interest in Christian growth and Spirit-filled living of the Methodists and Charismatics. The respect for morality of the Catholics. The Sabbath championed by our Jewish ancestors and cherished by Jesus and the apostles. All of these truths, you see, Adventists united into one body of belief (p. 103).
He goes on to describe how Adventists believe the human body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). We have a lifestyle that reflects our body-mind-spirit connection, and I believe it with my heart and soul. I like how we got our name—from our anchor beliefs in the Sabbath and the Second Coming. I like that we believe truth is progressive. If we have indeed gathered together all these “gems of light” and the truths championed by other denominations—the “neglected truths” of centuries past—and if we truly do believe we are led by the Holy Spirit into new truth, then that’s a wonderful thing to love about us! Here’s what I personally love about my faith and what I’ve been blessed to experience for myself:
I belong to a faith community that cares.When I was down, they comforted me. When I was sick, they visited me. So many men and women from my past (and present) have had such a profound impact on my life—their personal friendship or their writings and witness have encouraged and inspired me. They’ve demonstrated the caring faith that I’ve come to rely on. From Pastor Morrie Venden to Marilyn Cotton, Dr. William Johnsson to Miriam Wood, Dr. Jan Paulsen to Dr. Joan Coggin, Pastor Bill Loveless to my own dear parents, and so many others, I’ve had so many godly people show me the way to a caring, vibrant faith.
I belong to a faith community that prays.I cannot count the times my pastor, friends, co-workers, and family have told me that they’ve been praying for me by name. It means everything to know that when I’m too overwhelmed to pray, the prayers of my community are lifting my name up in prayer.
I belong to a faith community thatloves.Whether they drop off a bag of food from Trader Joe’s after the death of my dad, or are the first to celebrate the birth of my grandchild with me, or ask how I’m doing on a regular basis, or leave a loaf of my favorite bread and an audio book on my front porch, or write a note or e-mail of encouragement for no apparent reason, or go with me to sing and take baby clothes and toys to the local women’s shelter—my faith community knows how to live God’s love in a meaningful way.
What do I like about my faith? All the same things Dad liked…and so much more!
Connie Vandeman Jeffery has had a long career in media and is the host of All God’s People, a weekly short video series highlighting the people and ministries of the Pacific Union Conference.