A colporteur knocked at the door of a young family in Tustin, California, with a lead card held firmly in his hand. The name and address were in the handwriting of a woman who had taken the card from one of the doctors’ offices around Orange County. Uncle Arthur’s Bible Story books were prominently advertised on a small table, and the colorful cover had caught her attention. This young mother wanted her two little boys to learn more about the Bible, and the display book contained the response card that would soon forever change the life of her whole family.
In 1964 it wasn’t unusual for a nicely dressed gentleman to appear at the door during the day. Fuller Brush, vacuum cleaner, and encyclopedia salesmen were just some of the door-to-door representatives that stay-at-home mothers would find standing before them. But the visit on that fateful day was different. Her handwriting was on the card, and the familiar book was in the colporteur’s hand. In keeping with the propriety of the day, arrangements were made for this friendly gentleman to return that evening to visit the lady of the house along with her husband.
That evening the colporteur was escorted past the coffee table to the living room couch to sit with the couple. He produced from his case the beautifully bound books. His presentation quickly yielded a closing of the sale, and the young parents wrote out the check for the 10 volumes of Uncle Arthur’s Bible Story. “Would you be interested in a set of books written for adults who want to learn more about the Bible?” the colporteur inquired. They nodded with interest. They had never before heard of a woman named Ellen G. White or her book series entitled “The Conflict of the Ages.” At this point, money was an issue in purchasing these along with the other books. “Let me see if I can find you a used set that would be much less expensive,” the colporteur said. He later returned with the hardback volumes that included lovely illustrations. They purchased the set for $100.
This used set of the “Conflict of the Ages” series with the black covers still resides on the bookshelf at my mother’s home. The young mom and dad were baptized as Seventh-day Adventists a few months after meeting the colporteur. Now at 91 years of age, the young mother of 1964 has read those very books many times. One of her little boys remembers reading all 10 volumes of Uncle Arthur’s Bible Story and falling in love with Jesus. That same little boy entered the Seventh-day Adventist ministry in 1983 and serves today in leadership within the Pacific Union Conference. That little boy is me. The destiny of a family was changed in a single day through one little card placed by a man who wanted to share the love of Jesus through the written word.
Ellen White’s magnum opus begins with three profound words, “God is love.” She continues a few paragraphs later, “The history of the great conflict between good and evil, from the time it first began in heaven to the final overthrow of rebellion and the total eradication of sin, is also a demonstration of God’s unchanging love” (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 33). As we consider the sweep of human history and question the role of God in it all, the questions of why and how plague the minds of so many. I have chosen to join millions of others who frame these questions with the testimony of the Bible as reflected in Ellen White’s declaration. To understand my world, I daily seek to know the Creator and Savior who holds my past, present, and future in His nail-pierced hands.
Meaning for life is not found in answering every question or extinguishing every doubt. In fact, the further away in time I move from the little boy who first read Uncle Arthur’s Bible Story books, the greater many of the mysteries of life seem to loom. But I remain anchored in the knowledge that “God is love.” At the first breath drawn by the newborn babe, His love is there. Through the scrapes and falls of childhood and adolescence, Jesus’ love remains. As adults—single, married, divorced; parent or childless; suffering with disease, loss, disillusionment, or pain—this same Love journeys alongside us. In the fading that comes to all humanity through old age, where the body betrays and the mind forgets, there is the Loving One who never forgets or leaves us.
After the hundreds of pages in the Conflict of the Ages, Ellen White closes the final book of the series with these words: “The great controversy is ended. Sin and sinners are no more. The entire universe is clean. One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation. From Him who created all, flow life and light and gladness, throughout the realms of illimitable space. From the minutest atom to the greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love” (The Great Controversy, p. 678). As it began, it also ends. The power of love is revealed from the Source of Love.
I invite you to open your heart anew to this loving God. He is indeed with you right now—even if you cannot feel Him close. Whatever your situation, His love for you has never changed and never will. With Paul, I can testify this to be true: “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39, NLT).
Bradford C. Newton is the president of the Pacific Union Conference.