Dave slips quietly into the small apartment where a worshipping group has gathered on a Sabbath morning in a closed country in MENA. He isn’t a young man, but he’s a very young Seventh-day Adventist Christian. He isn’t carrying a Bible because he left home that morning with the explanation to Zehra, his young, non-Christian wife, that he was going to therapy.
When they had married, Zehra had asked him to join the majority religion. He had complied without even a thought. After growing up Lutheran and subscribing to Catholicism and then Judaism, he figured one more man-made religion was no different. But their marriage had been a roller-coaster of conflict. He had a painful past and a history of partying and alcohol. She had a long story of abuse and was on a mystical, spiritualist search of her own. The combination sent them both to counseling.
Then there were business failures that left their finances in shambles. A miracle baby joined them. Covid engulfed everyone’s lives. And Dave, in his late 50s, was diagnosed with cancer. As he thought about his life, he wondered if he should even pray; he knew that if he died, he would go to hell.
Recuperating from surgery aunder Zehra’s care and confined by the pandemic, he had nothing to do but to surf the internet. So he followed his longtime passion for curious facts, all things amazing, and the Book of Revelation. The strange combination of interests came together when he stumbled onto the Amazing Facts’ site and Revelation Now! “OK, this makes sense,” he said to himself after viewing several videos. He continued to watch because what he heard answered questions he’d had as a Lutheran teenager growing up in Milwaukee.
Not that he had been a Bible student back then. His religious instruction at a private Lutheran school had consisted of commands to comply and threats of hell. His teachers had been austere and abusive. The Bible was used but not studied. Only a class in Daniel and Revelation caught his attention. Any picture of a loving and caring God never had a chance to form in his young mind. But church was required.
He would slump in the family pew each Sunday and study the maps in the back of his Bible. Occasionally he’d flip the pages to the Book of Revelation where he found an intriguing drama of beasts and dragons. The fact that nobody wanted to talk about it made him all the more curious.
But the Bible wasn’t a matter of study in his Protestant upbringing. It was hardly opened when he became a Catholic as a young father so his children could be baptized. He realized the Talmud wasn’t referenced much either when, following a painful divorce, he converted to Judaism. Disillusioned, he concluded that all religion was manmade and polluted with traditions and meaningless restrictions.
But as Dave clicked through video after video that explained the the Bible, he realized how much it all fit together. He read Steps to Christ online, then the Great Controversy. But, more importantly, for the first time in his life he read the Bible from cover to cover. He learned about God’s plan of salvation, the sanctuary, the truth about heaven and hell, tithing, and much, much more. He quietly began keeping the Sabbath; in the middle of the pandemic it was simple enough to declare a family day with no chores.
As Dave learned more, though, he longed to experience biblical baptism and to find fellowship with other Bible believers. For months he searched for a Seventh-day Adventist worship group near him. Finally, as the country moved from online to in-person gatherings, he located a worshipping group and was welcomed into their circle whenever he could join them. They studied together as he grew in what the Holy Spirit had taught him in his solitary search. In May 2022, he was baptized.
“I realize now that all my issues go back to my spiritual struggles–abusive Christianity, manmade requirements, a desperate system of works,” Tim observes. “Through it all the Holy Spirit hasn’t given up on me. God hasn’t given up on me.” He knows his journey is just beginning.
Zehra is disappointed. She has detected a change. Even though she’s thankful he quit drinking three years ago and that he’s eating more healthfully, she doesn’t know all that has taken place between him and God in the last years. She has confronted him with the rejection she feels. “I can tell you are returning to Christianity. You are denying the one thing I asked of you at our marriage.”
Dave’s spiritual calling now is to let his silent life-witness serve as God’s invitation to Zehra, their little girl, his older children, and to others around him. “I pray I continue to grow so that my life can be a beacon for them. I want others to know the love, joy, peace, and selflessness of Christ.”
Considering all the past detours, such a witness may seem out of reach. But God is the one who has brought him this far–beyond the detours-and God promises to be with him all the way to an eternal destination.