I’ll be the first to admit that I have never really taken an interest in history. In high school it was a subject that was compulsory for four years and then gladly dropped for something I found more interesting. That all changed this year when it was announced that we would be celebrating 125 years since Record magazine began. To celebrate this impressive milestone we have been reviewing old issues and sharing our findings in Record this year. As one of the Record team tasked with authoring these Record Rewind articles, I began my journey into the depths of the Record archives.
Starting in January 1898, I spent many weeks browsing through the online archives, reading page after page of content. It was not always an easy read— writing styles have changed A LOT in the past 125 years and many words are no longer used or have different meanings in today’s context. Some weeks this was a task that I had to endure, other weeks I couldn’t wait to read more.
Somewhere along the way I discovered that I was actually really interested in the stories of these early pioneers of the Adventist Church in the South Pacific. What changed my interest? Their sheer enthusiasm, extreme sacrifice and unwavering dedication to their faith. Page after page I joined them in their mission: establishing a sanitarium in Sydney, losing brave workers in the mission fields, establishing healthy cafes and educational institutions and door-knocking to sell literature. I couldn’t help but be proud of the people who came before us and feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude to them.
Let me share a few quotes from my research through the Record archives which might help paint a picture of their experiences:
“As we consider who shall have first place in our hearts now, and in our plans for the future, let us pray that the sacrificial spirit of our Advent pioneers will be paramount in our own souls. Here is an excerpt from a letter written by Ellen G White . . . dated April 16, 1852: “We were still crippled by poverty, and compelled to exercise the most rigid economy and self-denial . . . Butter is so high that we do not purchase it, neither can we afford potatoes. We use sauce in the place of butter, and turnips for potatoes. Our first meals were taken on a fireboard placed upon two empty flour barrels. We are willing to endure privations if the work of God can be advanced.”—John Loor (Record, April 10, 1967).
“In the early days we had no institutions of any sort or any real estate the worth of a dwelling-house [in the South Pacific]. Now we have large institutions in different conferences and many properties. In the beginning, when anything was needed it had to be contributed or made by someone free of cost. There was no money to pay for it.”—Pastor Harry Mitchell (Record, June 21, 1948).
“The co-ordinated work of the ministers and laymen in the distribution of the papers which we printed was so blessed of God that the work grew. Men and women read themselves into the truth. Twelve people joined the church as a result of reading one tract stuck on the iron fence around the Exhibition Building. . . There is a golden thread of voluntary loving labour by church members running through all these historical records.”—Pastor Herbert White (Record, July 4, 1960).
One quote in particular jumped out at me and has been on my mind since reading it. In Record’s special Jubilee edition (July 4, 1960), a quote was published from 88-year-old WJ McGowan who was involved in the early days of the Advent message in Australia and New Zealand. He said, “Every Adventist loved to talk about the message of Christ’s second coming. It was the biggest thing in their lives.” Reading this really challenged me and caused me to reflect on my own involvement in the mission of the Adventist Church. In our calling as Christians, and as we continue the work of those who came before, who sacrificed so much to get us to the point we are at today, could I say that I have the same zeal? How about you?