2020-2022 COVID Aftermath
Alexandra Wiebe contacted Gary on Adventist singles during his trip to Sweden. They quickly realized how many connections they shared in common: both born in Southern California, both had been to Wiemar, La Sierra College, Bella Vista Hospital in Mayaquez, Puerto Rico, and had strong connections with medical parents, health evangelism, enjoyed playing the piano, singing, writing scripture songs, studying the Bible, hiking. She had known my brother's first wife at Wiemar. While both of us had lost our first mates, we knew that our providential encounter was just that--an anwer to prayer for both of us.
After five months of shared exposure to each other's families, getting their approval, we dcided to get married in anticipation of moving from our separate quarters in Talking Rock to a house we were about to purchase in Calhoun to be closer to my brother, his wife, my sister's home, and our four combined children all living in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The time had come to finally retire from directing and supervising all the activities of Talking Rock Sabbath Chapel.
Then COVID struck. Suddenly everyone was home-bound. Fear prevailed. Travel ceased. Our original plan to travel to Australia for Camp Meeting was cancelled. Alexandra's parents made it out of California just in time. They drove their little Honda towing a very small trailer and arrived in March to stay with us in our new home.
With manditory masking, social distancing and then church closures, I decided to take advantage of being quarantined at home to have my long delayed but much needed ankle fusion. I had been severely limited in long distance walking for the past 20 years but couldn't take the time to do anything about it. Now I had no more excuses.
When the cast came off and a walking boot was allowed, we found ourselves wondering where we could find a church that was (1) open, and (2) didn't require masks. We heard about Adairsville,, checked it out and have never looked back. Alex was soon invited to play the piano, I offered to lead the opening hymn for Sabbath School. But when I was asked to teach the Sabbath School lesson, it wasn't but 3 days later I got a phone call explaining that the head elder's initial offer had to be recinded. The Conference wouldn't allow me to speak.
I then got a call from our pastor reporting that he had been warned not to let me be a SS teacher and he wanted to come for a visit to find out why. He came. I told him my life story and what had happened at Jasper. He was very interested in the comparison between Adam and Eve and the Father and Son. He had attended Stephen Bohr's GYC presentation on that very theme. He has since expressed thanks for introducing him to the issues and early Adventist history over the begotten Son, the Heavenly Messenger, and the Heavenly Trio.
Since then, we have supported the church with not only a faithful presence, but assisting in taking over the Church Bulletin printing, organizing a team of rotating worship program directors, participating in the church visitation team, taking my turn in the AV booth, being one of Wednesday night prayer meeting bible study hosts, helping in the annual Walk Through Bethlehem pagent, telling children's stories, singing special music, and now for over a year singing a newly written Scripture Song each Sabbath.
Earlier this year, it was offered to ask for Alexandra's membership transfer and accept me on profession of faith. But when the pastor received another phone call, he decided to just let the matter die. We were not actively pursuing membership, but were not opposed either. It was nice to know that we had been accepted. Then a couple of months ago, a couple of elders told us that they were still wanting to arrange for our membership.
Events started progressing rapidly when we had a surpise encounter with the Jasper church pastor who was visiting Alexandra's mother, who had been attending Jasper but didn't come to church because of her health. The pastor had visited Gary and Carolyn in 2018 and after hearing our story and the biblical reasons for our belief in the original Adventist Fundamental Principles, had expressed interest in wanting to study more. But then changed his mind shortly thereafter. But now was friendly and glad to see me again.
Later that week we received a phone call from the assistant Ministerial Director, the same one who attended my disfellowship proceedings in Jasper 11 years earlier. He was requesting to meet with us and a meeting was finally arranged. But a few days before it, two elders from Adairsville came to visit and learn what we believed. Again we shared our story but more importantly the Bible verses that confirm the divinity of Jesus, His title and nature as God, equal with His Father, the personality of the Holy Spirit, and the identity of the Spirit in both Father (John 4:24; Matt 10:20; Romans 8:9) and the Son (John 3:34; 5:26; 6:63; 20:22; Rom 8:10; 1Peter 1:10,11; Gal 4:6). This was enforced by the Spirit of Prophecy (Rev 19:10) with RH April 5, 1906, AH 350, GC 493, and by affirming "I believe in the heavenly trio."
The recital was repeated 4 days later by the Ministerial Director and his assitant at our home. Again, the hour and a half meeting was pleasant and re-affirming by appreciation for our Adventist education, the care we received during our years in the mission field, and our joy in fellowship without provocation in the church of our birth and our life-long devotion. When asked why I "left the Church", I explained that that was not my decision but rather that of the local Jasper Church. I expressed puzzelment as to why there was such animosity displayed over this issue.
The important lesson I learned, was the value of being gentle, of not condemning the church or its theology, relying solely on the language of Scripture, avoid all theological/philosophical terms, and not being afraid to acknowledge there are "three great powers of heaven."
The following week we were invited to come to the Jasper church for an evening meeting with a group of elders and once again the assistant Ministerial Director. Again, we confessed our happy acknowledgement that Jesus is not a created being, that He is the eternal divine Son of God, a relationship He has ever sustained with the Father, and that "the Holy Spirit is as much a person as God is a person," and that there are "three personalities in the heavenly trio." It was interesting to learn that some who had been at the disfellowship meeting 11 years prior had understood that I didn't believe in the Holy Spirit and that Jesus was a created being. What a relief they now felt, and confessed "I wish we had had this meeting a long time ago!"
How important it is to carefully express ourselves with the words of Jesus especially and also the Bible, but avoid simply stating our own opinion or quoting the words of men.
We have chosen to continue our involvement with and support of a local Seventh-day Adventist church where we believe we can make a meaningful contribution to the worship experience of those attending and be an source of encouragement to all in seeking a deeper knowledge of God's Word and keeping our eyes on Jesus.