This is a story about a guy who had never read a book in his whole life, and the couple who sent him a 384-page volume about Bible prophecy.
The book, of course, is The Great Controversy. Ellen White’s book is part of a worldwide outreach movement that has gathered so much momentum in the past three years that it has left some people stunned and surprised. General Conference vice president Delbert Baker remembers when his boss, General Conference president Ted Wilson, asked him to lead an effort to share The Great Controversy. They decided to set an ambitious goal of sharing 50 million copies of the book worldwide by the end of 2013. “Then Elder Wilson mentioned in a meeting that his personal prayer goal for the project was 100 million,” recalls Baker. “We were still trying to wrap our arms around the 50 million number!”
Baker says that what happened next was a small miracle. “Hundreds of thousands of Adventists sacrificed to distribute the book to their friends,” Among them were Stan and Andrea Kotlow who live in Maine, up against the Canadian border. Both had come into the church in large part because of The Great Controversy, and when they heard about the project, they wanted to get involved. “We’re not good sharing door to door,” says Stan. “But we thought this was something we could do.”
They arranged with the Review and Herald Publishing Association to send the book to several thousand homes in their area.” It would have been too much for them to afford, except for an act of providence in their own backyard. The wild blueberry bushes on their property brought forth a huge harvest that raised more than $6,000. They earmarked the windfall for outreach.
That’s why Phil McVicar in nearby Alexander, Maine, got a copy of The Great Controversy in his mailbox. “We couldn’t figure out where the book came from or why we got it,” he says.
Phil is the kind of guy who loves the outdoors more than sitting in a chair reading. “I never read a complete book until I was 55 years old,” he admits. But God had been preparing him. Involvement with Amway had prompted him to start reading motivational books. Soon, he actually enjoyed reading.
After The Great Controversy had sat in his bathroom for about a year, Phil felt God working on his heart. “I’ve got to get up a little earlier to read this book,” he said to himself. He determined he would read two or three pages a day. Then it became five pages a day. Then more. He was fascinated and noticed how it seemed to fit with Bible preaching that he had heard on an early-morning program called Amazing Facts.
Meanwhile, the church he attended with his wife, Vicki, left them empty. “The preacher would tell us what we wanted to hear, not what we needed to know,” says Phil. “I never learned how to get into the Bible or even to navigate it,” adds Vicki.
Convicted of the Sabbath truth, the McVicars just showed up one Saturday morning at the Calais church. They were welcomed and immediately felt at home. The pastor, Arnet Mathers, answered all their questions directly from the Bible. In September 2011, Mathers and the McVicars waded into the chilly waters of Howard Lake for the baptism.
Churches in Northern New England have been leaders in the Great Controversy Project, working with the Review and Herald to mail a quarter million copies of the book to local zip codes. Worldwide, enthusiasm for the project had resulted in almost tripling Ted Wilson’s original goal. “We had a thanksgiving service at the General Conference in October when we reported that a total of 142 million copies have been shared around the globe,” says Baker. “I have not found a record of any denomination handing out this many books in a two-year period. This has been an extremely blessed project.”
Kim Peckham is in corporate communication at the Review and Herald Publishing Association.