My SDA Beginnings

Two Delta Junction beekeeping brothers looking at Denali on a clear day. The big, smart, good looking guy is my brother Don.
Four decades ago, this is how a couple of Alaska beekeepers looked with Denali in the background.

Forty years ago I was a young man with opportunity, unbridled energy, and much to learn. Had I been wiser back then, I would have become a much different man than what I am today.

But that’s life. We all have to live it and learn those lessons for ourselves.

Yet there are many ways to learn those lessons. Some ways are much harder and produce much different consequences than others.

Today, I’m not that young man. Maybe if he had encountered an old guy like me and learned from him, his lessons would have been more quickly and easily learned. Maybe he could have avoided much of life’s trouble and heartache.

Let me tell you about that young beekeeper, the young man I once was.

In the late 70’s. He was a bright, dynamic, successful young man:

  • thriving in the glow of a spiritual awakening
  • living in a cabin in the Alaskan woods, the land of his dreams
  • starting a commercial bee business, his passion
  • working as a human factors engineer
  • growing a fabulous garden, in rich virgin soil bathed in 24 hour sunlight

Life was good. And he was happy.

One evening, while house setting for a friend, he noticed a full bookcase. There wasn’t any Internet back then. Bookstores and books were a primary way to learn and a common pastime. He loved to read.

As a pot of garden fresh kale cooked, he picked up the smallest, thinnest book to pass some time. Kale takes awhile to properly cook.

And he began reading Steps to Christ. It described the joy and wonder of his spiritual awakening. But it contained other things that puzzled him. Were they true? He needed to know more!

As the summer waned, He continued to work bees, house set, tend his garden, harvest, cook and read.

Perusing that library, he found books on:

  • western civilization
  • health
  • compilations of historical letters rebuking personal sin
  • Seventh-day Adventist magazine compilations
  • Seventh-day Adventist religious history
  • lots of Protestant history
  • a Bible collection
  • and a smattering of Bible research material

Other than the health stuff which he promised to read later, he quickly skimmed the rest and set it aside.

But a 5 volume series dealing with God, history and Christ’s coming caught his eye. He started with Patriarchs and Prophets. Spent most of my time in The Desire of Ages, a book about Jesus life and death. And finished the series with The Great Controversy.

He felt like a child who, while joyously wading in the shallows of an emotional and relational based spiritual awakening, had just slipped into deep water. He was in way over his head.

Previous education and experience hadn’t prepared him for this. It was new, different and exciting. But was it true?

Winter was approaching and Bruno, his friend, would soon return. Bruno was a bright guy and likable, if not for his somewhat wacky, but harmless religious side.

October near Delta Junction, Alaska.
Not quite winter. There’s still some light left during an October day near Delta Junction, Alaska.

Now, after reading some of Bruno’s books, he had questions.

  • were the Bible and human history so intricately entwined?
  • were Bible prophesies applicable to current events as well as our future?
  • who are the Seventh-day Adventist?
  • and who was Ellen G. White?
  • was Christ’s return imminent?

Bruno returned. But time and the calendar were against them.

  • he was working 3 jobs
  • both was preparing for another season of arctic cold
  • and the arctic deep freeze was quickly descending upon them

So rather than put him off, Bruno suggested he visit the Fairbanks SDA Church.

It’s not a trivial matter to travel during Alaska’s cold, dark winter.

  • temperatures are mostly below-50F
  • there’s snow and ice
  • road traffic is non-existent
  • damage is certain to occur on any stressed cold soaked rubber, plastic or glass component
  • minor mechanic problems or accident can prove fatal
  • cold soaked vehicles are impossible to start
  • gas mileage is a third of what’s normal
  • and a winter trip occurs during Alaska’s 22 hour night

So, Bruno offered him a ride. And he decided to carpool with Bruno for the 200 mile Fairbanks trip.

What would he find?

  • an enthusiastic group energized for Christ’s soon return?
  • a bunch of over the top religious fanatics?
  • spiritual people practicing the simplicity of true Christianity?
  • an anti-Catholic cult?

He couldn’t go immediately. But until then, he borrowed a few more books, continued to work, read the Bible, pray, rejoice and visit his friends.


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