Centenary Celebrations

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A century of life came to an end on January 7, 2019, when Graham’s father fell asleep in Jesus. Five months previously, he had proudly opened his card from the Queen and his telegram from the Secretary of State at his hundredth birthday celebration in the care home where he had been living for the past two years. Reflecting on his life as we prepared for his memorial service, it was hard to condense 100 years of life into a few paragraphs.

Sam was born three months before the end of the First World War and later served his country during the Second World War where he saw active duty in India and Egypt. With his artistic abilities, he soon found himself being asked to draw pictures to document what was happening on the front lines. If he’d had the opportunity to visit with AFM missionaries, I wonder what he would have made of the stories and sights taking place on the front lines in the countries where they serve? Would he have recognized the battles being fought and won daily? I’m sure he would have celebrated the victories and freedom that people are finding in the ultimate Victor, Jesus Christ.

Sam met his wife-to-be, Audrey, when he was 33 years old. He was a shy man so found it difficult to approach her. One day he finally got up the courage to speak to her. As their friendship deepened, he began Bible studies with her father who used to be a Methodist but had become a Seventh-day Adventist some years before. Convinced of the importance of the Sabbath and other Adventist beliefs, Sam was baptized in April 1952. Would Sam have become an Adventist if he had not had the courage to speak to Audrey? We will never know. Sam was a true disciple of Christ. He loved his Bible and regularly visited in people’s homes to give Bible studies.

Do we sometimes allow our shyness to hold us back from speaking with people? I know I have on occasion. What blessings and opportunities do we miss when we allow that to happen? How exciting it will be when we get to heaven and meet people who can trace their first contact with Christ to a conversation we had with them! Let us always be ready to give a reason for the hope that we have and never let timidity prevent us from speaking out for Jesus.

Centenaries have been on my mind lately, as the first two Adventist schools to be established in Britain, which I had the privilege of attending, both have their centenary celebrations this year. Fletewood School in Plymouth was where I began school some 45 years after it had been established. Plymouth came under heavy bombing during the Second World War, sharing the distinction of being one of the two worst-hit cities in the nation. Although the school had to close temporarily, the building survived the devastating bombing and is still in use today.

As I read through a brief history of the first 50 years of the school, I was fascinated to learn how many pupils went on to become missionaries serving in West Africa, Ethiopia, the Middle East, India and Sarawak. Others became successful evangelists in Britain and Canada. One of the teachers from the 1960s emigrated to Canada with his family to become self-supporting missionaries to the Canadian native Indians.

Not only did pupils of the school go out as missionaries, but staff came as missionary teachers, too. In 1922, a retired principal of a large girl’s school in Bloemfontein, South Africa, who had recently become a Seventh-day Adventist, came to Plymouth to assist at the school. An Australian lady who had been a missionary in New Guinea also came to the school.

Many of my friends at Stanborough School were the children of missionaries, mostly serving in various African countries. I thank God for the opportunity to attend schools that had a strong missionary mindset. I pray that students of today would be willing to follow in the footsteps of former pupils, taking the good news of the gospel to those who are still in darkness.

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