26 May

Tragedy in the Amazon Basin of Peru

By Greg Hodgson — Iquitos, Peru . . . Few places capture the modern American imagination like Peru…land of the Incas and the mesmerizing Machu Picchu; the towering Andes mountains with peaks above 22,000 feet; and the mysterious Amazon jungle which still holds undiscovered indigenous peoples, plants and animals.

Tragedy has struck in a corner of this paradise, centered in the city of Iquitos, the largest city in the world with no road access.  You wouldn’t think that a contagious virus like COVID-19 would wreak havoc in such an isolated place, but it has arrived with a vengeance.

In the midst of this calamity is Clinica Adventista Ana Stahl.  Founded by the courageous mission pioneers, Fernando and Ana Stahl, the hospital (known as “la Clinica” since only government facilities can be called hospitals) has cared for the population of this community with over half-a-million population for 93 years. Though modest in size, la Clinica provides the best healthcare services in the region and is well known for its quality and the dedication and compassion of its medical professionals.

Enter COVID-19 and the tranquility of this idyllic setting is shattered. Calling a national emergency, the President of Peru, Martín Vizcarra, enacted a nationwide curfew and stay-at-home policy on March 15, and all commercial flights in, out, and within the country were immediately cancelled.  Thousands of Americans were stranded.  By April 9 about 6,800 U.S. citizens had been evacuated [1], however the U.S. Embassy in Peru has still posted additional evacuation flights including one scheduled for May 27. [2]

The virus runs rampant through the poor and crowded shanty towns of Iquitos which encircle the historic center.  Patients overwhelm government hospitals where medicine and oxygen are in short supply and dozens die each day.  Graciela Meza, executive director of the regional health office, claims that most victims have died from a lack of oxygen; 90% have died from a lack of medical supplies.” [3] Lines of people come to the government hospital seeking care, yet often end up on cots lining the courtyards and hallways.  One government doctor estimates that 80% of the healthcare workers in the region have COVID-19, and dozens of doctors and nurses have died. [4] Piles of body bags fill up morgues, yet many people die at home and are quickly buried due to the hot and humid climate.

Doing its best to serve the community, la Clinica struggled to provide services.  Just as in the government facilities, employees of the Adventist hospital were being infected.  By the end of April, 55% of the staff were confirmed to have COVID-19 or had COVID-like symptoms. [5] Sadly, Dr Elard Calli, the radiologist at la Clinica, passed away from COVID-19 on May 9.

The nurses and doctors still able to work were so few that on April 29 the administration decided to close la Clinica.  Dr. Milka Brañez, the hospital’s director, wrote, “When we closed la Clinica, I was sick, and I cried bitterly.  I felt that I had failed.  How could we close at such a critical time for the region?  But God has shown me that it was the best in those circumstances.”  Continuing, Dr. Brañez said, “We are planning how to reopen some services such as drug care for chronic patients.  The viral load is still very high in Iquitos.  Since our employees are not fully cured and are still contagious, we must be very careful.   I am strong in the Lord and I am not afraid of the future because God is in control.  And we will rise again to help our neighbor who so badly needs us.”

In an encouraging development, the first four staff members to become infected were officially discharged from la Clinica on Monday, May 18, and are confirmed to be well enough to return home.  Plans are being made to open a few services to the community again, and the first public services for pharmacy, laboratory, and imaging began on May 26.

In order to help protect employees at la Clinica, the Adventist hospitals in Colorado have raised over $40,000 for personal protective equipment (PPE).   Plans are underway to ship additional supplies in partnership with AdventHealth’s Global Mission program based out of Central Florida, Shawnee Mission Medical Center in Kansas City, and ADRA International. However, with no income for a month, hospital resources are severely strained, and they will need additional support to endure the remaining pandemic crisis.  Anyone interested in providing assistance can donate at Rocky Mountain Adventist Health Foundation (www.rmahf.org/ghi).

“We thank God and the entire team at our beloved clinic for the care and love that they provide,” Dr. Brañez wrote again a few days later. “We are going through very hard times in this pandemic. We have lost family, friends, and coworkers, but let’s never forget that God is in control.”  In the United States, we continue to admire the strength and courage of Dr. Brañez and her team in this crisis, and pray that they will receive the support needed to continue their mission to extend the healing ministry of Christ in Amazon Basin of Peru.

Greg Hodgson is director of Global Health Initiatives in Denver, Colorado; Photos supplied

[1] “US Government Evacuation Flights from Peru Will Soon Be Phased Out,” The Washington Post, April 9, 2020

[2] US Embassy in Peru, COVID-19 Information, Updated May 19, 2020

[3], “We are Living in a Catastrophe: Peru’s Jungle Capital Chocking for Breath as COVI-19 Hits,” The Guardian, May 19, 2020

[4] “Peruvian Hospitals Hit by Double Crises of COVID-19 and Dengue Fever,” France 24, The Observers, May 12, 2020

[5] “Situational Diagnosis of the Health Status for the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Clinica Adventista Ana Stahl, May 6, 2020

26 May

Adventists and the 1918 Influenza Pandemic

By Michael W. Campbell — Keene, Texas . . . By all historical accounts, the 1918 Influenza pandemic, sometimes erroneously called the “Spanish Flu” (most historians credit the beginning of the disease to rural Kansas), was a global disaster. Historians debate just how many people died—estimates range from 50 to 100 million people. In contrast to the ravages of World War I, it is significant that many soldiers survived the war only to die from this contagious disease! Between the war and the flu, it was a one-two punch that caused a great deal of anxiety in the early part of the twentieth-century.

The purpose of this article is to reflect about how this pandemic impacted the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and specifically, how did Adventists respond? Obviously, many faithful Adventists, just as in the general population, lost their lives. While there are no precise statistics on exactly how many Adventists died, if obituaries in the Review and other union papers are any indication, it did have a significant impact. In fact, even minutes from denominational committees had to deal with the problem of replacing workers, some in mission posts, who succumbed to the disease.

The 1918-19 Influenza pandemic really had three major waves in the United States, the second of which was the most virulent and caused the most deaths. Most church and school closures were based upon the advice of local health and government officials, with strong support from church leaders (hence such efforts were largely localized). Clearly church members and leaders at this time felt confident that such closures were a proactive measure meant to keep people safe. I have yet to find any Adventists from this time period protesting these measures as limiting their religious freedom in any way. In fact, it appears to be quite the opposite, since many people alive at this time could likely remember the many debilitating diseases of the nineteenth-century that swept America (and Adventism). Thus, Adventists were nothing short of enthusiastic about embracing the best of modern medicine including vaccines. Even Ellen White herself set the example when she was still alive (she died in 1915) by getting vaccinated![i]

The one noticeable thing is that denominational leaders were crystal clear that every church member had a responsibility to help mitigate the impact of the pandemic. This meant effectively social distancing and if you became sick, to stay home and get rest. “There is the gravest danger in putting off proper care in an attack of influenza,” admonished L. A. Hansen. He went on to advise that there must be a balance to avoid both “undue fear” so as to not cripple relief efforts. He urged “good common sense” including “proper safe-guarding.” This included isolating oneself if one became sick. For others, it meant making sure to “protect others by sneezing and coughing into handkerchiefs or cloths, which should be boiled or burned.” People should avoid contact at all costs with those who are sick. “The present disease situation is recognized as a serious one, and all persons are urged by the highest medical authorities to give careful heed to every precautionary measure. Don’t be frightened. Simply take good care of yourself, and help to safeguard others.”[ii]

The editor of the Review and Herald, the respected F. M. Wilcox, challenged the denomination that it was “high time that they become intelligent in the employment of the rational remedies and system of treatment of which as a denomination we have had a knowledge for many years.”[iii] Adventists, who advocated for a wholistic view of modern medicine, were through their medical institutions strategically poised to help combat the disease. “Every Seventh-day Adventist may obtain a knowledge of these principles so that he can apply them in his own home.” Yet Wilcox was also quick to caution against those who might also believe that the Adventist health message would prevent them from getting sick. “We do not by any means take the position that obedience to these principles will insure immunity against disease or death.” He concluded by urging church members to “exercise” an “intelligent faith” by taking prudent steps to combat disease based upon the best medical guidelines available.[iv] Adventists frequently published such medical advice in church papers and issued special pamphlets and circular numbers of church periodicals, designed to educate the public.

 Seventh-day Adventist leaders furthermore felt that a denomination with its special emphasis upon health, along with a network of healthcare institutions, had a sacred responsibility to do whatever they could to help alleviate the pandemic. It is interesting that church leaders noted an uptick in enrollment at Adventist colleges in all lines related to medical work. Adventism, with its strong emphasis upon medical missionary work, used this as an opportunity to refocus its institutions by training young people to meet the crisis. It is furthermore significant, during an age of institutionalization and as the church finessed its global structure (it added “divisions” to the hierarchy of the church between unions and the General Conference at the 1918 General Conference session right before the pandemic broke out), the pandemic caused church leaders to add a departmental position for a “medical missionary secretary” as recommended for local churches, conferences, and unions to help encourage medical missionary work training at all levels of the denomination.[v] As a result, even today, the Church Manual encourages the local church to have a health ministries coordinator. Another significant thing was the deep admiration and support church leaders had for the American Red Cross. The Red Cross was featured prominently in church periodicals and church members were urged to support their relief efforts. Adventists did not see themselves as isolated from other relief efforts; instead they should both contribute what they could and cooperate with others helping to provide relief during this time of crisis.[vi]

Still, if Dr. W. A. Ruble, the director of the denomination’s health work at that time is any indication, he wrote several times how he felt the denomination was caught unprepared by this epidemic. “Every young person, yes, every member of our denomination, old or young, male or female,” he wrote, “might have been busy night and day during the present epidemic if they had been prepared.”[vii] On a number of other occasions, particularly toward the end of the epidemic, he ruefully bemoaned how the epidemic had brought them ten times the number of opportunities to do missionary work if only they had been ready. While churches and schools were closed, as Adventist evangelists were no longer able to hold public meetings, for those who were willing to be flexible and adapt, they could now more than ever before be a living witness of hope and faith to their sick friends and neighbors. And even as some Adventists became sick and even died, they lived as a people of hope, which meant that Adventists had a sacred responsibility to help those who became sick. Obviously, this meant following very strict measures that included wearing protective gear and masks, yet collectively there was a general sense of responsibility to help those who became sick in the safest and most responsible way possible.

Adventism was forever altered by the 1918 pandemic in far-reaching ways that are largely taken for granted today. This legacy of responsible and balanced action meant cooperating with government officials and other relief organizations, embracing best practices based upon what they knew from medical science, exercising common sense, and prioritizing the safety of both their communities and themselves, with the understanding that all Adventists had a sacred responsibility to help those who became sick.

Michael W. Campbell, Ph.D. is professor of religion at Southwestern Adventist University. He has served as a pastor in both Colorado and Kansas and is the author of numerous books and articles. His next book, the Pocket Dictionary for Understanding Adventism (Pacific Press, 2020) will be released in a few weeks. He co-hosts a podcast titled “Sabbath School Rescue” available on Spotify and iTunes.  Photo supplied

This article was originally published on the NAD Ministerial website


[i]For a more extensive discussion of this point, see the article I wrote: “Ellen White and Modern Medicine,” Adventist Review, January 2017, 62-63.

[ii]L. A. Hansen, “An Influenza Precaution,” Review and Herald, Jan. 16, 1919, pg. 30.

[iii]F. M. Wilcox, “The Dangers of the Last Days,” RH Jan. 30, 1919, pg. 7.


[v]W. A. Ruble, “What are you Going to do About it?” RH Jan. 30, 1919, pg. 2.

[vi]Lora E. Clement, “Fighting the ‘Flu’: The Heroic Work of the Red Cross,” RH Jan. 23, 1919, pg. 17-18.

[vii]W. A. Ruble, “What are you Going to do About it?” RH Jan. 30, 1919, pg. 2.

21 May


By Evelyn Rivera — Denver, Colorado … “Waking up with Christ” is a series of inspirational live morning devotionals offered to Hispanic church members every weekday morning at 7:00 a.m. via Zoom as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. A group of some fifty participants from Denver area Hispanic churches join the daily meetings consisting of a traditional song service, prayer requests, and a short message from a different pastor each day.

As churches remain closed, this ministry is helping to connect the Hispanic church members and to enrich their spiritual lives during the pandemic. The morning devotionals are an initiative of the Hispanic pastors of the Rocky Mountain Conference.

“Every morning is very special because God wakes me up before 7:00 a.m. to consecrate church members, my family, and myself,” explained Jose David Rodriguez, who is pastoring several churches in RMC.

Commenting on the initiative, Veronica Yanez from Bloomfield Seventh-day Adventist church said, “Seeing so many people connected to pray for each other daily with the same purpose has been a great blessing in my life. Listening to these devotionals gives me a lot of courage to make it through the day and it strengthens my faith to know there are others going through the same difficulties as I am.”

The initiative is a welcome engagement for Ninfa Krutsinger, a member of Denver Hispanic Adventist church. She shared that “since I started joining these virtual devotionals, I have not stopped listening to them in the mornings. The devotionals give me the spiritual daily bread I need and have been very helpful in my personal life.”

Evelyn Rivera, is a member of the Nueva Esperanza SDA Church Aurora, Colorado; photo supplied

21 May


By Dorie Panganiban — Farmington, New Mexico … The La Vida Mission School building is closed, but school continues until May 22, reported Dorie Panganiban, office manager at the Mission. When the students went home on March 14 for their one-week Spring Break, they never came back for face-to-face school since all schools in New Mexico were ordered by the governor to close. At that time, La Vida Mission made the decision to close until the end of the school year and to use a distance learning program. Because good internet is an issue in this part of the country and many of our students don’t have internet access in their homes, online school was not a good option.

Educators opted to mail schoolwork to students weekly and have them mail back their finished work. Both elementary and high school teachers–Claire James, Vicky Pioche, and Catherine Hartley—use the distance-learning method.

The church is also closed, and live services are temporarily suspended, but worship happens in members’ homes. The Mission staff continues to hold outdoor Sabbath worship at Treehouse Park with everyone sitting six or more feet apart, except for husbands and wives. The church leaders are able to connect with church members and community family through Facebook, Messenger, cellphone texts, and phone calls, the Outreach team packs “love/care packages” of rice, beans, canned goods, wipes, fruit, bread, missionary books, and other essential items, and delivers them to local friends in the community. “They are truly grateful because the “stay-at-home” order prevents many of them, especially our elders and poor families, from going to town,” Panganiban commented.

During Spring Break, before the lockdown order by both the State and the Navajo Nation government, the Mission director, Steve Gillham, and his wife Carol, were in Texas, emailed a list of projects to “adopt,” which keeps the staff busy doing practical things to improve the campus.

At the end of April, board member Neal Kelley brought a load of food from the Montrose Adventist Church and several of the Montrose members. Sharing Ministries, an independent food bank involving several area congregations, donated the food. Such donations support and reinforce the Mission’s Community Food distribution.

While the office is mostly closed to the public, administrative and other regular office work and community mail service continues.

Lockdown? Yes! Shutdown? No! The Mission is still at work and continues to serve the Lord through its ongoing ministry to the students, church members, and community family. “We continue to keep in prayer our students, their parents, and mission supporters. May God keep us all safe,” Panganiban adds.

Dorie Panganiban, Office Manager & Community Outreach Director; photos supplied

21 May


By Mark B. Johnson — Boulder, Colorado … I have frequently been asked why it is that an unelected “bureaucrat” like me has the power to promulgate public health orders during a pandemic in Colorado. It’s a long story, and to me, its hero is a “little old lady” who grew up in the mining town of Central City.

In the 1940s, the health of Colorado was abysmal. More than 40% of Colorado draftees for World War II were found to be “not physically fit for the Armed Services.” Colorado had high rates of diphtheria, typhoid, dysentery, and maternal and infant mortality. It was one of the six worst states in the country in regard to smallpox.

In 1944, as Colorado prepared for the return of its soldiers from World War II, Governor John Vivian appointed numerous planning committees, including a committee on public health. The Governor had no real interest in health and was convinced by an aide that the retired Dr. Florence Sabin, an “innocuous, white-haired, little old lady” should chair the committee. She was indeed a “little old lady”, but she was far from innocuous.

Florence had graduated from the prestigious Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where she also became the school’s first female professor. Subsequently, she was the first female president of the American Association of Anatomists and the first woman elected into the National Academy of Sciences.

As chair of the Health Committee, Dr. Sabin didn’t “waste” time talking to the state’s legislators, but worked instead with the legislators’ spouses, teaching them about the abysmal state of public health in Colorado. Because of their influence, in 1948 the Legislature passed the “Sabin Health Laws”.

Her constant message had been that the health of the public was too important to leave to politics, and the public health system the Sabin Health Laws established required a professionally trained staff of physicians, nurses, health educators and scientists, hired on the basis of merit, not political bias. And so, because of that “innocuous little old lady,” public health decisions in Colorado were taken out of the hands of politicians and left to scientifically trained public health professionals.

We Adventists have a “white-haired, little old lady” of our own. She, too, was far from innocuous, and was comfortable speaking truth to the powerful. Based on her guidance, we have established the largest Protestant health care system in the world, with a strong focus on whole person care.

The guiding principle behind this focus was her belief that health care, with its intimate, personal, restorative touch, was a living manifestation of the gospel as revealed in the healing ministry of Christ. Because of this aspect of Adventism, there are thousands of professionally trained Adventist health care workers around the world on the frontlines of this pandemic response, putting their lives at risk to treat those in need, just as Christ did.

Mark B. Johnson, M.D., M.P.H., is executive director, Jefferson County Public Health, and a member of the Governor’s Expert Epidemic Emergency Response Committee for the state of Colorado. Updated, this article appeared first on Facebook and in the Boulder Adventist Church Bulletin, May 14, 2020. IMAGE CREDIT: Taft, P. W. [Florence Sabin as a young girl]. Photographic Print. Portrait. [ca. 1880s]. Public domain, via the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

19 May

The Pandemic Needs to go, but these need to stay

By Jose Cortes, Jr. – Columbia, Maryland . . . Her name is Liz, she is a retired science teacher who lives about six houses from ours on our street, and just last night she welcomes our family to the neighborhood, as we walked our dog. Nothing wrong with that, unless you know that we have been in this neighborhood for over five years. I know, totally embarrassing that our family, followers of Jesus, Christians, Seventh-day Adventists who love God and love people had not gotten to meet our neighbor, who lives six houses away from ours.

The thing is that prior to the Pandemic, I spent a significant amount of my time traveling, Joanne, my wife, super busy at the office, and most recently pastoring, and our boys with their school and other activities. Well, I know you probably know the feeling, we are all super busy with very little time, so you may be able to relate.

So what changed? What made it possible for us to slowly walk our street and meet our neighbor Liz for the first time in five years. The Pandemic happened, and that has kind of changed everything! All of a sudden, our family gets to walk in our neighborhood, as we didn’t have the time to do before. Having said that, you would never hear me say anything positive about the Pandemic because it is cruel and evil. It has taken away the health of millions, killed hundreds of thousands, including many friends and loved ones, and brought new levels of fear and anxiety to humanity. You will never hear me say that this is our best time, it is not, hospitals are running out of beds and funeral homes are not able to keep up. Neither will you ever hear me say, what I have heard some Christians say and imply, that God sent the Pandemic to punish the world because of our sin. The ultimate way for God to deal with sin was by sending Jesus, not the Pandemic. God wants to save sinners, not kill sinners. God did not send the Pandemic, but He did send you and me to respond to the Pandemic.

I have been encouraged in my conversations with hundreds of Pastors across North America during this time of crisis. Their response to the present situation is impressive. These conversations have brought to the surface certain principles, which perhaps, we should have always followed, but that for sure we need to keep in mind, not only now but for the future.

I have been encouraged by the response that we, as individuals and as a church, have had during this time of crisis. The Pandemic will end, but some principles need to stay after the Pandemic is gone.

  1. People are most important: for years we revered our buildings and invested large quantities of funds in purchasing and in maintaining our facilities. Not a bad thing, as long as buildings are not valued more than mission and ministry, which bless people, thus making our buildings the center of worship. After two months, I still see people refer to a church being closed, simply because the building is shut down. Although thousands of our church buildings have now been closed down and sit pretty useless for over eight weeks, the church is still open, because the church is the people, not the building.
  2. Compassion: People caring for others and checking on our elderly. Food banks that feed thousands in collaboration with city/state government. Online tutoring. Churches collecting medical equipment to be donated to medical responders in the front lines. Drive-by birthday celebrations. Churches are helping families who lost their jobs. All of these should also stay after the Pandemic is gone. Compassion works during the Pandemic, but even after the Pandemic. Don’t let compassion die after the Pandemic is gone.
  3. Small Groups / Virtual Small Groups – I have attended small groups in English and Spanish during the Pandemic. I have experienced community, happy faces, sad faces, smiles, tears, sharing, testimonies, and animated discussions about relevant topics and Scripture during the last few weeks. People will need all of those components after the Pandemic goes away. Small groups are a great setting for community building, relationships, and relevant mission. Virtual small groups even make it easier for people to participate during a hectic week since no extra time is needed to get ready, dress up, and commute.
  4. “Everyday church” rather than just “once a week church”: We own buildings that cost millions of dollars that open for 5 or 6 hours a week during regular times (church service and prayer meeting). During the Pandemic, I have seen churches that meet early in the morning for prayer, in the afternoon for Midday Worship, and in the evening for small groups. I go to my social media, and there are always several preachers on, regardless of the time of the day or night. This is an awesome thing! We’ve become the church of the seven days, rather than the church of the seventh-day only, or would you say “the church of the 3 hours on the seventh-day.
  5. Use of technology and social media: the Pandemic has helped many, even some who used to knock technology as negative, worldly, and evil, to understand that without technology, it is difficult to stay in touch and operate as a church during this time. Those who were using technology before the Pandemic are way ahead. Still, I have seen a pastor go from no media presence to having services with 100 devices connected online, plus the people connected on Zoom. I am grateful for Pastors and churches who are willing to learn, stretch, and sacrifice to continue to reach their congregations and community.
  6. Empowerment and embracement of younger generations and creatives: These are people who should have been embraced and empowered all alone, but now the church needs them more than ever. The other day, I saw a pastor who preached his entire sermon upside down on Facebook Live. I felt bad for him. I was worried his blood would go to his head ;)! The next day I noticed he preached upside – up. I asked, “what happened?” The reply was, “some of the younger people helped me to get it right.” Younger generations and creatives are our children and grandchildren. Most are digital natives; they have gifts many of us have not been given. After the Pandemic goes, we better keep them, embrace them, and empower them. Technology is not evil; it depends on what you use it for. Younger generations and creatives can help pastors and the church to use technology and social media to spread the gospel.
  7. Collaboration: the collaboration I have seen among pastors, elders, churches, institutions, and several ministries during the Pandemic, is at an all-time high. This spirit of cooperation will always trump the spirit of competition. “We are in this together” needs to stay a reality way beyond the Pandemic.

The Pandemic will end, but the importance of people, compassion, small groups, the church of the seven days, the use of technology and social media, the empowerment of younger generations and creatives, and the collaboration among all have to remain!

The Pandemic needs to go, but these need to stay! …including our family walks in the neighborhood.

–Pastor Jose Cortes Jr., is an Associate Director of the Ministerial Association and leads Evangelism, Church Planting, and Adventist/Global Mission for the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists. Photo supplied.

This article is courtesy of the North American Division Ministerial Department and was originally published on the NAD Ministerial website.


18 May


By CIRO SEPULVEDA — In 1852 Ellen G. White’s youngest son, Edson, three years of age, fell victim to the third global cholera pandemic erupting across the United States, 1846-1860.[1] The White family, at the time, lived across the street from the Erie Canal in Rochester, New York. The first of the seven cholera pandemics flared up in India, near Calcutta, 1817-1824. From there, the contagion moved in all directions, often carried by migrating British Troops.[2] The third pandemic crossed the Atlantic, arriving in Quebec, then continued through the St. Lawrence River and its tributaries in Eastern Canada into the State of New York in the 1850s.[3] In a rented house on Hope Street, as the pandemic spread across Upstate New York, Ellen White penned, “The cholera visited the city, and while it raged, all night long the carriages bearing the dead were heard rumbling through the streets to Mount Hope Cemetery.”[4]

Millions of people died from the seven cholera pandemics. Of the people who developed cholera symptoms, 20% developed severe diarrhea, vomiting, and leg cramps, which led to dehydration, septic shock, and for some, within a matter of hours, death.[5] The people of Rochester felt helpless with no idea where cholera came from, how it entered the body, or what to do to ease the suffering it inflicted. The invisible enemy arrived silently, wreaking havoc on the Whites and the city of Rochester. Ellen White wrote:

“This disease did not cut down merely the low but took victims from every class of society. The most skillful physicians were laid low and borne to Mount Hope. As we passed through the streets in Rochester, at almost every corner, we would meet wagons with plain pine coffins in which to put the dead.”[6]

Her pain piled higher and more profound, watching Edson struggle. Desperately she sought refuge in her faith, writing:

“Our little Edson was attacked, and we carried him to the great Physician. I took him in my arms, and in the name of Jesus rebuked the disease. He felt relief at once, and as a sister commenced praying for the Lord to heal him, the little fellow of three years looked up in astonishment, and said, ‘They need not pray any more, for the Lord has healed me.’ He was very weak, but the disease made no further progress. Yet he gained no strength. Our faith was still to be tried. For three days he ate nothing.”[7]

As Ellen White and her husband battled with the cholera in Rochester, a medical doctor in London’s Soho district, John Snow, launched a plan of mapping the location of cholera cases from his practice. Cholera spread at an alarming rate through the streets of the city. In 1854 England suffered the worst year of the cholera pandemic, experiencing 23,000 deaths. Because no one knew the origins of the contagion, fear petrified the planet. Snow’s collection of data led to the conclusion that cholera came from the water in a public well pump. His pathbreaking research set alight a bright beam of hope over the darkness of the times. A newly developed science grew out of Snow’s work, saving the lives of millions.[8]

A beneficiary of Snow’s work, Ellen White learned to stare down cholera in the years before the Civil War. When she was in her twenties, a young mother of two sons, the experience in Rochester attracted her fascination with diseases and public health. She read books, pamphlets, magazines, and newspapers on the topic voraciously, escalating her learning as she dealt with the illnesses of her husband, four sons, relatives, and Church members. Several visions helped her grasp the scope of the problem. During the next 40 years, the 1850s-1890s, White’s sermons, pamphlets, and books helped the Adventist community create a message highlighting the importance of health in the Christian life.

In 1890 she published a book titled Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, which fleetingly alluded to cholera. White’s comments surfaced as she tried to make clear the significance of personal hygiene in safeguarding the body from illness and disease. She wrote:

“When Lord Palmerston, premier of England, was petitioned by the Scottish clergy to appoint a day of fasting and prayer to avert the cholera, he replied, ‘Cleanse and disinfect your streets and houses, promote cleanliness and health among the poor, and see that they are plentifully supplied with good food and raiment, and employ right sanitary measures generally, and you will have no occasion to fast and pray. Nor will the Lord hear your prayers while these, his preventives, remain unheeded.’”[9]

Ellen White’s usage of Lord Palmerston’s response to the Scottish clergy who sought more prayer and fasting highlights the change she experienced during her lifetime concerning pandemics. In the early 1850s, when no one knew the origins or nature of cholera, rebuking cholera and waiting for a miracle became her only resource. But by the end of the century, when science uncovered where cholera came from and how it spread, she counseled members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to take an active role in confronting pandemics. In her opinion, it became the duty of the Christian to fight diseases.

By 1890 White understood pandemics posed a constant threat to the human community, launching terror on humankind since the dawn of history. Since the plague of Athens in 431 B. C.E., that killed 55,000 Athenians, historians have recorded their devastation.[10] The contagions in the United States appear every 38 to 40 years. Not a one-time event that comes and leaves, but rather consistently with us. In the case of cholera, to this day it has not been eradicated. According to the World Health Organization, cholera infects 1.3 to 4 million people every year, killing 21,000 to 143,000.[11] Ellen White’s approach to pandemics matured over the years and revealed a three-phase approach.

First, do not let the pandemic paralyze you, nor sit and wait for a miracle. White believed that fasting and prayer must not replace an effort to understand the disease or to defeat its threat. As Lord Palmerston stressed, the Lord will not hear prayers from those who ignore and disregard preventive action. White’s faith in God continued firm, but she also felt that disregarding preemptive measures posed an even more significant threat.

Second, men and women must live their daily lives as if pandemics sit waiting around the next curve. On September 29, 2005, Dr. Nabarro of the World Health Organization warned, “We expect the next influenza pandemic to come at any time now.”[12] A good Christian, according to Ellen White, must be vigilant and protect his or her immune system. In the first chapter of her book Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, she states, “Knowledge must be gained in regards to how to eat and drink and dress so as to preserve health.”[13] For her, good Christians must be well informed and continuously attentive to the developments of the triggers of good health.

Third, Christians must not only know their bodies but also be aware of the world around them. They must think for themselves, and avoid getting caught up in wishful thinking or wallowing in conspiracy theories. In England, some are burning 5G cell towers, and in Mexico attacking health workers. She wrote, “Those who have indulged the habits of racing through exciting stories, are crippling their mental strength, and disqualifying themselves for vigorous thought and research.”[14]

We live in a dangerous time. According to David C. Morrison, in an article published by the Foreign Policy Association, the last pandemic flu, the 1968-69 “Hong Kong” outbreak, killed one million people worldwide, and 34,000 in the United States. The 1957-58 “Asian flu” killed at least twice as many, 70,000 in the U.S. The epochal 1918-19 “Spanish flu” managed to kill off some 50 to 100 million, of whom 500,000 were American.[15]

On March 22, 2020, Pastor Gerald Glenn defiantly announced to his congregation in Chesterfield, Virginia, days after Virginians received an order to avoid large-nonessential gatherings of more than ten people, “I firmly believe that God is larger than this dreaded virus.” Waiting on God to solve the crisis inflicted by the coronavirus became his only course of action. He refused to cancel the worship services of his congregation and believed a miracle would protect him and his parishioners. Today, the pastor is dead, and his wife diagnosed with COVID-19.[16]

Ellen White’s writings and actions revealed a rational and wise approach to a pandemic. She would not have given her blessing to a course of action that disregards the most up-to-date and scientific evidence. Nor would she approve disdain for directives from the most rational evaluations of the day.

Notes & References:

[1] History.com Editors, “Cholera,” HISTORY, accessed April 10, 2020, https://www.history.com/topics/inventions/history-of-cholera.See also Ellen G. White, Early Writings, Battle Creek, Michigan, Review and Herald Publish Association, 1882.

[2] Ibid.

[3] See Charles E. Rosenberg, The Cholera Years: The United States in 1832, 1849, and 1866, 2nd edition, University of Chicago Press, 2009.

[4] Ellen White, Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, Takoma Park, Washington DC, Review and Herald Publishing Association, n.d.

[5] History.com Editors, “Cholera.”

[6] White, Life Sketches of Ellen G. White.

[7] White.

[8] See Steven Johnson, The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic—and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World, 1st edition, Riverhead Books, 2006.

[9] Ellen White, Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, Battle Creek, Michigan, Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1890, 106.

[10] See Thucydides. The Peloponnesian War, Translation edition (OUP Oxford, 2009).

[11] World Health Organization “Cholera.” Found at https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/cholera, accessed on April 23, 2020.

[12] David C. Morrison, “Pandemics and National Security,” Great Decisions, 2006, 93–102.

[13] White, Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, 12.

[14] White, Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, 122.

[15] Morrison, “Pandemics and National Security,” 93.

[16] Michelle Boorstein, “Prominent Virginia Pastor Who Said ‘God Is Larger than This Dreaded Virus’ Dies of Covid-19,” Washington Post, accessed April 25, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2020/04/13/virginia-pastor-church-dies-coronavirus/.

–Ciro Sepulveda, a retired historian (Ph.D. Notre Dame University, 1976), lives with his wife on a farm in Southern, Tennessee. His latest book Ellen G. White: How to Globalize a Movement, reflects a lifetime of interest in the life and times of Ellen G. White. Before his retirement, he chaired the History Department at Oakwood University for twelve years.

Original article was published by Spectrum Magazine, May 12, 2020. Printed by permission from Spectrum and the author.

Image: The White Family (1864), courtesy of the Ellen G. White Estate.

18 May

Guidelines for Reopening Our Churches

By Gideon Dayak — Silver Spring, MD . . .Congregations everywhere are looking forward to reopening their doors and beginning live services at churches again. Much of the world has been brought to a near standstill to combat COVID-19 through social distancing. Some regions are starting to relax the stay-at-home orders. The anticipation of worshipping together means plans are necessary that adapt to how church services are conducted.

This article was originally published on Adventist Risk Management website.
05 May

RMC votes plan for churches to reopen in the near future

Denver, Colorado … On Tuesday, May 5, during the weekly meeting of the Rocky Mountain Conference Administrative Committee and departmental directors, a decision was taken to provide guidelines allowing churches to resume their services. RMC churches are currently closed until May 31.

As individual counties ease some of the restrictions on public gatherings, the RMC leadership recognizes a need to implement a protocol for reopening of churches.

It was voted that as churches within RMC make plans to re-open and begin services the following protocol is to be followed:

  1. Each church must submit a copy of their State or county health stipulations that indicate they are allowing churches to meet for worship;
  2. Each church must submit a copy of their individual congregational detailed plan to comply with the county stipulations, and their church’s plan to keep attendees safe;
  3. These must be submitted to RMC administration at least two weeks prior to resuming worship services;
  4. This allowance may be rescinded at any time if there is a change in conditions or local orders relating to COVID-19.

At the present time, schools are not allowed to re-open due to state order.  Therefore, there is no change in the operation of RMC schools.


01 May


by RMC Youth Ministry Department — Ward, Colorado … May 1, 2020. It is with heavy hearts that we must inform you that we are cancelling our Summer Camp Program for 2020 at Glacier View Ranch and Mills Spring Ranch due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We have painstakingly considered our response to the COVID-19 pandemic and held out as long as we could in the hopes that an alternative to cancellation would emerge. We’ve carefully weighed considerations of county, state and federal regulations, safety of our camp staff, campers and their families, and financial commitments against a multitude of options for operating a modified program for the summer. Unfortunately, there is not a single reasonable solution that would simultaneously be a full guarantee to legally operate, maintain health and safety regulations and/or be affordable within the scope of our budget.

On April 28, our Youth Ministry Department, along with the entire Rocky Mountain Conference Leadership team, voted unanimously that closing the summer camp program for the 2020 season is the most responsible (and honestly, the only decision) that we could make.

As we’re typing this message, the absurdity, depth, complexity and scale of this situation is really sinking in. No one wants camp to happen more than us. This news is going to be tough for our camp staff and our campers alike. Our hearts break alongside those of every member of our community. We’re going to miss the opportunity to gather and to experience; to explore ideas and relationships, adventure in beautiful places, ignite passions, summit mountains and moments, engage with God and connect with each other.

While there is so much that we will all miss out on this summer, we can say with confidence that God is going to do big things at our camps and in each of your lives. Our eyes may not see it and our hearts might not feel it in this moment, but our faith in the life and victory of Jesus tells us that it is true. It is true for summer camp, for our department, and for each of you. We promise that we are going to keep our precious campers in mind and take every opportunity presented this summer to turn this unfortunate cancellation into actions that develop our camp programs beyond our wildest imaginations.

It is true that our world feels out of our control right now. In times like these, it is more important than ever to stay rooted and grounded in your community and in your faith. We encourage you to reach out to God, remaining confident in Him.  Ultimately, our faith is not in the things of this world but is in Jesus Christ.  Join us in claiming the promise in Paul’s message to the Christians in Rome:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” [Romans 15:13 ESV].


Kiefer Dooley, Jessyka Dooley, and Brent Learned

Your RMC Youth Ministry Department

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