was trying to get my head around a number recently. Friends who know my mathematical skills will wonder why I was wasting my time, given my history of being challenged by anything much more complex than consumer math and the occasional budget spreadsheet. I’m what several of my editorial staff sardonically refer to as a “word guy.”
But the number—38,216—keeps circulating in my thoughts, pressing in on moments when the line of cars in front of me pauses for a light, or the committee chairman waxes eloquent about something technical. I see those five digits and a comma hovering in the twilight as I listen to the woodthrush’s evening song, or when I look across the rooftops of my community from a nearby hill.
It’s a number—simply a number—probably assembled as so many factoids are by statisticians in some dreary, number-crunching place. But this number has a special poignancy for me. In grace, God has let me meet some of the men and women, boys and girls whose lives are counted by those digits.
Last year, 38,216 persons joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church somewhere in North America by baptism or profession of faith—about a dozen for every county, riding, or parish in the vastness of this division.* We may privately be concerned about a growth rate that modest—just 3.5 percent—in the homeland of a worldwide faith whose advance is sometimes more than double that.
But there is nothing modest about the joy or gratitude we feel for each of those 38,216 new believers. Their faith, their fervency, their eager grasp of Bible truths we may have grown complacent with have taught us all a thing or 10 about the power of the Holy Spirit to wake a sleepy church and resurrect the blessed hope. As they move down the aisles of our churches, soak up sermons and seminars at camp meetings, share their newfound faith in Sabbath schools and prayer meetings, we each remember when our faith was new. And we are better for it.
Those 38,216 new believers, however, are also in the most vulnerable year of their experience as Seventh-day Adventists. This is the year when family members will threaten or cajole them back to other faiths or none. This is the time when job pressures will tempt them to abandon their commitment to the Lord and to His Sabbath. This is the year when everything the devil can devise will be thrown at them—and frequently.
That’s why this is also the year when they most need this magazine—Adventist Review—to anchor them in the truth as it is in Jesus. They need the inspiration, the Bible teaching, the news of their global Adventist fellowship, the practical articles about daily Christian living that only the Adventist Review can give them.
For nine years, the New Believers’ Plan has asked readers to help us support these newest members with a free one-year subscription to this magazine. Hundreds of readers have responded to that call, anchoring and securing the church’s newest members in their most critical year.
To do that this year, we’ll need more than a half million dollars—$573,240, to be exact—as we partner with 57 conferences across North America to put the Adventist Review each week in the home of 38,216 new believers.
Fifty dollars will bless three new believers: $150 will bless 10. One thousand dollars will bring all the warmth and light and truth this magazine carries each week into nearly 70 homes. Twenty-five thousand dollars will reach all the new members who have joined God’s church this year in places such as Texas, Michigan, or Florida.
I’ve made my gift—the largest one our family budget can stretch to meet. Join me—right now—in a covenant to support the Maker’s Dozen who live in your county, your riding, your region. Make out your check for the largest amount you can, put it in the special envelope included with this issue, and return it to the Adventist Review before mid-December. 38,216 new believers are counting on you and me to make their first year as an Adventist their best one.
*There are 3,077 counties and parishes in the United States, 301 ridings (voting districts) in Canada, and 9 parishes in Bermuda.
Bill Knott is editor of the Adventist Review.