WAS A MEMBER OF THE PENTECOSTAL church during my childhood. My church wasn’t one of those extreme churches that might, for instance, play with snakes as part of their service. I did get to see people speak in tongues and pass out in the spirit. And how could I forget the church’s belief in the secret rapture? I took part in the children’s plays, including one that helped me learn the order of the Ten Commandments. I can still recite it today. I was also involved with the children’s ministry program, known as the Missionettes. My brother, Ben, was involved in Royal Rangers, which is closely related to the Seventh-day Adventist Pathfinders. After a while, however, things started to go poorly, and because of church-related issues, my mother, her husband, Ben, and I left the church when I was 10 or 11 years old.
We joined a Nazarene church on the other side of the city in Tennessee where we lived. Its membership was fewer than at the Pentecostal church, and everyone was friendly. We immediately felt like family. When I turned 13, I became a member of the youth group. At one point we had about 100 teens in the group. We met on Wednesday nights. I had so much fun. We went on youth retreats and even took a long weekend trip to Chicago. I made a lot of good friends.
I played the clarinet, and during that time I joined the church orchestra. I also sang in the choir. During Christ-mastime, the church would put on a drive-through Nativity. The fellowship at the church was wonderful, and I was very involved. But in October 1996, after five short years, everything changed when we received a brochure in the mail.
The brochure was from Amazing Facts and stated that a series of meetings, presented by Pastor Kim Kjaer, would be held in our city. We didn’t know it was sponsored by a Seventh-day Adventist organization. I didn’t even know what the church was all about before this period. My mother and her husband thought the meetings would be interesting, so they started attending from night one.
They didn’t really share much with Ben and me until one night during the third week. Pastor Kjaer had presented the Sabbath topic. Once they heard the biblical truth about the Sabbath, it wasn’t hard for them to accept it. Then they shared it with Ben and me.
We weren’t too excited about it at first. My mother and her husband began attending the Adventist church in our city that next Sabbath. They did go to the Nazarene church one more Sunday to say goodbye and explain why they weren’t coming back. It was a bittersweet experience for them.
Slow to Move
It took a little longer for me to make the change. I was quite happy where I was in the Nazarene church. Besides, who would go to church on Saturday? It was all new, weird, and confusing to me. I actually didn’t start going to church on Sabbath for a few weeks after everyone else did. It took me a little longer for a few reasons. One was that the church had fewer than 100 members, which meant that it had very few youth my age. I could count how many teens went to church on one of my hands. This was very depressing for me, since I was used to a much larger youth group.
Another reason it took me a little longer to accept Adventism was that I felt it was really strange for Seventh-day Adventists to keep the Sabbath from Friday night through Saturday night. Eventually I understood the reasons for keeping the seventh day as Sabbath and the strangeness wore off.
With my family’s conversion, other lifestyle changes came as well. Meat was one of the first things to go. While it saved the family money on the grocery bill, it took some time to adjust to being vegetarian.
The hardest thing for me to give up, however, was jewelry; yet it was easier to give up than I thought because nobody forced me to do it or shoved the conviction down my throat. The principles undergirding a life free of jewelry were explained to me but the belief wasn’t forced upon me; with the information I was given I was able to make the decision clearly for myself.
I first began to get excited about the church when it was time to register for teen camp at Indian Creek, the camp in the Kentucky-Tennessee Conference. Camp was great! I had an awesome time that week. I enjoyed the activities, made some friends, and got baptized into the church. For two summers after that I worked at the camp as a staff member.
The two years after our embrace of Adventism went by fast. At the end of 1998, I began the college search. I had heard about Southern Adventist University, so I decided to go check it out during College Days, a weekend event. I fell in love with the place and knew that SAU was where I wanted to attend. I graduated from high school in May of 1999, but wasn’t able to start college until January 2000.
Getting settled into college life was smooth. I was easily able to get a job at the library on campus, working in the periodicals department. My supervisors were wonderful to me. I was able to meet a lot of students while working. I made some great friends, most of whom I still have today. It felt good to have Christian friends whom I could have fun with and lean on when times were rough.
I started out as a biology/preveterinarian major. At the beginning of my sophomore year though, God showed me another direction to take. To make a long story short, I took the class Archaeology and the Old Testament from Michael Hasel, and by November 2001, I was a double major in Near Eastern Archaeology and Religious Studies. I loved this new major, and the Bible started to become much more alive to me during these years.
A Faith-building Experience
My whole view on Adventism, and worldview in general, took a positive turn at Southern. During the summer of 2001 I worked as a colporteur in Florida. This really opened me up as a person in many ways. It helped me relate to all different kinds of people and enabled me to grow spiritually.
I believe, though, the biggest mental, physical, and spiritual experience I had while at SAU was my student missionary year. During the 2002-2003 school year I went to Egypt and taught English at Nile Union Academy, the Adventist academy just outside Cairo. That whole experience is another story in itself, but I must say that being able to experience the world for the first time outside of the textbook was incredible. It also let me see how our church went beyond the borders of the United States, which I still think is incredible.
Right before my term in Egypt began, I was able to visit Turkey on an archaeology study tour with Dr. Hasel and a group of SAU students. And during the summer of 2004,
I, along with a few other archaeology students, went with Dr. Hasel to Hazor, Israel, for an excavation. I was able to participate in these outstanding faith-building experiences because of my archaeology major.
I also loved being a part of the religion department. I was able to get to know all of my professors not only as teachers but also as counselors and friends. They have all helped me with everything from homework to personal problems. I was blessed in having them help mold me into the person I am now. I believe my growth in the church and in my spiritual life has been mainly because of my professors.
The years at SAU went by quickly. I graduated with my religion degree in July 2005; and after a semester of teaching in Korea, I’m back at SAU finishing up a degree in mass communication. I will never regret my decision to attend an Adventist university.
Also, as far as I know, this church is the only one I have been a part of that has huge world church gatherings. Being in St. Louis for the last Sabbath of the General Conference session in 2005, I was blown away at the numbers and diversity of our church.
I never realized how one brochure in the mail could completely change a life around. Looking back over the past 10 years, I am happy about all of the things I have been able to experience since joining the church.
I am blessed to be part of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and am glad that God led my family and me to the truth.
Cecilia Luck recently returned to Collegedale, Tennessee, after teaching English in Korea for a semester.