Everyone loves birthdays. It’s such fun to receive a card or small gift on your birthday.
Who is the oldest person you know? Is it your grandfather? Your great-grandmother? Maybe it’s a neighbor or a member of your church. How old are they?
Have you ever met someone who was 100 years old? Have you ever asked them to tell you a story of what life was like when they were young? Maybe they would tell you about riding to church in an open wagon pulled by a horse. Or perhaps they would tell you about a brush fire that almost burned down their barn.
This year we’re celebrating a special birthday. It’s the birthday of the mission quarterlies. They’re 100 years old! It’s also the 100th birthday of the Thirteenth Sabbath Offering, that special offering we give at the end of each quarter that helps build schools, clinics, hospitals, churches, and lots of other projects to help people learn about God. This quarter our Thirteenth Sabbath Offering will help produce Chinese-language video programs to show on television and on the Internet so that Chinese-speaking people around the world can learn that Jesus loves them.
And just like some older people, we have lots of stories about “the early days” of Adventist Mission. We’ll be telling you some of these stories throughout the year.
Long before there were mission quarterlies and mission stories every week, there were mission offerings. The first mission offering that Sabbath School members gave for a specific project was used to build a boat called the Pitcairn. The Pitcairn was so special that everyone—even young children—wanted to help build their boat. It was finished and sailed from California to the South Pacific in 1890. That’s about 122 years ago.
The Pitcairn carried missionaries to the islands of the Pacific. It was named after Pitcairn Island, a famous island in history that we’ll hear more about later this year.
Imagine what it must have been like 100 or more years ago. Cars were still a novelty; and telephones, radios, televisions, computers, and the Internet hadn’t been invented yet. It took weeks for a letter to travel to a distant city and months for news to reach someone in another country!
News of missionaries took a long time to travel from the farthest mission stations in Africa and Asia to the church’s headquarters in the United States. And the stories captured the imagination of those who heard them.
One of the first Thirteenth Sabbath Offerings went to Japan in 1914. Part of that offering helped build an Adventist boarding school so that Adventist children wouldn’t be forced to attend classes on Sabbath or worship the emperor, a practice that was common at that time. The longed-for school was built, and Adventist students eagerly enrolled.
One day Momoko [moh-MOH-koh], a young girl, returned to her room in the dormitory of her Christian school and discovered a thief stealing things from her room! Instead of screaming and running in terror, Momoko did something quite bold.
She stepped into her room and picked up her New Testament. “Here, take this, too,” she said as bravely as she could while giving the New Testament to the thief. The man took the New Testament and stuffed it into his pocket, gathered up the things he wanted to steal, and fled the school.
Later the thief was caught and sent to prison, and the stolen property was recovered. But Momoko insisted that the thief keep the New Testament, since it was her gift to him.
The thief had lots of time to read while in prison, so he read the New Testament. God’s words touched his heart, and eventually he surrendered his life to Jesus.
God has thousands of ways of reaching a person’s heart. One girl gave her Bible. Others share their faith. We can give our offering to Jesus every Sabbath. That way many more people can hear that God loves them.