Green Suits and Worn Knees as Church Leaders Kick Off Heritage Tour
General Conference directors to visit historical sites in Adventist Church history.
The young boy watched with fascination as the sun shone through the church window on Sabbaths and caused the black-wool suits of visiting elderly ministers to shine green.
The suits shone green because the ministers, pioneers of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, had pressed and repressed their suits so many times throughout the 1800s.
“Rather than buy a new suit, they saved their money for the cause,” said James Nix, director of the Ellen G. White Estate.
The boy, Ernest Lloyd, also noticed that the knees of the ministers’ trousers were the most worn part of their suits. Because of all the time that they spent praying, the knees had worn out first.
“The knees of the pants of the pioneers wore out faster than the rest of their suits,” said Nix, who heard the story from Lloyd when Lloyd, a longtime editor of Our Little Friend magazine, was in his late 80s.
Nix related the story of generosity and prayer as two buses loaded with about 75 General Conference leaders and their spouses kicked off a six-day trip to Adventist heritage sites in the U.S. Northeast on Sept. 11.
The tour is the first ever organized for department directors and associate directors from the General Conference, the administrative body of the Adventist world church. It is intended to provide the leaders with a new understanding of God’s leading in the past as they seek to fulfill the church’s mission to proclaim Jesus’ soon coming to the world.
“This trip aims to better acquaint our leaders with their wonderful heritage so the mission outreach that each of us is participating in is connected with the way God has led us in the past and will lead us in the future,” said Ted N.C. Wilson, president of the General Conference, who was accompanied by his wife, Nancy.
Nix, who was serving as one of two tour guides, echoed that sentiment as the buses pulled away from the General Conference’s headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland.
“I hope this reaffirms your faith and your determination to follow God’s leading as we as a church try to fulfill the prophetic assignment that He has given us,” Nix said.
The trip will feature bus lectures and a number of stops, including at church cofounder Joseph Bates’ house in Fairhaven, Massachusetts; church cofounder Ellen G. White’s childhood hometowns of Gorham and Portland, Maine; and the house of pioneer Uriah Smith and his hymn-writing sister, Annie Smith, in West Wilton, New Hampshire. Sabbath worship services will be held in upper New York state at the farm of William Miller, whose revival work gave birth to the Advent movement.
The General Conference organized a similar tour for world division leaders last year.
On Sept. 11, tour participants voiced enthusiasm about the opportunity to see historical sites connected with church history.
“I always wanted to learn a lot more about who our Adventist pioneers were as people,” said Melinda Worden, vice president for operations at the Review and Herald Publishing Association, who visited several of the heritage sites with her parents when she was around 11.
“I feel we face so many of the same challenges today, and it is very inspiring to know that someone has already been there, done that, and God helped,” said Worden, who was traveling with her husband, Brian. “It makes you feel not quite so alone in your mission.”
Ramon Canals, director of the Sabbath School and Personal Ministries department, was looking forward to learning more after touring several heritage sites with a group of pastors from New Jersey about 30 years ago.
“I hope to learn about the courage and dedication of our pioneers,” said Canals, who was traveling with his wife, Aurora.
Ray Allen, general vice president for Adventist World Radio, will visit the heritage sites for the first time.
“I would like to get into that environment that our pioneers were in,” he said. “Although separated by time, to be in the same physical location as they were in would prove to be very moving and meaningful for me.”
Allen, who was traveling with his 28-year-old son, Seth, expressed particular interest in seeing Ascension Rock on Miller’s farm. The large flat rock was the place where many people waited for Jesus to return in the Great Disappointment of Oct. 22, 1844.
“We will stand where they stood waiting for Jesus to come,” he said. “I also have had great disappointments, and out of those experiences have emerged great hope.”
Tour organizer Sheri Clemmer giving last-minute instructions as a bus, one of two buses packed with church workers, prepares to leave church headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. (Andrew McChesney / Adventist Mission)
General Conference president Ted Wilson marking his presence on a bus on a sheet of paper. James Nix, one of two tour guides, and director of the Ellen White Estate, is standing to the left. (Andrew McChesney / Adventist Mission)
Bottled water being passed out to tour participants as rain falls at a rest stop. (Andrew McChesney / Adventist Mission)