My childhood was a prime example of how things were never "normal" in my life. We seldom went to church, and when we did, it was to a
local "hell fire and brimstone" Pentecostal church. I imagined the devil in his red cartoon-style attire sitting in the back corner, laughing at me. It was a scary
experience! People were jumping up, throwing holy water, screeching in tongues. Not a warm, fuzzy feeling. Mom and Dad divorced when I was 8, and Mom and
I moved frequently, with her latest boyfriend in tow. When I was about 15, I decided that God wasn't real and denounced Him daily. We never went to church, and my step dad and
mom pretty much echoed my sentiments about religion. I began drinking heavily, experimenting with drugs, and had little care for anything aside from having "fun."
Luckily, I met a young man who wanted to settle down with me and he helped me to realize that drinking and drugs were not all there was to life.
When I married and had my first child, I began to search for the meaning of life (not to sound corny). One morning, I was watching early Sunday morning TV, while
feeding my baby, and I chanced upon "It Is Written" with George Vandeman. His gentle demeanor gave me hope that church didn't have to be so scary. I found out he was a Seventh-day
Adventist and preceded to gain all the information I could on this religion. I couldn't find a church nearby to worship in, but that changed within the year, when we moved right after my mom
After moving, in the house next door to me, lived a born and raised Seventh-day Adventist! At the time, I thought it was a gift
from God. Boy, was I wrong! She took me to seminars and small group meetings, as they had not established a church in the area yet. I soaked it all in, because after all, I had never
really belonged to a church before. These people embraced me, made me feel so welcome. I began to attend regularly, after they started meeting in the local Lutheran church on Saturday
mornings. I totally accepted the beliefs and became the first baptism in the new church that was erected in 1985.
None of my family would go to church, but that didn't stop me from going every week, with my young son. I would not let my child/children
watch anything secular from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday, and we couldn't do anything the church didn't deem appropriate. I began to teach Sabbath School and jumped in to help in
any way I could, thinking that the more I became immersed in the church, the better my chances were of being what God wanted. I sometimes questioned E. G. White and don't think I ever accepted
that she was a prophet, but I was told that would come with spiritual growth. I prayed that would happen one day, because then I could be a good Adventist and not question any of the 27
fundamental beliefs of my denomination.
As the years passed, I became more involved in the church, sometimes to the detriment of my family and friends. By this time, I had four
kids (two adopted) and became Pathfinder leader, led baptismal classes, and had record numbers of young people give their lives to God every year at Camporee. My husband even joined the church,
but that was short-lived. He felt that they were more like a police group than true Christians. (I wish I had listened to him.) I now felt pretty much like I could call
myself a Christian. I was a well-respected member, loved by everyone, asked to serve on many committees, and appreciated for my hard work. There was one big problem,
though: I still didn't swallow E. G. White's writings, nor accept that she was a prophet. Whenever I mentioned that I didn’t believe she was a prophet, people shied away from me. I
worked hard to make up for my disbelief, though. I thought that I needed to earn my place in heaven, and regardless of how many times SDAs want to say they don't believe in salvation by works,
this belief is subtly placed in the mind. In contrast, the Bible says, “If you try to be made right with God through the law, your life with Christ is over. You have left God’s grace”
I grew even busier through the years, serving as women's ministry leader, deaconess, and playing hand bells. I totally let the church be my
life, and took offense when anyone said that we were a cult. I sat in on at least twenty nominating committees in the years I was there, because the people who are nominated are usually the
most well known people in the church. (I was so well known because I was so busy!) I also was a board member for twenty-five or so years. I saw so much in those meetings that slowly
turned me away from the church. One man was denied being a deacon because he had an earring in one ear. That created such a rift between him and the church that he never set foot in
it again. One deacon was confronted because he didn’t pay tithe. We were told that no one could hold an office in church if they didn’t pay their tithes. One day, I was asked to
take up the offering, and I wore pants that day. (The SDA Church as a whole, at least the churches I have attended in the South, doesn’t agree with women wearing pants to church services.
They try to look over it, but it is not the thing a “good” Adventist does.) The head deacon looked at me, pointing to my pants, and said, "You cannot, and I mean cannot, wear pants to take up
offering in God’s house. The next time you are on the list to take up offering, I suggest you wear a dress." Needless to say, I never took up offering again. No one was going to
tell me that I couldn’t wear pants (and this was a nice pant suit) to take up offering. The men wore them!
When SDA evangelists gave their prophecy seminars, they usually started in the local school auditorium. Once they began and had their foot
in the door, so to speak, they moved the remainder of the series to the church. I always thought that was really deceitful. (No one knew what denomination we were until they had taken the
bait.) At one such seminar, a young, charismatic lady voiced her wish to be baptized. She accepted the "truths" she had learned and was ready to be a member. The night before
baptism, they told her that she would have to remove her jewelry and keep it off. She grew adamant and walked out, never to return. We were told that you couldn’t enter the gates of
heaven wearing jewelry because if you wear it, you must be coveting it.
Potlucks were sometimes scary with the SDA health message being so forcefully preached in our churches. E. G. White says that you cannot be
transformed if you eat meat, so we were not allowed to serve meat at potlucks. They really like it if you are vegan, because that means you have stepped a little closer to God and His
will. (I never gave up poultry and fish, but I have never been a big red meat eater.) A couple of my friends had their feelings hurt tremendously by these "prophets" of God. One of
my friends brought some black-eyed peas, cooked with a turkey neck, and was told politely told to take that mess off the table and never bring it back. She was a new member, and was
in tears. The pastor had to work hard on her to get her back in the church. One other episode was when we were having a baby shower, and someone put "Chicken in a Biscuit" crackers on the
table. One of the deaconesses grabbed that box, looked at the list of ingredients, and lo and behold, it had chicken broth in it. THAT would never be served in heaven!!!!! She
tossed the crackers in the garbage, causing the woman who’d brought the food to burst into tears and leave.
A couple of years ago, I grew restless. I kept asking the pastor, deacons, and pastors of SDA churches I was visiting about E. G.
White. (I was visiting around because of a deep longing in my heart. I didn't know what it was all about at this time. I just knew something was wrong with my spiritual life.)
They would kind of brush me off and say that I didn't have to accept EGW, just love God. I would react with, "But every sermon has mention of her, and the Sabbath School lesson has her
commentary." I felt like I was just going to the SDA Church to keep the Sabbath. I had already started wearing my jewelry again, outside of church, but was still keeping the
Sabbath. I was asked to lead a Pathfinder group again, but I kept procrastinating. My heart wasn't in it for some reason. The very church I basically gave my all to had let me
down. When I asked the questions that were important to me, they had no answers. Questions like, “Why no jewelry, why no pants, why E. G. White, why no dancing???” They gave me
miniscule Scripture to back up a couple of my questions, but I was no longer the young lady who walked in the doors over 20 years earlier. I needed concrete answers now.
In December of 2009, I was at a friend’s house one afternoon with my husband and another friend. We had all been asked to sing in the
Christmas cantata at her church. She was directing us in some hard parts, and once we were finished, she broke out in tears. I asked her what was wrong, and she showed me a pamphlet that
had been sent to her by an SDA evangelist. She said Elder Barkheizen had found many untruths in the SDA Church by doing research. I chirped up, "And what does he say about E.G.
White?" Bev replied, "She is not a prophet." My first reaction was a loud yell. Then, after I read the booklet and found the information to be true by researching the websites, I
realized that God had led me to this truth. I passed the booklet to my friends, but only two chose to check into it. Six of us came out of the SDA Church due to that booklet.
The evangelist who wrote it has left the ministry and the SDA Church.
Once I had solid proof that E. G. White was not who the SDA Church professed she was, I felt a peace flow over me. I spent many hours,
days, and weeks pondering over the facts that Desmond Ford, Walter Rea, and others, brought to light. This is what I had been looking for. Now that I had the answers, I didn't understand
what I was to do with them. I had to leave the church, but where was I to go and still worship on Saturday. My friend, Janet, who came out after I sent her the booklet, found the book by
Dale Ratzlaff, Sabbath in Christ. We each got a copy, did Bible study together,
and recommended the book to our four other friends. It was a struggle, but we finally found the truth. Saturday is the original Sabbath, but Jesus put an end to the law of the Old
Testament, and now HE IS OUR SABBATH REST. We are to lean on Him anytime our burden is too heavy and His presence will give us rest. AMAZING!!!!
Of the Adventist friends who left the denomination with me, Janet and Ken joined a wonderful Baptist church just last week, and Beverly and Don
joined a Methodist church in November. Donita has found a little church she loves to go to. Me? I am still searching. I have been to many churches of different
denominations and feel that some are really nice, but I have this unrest. I feel that because I have been duped once, maybe it could happen again. I don't know what I believe anymore,
because it was all based on fiction. NOTHING I WAS TAUGHT IS BIBLICALLY SOUND!!! It is scary to realize that I was fed lies for 28 years!
Three of my kids bolted from the church when they were old enough to make their own decisions. Only one of them belongs to a
church now (Andy Stanley's North Point Community Church). They still say the SDA Church took so many things away from them, due to the Sabbath laws. My daughter just married an
Adventist man in June, so I pray for her to see the light some day. Her husband has already coaxed her into giving up her jewelry and wearing only dresses to church. I am
praying for them both. I am still angry that any religion could have such a strong hold on me. I continue to pray to God for His guidance. All my former friends in the
Adventist Church have basically turned their backs on me. Despite these loses, I am thankful that the three other ladies who left the church at the same time that I did remain close and
that I have gained friends and insight from Facebook and other networks. God is good!!!
“He made us to be servants of a new agreement. This new agreement is not a written law, but of the Spirit. The written law brings
death, but the spirit gives life” 2 Corinthians 3:6.
Joann Holcombe, 2011