When I first became a Seventh-day Adventist at the age of twenty, 45 years ago, and started attending the Adventist seminary in Sri Lanka, I often heard the expression “the printed page”. During class lectures, church services, training seminars, the term “the printed page” referred to any printed materials containing the Seventh-day Adventist message. Adventists understood it to mean the Bible, Ellen White writings, and many SDA publications. At the time, seminary students were required to complete 350 hours of colporteuring (literature evangelism). My assigned partner and I spent about two months selling “the printed page” house to house, along highways and byways, in public places such as markets, bus stops, and even at the doorstep of non-Adventist churches. The intensity of the work, exhaustion, and sometimes even hunger and thirst plunged us into a deeper spiritual experience with God. The beautiful promise of Isaiah 52:7became a daily reality: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!”
Thus the so called “printed page” became such a significant part of my Adventist journey and lifestyle. I became so engrossed in it that I read, from cover to cover, the Bible, the ten volumes of the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, and almost all of the Ellen G. White writings that were available in printed form, in addition to my casual reading of Adventist journals, magazines, and periodicals. When I found my sweetheart at the same college, we made a covenant that for all gift-giving occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, New Year’s, we would gift each other “the printed page” -- meaning Adventist literature. By the time we married, we had between us a little Adventist library that included books like Messages to Young People, the Adventist Home, and Child Guidance. Again “the printed page” has laid the foundation for our marriage and family during the past 40 years of our holy matrimony. Didn’t Ellen White advise, “And one of the principal agencies He has ordained for our use is the printed page” (9T 87)?
However, with the advent of digitalization, the expression “the printed page” seems to have fallen behind in disuse and even disrepute. The younger generation seems to be losing its understanding of such a phrase. Nevertheless, belonging to the previous generation of manual typewriters, I am unable to set aside the inspired counsel “The students and their teachers can go out with our publications and spread the truth by means of the printed page” (MM 323).
On November 27, the Department of Health & Social Services of the Pohnpei State Government convened a meeting for interdenominational clergy. Their objective was to engage churches for the COVID-19 Preparedness & Response program. Seeing this as an opportunity to share the message through “the printed page” I took with me copies of the little pamphlet entitled “Coronavirus and Immunity: Giving Light to Our World”. At the opportune moment, I prayerfully distributed them among all the priests, pastors, church leaders, and government representatives in attendance. Their acceptance and response were so positive. Most had already read through the whole pamphlet before the convention was over! Many even requested bulk copies to distribute among their own religious communities. The pamphlets were one of the GLOW tracts sent to me by the Guam-Micronesia Mission of Seventh-day Adventists.
Encouraged by this encounter, I set aside the mandated curriculum for a week and used the same pamphlet as a study text in my high school Bible classes. I am temporarily teaching at the Pohnpei SDA School due to the lack of student missionaries this year because of the pandemic. The high school youngsters were not only enlightened on the subject, but also pledged to take the pamphlets home to share family and friends. When my wife observed the excitement caused by this small piece of paper, she made use of it for reading comprehension in her English class. It is my earnest and sincere prayer that “By the printed page the light reaches the isolated ones, who have no opportunity to hear the living preachers. This is a most blessed missionary work” (CM 20).
This article would not be complete without some reference also to the Discover Bible Study Guides received through the generosity of the Mission. About ten of the last several baptisms here in Pohnpei came out of the serious study of these attractive sets of Bible lessons. After each one-to-one Bible study session, I gave them the tract containing that day’s lesson and this has proved to be a tremendous tool for reinforcement.
And so the question still lingers – Is “the printed page” STILL relevant when the whole world is going digital? My answer would be a resounding “YES.” There are still remote spots in our world today where the internet and accessories to access it are non-existent, unaffordable, or limited. The command still haunts me, “Our commission is to let the light shine forth everywhere from the press” (CM20). Old fashioned? Maybe! But still a most powerful evangelistic tool? CERTAINLY!
The several congregations I am pastoring in Pohnpei currently have little financial resources. Anyone whose heart the Lord impresses to donate “the printed page” for our island evangelism would be most deeply appreciated. More than 40,000 islanders of this remote Pacific island are still waiting for more Bibles, Discover Bible Study Guides, GLOW tracts, and any other “printed page” materials to be scattered like “the leaves of autumn” from coast to coast.
“And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people, … from the islands of the sea” (Isaiah 11:11)