by Liz Dolwig, guest contributor
with Debbonnaire Kovacs
Liz Dolwig and Peach Knittel are two women, both widows, who are working for God in some amazing ways. You can definitely expect to hear more about them in future issues of Adventist Today. They were told “by the Ministerial Director of one of the large African Divisions that no one in the entire denomination is doing what we are doing and he considered it to be the single most important thing that is being done today.”
What is it, exactly, that these two women do that is so important? You could say they are evangelists to the evangelists. Read on, to hear Ms. Dolwig’s side of the story, told in her point of view. AT hopes to soon get more of the story from Ms. Knittel.
“You two are crazy running around the world for months at a time, sleeping in the back of churches, pumping your own water, using a hole in the ground and eating who knows what. At your age you should stay at home and enjoy your grandchildren, play golf or travel for fun.”
How many times we have heard that! It’s true. We could stay home and take it easy, but that wouldn’t fill the desire we have to share His love and message with those who don’t know Him.
It is amazing how the Holy Spirit works. I was in Africa getting ready to go upcountry to do a campaign. I had been given a roommate who spent her entire time complaining. I was so frustrated with her; I left the room at 11 o’clock at night to cool down and go for a walk.
I saw a light on in the auditorium and walked over to see what was going on. A group of people had just come in on a plane and were getting something to eat. They were leaving early the next morning to go somewhere else to hold a campaign.
I walked over to a table with a lady and a gentleman and introduced myself. It was Peach and her husband. I found out they were from the United States; as a matter of fact they were from California. Even more surprising, they were from Yountville, which is exactly 70 miles from Sacramento where I live. We had traveled half way around the world to meet each other.
We all left the next day to go our separate ways, but we kept in touch. Little did we know the amazing plans God had for us!
Thirteen years ago I started doing campaigns with all the lights and films and music. Oh, I baptized a lot of people. It was not until I was in India that I realized there was more to it than “dunking them and dropping them.”
Sometime after I met Peach and her husband, I had been involved in a big campaign in India that was beginning to wind down, when a man came up to me and said, “I was born Hindu and I tried to read your Bible, but I couldn’t understand it. One day I saw a small paper with a picture of a white woman on it saying there was going to be some meetings. I decided to come to one time to see what you had to say.
“I have been to every meeting and now I understand the Bible. I am going to be baptized and so are my wife and young son. I don’t want to be a Hindu any more. Give me a Christian name.” I named him Daniel.
That night I spoke to the thousands of people, who were at the meeting; telling them I would have come half way around the world for any one of them, because the thrill of seeing the Holy Spirit change the life of one person was worth the entire trip.
After Peach’s husband died, she said she would like to join me in doing campaigns. So, the following year we returned to India together. I could hardly contain myself. I was sure that Daniel would have converted every Hindu in the city; he was so in love with the Lord.
It was disappointing when Daniel did not come to the meetings or call me or drop me a note. I asked the pastor why Daniel had not come to the meetings.
“Daniel smoked,” he said, “and I told him not to come back to church until he stopped smoking.”
I could hardly believe what he was saying. They drove him out of the church!
Believe me; I know how addictive cigarettes are. When I first came to the church, I was still going through 5 packs of cigarettes a day. I would drive up to the church property, take a last drag on my cigarette, flutter my hands over my mouth to get rid of the cigarette smell, and assume no one knew I was smoking.
Certainly I must have stunk from smoking all those cigarettes, but not one person said anything to me. If they had I would probably have left the church like Daniel did. Eventually it was God who took the addiction from me.
That night Peach and I came to the conclusion that if we do not show the love of God to the members who come into our church, and help them to overcome their addictions, we should not be baptizing them into the church. We decided to step outside the box and completely change our direction.
We locked ourselves in our hotel room for two weeks, living on egg salad sandwiches, because it was all we could afford. (To this day I can’t stand to even look at an egg salad sandwich!) We went over every single sermon and topic, and reworked them all.
We would no longer be going after baptisms. We would mentor our own members and help them build relationships. We would teach them to become a sermon in shoes because when Jesus is seen in our lives, it will draw others to Him. We would help them accept others regardless of their addictions, and realize that we are all sinners.
We had a special burden for pastors, who often have burdens they don’t feel that they can share with others. In our busy lives we seldom think of the burdens carried by the pastors and their families. We expect them to be ready to serve us 24 hours every day. They are expected to have a certain number of baptisms, be creative in raising money, and be ever ready to solve all marital problems. We never give a thought as to the problems they might face in their own homes. We place them on a pedestal and expect them to be some kind of supermen. They know in their own hearts that that is not possible to be all these things, and the majority of them suffer from depression. On top of all this are the cultural difficulties they face in other countries, that we would not be familiar with in the United States. For instance, within our church, arranged marriages are still the norm in some places. This practice leads to unhappiness and sometimes horrifying abuse. Sadly, abuse and unhappiness are just as prevalent in western countries, too.
Peach and I wanted to help them build real relationships, based on trust and on the certainty of God’s love for every feeble, hurting, messed-up one of us.
We began doing seminars only for church members, and the response was overwhelming.
Today, we travel all over the world. We hold seminars just for the pastors. We hold meetings with principals, teachers and youth pastors in addressing the problems that they have and work in helping them to find solutions. We live with the people and stay long enough to bond with the people. Possibly because of our age, they trust us and share their burdens with us. The big campaigns do a wonderful work, but they do not have the opportunity to stay and live with the people as we do. We fill the void before or after a campaign in reaching the people.
We also (especially Peach, whose specialty this is) work with youth. When we look around, we see our young people leaving the church. They have been exposed to so much in the world through television and the internet. It breaks our hearts to see so many of our members, young and old, sitting in our churches, knowing about Jesus but not knowing Him. They do not have a relationship with Him. All the doctrines in the world will not save you, if you do not have a relationship with Him. It is the single most important thing in life.
It is hard to describe the thrill of seeing the Holy Spirit working in the lives of the people. It becomes addictive. You want to see all of those who do not know the love of God, suddenly light up when they realize He loves them.
The Lord is so good. We have been blessed so mightily. We love people and we love doing the work we do. Never ever underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit or what He has in mind for you.