10/22/2016: Never Give Up

Never Give Up

Australia

When Highwood Health Retreat hired me in March 2013 as their first ever full-time Bible worker, I was sure God had led me here. There was so much work to be done! Many guests had gone through the wonderful NEWSTART® health program over the years, and seeds had been sown. My heart’s desire was to connect with people who might be willing to learn more about the Healer they had glimpsed at Highwood!

As yet nobody had signed up for me to give them Bible studies, so the work started small. I would have to tread carefully since most guests come to Highwood for help with their health, not for Bible instruction. My work would be twofold: I would spend time getting to know the current guests, taking them for walks, eating with them and sharing a devotional each morning and evening for anyone interested; and I would follow up with former health guests to find any who might be open to studying.

To reach out to previous guests, I called them and asked how they had liked their stay at Highwood. I surveyed them about the food, the therapy and those sorts of things first, and would end by asking them to evaluate the spiritual aspects of Highwood. Their answers helped me decide where to go next. Could I offer them the health-related Bible studies I had developed? Would they be open for a personal visit?

Stine (third from right) with Highwood health guests and staff.
Stine (third from right) with Highwood health guests and staff.

Little by little a circle of special Highwood friends developed. Some were happy for me to visit their homes; others would meet me in a nearby park or restaurant. Our conversations often turned to spiritual topics. Sometimes I would bring my guitar and sing gospel songs. It was slow work, but I knew from the Spirit of Prophecy that “the Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me.’” The Ministry of Healing, 143.

As I look back, I can only praise the Lord. I now have many Bible studies going, most of them with former Highwood guests! With some it took months or even years of friendship before they were ready for Bible studies. That’s why we can’t give up!

Nikki, 30 years old, is a special friend I study with over the phone. She came to Highwood in 2012, a business-oriented woman with a lucrative job. Her stay at Highwood really impressed her—there was something different about this lifestyle. Going home, she started a spiritual quest. I kept in touch with her over the phone, and we met occasionally. Unfortunately, she seemed to gravitate toward the New Age movement. Still, I kept talking with her and praying for her—and the Lord heard my prayers. Recently, when I visited Nikki, I found her ready! “I was looking forward to you coming, as I wanted to hear more about Jesus,” she said. Then she told me about a client of their business. She had given the old gentleman excellent service, and to show his thankfulness he requested to give her a little book. She took the book home and started to read. “When I came to the passage about forgiveness, I asked God to help me experience it, and I just had the most amazing feeling of something happening within me!” she shared. “The man who gave me the book was a Seventh-day Adventist,” she added.

When I suggested we study a Bible course together, she willingly accepted. “I have never experienced more peace in anything else but this God thing,” she expressed, “so I will give it a go!” In addition to studying with me on the phone, Nikki is reading The Ministry of Healing. Would you keep Nikki in your prayers?

Another former Highwood guest is Anna. When she came in 2015, we made an almost instant connection. Although not Christian, Anna was very open, and very impressed with what she experienced at Highwood. Through text messaging, she sometimes shared with me her struggles with bad habits and depression, and told me how she envied my faith. Still, she didn’t seem ready to make it her own.

I kept trying to encourage Anna and kept offering to visit, but various things kept coming in the way. Finally, last April I got the message I had hoped for: “I would love to catch up with you.” We met up, and what a change! She had started to make steps to overcome her alcoholism by visiting Alcoholics Anonymous. She was keen to show me the flyer they had given her, and I could quickly see that it was very spiritual. Alcoholics Anonymous admits that you cannot win the battle against alcohol in your own power—that you need a Power from outside to help you. The sad thing, though, is that they say you can relate to God however you see Him—in other words, you can create your own idol. Nevertheless, Anna was motivated to overcome, and God gave me an idea: Why not offer to tailor Bible studies for her connected to what she was learning in Alcoholics Anonymous—studies that show how to get to know the true source of power?

I offered, and for the first time she said “yes” to Bible studies! We began by studying our own hopelessness as sinners, our overwhelming problem of addiction to sin. When I told her why Jesus, our only way out, had to die on the cross, I could see she was touched. “This is so special,” she said. “I have never thought of it this way before!” She has now started to read The Desire of Ages, and we are continuing our weekly Bible studies. I request your prayers for Anna!

Maria came to Highwood last January open-hearted and eager to learn. I was out of the country most of the time she was here and barely got to know her before she left. Still, when her boyfriend came to pick her up, I hurried over to say “goodbye.” Their car was already rolling, but they stopped so Maria could get out and give me a hug. “Maria,” her boyfriend asked, “have you asked Stine about giving you Bible studies?” Right then she asked me to come and study with her!

Maria went through 30 Bible studies in record time, not only studying when I was there, but also doing lots of homework herself. At times she struggled, wondering if it would be right to convert from a nominal Catholic to a Seventh-day Adventist. Then one day not long ago she called me. “Stine, could you come and visit us tomorrow? We have some very special news!” When I told her I was not planning to go out that day, she said, “Then I want to tell you the news over the phone. I have made up my mind; I want to get baptized!” Praise God! Maria is soon to move far away. I know the devil will place obstacles before her, so would you please pray for Maria too?

Rarely do we find people as eager for Bible studies as Maria, but often we meet people like Nikki and Anna. It takes patience to wait for the seeds we sow to sprout. Yet what a wonderful promise God has given:

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Galatians 6:9.

By Stine G. Struksnaes. stine@highwoodhealth.org. For more on Highwood Health Retreat visit www.highwoodhealth.org or www.facebook.com/A-place-of-my-heart-150082708486064.


09/27/2014: Lifting People to God

Lifting People to God

in Australia

 

We recently had a wonderful day on the streets. People were more relaxed because it was a Sunday, not a regular business day. We passed out an exceptional amount of literature, I think we handed out more than 5,000 pamphlets.

A diverse group passing out pamphlets.

Our group of volunteers that day was large and diverse. It was amazing to see the effort of the kids, including nine-year-old Matthew, handing out an enormous amount of literature. What a blessing to have kids eagerly working for the Lord! Wendy Hill, our Highwood guest representative, also came with us. She became a Seventh-day Adventist a few years ago after being a guest at Highwood. She now works with us from home, talking to people who are interested in attending our health programs.

That day on the streets, as she was standing with the kids at the table, a lady walked up and started to talk to one of the children. I was there, picking up more literature, and got to talk to her. She was a Christian (charismatic) and a vegan. She was very interested in getting to know other Christians who were vegans, and when she heard about the health retreat she wanted more information. I passed her right on to Wendy, and the two of them talked for a very long time—not only about the health retreat, but about many important things. We hope this lady will become a guest at Highwood one day. It was so nice to see how God blessed Wendy’s first day with us on the streets and used her in a mighty way!

Talking to a street singer who took our literature.

Sunday was a very special day for me as well. I met up with my new friend from the fashion shop, and I now communicate with her practically every day. We spent three hours together on that Sunday—talking, praying and studying God’s word. She is very attentive and hungry for the truth. I presented the Ten Commandments as a wall of protection, love, and care that God has given us, and she was very interested to know more. We also talked about how the Catholic Church changed the commandments and the Sabbath. She soaked in what she heard, and did not resist. We also keep talking about the most important, central issue in being a Christian: surrender of self to God. At a certain point she asked me: “Could you pray a prayer of surrender with me?” I did and she said “AMEN!” We had such a wonderful time, and while we were sitting there so much was happening!

Having a lunch break while passing out literature.

Then a man came up to us. He asked for two dollars for the tram. I felt it was right to give it to him, and was so happy I did. It turned out to be a very wonderful conversation. He opened up to me and my new friend and told about his sad life story. As a child he had been sold into the sex industry and now he was a gay. But he said he had been celibate for the last four years, and he wanted direction in life. He believed in God, and at a point he asked what church I was from. When I said Seventh-day Adventist, his face lit up and he replied, “I was once baptized in that church!” Together with my new friend, we prayed for and with him. It was so amazing! My new friend from the fashion shop could just sit there and see how God led people to us—just as He had led me to her just a few days before!

We continued to talk and after a short while some people from our group came up to us. One of them had talked to a man who, after a long talk, sowing a lot of doubts, had proclaimed himself to be “a fallen angel.” He had said he wanted to curse my friend but that her heart was so nice he felt he should not! What a great controversy! She just felt like praying with me, and so the little group of them, my newfound friend, and I had prayer together again.

We continued to study, and behind us a lady—a total stranger—came up to us and said, “You are reading a very good book!” She was referring to the Bible. God sent so many confirmations that day for my new friend to grow in her faith! I was so very blessed, too!

Singing at the literature table.

Many of the other team members had great experiences as well. One man had taken a pamphlet and then went to a restaurant to eat. He read it while eating and then went back and told our team member he had appreciated what he read. Another two Christian ladies were doing a little survey and wanted to ask Lesley some questions. They had a good talk and took literature to read. Tony also got the chance to tell a man about the Sabbath. It was just so nice to see them eagerly telling one story after another, as we met for a testimony meeting that night. So much happened in only a few hours!

My dad also had very nice experiences yesterday. There is a man who stands outside one of the restaurants handing out flyers. He had many religious questions for Dad, and especially wanted to know more about Jesus. They talked for about half an hour, and have agreed to meet again on Thursday. Dad also had an interesting discussion with a man he was walking with and also with some young people outside the library.

Another sister was with us on the streets for the first time—Irisdene from the United States. She had wonderful experiences as well, especially with a certain young lady. This young lady told her she had not felt loved, even though she was married, and she had suffered a lot. One day she decided to take her life, but she was rescued. In the hospital, she had a very special dream where she felt she met God. He told her that He loved her. It was such a strong revelation that it changed her life. She was still on a lot of mental health-related medications, and badly wanted to come off them. Irisdene had a long, lovely conversation with her and counseled her to work with her doctor to gradually discontinue the medications. She also referred her to Highwood Health Retreat and had prayer with her. Please pray for her and all the others that were touched that day.

“Christ came to this world to give this message to His servant to give to the churches. It is to be proclaimed to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. How are we to give it? The distribution of our literature is one means by which the message is to be proclaimed. Let every believer scatter broadcast tracts and leaflets and books containing the message for this time.” Christian Service, 145.

May God bless you all. Please keep praying for us and for all who received the literature!

 

By Stine Gro Struksnaes at Highwood Health Retreat in Victoria, Australia. Email: stine@highwoodhealth.org. Website: www.highwoodhealth.org. Facebook: Highwood Soul.