A graduating class wearing their caps sits in the hall.

Prisoners of Hope: An Institutional Inauguration

Originally published in Issue 1: Preparation (January 2024)

Revival and our Schools

For well over a century, students of the Word have been praying and seeking for a much anticipated but rather-elusive revival exceeding even that of the apostles. We’ve seen promising glimpses of revival throughout history in the days of William Miller, John Wesley, and other Reformers. Though many of us are familiar with the apostolic revival, perhaps it has become somewhat of a pipe dream, or a prophetic vision relegated to the far distant future. 

Meanwhile, we seem to be wallowing in what some term ‘wilderness Christianity’, a nod to the forty years’ delay in the wilderness when Israel should have courageously faced the giants of Canaan. A more accurate parallel might be ‘Christianity in Captivity’, a nod to the period of stagnation Israel endured while exiled in Babylon for seventy years. Astonishingly, a study of this period of the nation’s history reveals that, like our prophesied movement, some Israelites didn’t return to the promised land until a hundred and forty years later!1 Just like us, they could have fulfilled their God-given task of reaching the world; instead, they became complacent and lukewarm. Yet in their captivity, God extended the invitation, “Return to the stronghold, you prisoners of hope,” and the promise, “even today I declare that I will restore double to you.”2

Today, thousands are experiencing sudden and unexpected loss to war in the Middle East, earthquakes in Turkey, and floods in Libya; some mothers in central Africa endure premature loss as a routine occurrence. Just weeks ago I heard the story of a precious lady at one of our missionary hospitals. She was pregnant for the twelfth time, but her chances of having a healthy baby were no better than the previous. Eleven times her children died during infancy, and despite hoping for a better outcome, this precious son too passed away merely days after birth. 

Like the child of this unfortunate mother, so many revivals also die in their infancy. To prevent infant mortality, families, communities, and governments must be taught the importance of proper nutrition, sanitation, and effective methods of medical intervention. Measures must be put in place to provide necessary resources to ensure the best chance of survival. The last great revival–the latter rain–began over a century ago, but it too died in its infancy.3 What can we as the rising generation do to ensure this doesn’t happen again today? And what connection could this possibly have with our schools? 

While the purpose of Prisoners of Hope is certainly not to denigrate or belittle, especially the self-sacrificing leaders of our church and institutions worldwide, we realize as did Jeremiah, that to truly follow God’s vision we must share it, and “not diminish a word”.5 Unfortunately, it is crystal clear to us that many of “our institutions of learning have swung into worldly conformity.” Like Zechariah’s prophecy, the Lord through His messenger once again promises our schools that, “though step by step [we] have advanced toward the world, [we] are prisoners of hope.”6

Revival in My School

As a Hebrew captive in Babylon, Daniel had a major concern: the sins of Israel had caused their captivity, and should they continue in their sins they might never return from their exile. So in Daniel 9, he prays to his God, freely confessing the sins of his people, claiming the promise that after seventy years they would be delivered7, and begging the Lord, “O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act!”8 He feared God, and therefore could trust Him to fulfill His promises and transform the prevailing spiritual condition of Israel. He was a prisoner in Babylon–but a prisoner of hope.

Biblically, phases of stagnation and complacency have never been final. For us, as it was for Israel, revival is guaranteed. During a brief yet jarring period of rebellion in my mid-teens, I prayed earnestly that the Lord would deliver me from my addictions and subsequent misery. I desperately wanted to experience personal revival and God came through, working above and beyond what I asked. I went to academy for senior year and began to experience what it meant to have a relationship with God. Prayer and Bible study became more than mere formalities—they became necessities. A new chapter had begun for me, and I couldn’t keep it to myself! So that year, I went on a life-changing mission trip to India, where I experienced the power of God in remarkable ways. I saw the work of the Holy Spirit changing hearts, God’s miraculous power to heal even physical disease, and heard astonishing first-hand accounts of His power over the evil one and his forces. Most strikingly however, was the new realization of the incredible vastness of the world yet to experience the gospel. 

Upon returning to school, I had an important decision to make: where to attend college. Having experienced the power of prayer while overseas, I began to pray about God’s plan for my life. I already felt distinctly called to foreign missionary work, but where could I go to get a thorough training? I wanted to go somewhere that all students were seeking to serve God, regardless of location—foreign or otherwise. Alongside fervent prayer, I began reading Messages to Young People, and was both inspired and deeply challenged. Ellen White’s counsels were wonderful and incredibly practical, but even the Adventist school I was attending did not follow much of what she wrote. With this new light in mind, I prayerfully considered a number of colleges, both Adventist and secular, but always felt unconvinced that such schools were truly places to be trained for service. While searching online, I found a small SDA missionary college that looked promising and decided to visit the campus. This school was entirely different from other colleges. They were teaching the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy, and the students were clearly there with mission in mind. I applied immediately. 

From the beginning through until now, college has been a paradigm-shifting experience. I’ve learned that we are not the ones waiting for Christ to come, but Christ is waiting for us. He is waiting for us to receive an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, a revival of primitive godliness, but He promises such a revival only in answer to united prayers. Soon, we students had gathered together to pray for such a revival to overtake our school. As we assembled in small groups nearly every day of the week, God began to move in mighty ways. Cancer cases suddenly reversed, the lame were healed, but most importantly our hearts collectively shifted towards an earnest search for God. One teacher remarked that in all his many years teaching at the College, he had never seen such spirituality on campus. 

Our prayers for revival increased in earnestness, and the Lord faithfully guided us in our quest to understand our part in preparing for a special outpouring of His Spirit. As we studied the theme of revival and reformation, we realized a strong connection between self-sacrifice and revival, and following fasting and prayer God clearly led us to start a foreign mission project in Venezuela. We began teaching about self-sacrifice in small group Sabbath schools and began giving whatever we could spare and eventually sent a thousand Bibles to sixty-seven centers of influence scattered throughout the country. We felt more inspired than ever with the missionary spirit and our hope of campus-wide revival grew. 

Revival and Reformation Today

Unfortunately, this season of refreshing was not exactly sustained, and we learned from experience that “a time of great spiritual light is also a time of corresponding spiritual darkness.”9 While praying fervently for revival, it made sense to start studying reformation, because “Revival and reformation are to do their appointed work, and in doing this work they must blend.”10 Since we wanted revival in our school, what better reforms to study than educational reform?

We began to study Counsels on Agriculture as well as the inspiring book, Madison, God’s Beautiful Farm. The latter was so fascinating that we bought a box of fifty copies and canvassed the whole school. The campaign was so successful we bought and sold fifty more, and for the past three years, it’s been the textbook for our class, Philosophy of Christian Education.

Just as we were agitating discussion about the need for more labor and manual training, our farm manager was nearly killed in a major vehicle crash while doing mission work in West Africa. Many in our prayer group got seriously ill, and others experienced spiritual attacks on their families. In spite of increased trials and difficulties for many of us, we did not yield to discouragement, nor today have we stopped seeking God for the promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We are assured that God will finish what He began a few years ago; we consider ourselves prisoners of hope.

Our thoughts are directed back to ancient Israel: a multitude of Hebrew prisoners in Babylon for seventy years, the temple lying desolate and the walls of Jerusalem broken down. God Himself declared them to be totally rebellious, even telling Jeremiah not to pray for his people. If anyone was seemingly without hope it was the Hebrews during the Babylonian captivity. But remember that out of this dark situation shone Daniel and his friends, living examples of teenagers willing to stand for the right because they trusted God to deliver them from the burning fiery furnace. “But if not,”11 they bravely volunteered to give their lives for their Lord’s cause. It was not until the latter days of their captivity, no doubt in answer to the aged Daniel’s earnest prayers, that God gave Israel the prisoners’ promise. It was during a time of great discouragement, the Israelites having returned but the temple yet in ruins, that the Lord raised up His prophet and assured his apathetic people, “Return to the stronghold, you prisoners of hope. Even today I declare that I will restore double to you.”12 We even know the end of the story: the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt, the new temple was completed, and Jesus Himself, the Desire of ages13 filled it with the fullness of God’s glory. God restored double, indeed more than double, to His special people. 

To us is given the same promise, although better than returning to an earthly Canaan, we look for the heavenly. To us is given the promise of a finished work, the sealing; the transformation of the Spirit given in latter rain power, thereby illuminating the earth with the glory of that fourth angel.14 If we will now return to Him and His blueprint, His plans, with a willingness to bear our cross, then the promise of great revival given but five verses later will be ours to claim: “Ask the Lord for rain in the time of the latter rain. The Lord will make flashing clouds; He will give them showers of rain, grass in the field for everyone”. 15There is no recipe for revival, but there are conditions to God’s promises, and we have a duty to know them and live and act accordingly. God has given all needed instructions for us to carry out His plan for reaching the world, but perhaps we have imitated “the customs and practices of the world”16 rather than asking “for the old paths, where the good way is”.17 To some, we might be ‘just kids’, but we believe God is giving us His vision for revival and reformation. 

We see clearly that our institutions—churches, medical organizations, centers of influence, and namely our colleges and universities—have significant roles to play. We don’t claim to have all the answers, but if we will “reason together”18 we’re confident God will lead us to a unified understanding of where He wants us to be, where we have departed from His plans, and how He can restore what’s been lost. With our church’s special focus on mission, “I Will Go,” now is an opportune time to concentrate our energies on understanding and applying God’s plan for revival and reformation. Especially in our schools do we see its importance, since schools are to the churches and other establishments as the heart is to the body. Indeed schools, perhaps more than other institutions, are springboards of great revival. The Waldensians from their College of the Barbs, Luther from Wittenberg, Wesley from Oxford, were all sent by God to ignite great movements for the Lord. Battle Creek College, Healdsburg, Loma Linda and Madison have all impacted the world for good, but we aren’t home yet.

It is our hope, through this publication, to look back at those successes, but also to learn from their failures. In this way we shall “stand in the way and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is.”19 As we return to Christ our Stronghold and His blueprint for a finished work, we shall at last be prepared to receive the Holy Spirit, reach every nation, tribe, tongue and people, and soon meet Jesus in the eternal kingdom. 

  1. Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1917), p. 607. There was one return after 70 years, (about 535 BC) and another “about seventy years after the return of the first company of exiles” (about 465 BC). ↩︎
  2. Zechariah 9:12 ↩︎
  3. Ellen G. White, “The Perils and Privileges of the Last Days,” Review and Herald November 22, 1892, par. 7. We will explore this in future editions. ↩︎
  4.  Ellen G. White, Education (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1903), 30. ↩︎
  5. Jeremiah 26:2 ↩︎
  6.  Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6. (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1901), 145. ↩︎
  7. Jeremiah 29:10 ↩︎
  8. Daniel 9:19 ↩︎
  9. Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, vol. 1 (Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1958), 129. ↩︎
  10. Ibid, 128. ↩︎
  11. Daniel 3:18 ↩︎
  12. Zechariah 9:12, emphasis added ↩︎
  13. Haggai 2:7 ↩︎
  14. Revelation 18:1 ↩︎
  15. Zechariah 10:1 ↩︎
  16. Ellen G. White, Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1913), 89. ↩︎
  17. Jeremiah 6:16 ↩︎
  18. Isaiah 1:18 ↩︎
  19. Jeremiah 6:16 ↩︎

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