Pastor Timothy, I need your advice.” Nathaniel’s furrowed brow revealed his concern. “The nurses from the Seventh-day Adventist hospital in Atoifi are holding a clinic here in Kwaibaita. You’ve often warned us about Adventists’ misguided doctrines. Is it safe to go to their clinic?”
Pastor Timothy thought carefully before replying. As a pastor and the paramount chief of the entire Kwaibaita district, he was well respected by the people of his community in the Solomon Islands.
“We do need medical care here in the village,” he admitted. “You can accept the Adventists’ medications, but don’t listen to their teachings. If they tell you anything about the Bible or the church, just ignore it.”
After Nathaniel left, Pastor Timothy felt a pang of guilt.
In 20 years as a pastor, I’ve found some texts in the Bible that make me wonder if the Adventists are right about some things. Take the fourth commandment, for example . . .
He quickly shoved that thought out of his head. What would his church members think if he suddenly changed his mind about Adventists and their teachings?
“We have a lot of work to do in the garden this morning,” Pastor Timothy said to his wife and their 10-year-old son, Bofanta, one September day in 1990. It was a Sabbath morning, but that did not bother Pastor Timothy, since he did not believe that Saturday was the Sabbath. “The taro plot will be full of weeds after all the rain we’ve had.”
The three of them walked down the path away from the village. Pastor Timothy paused to open the gate of the cow pasture they had to cross to reach their garden.
As they neared the other side of the enclosure, his wife spoke up. “Look at how all the cows have lined up facing us. It’s almost as if they’re trying to block our way.”
“They look like soldiers on parade,” said Pastor Timothy with a laugh. “I suppose they’ll move when we get closer.”
But the cows didn’t move. Odd, he thought. I guess we’ll have to go around them.
At the end of the line stood a large, muscular bull that seemed to be staring straight at them. As the family approached, the bull suddenly spoke in the Kwaibaita language. “Why are you going to the garden now? Don’t you know that today is the seventh day, the Sabbath of the Lord God?”
Pastor Timothy’s jaw dropped. “Did you hear that?” he croaked to his wife.
“I–I think the bull just talked!” she whispered hoarsely.
Pastor Timothy looked around, certain that he must have been mistaken. No one else was in sight.
Then he heard the voice again. “Timothy!” His head swiveled toward the bull. “Timothy, I’m speaking to you!”
Yes, the sound was coming from the animal. Its mouth was even moving as it talked.
“Th–there must be a devil in you to make you talk like that,” Pastor Timothy said, his voice trembling.
“I am not the devil,” the bull replied. “I am the voice of Jesus talking to you.”
Pastor Timothy really paid attention then! The bull went on: “Today is the Sabbath of God. Don’t you know that God gave you six days to work, and the seventh day is the Sabbath? You have been a pastor, and yet you don’t know these things? How blind can you be?”
He’s right, Pastor Timothy thought. I’ve been refusing to believe the truth all this time.
But the bull was not finished. “You must not work in your garden today. Go home and read Jeremiah 1:5. Share it with your people. Then look for the Seventh-day Adventist pastor, Pastor Bata. He will further explain these things to you.”
Pastor Timothy waited, but the bull said nothing more. The pastor dropped to his knees in the field and began to cry. “I’m supposed to be a spiritual leader,” he moaned, “but instead I’ve been teaching my church members the wrong things! I’m sorry, Lord.”
The pastor and his family immediately headed back to their house, taro plants and weeds forgotten.
“I must look up the text the bull mentioned,” Pastor Timothy said when they reached home. He found the passage in his Bible and read it aloud: “‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.'”
“What does that have to do with the Sabbath?” asked Bofanta.
“I think God is saying that I need to share this message with others,” his father replied.
Pastor Timothy called the entire village together and told them what had happened. “It was the voice of Jesus that spoke to me through the bull,” he said. “We must not do any work today. We must begin resting on the Sabbath.”
The people stared at him in amazement. But they respected their pastor and chief, so everyone in the village kept that Sabbath.
Early the next morning Pastor Timothy set off through the bush toward Atoifi Adventist Hospital. Questions rushed through his mind as he walked along the steep rocky mountain trail. There were so many things he needed to ask the Adventist pastor!
After a four-hour hike through the lush tropical forest, he reached the hospital and approached the first employee he saw.
“My name is Timothy, and I’m the chief of Kwaibaita,” he said. “I am looking for Pastor Bata.”
“Who told you about Pastor Bata?” the puzzled employee asked.
Pastor Timothy didn’t answer the question directly.
“I have a story to tell Pastor Bata,” he said.
Someone took him to the village where Pastor Bata was working. “I’ve already kept the Sabbath,” Pastor Timothy told him. “I need to know more.”
The two pastors studied the Bible together for three months. “I want to be baptized,” Pastor Timothy decided. “And I want to do it in my village so that all my people can see the choice I’m making.”
Pastor Timothy’s baptism was a big event in Kwaibaita. Most of his church members showed up to see the man who had warned them against Adventism become an Adventist himself.
“For many years I taught you things that I knew were not according to the Bible,” Pastor Timothy confessed. “I ask your forgiveness for leading you astray.”
He looked out over the crowd, full of people he cared about. “I’ve shared with you many of the things I’ve learned from the Adventist pastor. I believe them to be the truth. Will you join me in following God’s Word? If you will join me, come stand over here to my right. If you want to stay with your current beliefs, stand on my left.”
For a moment no one moved. Then several people jumped up and strode purposefully toward Pastor Timothy’s right. A few, with looks of horror on their faces, headed in the opposite direction.
As more and more people in the crowd chose one side or the other, Pastor Timothy’s face broke into a broad smile. The majority of the villagers were taking their stand with him to follow God’s truth!
Soon a new church was built in Kwaibaita where Pastor Timothy and his people could worship God every Sabbath.
And the talking bull? He hasn’t said a word since. He doesn’t need to. He lets Pastor Timothy do all the preaching about the Sabbath.
Thanks to David Tasker, Jim Manele, and Tadashi Ino for providing the information for this story.
Written by Rachel Whitaker
Illustrated by Stephen Foster