The creators of the largest protestant hospital system in the world.1 Innovators who revolutionized American breakfast and gym equipment.2 Founders of the biggest protestant Christian school system globally.3 Men and women who sacrificed everything for a greater purpose. Who put it all on the line for the sake of the gospel. Who wrote, traveled, hustled, and preached day and night, year after year. Here’s to the pioneers of the Adventist movement — missional entrepreneurs and innovators who changed the world.
One of the students at Battle Creek was John Harvey Kellogg, a brilliant innovator, teacher, entrepreneur, and soon-to-be doctor. The Whites paid his tuition, and just one year after graduating from college, he started to work at the new hospital. Kellogg pushed the board to enlarge the facilities yearly (although this incurred more debt) and bought several farms with 400 acres to add income to the business by selling milk, eggs, fruits, and vegetables.17 His expansion plans were risky and faced continuous opposition. Still, Kellogg took this business from eight paying patients (who had to bathe in water previously used by others) to a national enterprise of 700 customers and 1,000 employees.18 He was deeply interested in every single patient and visited each one as often as possible. No matter how busy his schedule was, Kellogg always made them feel like their case was the only thing that mattered to him at the moment. He hoped to see them all restored to perfect health.
Dr. Kellogg was on an unstoppable quest to improve people’s health. This made him invent a wide variety of food products, surgical tools, and treatment devices. The most famous ones are probably his cornflakes, a new form of peanut butter, gym equipment, and a chair that helped people regain proper posture. He wrote more than fifty books; one sold half a million times.19 Although his dominant personality, heated temper, and strange beliefs caused him to clash with the Bible and church administrators, he permanently changed America’s eating habits with his flaked cereal and peanut butter.20
The Three Angels’ Messages spread throughout the United States, yet our pioneers wanted more. They knew God called them to share His love with every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.21 On August 14, 1874, the General Conference voted to send John Nevin Andrews to Switzerland, announcing to the pioneers overseas that they would receive “the ablest man in our ranks.” He and his family chose to only eat the bare minimum of white bread, potatoes and cabbage in order to have more money for the printing press. They committed to only speaking French at home to learn the new language as fast as possible.22
When Anna Knight, an inquisitive black girl from Mississippi, learned about God and the Sabbath, she decided to get baptized — but the nearest Adventist church was 400 miles away from her home. So she used the revenue from selling a bale of cotton to pay for her train ride all the way to Graysville, Tennessee.23 Nine years later, at the General Conference Session at Battle Creek, she accepted a call to go to India — as Adventism’s first African-American female missionary and the first ever black female missionary in India.24 During her entire life, Anna faced immense oppression because of racial segregation, but that didn’t keep her from opening multiple schools, educating hundreds of teachers, founding a sanitarium in Atlanta and entering unentered area as a pioneering missionary.
Was God using a group of geniuses to start the Adventist movement? Were they superior to 21st-century church members? Did they surpass the average Adventist intellectually, financially, and morally? Not at all. Our co-founder, Ellen White, just went to school sporadically until she was twelve.25 Her husband earned 50 cents per day, had barely enough to eat, and still invested everything into publishing tracts.26 His friend lost his left leg before turning thirteen.27 The boy who would later revolutionize American breakfast was constantly sick, suffered tuberculosis repeatedly, and had a variety of disorders. His parents thought he would never make it to adulthood.28
And yet, amid all incapabilities, perplexities and infirmities, God used these people to start the Seventh-day Adventist church. He calls us today to take their place and continue their legacy. He needs able men and women — sacrificial, humble, and willing to be used. He needs missional entrepreneurs and calls all members of the body of Christ to use their skills and opportunities to advance His work. Because this great work, dear friends, “can never be finished until the men and women comprising our church membership rally to the work, and unite their efforts with those of ministers and church officers.”29