It all started at the little spring. The little spring at Noblett Lake in southern Missouri is one of my favorite spots. It is so little, with a sandy bottom that bubbles up with the water emerging from underground, ringed about with large flat rocks just right for sitting, and full of water cress as it flows down to the creek.

Paula Bettcher, who is Sabbath school superintendent among other things at Willow Springs Church, is a wonderful adventure friend of mine. Each year we camp out in order to be there for Outdoor Church on Sabbath. It was Friday late in September and we were walking after setting up our camp, stopping first at our favorite little spring. As we approached, a voice came from the other side of the spring, greeting us. A smiling young man then emerged from the undergrowth.

Right away he recognized Paula, and they realized that he had been at the Willow Springs school where she worked a few years back. Before long, he explained that he had come down to Noblett Lake to celebrate the Day of Atonement and the Sabbath.

“That’s amazing,” I said, “We are here for Outdoor Church tomorrow and there will be many people here for the service and picnic lunch.” Without missing a beat, Jared enthused, “Then I will join you for that!”

Listening and learning

Before long we had invited him to our campfire for supper and he gratefully accepted. Later, he arrived at our campsite with his jug of water and his contribution: the one wild paw-paw that he had found. In the course of the evening, Jared shared his story. He grew up going to church with his family. He became acquainted with Sabbath-keepers and the Old Testament food laws through his uncle who he noticed he was eating differently at family events. He wasn’t really curious about it at that time.

In 2008, however, he agreed to be a caretaker at a friend’s home. In his quiet times, he watched the satellite TV, constantly surfing for some meaningful program. He came upon 3ABN and was intrigued with its emphasis on final events. He found the programming more spiritual than what he had grown up with.

Some time later, he attended the Willow Springs Church, which John and I were pastoring at the time. One of the local leaders was speaking. Neither John nor I remember seeing Jared so it must have been on a Sabbath when we were at another one of our churches. After the service, the speaker did give Jared some CDs to listen to. But Jared did not feel any spark there that would draw him to attend again, nor did he listen to the CDs.

He visited another local church when his Ukrainian friends invited him, but he said it reminded him of his Baptist Church growing up which was in the style of the 1920s. This was all part of our discussion as we became acquainted with Jared that evening.

What he was looking for, he said, was a first century style church without the “traditions of men” nor the hierarchy, administration and organization that harkens back to Catholicism. He is looking for people who are thirsting and hungering for spiritual truth and not part of organized religion.

My back thoughts were, “How many of the traditions of men do we have in our churches…Ouch! That hits too close to home. And church organization, hierarchy, and too many layers of administration. Oh, no!  That’s us, I thought.

Precious fellowship

Before our evening meal there was joyous fellowship, visiting and singing time. Jared had invited his father, mother, sister and brother-in-law to attend our Outdoor Church service and they all agreed to come.

In the morning, Jared greeted us cheerfully at our campsite, volunteering to help carry our food, guitar, and other supplies since we chose to walk to the picnic area.

Our walk led us past the little spring, to the dam, and then over the scenic path that goes up the mountainside–always with the lake in view—and then down to the picnic area. With its fine view, the native plants and the rugged pathway, it is a favorite short walk of mine!

At Outdoor Church, we set up our chairs and watched for Jared’s family to arrive. When they came, we all sat together. During the break time and after the service, I invited people over to meet Jared and his family. After a while, Jared took the initiative and began introducing himself to people all around. What a friendly, outgoing chap he is!

Jared had planned to stay for lunch but his family was planning to leave. We pressed them, others invited them again and again until finally, they all agreed to stay. It was precious fellowship as those I introduced them to asked where they lived and got acquainted.

A number of people that Jared met were from the West Plains church. Both Jared and his sister were familiar with the “Next Step” fellowship by the old raceway. Jared had in fact attended their sustainability festival several times. After multiple invitations to visit their church in West Plains, Jared agreed that he would come. I am hoping that we can go with him because we love that church too.

Spiritual journeys continue

Paula and I and Jared were some of the very last people to leave Outdoor Church. After all, we were camped nearby and had no need to hurry off.

It was a blessing to fellowship with such a fine young man, and to realize his search for truth. Though it makes me sad that our Adventist churches had not succeeded in winning his interest, still, through Adventist media outreaches his spiritual journey may continue to be benefitted.

And to think, it all started at the little spring….!

Becki Knobloch is currently a respite caregiver, vegetarian cook and gardener for friends who have a foster home. She and her pastor husband, John, live and work in Arlington, Missouri, near Rolla. Becki says that being a mom to their two married  daughters keeps her blessed beyond measure.