Battle Creek: Via Point to Oshkosh 

“And he spake unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones? Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land...That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the Lord your God for ever” (Joshua 4:21-24).

 

“You look like you were made to wear a bonnet,” my friend Naomi Pike said, as I tied the strings under my chin.
“Really? I feel more like a horse with blinders on,” I laughed.

In any case, this costume provides a historic identity and even informs my demeanor, in accordance with the sacred stories we tell in Battle Creek, Michigan.

Historic Adventist Village

The 2019 Chosen International Pathfinder Camporee is the summer event on Seventh-day Adventist minds and we are here to give tours to many groups heading to the Oshkosh, Wisconsin event.

When I left Battle Creek, Michigan after my Annual Council volunteer stint last fall, I asked Historic Adventist Village site managers Don and Betty Scherencel when they would need a large corps of volunteers again. “Before Oshkosh,” Betty said. “I'll be here if I can,” I promised. I have recruited Naomi, and we drive together.  

Now we revel in the family camaraderie with fellow volunteers, the photo ops with Pathfinder groups, many answered prayers and an overall bustling, exhausting good time. Let me share a few memories with you, based on notes jotted down through the weekend.

 Wednesday evening, August 7: Naomi and I arrive and check in with Betty. We will stay three houses away from James and Ellen White's Wood Street home. Don is in the basement fixing our hot water heater, bless his heart! These old homes require lots of care.  

Naomi chooses a dress from the costume room downstairs. There's the blue dress Brenda Kis wore last October. She gave the tour of Ellen White's kitchen. I hope she comes this weekend. I have borrowed, bought and brought costumes, but I will borrow a bonnet.  

We stroll outside, exploring the neighborhood just one block off the premises. Hmmm, I feel safer back on our HAV property. Back home for a relaxing hot shower. Bedtime. Passing trains sing me to sleep.

 Thursday, August 8: Today we will help Don and Betty with last-minute preparations for the hordes of weekend Pathfinder groups. Breakfast includes Naomi's homemade granola—yum! While we eat, housemate Tarrie Geiger tells about the yearly Adventist history tours she leads from North Carolina through New England. I wish...

 At morning worship, Don warns of neighborhood panhandlers and tells us not to give money to anyone. “Send them to me or have them call 211,” he instructs us. Outside, I offer two “passersby” a GLOW tract. The sob story begins, but when I mention Don and 211, the story ends. Battle Creek—still our mission field.

Naomi and I tie international flag lines to trees and metal rods to mark the Village tour route. How fitting for our international guests. When we finish, Betty needs tour guides. “Quick, put your costumes on. Do you have your script?”

 “Sure,” I reply. I am assigned the Loughborough portion, but I’m flexible. However, I‘ve never seen the complete tour. Last fall I worked in just the Whites’ home. When Don gave volunteers the complete tour, I was downtown helping at the Annual Council meetings. So, I will follow our flag line, unlock the buildings, and do my best. We don costumes and bonnets, and I gather my multi-national tour group, script in hand. I’m glad I have studied it.

I give an earnest, easy-English tour.  In the 1857 Meeting House, I play the pump organ and we sing Sweet Hour of Prayer. Oh no! This bench is sliding back as I pump the pedals. I pause between verses to scoot forward.

In James and Ellen White's home I sing Ellen's familiar worship hymn, “Lord in the Morning...” in the parlor, and James' adaptation of another hymn, “There'll be no rag carpets in heav'n...” upstairs in Ellen's bedroom. As I conclude my 90-minute tour, one man tells me, “I have been on this tour four or five times, and your tour was inspiring.” Thanks, Lord! I won’t mention I just gave my first complete HAV tour to myself.  

In the Welcome Center I report downstairs to the Heritage Shoppe, where Tarrie teaches me the basics of the bookstore business. We price books, sell souvenir T-shirts, pens and magnets, and get better acquainted. Tarrie has just had heart surgery, plucky lady.

“What is that loud noise and vibration in the ceiling?” I ask. “Somebody is using Doctor Kellogg's exercise equipment up in the museum,” she explains.  

“Jeannie...Clark!” I greet two friends from Southern College days. I was hoping to see friends and former classmates here. They haven’t changed a bit.

Rachel Middaugh comes down to see if we need help. She is a veteran volunteer here, along with her mom and grandparents. This summer she interned at the William Miller Farm, also operated by Adventist Heritage Ministries. We brainstorm about how to increase visitors to our AHM sites.

In the evening, my new friend Jane (“Born in Babylon”) arrives from Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and we finally meet face-to-face. I show her the costume room, then the empty bed upstairs.

 Friday: Up with the trains, and Naomi's nudging. Today we will host hundreds of Pathfinders and sponsors, maybe a thousand. But first, personal worship and breakfast. I tie on my bonnet while Naomi braids Rachel's red hair.  

Staff worship is at 7:30 a.m. Betty leads us in singing “He's Able” as we embark on a very busy weekend. After Don's worship, we confirm job assignments and prepare for tours. I grab a site clock and chair for the John and Mary Loughborough homesite. I hope we can build the replica home soon.

 “We'll use channel 16 for the time-keeper, and 15 for security,” I hear Don say over the two-way radio behind me. Here comes my first group from the newly opened Publishing Office (replica).

My eight-minute tour highlights the Bible teaching of death as a sleep broken by Jesus the Life-giver at the resurrection. John and Mary's loss of three of their five children, then Mary's early death after birthing twins, are bearable with the “blessed hope” of Titus 2:13.  

 
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As I stand on the Loughborough homesite, do you recognize Willie White's home (unrestored) behind me?

 “One minute” calls the time-keeper over the radio, and I rush to include God's dreams sent 20 times to this grieving husband and father as Loughborough transitions to tent evangelism out in California. I have gleaned this from my personal study.

 “Time to move,” calls Karen, and the HAV “shepherd” leads the group next door to the Hardy House to learn of race relations and Southern evangelism in early Adventism.

 My site is shady and breezy with a good view of the HAV campus. I meet several groups from Papua New Guinea, some from Southern California (home!) and many from islands I'd love to visit. I pose for countless photos and face numerous smartphones taking videos of the tour.

“Would you like some water?” chirps a little voice. Here come Maxi (Maximilian) and Eleni, AHM Director Markus Kutzschbach’s kids, delivering water in an HAV golf cart. They keep us well-hydrated. In between, they give rides to our friendly Battle Creek policeman and tired volunteers.

Our Spanish tour guides bring groups intermittently. I practice my Spanish listening comprehension while I rest my voice. I must check more of Loughborough's books in the Pioneer Library on egwwritings.org. That last Spanish guide added some interesting details.

Someone relieves me and I grab lunch from the food truck. Haystacks! I chat with the Palestinian servers. One says her grandmother was born in Bethlehem. Wow, Jesus’ birthplace! These people are Orthodox Christians, descended from Ishmael.

I spot my friend Brenda Kis. I take her to our house and she gets “her” blue dress from the costume room. After lunch, I'll help Tarrie in the Shoppe. She must be tired.

“May I show you my favorite book?” Tarrie asks a customer, as she leads them to Laughter and Tears of the Pioneers. “It's just five dollars.” She does this all weekend, and the books fly off the shelf.

During a lull, I grab a book on Battle Creek history and head outside to warm up. “Do you know what Battle Creek used to be called in the 1830s?” I ask an HAV friend as I read. “Milton. They didn’t vote ‘Battle Creek’ until 1859.” 

After Betty comes to close the Shoppe and I eat my chili dog supper, I stroll the campus perimeter, picking up trash. I chat with Carrie, veteran bus driver who has transported Pathfinders to Oshkosh before. She is relaxing on the bus tonight, but promises she will tour the Village tomorrow.

 Friday evening at home, my housemates and I relax in our living room. Jane likes giving her “Deacon John” tour, describing how James White's father followed Bible truth as it led him through several churches and finally into the Seventh-day Adventist message. Jane has followed Bible truth, too, and she shares more of her story with us. I'm so glad I invited her here.

 
 

 Jane Iery tells of “Deacon John” the cobbler. J ames White’s parents lived across the street from James and Ellen.

 Tarrie wants a story to share at her church, so Brent and Brenda Palmer share how God is blessing the William Miller Farm as preparations are made for its special anniversary weekend this coming October. I stay up way too late, enjoying my HAV friends who are even more addicted to Adventist history than I am.

 Sabbath, August 10: Sabbath School begins at 9:30 a.m. in the 1857 Meeting House. Betty needs someone to play the pump organ for song service. My golden opportunity! I experiment with pumping rhythms; my bench slides as before. Donnella Anderson takes a turn.

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 Brent and Brenda Palmer and I prepare to worship in the 1857 Meeting House (replica).

 Our Sabbath School lesson is taught by Pastor Al Powell, Inter-American Division Youth Director and father of two HAV summer interns, Richard and Nathaniel, who have helped with Spanish tours. A Pathfinder group joins us; the church is nearly full. “Oh we are the Pathfinders strong,” we sing. I was expecting this. I’m glad I remember the words.

 We hear testimonies from the summer interns. Asahel, a Hartland College theology student, tells of giving the HAV tour to an atheist Japanese man using Google and Wikipedia translations plus a few Japanese words he knew. Adaptability! As they toured James and Ellen White's home, the man asked, “Where can I get one of her books?” Reaching overhead, Asahel handed him a copy of The Great Controversy from the stack kept only at this one point of the tour. Yes, these Adventist heritage stories still have power! I hope Asahel showed him egwwritings.org so he can read Sister White's writings in Japanese.

 Elder Powell preached on Luke 5, encouraging us to let down our nets as Jesus directs, promising that “God will not send you back home (from HAV) empty.” Amen, I'm full of blessings already.

 After a special Sabbath lasagna lunch, Naomi and I trade off giving our Loughborough tour. She tells me she cries every time she tells the sad parts, and the Pathfinders crowd around to comfort her.

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 Naomi Pike takes a break while a Spanish-speaking group hears about the Loughboroughs.

 Sadly, some visitors who did not pre-register must be turned away, though we accommodate all we can. I give an outside tour to a Korean family, describing the buildings they won't get to enter this time, urging them to return for the full tour.  

While eating supper, I hear Storyteller Chuck's Bible riddles and “Adventist ghost story” about young Joseph Bates, as he entertains the groups waiting in the registration/meal tent for tours. This man needs a megaphone, with all this hubbub. 

“You're heading to Oshkosh, but Oshkosh is a tiny camporee,” he booms. “You need to be preparing for a much bigger event, the heavenly camporee.” Preach, brother!

I shepherd a full tour, and am impressed with the well-told stories and spiritual applications at each stop. Each docent has personalized the script. Interesting how many of our pioneers had dreams and visions (Joel 2:28-29): William Foy, James and Ellen White, John Loughborough, Joseph Bates...

 I retire much earlier Saturday night. I hope my tour voice lasts two more days.

 Sunday, August 11: My roommates struggle to wake me; my earplugs work too well. Today we expect some 1200 guests. Lord, help us rightly represent you.

 “Sara!” my mind shouts as I glimpse an academy friend in a morning tour group. I give the tour while happy memories distract me. “Time to move,” says the time-keeper. Sara comes up for a quick hug and a photo. Thanks, Lord, that she is still active in your church.

 In the afternoon, Tarrie and I run the Shoppe. We meet some philanthropists. “Keep the change,” insists one Pathfinder. His donation is 16 cents. I pray it's a mighty mite. HAV has many projects awaiting funding. The map around the corner shows big dreams yet unrealized. A woman makes a credit card donation. God bless these cheerful givers!

 Late tallies reveal we have processed some 2,000 guests today, nearly double what we expected. “He's Able”, indeed!

 Monday, August 12: Pathfinders groups are heading to Oshkosh, Wisconsin for camporee. Things should slow down here by midday.

 Naomi gives the Loughborough tour this morning. In the bookstore, we are nearly out of T-shirts. “You knew we were all coming,” chides one disappointed girl.   No, not this many!

During lunch I stroll the grounds, eating my haystack. Bob Ritzenthaler checks wristbands outside the log cabin where his wife Linda tells of David Hewitt. “Thanks so much for coming,” he tells me again. Bob has volunteered here since 1989–30 years! How would Don and Betty keep up their long hours and the unexpected after-hours tours without such volunteers?

 My housemates are leaving, one by one, though some will return to host groups returning from camporee  (Check the Historic Adventist Village facebook page for more photos.) We exchange contact information, and talk of volunteering here next summer, before General Conference.

Lord willing, I'll return. Care to join us?

 

Holly Joers has enjoyed reading stories of our Adventist pioneers since childhood. She visited Ellen White's Elmshaven, California home twice in her youth, and hopes to visit other Adventist Heritage Ministries sites in the future. Holly lives in North Central Arkansas with her husband Skip and their son Elijah. She does not wear a bonnet there.