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The Distribution of the Great Controversy - Testimony No. 5

By Lennart Wiberg

The Great Controversy… I am more anxious to see a wide circulation for this book than for any others I have written; for in The Great Controversy, the last message of warning to the world is given more distinctly than in any of my other books.” (Ellen White, Colporteur Ministry, p. 127.)

“In a special sense Seventh-day Adventists have been set in the world as watchmen and light bearers. To them has been entrusted the last warning for a perishing world… They have been given a work of the most solemn import – the proclamation of the first, second, and third angels’ messages. There is no other work of so great importance. They are to allow nothing else to absorb their attention. The most solemn truths ever entrusted to mortals have been given us to proclaim to the world. The proclamation of these truths is to be our work. The world is to be warned, and God’s people are to be true to the trust committed to them.” (Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, vol 9, p. 19.)

I have previously written four testimonies concerning my experiences of handing out The Great Controversy throughout Sweden from 2008 to 2016. Having gained new experiences in this work since 2016 – it is now December 2019 – I felt it would be proper to report on these in this article.

Sweden seems to get increasingly more dechristianized. In view of the prophetic word, this is hardly surprising (Luke 17:26-30; II Timothy 3:1-5). The question, though, is in what way this dechristianizing is occurring and what lessons we can learn from it.

Sweden has obviously got more and more caught up in entertainment and indifference, this being one of the chief reasons for the increasing difficulty in evangelising this nation. Just during the eleven years I have been travelling attempting to distribute The Great Controversy here, I have noticed a marked difference. However, in the midst of ever-growing spiritual darkness there are rays of hope, and I shall try to describe some of them in this testimony. Seeing God continually sending people interested in the truth across my pathway has been greatly satisfying.

My greatest disappointment as a missionary in modern-day Sweden has been reaching those of middle-age and up. My greatest joy has been the relatively large interest I have found among those studying at university and other schools of high education. Another source of joy has been the fairly large interest I have noticed among students at several institutions of secondary theoretical education in our land (although not in lines of practical education). This has been the case ever since I started my mission at these places about 8-9 years ago. I must hasten to add, though, that this interest is mostly shown by boys and young men. The interest among girls and young women studying at high schools/universities and places of secondary education is considerably smaller than that of boys and young men of the same age attending these institutions. I simply have no good reason for this. Girls of the age of having secondary education are indeed shyer than the boys of that age group, but the interest in the gospel has waned distinctly among these girls during the past 8-9 years. The interest among young men going to university and higher schools is, however, at nearly the same level as 8-9 years ago, when I launched this work. Meanwhile, interest among boys gaining theoretical knowledge at the secondary level has decreased markedly less than among girls (although you certainly can notice a decline among boys at certain institutions of secondary education). Below I shall show some of my experiences gained mostly outside universities/colleges and schools of secondary education across Sweden between 2016 and 2019. God has led and blessed my work in a wonderful way. Before going into detail, I may add that my bicycle is an important instrument in my missionary endeavours. The pace in society being frantic, you can move about quickly on a bike, effectively reaching people “on the run” in the opposite direction to you.

At the Västerås High School I presented DSS (Den Stora Striden, Swedish for The Great Controversy) to a female student. Having done this, I spotted another young lady who had been standing not far from us and at least listened to parts of my presentation. When I was finished, the woman next to us exclaimed: “That book is marvellous!” I had given her a copy of DSS outside the Eskilstuna High School a few years earlier. The female student, for whom I had just presented the volume, accepted it with interest and I cannot think of any better advertisement than that provided by the other student.

In front of Lund University I presented DSS to a woman studying to become a medical doctor. I let her know this book provides biblical answers to questions such as these: How did evil come about? What happens when we die? Can the dead speak to us? What is the imminent conflict that will is going to involve all of humanity, but of which they know nothing and, thus, are unprepared for? Having concluded my presentation, she said: “I am so thankful for the book. Once I have read it, I shall be able to give my patients answers to their vital questions, which they are anxious to have information about.”

During a day of missionary work in Malmö, God sent in my path (among several others) four individuals who were studying to become teachers of religion. They accepted DSS with gratitude.

In the same city I met two people, on two different occasions, who had converted from Islam to Christianity and now were given DSS at the right time to be able to learn about the truth for our days.

A student at Växjö University, who was given DSS: “DSS was the best thing I could get – and my father will also read it!”

In Göteborg [“Gothenburg”] I encountered a person, who told me: “I am a teacher of confirmation classes and have been this for the past three years.” He accepted DSS with seriousness and with interest.

In Norrköping a person accepted DSS, having the day before felt an urge to know what the Bible says.

A student of theology in Göteborg was handed DSS shortly prior to a preliminary examination, ensuring his knowledge about Scripture would be greater.

A future teacher of religion, who was enrolled at Jönköping University, also got DSS shortly before a preliminary examination.

A secondary school pupil received DSS outside of his school in Gävle just before he was to write a composition about Christianity.

In Vänersborg I met a theologian. He recognised the book and said: “Was it not you who were distributing this book in front of Humanisten [the Humanist] at Göteborg University?” He had at the time in question been given the book, but had not yet started reading the volume. His curiosity having been aroused, he said he was going to study it.

A recent convert from Islam to Christianity was handed DSS in Kalmar.

A student receiving an education to become a primary teacher had listened to a lecture about Martin Luther. Immediately after, he met me outside Malmö University, and had, among other things, Martin Luther presented to him by me. Then I offered him DSS.

In Karlskrona I presented DSS for 6-7 persons in their teens. One of these at once accepted the book. After a few minutes, one more of the young people came up to me, requesting a copy. A little while later, one more who had heard my presentation, came asking for the book.

Once I had presented this book to a number of secondary school pupils outside the Bäckängsskolan (an institute of secondary education) in Borås, it was made plain that one of them had received the book from me earlier and now said that “this book is fantastic!”

The Bäckängsskolan in Borås is one of all those secondary schools in Sweden, where distributing DSS is as easy now, as it was 8-9 years, when I started working the area. Last autumn, by the grace of God, I managed to distribute some 30 copies of this book next to the area of the school in one day. I handed out a similar number of copies the most recent time I was in the vicinity of the Lindholmen secondary school area in Göteborg. In greatly dechristianized Sweden I find this remarkable, to say the least. I can report the same about the university in a major Swedish town. In 2017, I distributed, thanks to God’s grace, DSS to 35 persons outside this university in one day, and to 36 individuals the day after. So this means that 71 persons heard my presentation of the book and were interested enough to accept it in front of one and the same university during the course of two days. That, I would call a miracle of God! I wish to stress that I do not hand the book over to someone I am not convinced is keen on this piece of literature. Moreover, I do not hand the book over either, unless they promise me they will read it.

Another time – close to the occasion when I distributed 71 books in two days mentioned above – I was doing missionary work next to the same university, giving away 20 copies of DSS in one day. The following day I renewed my missionary activities there, but I had planned that I was shortly going to bike to the largest secondary school in the city, which is located quite some distance away. (I had already decided I was going to another town the next day for missionary work.) To my amazement, I had a puncture as I was about to depart from the University. I then realised God let this happen, in order for me to continue doing missionary work near the University all day. That day, God sent 23 people in my path, who accepted DSS, that is to say three more, than the day previous.

Outside of Lund University I regularly, thanks to the grace of God, manage to hand out at least 30 copies of DSS each time, that is, in one day (mostly by the faculties of theology and history).

Next to the faculty of studies in humanity and theology at Umeå University I gave a student DSS just weeks after she had begun studying the Bible.

Having parked in an Avesta spot that was unknown to me, I presented the book to a person – the first person I presented the volume to there – who said he intended to pass it on to his mother, who was a dean (the leader of a cathedral parish or deanery).

Close by Malmö University I offered DSS to a female student, who accepted it and said: “Yesterday my brother received DSS from you outside Lund University. He photographed the front cover, and sent me the image via the Internet. We are going to read the book together.”

A woman in her twenties in Malmö was so happy at getting DSS, that she insisted on giving med a hundred Swedish crowns for her book, although I told her it was gratis.

In Eslöv it was raining, when I was about to do missionary work there, but it stopped following my prayer to God for fair weather. A pupil of the secondary school there was given DSS shortly before he was going to give a lecture on Christianity.

In Göteborg I met a lady from Iran. She had been living in Sweden for a few years. She had recently become interested in Christianity and had started listening to preaching done by Christian pastors from the USA, on the Internet. When I had presented DSS to her, she told me: “I have been considering purchasing a Bible. Now that I have got this book from you, I believe it was intended for me to read it.” It was her plan to study it without delay.

In Stockholm I encountered a person who told me his brother was studying theology at the School of Theology in the capital. The individual I addressed accepted DSS which he promised he would pass on to his brother.

In Linköping I met a student, who was training to become a teacher of religion; he, too, accepted DSS.

In Halmstad I gave DSS to a secondary school pupil, who was going to do a test on, among other things, Christianity. The same day and in the same town, I gifted this book to a student, who was writing a composition about Christianity at Halmstad College.

A student, who received DSS from me next to Uppsala University, had decided earlier that he was going to explain the prophecies to another individual later that day.

In Göteborg I met a girl, whose big sister was a priestess of the Church of Sweden [the Lutheran Church]. The girl, whom I met, promised me she would hand the book over to the priestess.

Outside the Faculty of Theology in Lund I presented DSS to a female student of theology. She realised the book was favourably inclined to the Protestant Reformation. However, I realised she was positively inclined to Catholicism. She referred to a medieval Catholic theologian, who she considered espoused the same biblical teaching that Martin Luther represented. What was I going to say to her in this situation? The vicinity of secondary schools and universities is not the ideal place for trying to start a Bible study, with many other students passing to and fro (apart from that, I was not carrying with me my Bible). In addition, secondary school pupils and university students are usually on “the go” to classes, to their homes or possibly to some lunchroom for their lunch break, which is quickly over. You, therefore, need to be brief. The spirit of ecumenism prevailing today, it was not surprising that the woman would convey this view (above). How many students of theology can see any real difference betweens today’s Catholicism and Protestantism? I knew this student of theology would require a disarming response. Then a thought struck me – I believe it was from God: “But the Protestant Reformation gave us the Bible in our own languages.” This was an argument that she was unable to gainsay. She was aware of the fact that the medieval theologian she was mentioning had not endeavoured to have the Bible translated into the vernacular and make the Scriptures widely available (she was, after all, comparing this theologian to Luther). She accepted DSS and seemed truthful, when she said she was going to read it.

Something about my missionary DSS activities I shall not forget is this: Having longed for the truth, the faces of a number of those who have accepted the book have started shining, as soon as they have realised what the book is about. It has been a great joy for me to pass the book on to them, for they have understood the value of DSS for them. Many Christians, wanting more than what has been dished up for them in their local churches, have with great gratitude accepted DSS, God having sent them in my way.

On numerous occasions I have met young people who have been uninterested in DSS, but who have told me they had, for instance, a parent who certainly would fancy this book. Of course, then I have asked them to present the book to that person.

In my missionary work, the weather has, naturally enough, been important, since I labour outdoors. I have lost count of the number of times when the weather forecast has indicated rain, or when it has been raining when I was going to begin working. However, God has always heard my pleas for fair weather. I recall, for example, the weather forecast of rain during the day in Umeå when I was labouring there two years ago. Rain had fallen in the night and in the morning, but the skies cleared as I started my efforts in the forenoon. Shortly after quitting my missionary efforts in the afternoon, the rain returned.

In Visby there is a university (the only one on the Baltic island of Gotland), where I normally missionize, when I go there by boat. In Visby there is also a major secondary school. I am always anxious to missionize both in front of the University and the secondary school during my evangelical visits to Visby. On my most recent visit to Gotland I decided to take the car and go to Hemse and pass out flyers featuring the three angels’ messages there. Hemse is situated a little more than 50 km from Visby. I had planned to leave early enough in the day to return to the Hemse hostel, where I had rented a room, and then go by bicycle to the secondary school, in order to take up my missionary post outside the school area by two in the afternoon at the latest. That is when the pupils begin to walk (or cycle) back home after tuition. It so happens there are so many letter-boxes between Hemse and Visby which I wanted to “cover” with the flyer that I was behind schedule in distributing DSS to the pupils at the secondary school. The hostel is so far distant from the secondary school I would not be able to bike to the school and be on time next to the school area. But God had a solution to the problem. As I was making my way back to the hostel, I got lost with my car (I work on my own and do not have a co-driver). I drove up to a street which was in fact only two minutes’ drive by bike from the secondary school, I was told, as I made enquiries. I parked my vehicle there and met the secondary school pupils almost on the stroke of two o’clock – exactly as they were heading home from their studies. That would have been impossible, had I driven to the hostel.

During the eleven years I have travelled across Sweden offering people DSS, I have learned a lot. One lesson is that if you ask God to rule over your work, there is no need to stress (I sometimes stressed in the beginning). If, for instance, 20 or 30 secondary school pupils are standing at a bus stop waiting for the bus taking them home at the end of the day in school, there is no need for me to rush over there. Should the bus arrive before I have had the time to present the book to a single one of them, I know that not a single one of them would have been interested. Likewise, I know that if I have only had the opportunity to present the book for a single one of them before the bus has arrived, at least no others would be interested. Jesus said that “the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:30). By this we learn that God is with us even in the small details over the course of the day. As an example of this, let me mention a missionary trip to Skövde. I missed the exit for Skövde, meaning a slight loss of time when heading back. This made me downcast. But as soon as I got to work in Skövde, I got in touch with a person who was greatly interested and who was just off for classes. It was God Who arranged matters, so that I was going to meet this gentleman – as well as others in Skövde – at precisely the right moment to give him DSS.

Apart from students at universities and colleges plus the theoretical lines of study at secondary schools, there are two more missionary areas in Sweden that have meant better results for me than missionary efforts in general in our nation. One is blacks from “Christian” nations in Africa (Ghana, Nigeria, etc). Thanks to the grace of God, a remarkable number of copies of DSS have been placed in their hands. A prerequisite for this, though, is that you have brought the English version of DSS. They will often be proficient English speakers, but not so good at Swedish. This requires, of course, that you are able to speak to them in English, and, hopefully, find the opportunity to present the book to them, if they are truly interested – just like when dealing with Swedes in Swedish. In Borås I met three non-Muslim black Africans who were out walking together – they were not related – all of whom joyfully accepted DSS, after having had the book presented to them (one wanted it in English, the other two in Swedish). How often do I chance upon three native Swedes out walking together who wish to have a copy of DSS?

The other group showing an unusual interest in the good news are young Afghan male refugees. Some of the Afghans in Sweden are active Muslims and are, as a rule, not interested. But following the great flow of refugees in 2015 a remarkable number of young male refuges from Afghanistan have shown they are notably interested in the gospel. Since 2015 many of them have learned the Swedish language.

It is worth noting that there are good and less good moments for missionary work during the day. I have discovered that the hour between 10 and11 during day-light time is unsuited to missionary efforts. That is when students are preoccupied with classes and working people with their duties. However, after 11 o’clock many have their lunch break and the period between then and about one in the afternoon is suited to missionary efforts. After one in the afternoon lunch breaks are over, making efforts difficult until two o’clock, when students and the employed (part-time) begin heading for home. After dusk, it is naturally hard to come in contact with the people.

You will, of course, run across pupils from secondary schools and students who, because of a lack of time or negligible interest, refuse DSS. Should they show some interest in the gospel, it is important you have on you some suitable brochure or appropriate flyer containing the three angels’ messages. Hopefully, this will awaken their interest.

It is also vital to hand out brochures and flyers in suitable spots (benches, bus stops, etc) in the towns and villages you are visiting, and then plead with God that He send the right persons there. This way, you can also reach those who are not secondary school pupils or students. However, you should also try to distribute DSS in the streets of the places you visit, even if you are obliged to work for hours, before meeting a single individual there interested in the gospel. Then it is important to remind yourself that Jesus would have gone to the earth and been crucified if only one person had accepted the good news.

By the grace of God, I have since 2008 handed out a little over 12,500 copies of The Great Contoversy to interested parties in Sweden.

In earlier testimonies I have described how I present DSS to the people I meet. This would seem to be the right place to repeat my method in short. Firstly, I ask them whether they would like a copy of my favourite book. Unless completely dismissive, they will ask what the book is about. Then I will reply that “the book is a summary of the history of Christianity from the days of the Apostles through the Dark Ages and the Reformation all the way to the last prophecies at the end of time”. If they show an interest, I will ask them if they can give me half a minute to outline the book. They almost always can.

I usually start with mentioning the chapter entitled “An Era of Spiritual Darkness” beginning in the fourth century. Thereafter I move on to the Reformation featuring (first and foremost) Martin Luther (who is well known in Sweden). Following this I will say that the Protestant Reformation is an important historical backdrop to the final half of the book which is about our own time. In this connection I will point to the chapters “The Impending Conflict,” “God’s Final Warning” (in Revelation), and “Can the Dead Speak to Us?” (what happens when we die?). These chapters, along with the one called “Why Were Sin and Suffering Permitted?,” I have found arouse an interest in my listeners.

I need to add a word of warning here, though. Most people like to receive a free book. This means that not all who accept DSS necessarily are interested in the volume. I have repeatedly noticed that it is only when I ask a relevant question following my presentation, that I will understand whether they actually are keen. Hence I ask: “Are you interested in the messages of the Bible?” – or words to that effect. This usually separates the chaff from the wheat. Some people, who after my presentation have seemed highly interested, will then say: “Perhaps you should give the book to somebody more interested than I am.” But those showing an interest following my presentation and accompanying question, always get the book – provided they promise they will read it. The condition I always put forward is that they do read this book.

In case I get the reply that they do not have the time to read the entire volume, but still have shown an interest in it, I will give them a suitable brochure containing the three angels’ messages.