Passion for Outreach Marks First Great Controversy Congress
The first Great Controversy Congress in North America attracted 550 laymen from across the Southwestern Union and was so popular that 150 had to be turned away for lack of space. Held at a camp near Dallas at the end of March, the congress was organized by the Review and Herald HHES, which manages the publishing work in the Southwest. The normal focus of this group is on selling literature, but this time they rallied laymen around a plan to share a half-million free copies of Ellen White’s prophetic book before the end of the year.
This whole event was motivated by an end-time sense of urgency. “I really believe Jesus is coming soon,” says Esteban Griguol, publishing director of the Texas Conference. “Now is the time to share like never before because—in the future—it will be difficult.“
A featured speaker at the event was Jack Henderson. Called the “world-wide pioneer” of The Great Controversy work, he began by sharing the book around his hometown of Hendersonville, North Carolina. He partnered with the Review and Herald to print a low-cost version of the book and his enthusiasm soon ignited a General Conference project that resulted in 90 million copies being given away around the world last year. “If we don’t do it, the rocks are gong to do it,” says Henderson.
“This is going to be one of the most momentous projects the publishing work has ever accomplished,” says General Conference vice president Delbert Baker who is in charge of the Great Controversy Project and spoke at the event. “We will see the results of this for years to come.“
Those attending the congress recognized the power of this book, first published in 1888, to change lives. “A friend of mine called from Mexico and told me, ‘A lady in your church gave me a book called The Great Controversy,’” recalls John Rosado of the Duncanville Spanish Church in Texas. “I told him, ‘As far as I’m concerned you have the greatest book on prophecy ever written.’” John reports that his friend called him back and said,” Thank you for encouraging me to read this book. Now I am keeping the Sabbath.”
Isela Muzquiz drove 500 miles to the congress from Brownsville, Texas, so that she could get energized for outreach. “I’ve had a box of Great Controversy in the trunk for a while and I haven’t done anything with it,” she says. “I’m waiting for that push.”
Jose Olivencia, a 6th grade math and science teacher also keeps a box of books in his car trunk. “I want to be part of this magnificent work-to be out there in the fields witnessing,” says Jose. He has already given copies of the book to the parents of his public school students.
Many didn’t wait to leave the congress to start sharing. David Brown, is the guest services director at the Salvation Army camp where the event was held. He reports that he was offered a total of 30 copies of The Great Controversy by his guests. He ended up keeping a hardcover edition.
Angeles Garcia, from the Brownsville Spanish Church, says that one of the benefits she sees in outreach is that “the selfishness goes away. You’re not thinking about yourself anymore. You’re thinking of others.” She wants to start part time in the literature ministry work.
“I assure you, we can evangelize this union in no time with the spirit I see in this room,” Henderson told the crowd. Southwestern Union president Larry Moore went on to say, “Everything we can do to speed up the work of God is a blessing.”
Winston and Maria Ramirez shared their testimony with the Sabbath afternoon audience at the congress. They told how Jonathan Rodriguez, a literature evangelist, knocked on their door while he canvassed the neighborhood around his church. He left them a copy of The Great Controversy. Now their whole family is baptized. “Thank God that Jonathan found us,” says Maria. “We were so close to a church, but so far from God.”