Are you tempted to think that life has passed you by, that your best years may be behind you? Could you imagine leading twenty thousand people to Jesus and into the Seventh-day Adventist Church?
A seemingly obscure man, Philip Ainslie Reekie, born in Scotland in 1846, did just that!1 Amazingly, although thousands owe him their eternal thanks, few even know his name. In 1888, the widowed and divorced Philip Reekie and his four children emigrated from Scotland to Australia, looking for a new life. It didn’t take him long to find it! In 1889, after reading Uriah Smith’s Thoughts on Daniel and Revelation, he became a Seventh-day Adventist.
After his conversion, Philip Reekie left his work as an engraver to become a literature evangelist, and ultimately would facilitate God’s Word being engraved upon hearts. On dusty outback roads, through dry, monotonous terrain, under a mercilessly hot Australian sun, Philip Reekie rode a bicycle to the homes of thousands. In 1896, Philip Reekie cycled to a farm in a middle-of-nowhere place called Eugowra, New South Wales. Unbeknown to the literature evangelist, this family was grieving and searching. The mother of the home, Mary, had recently died, leaving the care of their eleven children to her husband Tom. Just before succumbing to pneumonia, Mary had asked Tom to promise that he would meet her in heaven and bring the children with him. Tom made the promise and was searching the Bible to discover how he could keep his promise. It was into this heartbreaking situation that Philip Reekie arrived with the book The Great Controversy.
After wrestling with some biblical truths outlined in The Great Controversy, Tom ultimately accepted the biblical teachings and excitedly shared his new findings with his children and neighbors. His children and five neighboring families became Adventists: the Packham, Chatman, Thompson, Gersbach, and Gray families.
Fast-forward from 1896 to 2021, and this remarkable story continues. When you add the descendants of Tom and the other five families to the numbers of people these descendants have discipled into the Adventist Church, there are more than twenty thousand! That’s twenty thousand lives transformed by a faithful literature evangelist and a farmer who shared a good book with his family and neighbors. If I may confess . . . I’m one of those twenty thousand. The Tom in this story is my great, great grandfather Thomas Robert Kent. But that’s not the reason for telling this story.
The key point is that Philip, the seller of The Great Controversy, and Tom, the purchaser of the book, were both well into the second half of their lives when this decisive event happened. As older men, this was the defining point of their lives! While these two people now sleep in their graves awaiting the return of Jesus, their legacies live on.
As an elder, what are you doing with your gift of life? For those of us in middle age, or older, this can be a challenging question, particularly in a world where innovative youth seem to be the trendsetters and difference makers. We need our youth to be filled with the Holy Spirit and change the world, but our zeal shouldn’t die with our youthfulness (see Acts 2:16, 17).
In this life, each one of us has a finite period allotted. Fittingly, Moses asked God, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Ps 90:12, ESV).
For some, the reality of mortality prompts selfishness, and they seek to inject as much fun and excitement into their limited lives as possible. Yes, our Creator does intend for humans to experience the joys of life. But there’s more to life than pursuing unbridled pleasure. Satisfaction from meaningful work, contributing to loving relationships, and giving to others offers infinitely more joy—and pleasure too.
While we number our days, through Christ, we have a vision beyond our days. Leaving a wholesome legacy, planning for eternity, a selfless life—for a person who has accepted the embrace of Jesus’ grace, these are the real currency of life.
It’s not too late for you to make a difference, to change the eternal destiny of who knows how many! What is your legacy?
1 Special thanks to Ashlee Chism in the General Conference Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research.