Letter From Heaven
To Sabbath School teachers: This story is for Sabbath, June 16. Click here for photos to share while telling the mission story.
A surprise letter arrived one day in Clifford Long’s mailbox in the U.S. state of West Virginia.
The handwritten message asked whether he would like to enroll in a Bible correspondence course to learn what the Bible teaches about the Sabbath, the state of the dead, and Jesus’ Second Coming.
Clifford and his wife, Cathy, didn’t go to church regularly, but they had been talking about finding a place to worship. Their conversations, however, always ended with the question: which church is right?
“A lot of stuff didn’t make sense,” Clifford said. “This church said they were right, and that church said they were right. I didn’t know enough to decide where to go. Then this came in the mail.”
Clifford began the Bible studies. He took each new lesson with him to the power plant, where he worked as an operator, monitoring machines and burning coal to turn the turbines that generate electricity. He and one other man worked the night shift, and they had some free time. Clifford pored over the lessons at the plant. “I really liked them and could not wait to send them in and get the next one,” he said.
He was particularly curious about the Sabbath. As a boy, he had gone to a Sunday church, but his father had raised doubts in his mind about whether he was worshipping on the right day.
“My Daddy used to say, ‘Why do these people take Sabbath on Sunday when the Bible says Saturday?’” Clifford said. “That stuck in my mind.”
When the focus of the Bible study turned to the Sabbath, suddenly things began to make sense. Clifford saw that God had set aside the seventh-day Sabbath at Creation and had never changed it to another day. But he wondered why many Christian churches worshipped on Sunday. When he finished the Bible studies, he signed up for another, and then a third. He completed three sets of Bible studies by Discover, Amazing Facts, and the Voice of Prophecy.
Then the power plant was shut down in 2015. Employees had been warned five years earlier that the day was coming, but Clifford and others had hoped that somehow the plant would survive. Clifford was forced into early retirement after 27 years at the plant.
Rather than despairing, however, he rejoiced that he had more time to study the Bible and no longer faced any Sabbath conflict at work.
Around that time, Clifford and his wife, Cathy, met the woman behind the mail-in Bible studies. Delsie Knicely, a farmer and evangelist, asked in a letter whether she could call them to answer any Bible questions. Later, she visited the married couple in their home. Cathy and Delsie immediately became good friends.
In October 2015, Delsie invited the couple to attend an evangelistic series led by her at the Valley View Seventh-day Adventist Church in the town of Bluefield. Clifford and Cathy eagerly came every evening. They learned how the Roman Catholic Church had replaced the Sabbath with Sunday and how many Protestant churches had accepted the change. They realized that many sincere Christians worship God on Sunday because of tradition, not realizing that they are breaking God’s law.
During the meetings, Cathy was told by doctors that she needed to undergo nasal surgery, but she refused to schedule the procedure until after the meetings.
“She kept putting the surgery off,” Clifford said. “She told me she didn’t want to miss the meetings for nothing!”
The evangelistic series, which were attended by about 25 people, mostly church members, resulted in two baptisms—Clifford and Cathy. The meetings were among 35 evangelistic series organized across West Virginia with funding from a 2015 Thirteenth Sabbath Offering.
Clifford, now 61, expressed joy about the meetings and the initial letter offering Bible studies. “I know that God sent me this,” he said. “I was just thinking about which church to go to, and there it was!”
He wants other people to take the Bible studies, too, and he has shared them with his two adult sons and neighbors.
“I think the Bible studies are awesome. You really learn a lot,” he said. “I really think that these Bible study lessons need to be given a higher priority because they really work.”
Clifford Long remembering the unexpected letter in the mail. (Andrew McChesney / Adventist Mission)