Impressions, a Map, and Dead End Sidewalks
During the first week of November I had the privilege of visiting a number of ASI ministries, mainly in the state of Tennessee. Dwight Hilderbrandt was my tour guide, arranging the itinerary and enlightening me with historical perspectives throughout the trip.
We began Sunday morning outside Nashville, spending a couple of hours with Edwin and Mary Belle Martin. They happily recounted stories and experiences from their many years as ASI members. Edwin’s dad took him to his first ASI convention, and he’s been attending ever since.
I heard the Martin name mentioned several times that week as we visited the various institutions. Edwin and Mary Belle have provided buildings and programs that continue to shape lives and prepare young people for service.
The scenery was breathtaking as we traveled Tennessee’s back roads and highways, visiting members, friends and ASI historic sites. Our tour included five academies: Highland, Harbert Hills, Laurelbrook, Heritage, and Madison. We also visited Wildwood Health and Education Center, its Country Life vegetarian restaurant in downtown Chattanooga, Southern Adventist University’s Archeological Museum, Little Creek Sanitarium, Advent Home Learning Center, Outpost Centers International (OCI) headquarters, Benton Lifestyle Center, and The Layman Foundation.
Hearing the stories behind these institutions— sometimes directly from the founders—left a deep impression. And learning about their witnessing activities, challenges and dreams left me with the conviction that God has, is, and will continue to lead those who seek to do His will.
Of all the places we visited, walking the old Madison College grounds left the biggest impression. I had heard and read about Madison, but nothing compares to actually standing on the land Ellen White saw in vision as the location for that special school. Madison was known in its day for a commitment to a rather unique system of education—students were involved in an efficient work-study program. As someone put it, they “traded work for education.”
After visiting the Madison Heritage Center, tour guides Al Dittes and Jim Culpeper invited us to walk the grounds where Madison College once stood—the school closed in 1964. Except for birds singing and the sound of the occasional jet roaring overhead, our walk was quiet and somber. The sidewalks were marked with small metal signposts describing bygone structures—dormitories, offices, classrooms, the chapel, laundry, cannery, and maintenance buildings. What once connected the places where students lived, worked, worshiped and trained guides you only to grass today.
The Madison campus is silent. Its buildings are no more. Its sidewalks are dead ends. But the people who came, lived, worked, learned and left to serve keep the spirit of Madison alive. Inside the Heritage Center a map gives humble testimony to Madison’s far-reaching influence. Golden cords lead from Madison to sites across the globe where its graduates ministered and testified. In so doing, they did more than any building on any campus ever could. The impact of Madison College on the work of the church will be known only in eternity. Almost 50 years ago two of its best graduates journeyed to my homeland, Colombia, where today church growth is among the fastest in the world. I can only say, “Thank you, Madison.”