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By Knowing Him

The Re-Education of a Secular Jew

Clifford Goldstein


I n 1979 I had a powerful experience with the Lord, who revealed to me that Jesus was His Son and that He died for my sins. While that’s revelatory for just about anyone, for a secular Jew who most of his life didn’t even believe in God, it was a life-changing experience for sure.

By accepting Jesus, and by accepting the Adventist message, which I did with a passion, I had a whole new view of the world, of reality, of humanity, of life and death and just about everything else. Indeed, the entire intellectual foundation upon which I had been raised was completely shattered. By accepting this message, and these truths, I pretty much had to accept that almost all I had been raised on, taught, and believed was, in fact, wrong.

Of course it’s one thing to have it all torn down, but what was going to come in its place?

Not long after I became an Adventist, I found myself a student at Wildwood Missionary Institute in Wildwood, Georgia—a long and proud member of ASI. The plan was, or so it seemed at that time, for me to train to be a medical missionary. I would use my training to witness to the Jews.

For almost two years I was a student there, and I had an amazing new education. I went from being totally in the world with all its attendant lifestyle issues, to Wildwood, where I was given a whole new view of what life is, how to live, how to take care of my health and how to help others do the same. For a guy who grew up eating ham sandwiches and lobster, it was quite a change, for sure.

But I am forever grateful for what I learned there about lifestyle and diet for a number of reasons.

First, though it became clear after I left that the Lord wasn’t leading me in the direction of medical missionary work, what I learned there has been helpful in my witness to others. It truly is amazing how open folks can be if you can help them out with some of their own immediate medical needs. Though I have long forgotten many details from Dr. Bernell Baldwin’s advanced physiology class, I still remember enough to talk intelligently with someone about health issues. Indeed, I learned things there I will take with me for the rest of my life.

Which leads to the second point. I was at Wildwood in the early 1980s, when I was in my mid-twenties. I’m now in my early fifties. And one thing I have discovered is the older I get, the more and more I want to follow the basic health regime I learned at Wildwood. Again, I forgot most of the details about biochemistry and I could barely tell you the difference between cellulose and serotonin, but I learned enough to know how to how to take care of my health. The beauty of the education I got there was the simplicity—sure, you could get into all the deep medical stuff, and we did. But when push comes to shove, I know that alcohol and tobacco are bad for you, even if I can’t explain the precise way that alcohol wreaks havoc on the liver or how tobacco smoke messes up the arteries.

I don’t need to either, do I? What I need to know, and what I learned at Wildwood, was to stay away from them.

Yes, I firmly believe in education, but it needs to be the right kind of education. And for matters of health and lifestyle, I certainly got it at Wildwood—an education that will impact me for eternity.