When I was a little girl, my Seventh-day Adventist grandmother made me go to church for Bible study every Wednesday night in Beckley, West Virginia. On Sabbath mornings, I had to walk eight long blocks to the church. I had to go. I couldn’t do anything but go to church and come back home.
My grandmother raised me, the youngest of seven siblings, and she was strict. I couldn’t wear short dresses. I had to read the Bible every Friday evening. Nobody could do any work from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. She did allow me to go to other churches on Sundays. The only life that I had was school and church. That’s how I was raised.
When I was 14, I moved to New York to live with older siblings. I was exposed to the big world and stopped attending church. After college, I worked as an accountant for an insurance company on Wall Street and later worked as a government auditor in Washington. I started attending Sunday churches.
Then one night I had a dream. In my dream, I was plowing a plot of land. My grandmother used to have a tractor come in and plow her land for a garden, so when I woke up, I thought, “Maybe this is a sign that I should go home.” My husband and I had been wanting to build a house, so I decided to build it on land that I had inherited from my grandmother, who had died years earlier.
My husband, also a U.S. government employee, wasn’t thrilled with the idea of owning a home in West Virginia, but the house went up while we still worked in Washington.
After we retired in Beckley, I began to wonder why I had left all my friends in Washington to return to my childhood home. I made new friends, but I asked God, “Why am I here?”
Around that time, I received a flyer in the mail with an invitation to a Bible prophecy seminar. I asked my new friends to join me, but they refused to go. Finally, I made up my mind to go alone.
On the fourth night of the seminar, the preacher spoke about the beasts of Daniel and Revelation, and I realized for the first time that I was attending an Adventist evangelistic series. For some reason, the Adventist connection had not sunk in when I registered at the start of the meetings or on the subsequent evenings.
I remembered my strict upbringing and felt a renewed sense of loneliness. Here I was sitting alone; not one friend had wanted to accompany me. I thought, “If I keep coming to these meetings, I could lose all my friends.”
The meeting had just started, but I got up and rapidly walked toward the door.
The woman who had registered me on the first night stopped me at the back of the hall.
“Where are you going?” she asked.
“I’ve heard this stuff all my life,” I replied.
I told her about my grandmother and how she would not let me go anywhere and do anything except read the Bible and go to church. But that was just an excuse. I really felt alone and wanted a friend at the evangelistic meetings.
The woman, who I later learned was Bible worker Naomi Tricomi, smiled and made me feel welcome. She invited me to stay for the rest of the meeting. Her friendship was just what I needed.
I returned to my seat—and came back for the rest of the month-long series. Every evening, Naomi greeted me with a smile and a hug. She couldn’t sit with me because she was working, but I knew that I had a friend in the room.
As I listened to the presentations, memories flooded over me from my childhood. I felt like I was a little girl in church again. When the preacher asked who wished to be baptized, I came forward. I felt at home.
I was among 16 people who joined the Adventist Church in September 2016 through those meetings—one of 35 evangelistic series that were organized across West Virginia and funded by a 2015 Thirteenth Sabbath Offering.
Looking back at my 65 years, I realize that the church and the Bible have always been embedded in me because of my grandmother. God has always protected me. Now I’m beginning to understand why God called me back to West Virginia. I’m able to move forward and focus on what God wants me to do.
Ida Elizabeth Davis, 65, is currently the Women’s Ministries coordinator at the Beckley Seventh-day Adventist Church.
By Ida Elizabeth Davis, as told to Andrew McChesney