R. Steven Norman III
R. Steven Norman III
R. Steven Norman III
R. Steven Norman III
When Zulay Waggon decided to join her husband, Roberto Waggon, as a full-time literature evangelist, her former employer worried about her financial future.
But, Zulay did not falter in her desire to do canvassing work. She accepted the call to ministry, knowing that God would somehow provide.
Over the next 14 years, she would not be disappointed. During that period, the Waggons — now literature evangelists in the Gulf States Conference — led 291 people to Christ, averaging about 20 baptisms a year. They also sold enough books to make a decent living.
“When God calls you, He never calls you to failure; He calls you to success,” said Roberto, paraphrasing a well-known quote from Ellen G. White. “We only have to consecrate ourselves, put ourselves in the Lord’s hand, and the Lord will provide for our needs because He is the provider. We are just co-workers with Him,” Colporteur Ministry, pages 17, 18.
William Smith, publishing director at the Southern Union Conference, says the Waggons’ story is reminiscent of the days when many more literature evangelists around the country played a key role in winning others for the Kingdom.
“Years ago, that was a pretty common thing in conferences around North America,” he said. “Literature evangelists would contact people, sign them up for Bible studies, and we would have hundreds and hundreds of baptisms on a yearly basis.”
Keith Reid, associate publishing director at the Southern Union, who has sold books for more than 35 years, believes it is easier than ever to sell Adventist books for several reasons: world conditions are causing people to search for answers as never before; literature evangelists (LEs) have more resources from attractive books, to DVDs, CDs, websites, and QR codes; GPS (Global Positioning System) technology has helped the LEs to spend less time looking for addresses, and more time in front of customers; the Home Health Education Service (HHES) has an excellent support staff, and a lead card system that is second to none; and people have become more aware of the impact that lifestyle plays in their overall health. Additionally, the innovative health books are some of the best on the market. This gives the LEs an entering wedge to the homes and hearts of the people they are trying to reach.
The Waggons, and others like them, are proving that literature evangelism is still a viable option for those willing to put in the time and effort. All it takes is personal contact and a total reliance on the Holy Spirit.
“For those that work it, it really works,” said Smith. “The Word is powerful and God is already preparing hearts. We just have to go out and reap the harvest.”
Literature evangelism is a book-selling ministry that also aims to win converts. Colporteurs working in the field advertise at key locations in the communities they serve. They leave sample books at local businesses, such as dental and medical offices. People who patronize the businesses fill out lead cards and mail them to the Home Health Education Service office in Decatur, Georgia, which then mails them to the local conferences. The conferences send the lead cards to the literature evangelists who then visit the homes.
Jabe and Pattie Morris, literature evangelists in the Carolina Conference, are another couple working passionately in the field. Pattie started canvassing in 1980 with the Mountain View Conference in West Virginia. Jabe launched his ministry seven years later in the Nevada-Utah Conference.
Pattie was a student at Southern Missionary College, and Jabe managed a hotel in California. They married in 1990 and combined their ministries in 2007. Since then, they have traveled more than 500,000 miles, and had more than 500,000 contracts processed.
The couple distributes Amazing Facts information cards to all of their contacts. When the cards are mailed in, the Morrises recruit local church members to visit the interested parties. Their efforts have yielded 24 baptisms so far in their ministry.
“We love it when we see a contact or a costumer with a spiritual interest,” Jabe said. “We connect them with Adventists, usually at our home church, who visit them. We also continue to work with the families and individuals.”
Zulay Waggon is a native of Venezuela. Roberto Waggon comes from Nicaragua.
Roberto launched his colporteur ministry in 1979, after accepting the Adventist message in Nicaragua. He relocated to Guatemala following the start of the Nicaraguan revolution. There, he worked as a literature evangelist for 10 years, leading 26 people to baptism in one year.
In 1992 Roberto accepted a call from the Massachusetts Conference. He moved to the United States and met Zulay in Miami. The couple married in in 2003 in North Carolina, where Zulay worked for a physician before joining her husband as a full-time literature evangelist. Their first year of ministry resulted in 16 baptisms.
In addition to distributing lead cards at area businesses, the Waggons said they also hand them out at Adventist churches in the area, and they reach out to visitors. Sometimes they get as many as 20 leads a week, and they go to the homes to provide information.
The Waggons said God has blessed their efforts tremendously, and they have been able to meet financial goals set by the conference. But, they are most proud of their success turning contacts into converts by addressing people’s needs, both physically and spiritually.
“I tell them, ‘I didn’t just come to sell you books,’” Roberto said. “If we find somebody sick, sometimes we ourselves go and prepare the natural remedy for them. If it’s a spiritual need, I tell the truth with boldness and not going around the bush. I tell them plain what Jesus has done for them and about their salvation. Their salvation is everything.”
When contacts request Bible study, the Waggons refer them to a local pastor, elder, or Bible worker. However, they continue to visit their homes. In Montgomery, there are currently six young people in Bible study as a result of their ministry.
Sometimes they walk into homes where people have already been exposed to the Adventist message through television evangelists. One Baptist woman said she had been watching Doug Batchelor on television. She prayed and asked the Lord to send someone who believes what she believes. Three days later, the Waggons showed up at her front door.
In another case, the Waggons were staying in a hotel where they met a man who worked there. They gave him a copy of Steps to Christ and other Adventist literature. When they returned one night from Prayer Meeting, the man told them he had been reading the books, and had called his pastor to ask about the Sabbath. The next Saturday, he attended an Adventist church, and now he is baptized.
Another Baptist woman the couple visited was reluctant to let them into her home, but after hearing their presentation, she offered to help them sell books. She invited them to her church to make a presentation.
The couple also has helped bring former Adventists back into the fold. In 2015 they visited one former member in Decatur, Alabama, who had been attending a Pentecostal church. They asked the man why he had left the church, and he said because no one had visited him when he was sick.
The Waggons noticed that his car registration had expired. The man said he lost his job and could not afford to register his vehicle. So, the couple helped him resolve the situation.
“After two or three months, he got baptized over again in the church,” Roberto said. “And now, not only him, the wife is baptized, the daughter is baptized, and now he’s working on the rest of his family. He also has a radio program preaching the message.”
is a former newspaper reporter, and currently an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Communication at Southern Adventist University.
Southern Union | June 2018