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Last week we kicked off the new Friday conversions series with Torie Brown Hunt, who converted to the LDS/Mormon tradition after a Southern Baptist childhood. Today we meet Jessica Gavin. In 2010, she began a blog project called 52 Prayers in which she attended a church of a different religious tradition every weekend for a year. She started the year of church-going as something of a universalist. By the end of the year, she had converted to the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
My name is Jessica Gavin and I’m a 30 year old freelance writer and career coach living in Richmond, Virginia. I enjoy creative writing, talking theology and philosophy, and being with my family and friends. I’m recently married and we have an awesome dog named Chuck. Chuck is a female pup but the name just fits! Currently I’m working on writing a memoir about my journey last year to attend a different religious house of worship each week in my search for God.
I converted to Seventh-day Adventist from an “All paths lead to the same God” religion. I’d always assumed that Jesus had something to do with the picture, but I just didn’t realize how critical of a role he played until recently. I didn’t grow up in a Christian home but after watching my father read an entire library’s worth of books on theology, I’d always been curious about the nature of God.
What led to your conversion?
When I started a project on January 1 of 2009, to attend a different place of worship every week and write about it online, I only intended to flex my creative writing muscle and learn some interesting things about different religions. I never thought in a million years that I’d find a personal and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ as a result. However, with each place I attended, I felt that God was calling me into a relationship with Him. I had never prayed much, rarely read the Bible, but had considered myself to be a non-judgmental Christian, claiming all paths led to God.
Over the course of the year, I studied the Qu’ran, the Book of Mormon, met with world famous Bible scholars, and had the opportunity to discuss and study Scripture with several pastors of different Christian denominations. Within months, it became clear that the Bible had the answers I was looking for and that it was the inspired Word of God.
After running into an Adventist pastor in a Messianic Jewish synagogue, I was introduced to the concept that the seventh-day Sabbath was never “done away with” as many Christians claim. After exhaustively studying the idea in Scripture and pleading with God for guidance, I was convinced that this was indeed the case. I started to keep the 4th Commandment in my home while continuing with my 52-week project. After 10 months of diving into all the different religions and continuously praying the prayer, “Lord, what would you have me do?” I decided that my understanding of Scripture was more in line with Adventist theology than any other, and I was baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist church.
What kind of impact did your conversion have on your friends and family?
I struggled with converting to Christian Adventist because it was a big life change for me. I stopped drinking, smoking, eating unclean meats, and entered into communion with God and other Christians every Friday at sundown until Saturday at sundown. As anyone can imagine, my family and friends started to wonder if I had gone mad. Many were supportive while others continually questioned my beliefs and thought I had taken religion a bit too seriously.
Recently married, I was concerned my husband would be upset by the major changes in my life but he has actually been incredibly supportive. When I asked how he felt with the new person I had become he said, “You’re happier and healthier than I have ever seen you. And you give a day a week to spend time with God. How could someone argue with that? I love it!”
If that wasn’t enough, to support me, he’s given up those same vices as well. My friends and some family members are still getting used to me not being around to drink wine on Friday nights, or going to the shopping mall on Saturday afternoon, but all in all, my decision was well-received.
What advice would you give someone going through the same experience or contemplating a similar conversion?
Be true to God. I cried for weeks thinking about telling my family and friends that I wasn’t going to be drinking anymore and my Saturdays now belonged to God. I literally made myself sick thinking about how to “come out.” I was so worried about what others would think of me, but there’s such a reward for listening to the voice of God over the voice of men. If you feel that God is calling you into a certain direction, and you’ve prayed the prayer, “Lord what would you have me do?” than be willing to say YES when He answers you.
Oh, and this is the best advice I got when I first made the commitment to serve God fully so I’ll share it with you…. As soon as you commit 100% and let everyone know that, it gets so much easier to be obedient to Him. It’s when you’re on the fence and still wishy-washy about your decision where people still think they can talk you out of it or control your decisions. So when you’re ready, be confident, cling to God, and let others know who you serve. This way, everyone you love will know where you stand and it’s time for them to stop suggesting that you do what they’d prefer.
What are three things you have learned in the process?
• If you’re willing to do the things that God has made clear to you, He’ll reveal even more of His will.
• Prayer works. And praying with other people is even better.
• The Bible is an incredible book but it can’t be understood without the Holy Spirit.
Thank you, Jessica.
If you’d like to get in touch with her, you can read her blog project at 52 Prayers, which details her year of worshiping among different traditions, as well as elements of her conversion process. There’s also a 52 Prayers group on Facebook.
Previous conversion interviews: