Many people consider The Great Controversy as having the most powerful influence. Countless stories tell of the book’s impact on people’s lives.
One unusual story about it comes from the Philippine Islands. Regino Balaois had reached the amazing age of 115—at least that is how old he and his friends believed he was. One day Reuben Balosteros, a young colporteur passing through Laguna Province on the island of Luzon, stopped to sell books in Balaois’s little home village of Famyi. Balaois enjoyed sitting in a chair in front of his home and watching the daily life of the village swirl about him. Seeing the ancient man, the Adventist book salesman approached him and soon sold him a copy of The Great Controversy.
After buying the book, Balaois sat down in a shady spot in his backyard and began to read. Having read for a while, he glanced up and noticed something unusual. A white dove had flown into the garden and had begun to circle over the man’s head. Never, he thought, had he seen a bird act quite like that before.
The next day Balaois went out to read again, and again the dove returned, repeating its strange behavior. There must be, he finally decided, some connection between his reading the book and the coming of the bird. He decided to mention the strange event to his friends. “This must be a good book,” he commented, holding up the copy of the book, “because every time I read it, the white dove returns and flies in circles above me. Do you think it is a sign that God has sent the book to teach us?”
Regino Balaois’s age gave him much respect among the villagers, but his tale about the dove naturally caused some doubt among the people. “You’re getting old and seeing things,” someone commented.
“If that is so,” Balaois replied, “then come over to my house and listen to what the book has to say. Watch for yourselves and see if the dove comes when I start reading the book.”
Impressed with the elderly man’s statement, the villagers decided they would come and see what happened. The next day they met in Regino’s garden and silently waited as he began to read. Suddenly someone pointed to the sky. Instantly all heads swiveled in the same direction. To their astonishment they saw a beautiful white dove fluttering and wheeling over the old man’s head. No one could explain the bird’s actions. They could only agree with Balaois’s idea that the power that sent the dove to the garden must approve of their reading the book.
“We must see what the book teaches,” the people of Famyi agreed among themselves. Daily the neighbors came to Regino’s garden and listened to him or another man read from The Great Controversy.
One day as Regino Balaois sat alone reading the book, the dove appeared again. No one had seen it for a while. Suddenly the bird spoke. “Keep the Sabbath,” it commanded.
Instantly he knew what the creature meant—Saturday, the seventh-day Sabbath. He had read about it in the book. Still surprised by the dove’s latest strange deed, Regino summoned his neighbors and told them what had happened, that he believed that God had commanded through the bird that they keep the Sabbath described in the book.
God had a reason for using the dove. Most of the people of the Philippines are Roman Catholic. They believe in miracles and are greatly impressed when they think they see one. Knowing the impact the dove’s actions would have on the villagers of Famyi, God sent it to begin to break the hold of the Catholic Church on the people’s minds. It was the best way of breaking through their superstitions. The miracle of the dove created an interest in the teachings of The Great Controversy and emphasized their importance. The bird’s command helped them to believe in the Sabbath and to have the courage to obey.
Balaois and his friends did not know of a single group that followed the beliefs found in Mrs. Ellen White’s book. They decided to form a church of their own and call it the Church of the Pure Religion. The little group agreed it was a good idea, but one person pointed out that they needed to be baptized. “But who will do it?” another asked.
After discussing the problem among themselves for a while, they decided that Balaois would baptize the man who had helped him read to the villagers. The neighbor, in turn, would baptize Balaois. Then both would baptize the others. The little church had nineteen members. The next time Reuben Balosteros, the colporteur, passed through the area, he visited the group and called in an ordained minister. The minister organized Balaois and his neighbors into the first Seventh-day Adventist Church in the region.
Another miracle connected with the sale of a copy of The Great Controversy took place near Cordelia, California. An Adventist selling door to door sold an English copy of the book to a Catholic Italian immigrant farmer named Oberti. Although Oberti had learned to speak some English, he could not read the language. Oddly, knowing that he couldn’t read the book, he still accepted the delivered copy and paid for it. Oberti put his book on a shelf in the kitchen of his little cabin and returned to work in his cherry orchard.
After dinner that evening he remembered the book. Deciding to look at the pictures, he took it down from the kitchen shelf and opened it. Turning to the frontispiece, he studied it, then flipped past the title page, the publishers’ preface, the introduction, the table of contents, and the list of illustrations, and finally came to the beginning of chapter one. Forgetting that the book was in English, he read the first page and continued on to the next. Suddenly he realized that he understood the English words. Interested in what Mrs. White had to say, he continued reading until he finished the chapter. He went to the second chapter and before many days finished the entire book. God had given him the ability to read the English language.
The ideas Oberti found in the book remained in his mind, and he accepted the teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and joined it. He served as an officer in his local church for many years. In addition, from the day he first started reading The Great Controversy until the end of his life he could read English.
Mrs. White knew the impact her book could have on people. It could reach people who could not be contacted in any other way. The Holy Spirit influenced those who read, convincing them of the truth of what they found. She wrote, “By reading it, some souls will be aroused, and will have courage to unite themselves at once with those who keep the commandments of God.” Colporteur Ministry, 128.
A. Delafield and Gerald Wheeler, Angel Over Her Tent and other stories about Ellen G. White, Review and Herald Publishing Association, Hagerstown, Maryland, 2000, 138–141.