John Nevins Andrews stood on the deck with his two teenage children, Charles and Mary, and listened to the waves lapping against the ship that was to take them across the Atlantic. After several weeks of preparation and prayer they were ready to go. He wished his wife Angeline could have been there with them, but she had died of a stroke two years earlier.
It was the year 1874, and the church leaders had asked J. N. Andrews to travel to Europe as a missionary. He knew the work wouldn’t be easy, but he was determined to do his best to spread the good news. Ellen White later wrote to the church leaders in Europe, “We sent you the ablest man in our ranks.”
As a boy, J. N. Andrews never dreamed of becoming a missionary. He was born on July 22, 1829, in Poland, Maine, on the eastern coast of the United States. He attended school only until he was 11, but he never stopped learning. In fact, some people say that he was fluent in seven languages and could recite the New Testament by memory!
His uncle Charles, who was a member of the U.S. Congress, offered to pay for his education. “You could study law and become a politician,” he said. But when J. N. Andrews accepted the seventh-day Sabbath at the age of 15, he decided to become an Adventist minister.
J. N. Andrews helped the young Adventist Church in many ways. He wrote important papers and books. He spoke at meetings until he was too hoarse to preach. He studied the Bible and helped believers determine that the Sabbath began at sunset on Fridays. He traveled to Washington, D.C., and worked to get noncombatancy status for Adventists during the Civil War. And, in 1867, he was elected president of the General Conference.
Even though he was an important man in the Adventist Church, J. N. Andrews was never too busy to be kind and friendly. During the first official camp meeting, which was held in Wright, Michigan, he walked around the tents asking people, “Are you comfortable for the night?”
He became the first official Seventh-day Adventist overseas missionary and, with his children, worked hard to start an Adventist printing press in Switzerland and helped establish the church there. They didn’t have much money, but they were glad to be working for God.
While still serving as a missionary, in Europe, J. N. Andrews died of tuberculosis at the age of 54. He is buried in Basel, Switzerland.
To learn more about other Adventist pioneers, check out: whiteestate.org/VEZ.