Harvest Ingathering, a History

R. W. Schwarz, Light Bearers to the Remnant, page 346ff

Ingathering

One program for effective church support, sponsored by the Home Missionary Department, developed almost by accident. This program, for years known as Harvest Ingathering, grew out of the experience of Jasper Wayne, an Iowa nurseryman interested both in missions and in placing Adventist literature in the hands of friends and customers. In 1903 Wayne ordered fifty copies of a special Signs of the Times issue devoted to the problems of capital and labor. When they arrived, he opened the parcel in the post office and began handing out copies to neighbors as they arrived for their mail. As he gave out his papers, Wayne mentioned that any money the recipients cared to give in exchange would be used for missions. Within less than an hour he had disposed of virtually his entire supply of Signs and had received better than four dollars for missions.

About ten days later Wayne received by mistake a second parcel of fifty Signs. Placing these in his buggy, he presented them to customers as he called on them, suggesting an offering for missions in exchange. His first contact gave him fifteen cents, but when a woman later gave twenty-five cents, he decided to suggest this as a minimum donation. In a couple of days Wayne had disposed of his second lot of papers at a profit of over twenty-six dollars. He was so encouraged by this experience that he immediately ordered 400 more copies of the Signs, which he distributed in like manner during the remainder of the year. Later he also sold Ellen White’s Great Controversy and donated the profits to missions.

Jasper Wayne’s enthusiasm over this new way for securing funds to meet mission needs was not shared by all church leaders. Some thought it a poor policy to “beg money from the Gentiles” to support Adventist work. But Wayne would not keep still. While attending the Nebraska camp meeting in 1904 he told his experience to many, including A. T. Robinson, the conference president. From personal experience in Africa and Australia, Robinson knew of the great needs of the mission fields. He persuaded Wayne to share his method with all the campers during a general meeting. W. C. White, in attendance, was captivated by the idea and arranged for Wayne to describe it to his mother, Ellen White. With her strong endorsement the program soon received official conference acceptance.25

Gradually Jasper Wayne’s plan spread from conference to conference, winning the official endorsement of the General Conference Committee in 1908. The last week in November was officially designated as the period for making this united effort; 400,000 copies of a special “missions issue” of the Review were printed for distribution. These were presented free to each person contacted, along with a brief description of the work Adventists were carrying out in other lands and an invitation to assist in financing their endeavors. The funds collected in this first “Thanksgiving Offering” exceeded expenses by $30,000 and enabled the Mission Board to dispatch twenty-five new missionaries overseas. This success convinced church leaders to utilize Wayne’s methods in an annual campaign, replacing a church-wide “Harvest Ingathering” offering established several years earlier. For this offering, patterned after the ancient Israelite Feast of Ingathering at the end of the harvest season, church members had been encouraged to sell products of their fields and gardens and donate the proceeds to missions. A new plan simply inherited an old name.26

Through the years the Ingathering campaign (the Harvest prefix was dropped in 1942) expanded greatly. The special issue of the Review used for solicitation was successively replaced by issues of the Signs of the Times and the Watchman (the predecessor of These Times). In addition to articles describing Adventist evangelistic work around the world, these special issues carried accounts of the church’s publishing, medical, and city welfare endeavors. Early issues also included a doctrinal article, such as the significance of the great image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, re- corded in Daniel 2.

Slowly the one week originally allotted the Harvest Ingathering campaign lengthened to several months, until by 1922 the General Conference found it necessary to establish a six-weeks’ limit. Year by year the funds brought in increased; by 1927 over $5,250,000 had been received to advance Adventist missions. Small wonder that some tended to forget that Jasper Wayne’s original purpose had not been solely to secure money, but to call the distinctive Adventist message to the attention of those contacted. In an effort to recapture this evangelistic purpose, church leaders in 1930 recommended that a doctrinal tract in addition to the regular Ingathering paper be left with each person contacted.27

Actually it was only during the first several years that the entire Ingathering offering was devoted to overseas missions. The first break in this pattern involved using some of the funds collected to reach recent immigrants to America. The brief recession following World War I led to assigning additional Ingathering funds to finance work in America, and this trend was greatly increased during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Appeals made by solicitors in the United States tended to vary according to the current level of American interest and concern for other parts of the world.

Like the rest of the Adventist program, Ingathering campaigns soon became standard in all countries in which Seventh-day Adventists developed an organized work. There were, of course, local adaptations; some areas stressed the educational, medical, and welfare work done locally, while others emphasized the needs of less fortunate peoples elsewhere. Efforts were made to involve virtually every church member. The timid could participate in “singing bands” while those who were braver made house-to-house calls; the elderly and infirm might solicit by mail. “Field days,” declared near the start of each fall term, allowed students in Adventist schools to scatter throughout the neighboring countryside with their bundles of Ingathering papers and their offering cans.

In spite of occasional stories of former Adventists reclaimed and new members tracing their first contacts with the church to an Ingathering solicitor, the program’s major contribution was in the large amount of funds made available for denominational work. More than $136 million was collected during the first fifty-five years following the official adoption of Jasper Wayne’s idea. The total received during 1975 exceeded eight million dollars in North America alone.28

25. A. W. Spalding, Origin and History of Seventh-day Adventists, 4 vols. (1962), III: 187-195; S.DA.
Encyclopedia, pp. 645, 646; Review, February 1, 1906, pp. 18, 19.

26. Review, June 11,1908, p. 6; September 9, 1909, p. 24; R. G. Bowes, “The Life of Jasper Wayne,”
unpublished term paper, Andrews University (1973), Andrews University Heritage Room.

27. Review, November 4, 1909, passim, November 3, 1910, passim; October 6, 1927, p. 11; General
Conference Bulletin, May 24, 1922, p. 30; June 19, 1930, p. 235.

28. S. Cromwell, “Developments in the Use of Harvest Ingathering Funds,” unpublished term paper,
Andrews University (1969), Andrews University Heritage Room; Review, September 4, 1930, passim;
August 11, 1932, pp. 17-19; S.DA. Encyclopedia, p. 646.

http://www.adventistarchives.org/docs/LBTTR/LBTTR1979/index.djvu?djvuopts&page=346

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