It was a warm Thursday evening. A young group of people found themselves in the parking lot of a Lowe’s retail store. Each of them carried a black satchel bag filled with books about health, history and hope. Among the group was Juan Hernandez. Like his friends, Hernandez was a canvasser with the Kentucky-Tennessee Conference.
The day for Hernandez was not going too well. He was having a hard time selling books, facing rejection after rejection instead. Standing under the heat, Hernandez felt disappointed.
“God, send me the right person at the right time,” Hernandez prayed.
On the surface, that is the job of a canvasser – to go door to door, or person to person, selling books. During a ten-week program, these young students approach strangers and offer a selection of books for a monetary donation.
The days are packed, working Sunday through Thursday and following an organized schedule from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. The team, composed of 23 canvassers and 5 leaders, cook, clean worship and train together.
“The days are very systematic and purposeful,” said Ivan Martinez, leader of the canvassing program at Taylor Mill, Kentucky. “We want to make sure that our students are thoroughly furnished and properly prepared for the work that’s before them.”
But beyond selling books, canvassers have another, more meaningful goal: to share a message of hope. Among the list of inventories, are History of Freedom and In Search for Peace, also known as The Great Controversy and Steps to Christ, respectively. Canvassers also carry books promoting the health message, like Live Life to the Fullest and Something Better – books with tips and recipes for improving health.
“Selling books is hard, you know? But it’s a privilege,” said Neri Rivera, a canvasser who came all the way from Belize. “Because we are rejected, we are being a witness for Jesus.”
Heisler Aguila says he always tries to put his best smile when knocking on someone’s door, even if the previous house was not interested.
“We are out here not to just sell books, but also to manifest Christ through our character,” Aguilar said. “Maybe their encounter with us is the only connection they’ve had with the church and thinking that I might see someone in heaven because of the work I’m doing here keeps me going.”
According to Martinez, canvassing is also an opportunity for the students involved to grow their relationship with God. Martinez, who started canvassing in 2018, says his role as a leader includes meeting students in their spiritual walk.
“The most rewarding part is when you have students telling you that their lives are completely different because of our programs,” Martinez said. “Seeing God work and transform [the canvassers’] lives make everything worth it. Because this isn’t this isn’t only about the people out in the community, it’s about the kids that we have here.”
Hernandez was still in Lowe’s parking lot when he heard someone calling him out.
“Hey, are you Richard?” the stranger asked.
“No, my name is Juan,” Hernandez replied.
And as simple as that, the two began a conversation. Hernandez explained to the man how he was selling books to raise money for school and explained what each book was about. The man did not seem interested at first, but his attention peaked when Hernandez presented him History of Freedom. Without saying much, the man took out $10 from his wallet and gave it to Hernandez. Hernandez thanked him and the man went on his way.
“As I saw him walk away, I remembered my prayer just a few minutes before,” Hernandez said. “It was amazing, because God send the right person when I needed the encouragement. I wasn’t looking for him. He came to me. The thing is, when your faith is tried that is when your faith grows.”