The Life And Times Of M.B. Czechowski
Michael Czechowski was a man of many paradoxes. Proverbially poverty-stricken and constantly in debt, he was not the world’s greatest financial manager but what he lacked in administrative ability he more than made up for in perseverance, zeal and creative determination.
Born in Poland in 1818, he was the type of person that seemed to attract controversy like a magnet wherever he went. He became a Franciscan monk when he was a young man but was soon disillusioned by the lack of spirituality among his brothers. He then set about trying to reform the order but all he succeeded in accomplishing was creating the perfect storm in his little teacup of the Catholic world. Exasperated he wrote to the Pope. He was then imprisoned and exiled to France for three years.
Finally, he threw in the towel, renounced Catholicism and the priesthood and following in the footsteps of other firebrand monks before him, got married and had four children. The family migrated to North America shortly thereafter where he became a Baptist before becoming a Seventh-Day Adventist after a series of meetings in Findlay, Ohio.
He became a celebrity of sorts in the Adventist church by virtue of being a real live ex-catholic priest turned Adventist. He garnered many a mention in the Adventist review and eventually began working as a minister near the Canadian border among French settlers.
Before long, however, he impulsively started up a ministry in New York City which struggled to get off the ground and was soon mired in debt. His prickly temperament and lack of administrative ability made it difficult for his brethren in the church to work with him or fully support his ventures.
Though he caused quite a few waves with his feisty personality and independent thinking, Ellen White commended him as being conscientious and perfectly honest before God. However she also cautioned him with regards to his fiercely independent streak, urging him to work more closely with his brethren and to accept their counsel.
To Counsel Or Not To Counsel
The desire of his heart was to preach the three angels messages in Europe but the General Conference was reluctant to send him. They were concerned about his impulsive nature, headstrong personality and inability to manage his finances and they declined his request to be sent as a missionary to Europe. At this, point Ellen White counselled him to wait upon his brethren instead of rushing out on his own.
He wasn’t inclined to listen to her and instead made his way over to the Advent Christian church where he managed to secure funding for his venture as an Adventist Missionary to Europe. He seems to have left out the Seventh-Day bit in the Adventist pitch which was probably why the Advent Christians, who didn’t believe in the Sabbath or the Sanctuary were willing to bankroll him as a missionary.
However questionable his methods may have been Czechowski made an impact in Europe. He first worked in Torre Pellice in the Waldensian Valleys and then in Switzerland for 3 years where he raised up a company of 40 Sabbath keeping Adventist believers. The first Sabbath keeping Adventist church to be organised outside of North America was in Tramelan in 1867 and was the direct result of Czechowski’s labours.
Unfortunately, Czechowski had failed to mention to his converts that they were, in fact, part of a larger, Sabbath Keeping Adventist body which existed in North America. But, providence intervened and in 1867, one of the church members in Tramelal, Albert Vuilleumier, found a copy of the Review and Herald among Czechowski’s belongings. He began to correspond with the church at Battle Creek and the brethren in America were excited and elated to hear of Sabbath keeping Adventist in Switzerland.
Czechowski bounced around Europe spreading the gospel over the next few years, moving from France, to Germany, to Hungary before finally settling in Romania where he managed to raise up another group of converts. He died from exhaustion in February of 1876, aged just 57.
Czechowski’s legacy is a mixed one, jaded in part by his serious character flaws and lack of administrative ability but God blessed his efforts and his converts were of the highest calibre. Many of them went on to become faithful and consecrated workers in the church but his life leaves us with a big fat what if?
What if he had listened to counsel? What if he had gotten help for his poor administrative skills? What if he had been more open? What if….the list goes on. The moral of the story is that even though God might, in is mercy, bless our efforts because of the earnestness and honesty of our hearts, he might be able to accomplish even more through us if we were only willing to listen to his counsel, take ourselves in hand and make a conscious effort to turn over a new leaf.
- Maxwell, C.M. (1976) – Tell It To The World – The Story of Seventh-Day Adventists
Schawrz, R.W. and Greenleaf, F. (1979) – Light Bearers: A History of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church (Revised Edition)