FAR AWAY PLACES CALLING
Going to new places has always been very exciting for Lillian. She feels revitalized by what she sees and by what she learns, declaring that she has never taken a dull or boring trip! It is always an adventure for her to meet new people, to learn their customs and to experience the food, the music and the art of the locale. She suspects that her most recent excursion, a delightfully enjoyable tour of Grasslands National Park in southwestern Saskatchewan, which she took during the summer of 1994, might have been considered tedious and uninteresting by some people, but certainly not to her.
Even as a very small child, Lillian was caught up in the romance of travel. She dreamed of journeys to far away places and often concocted a whole trip in her mind. If you remember, she got herself into hot water as a child one time by escalating an unexceptional visit to family members a few miles away into a journey of some length and importance for the benefit of her school friends! She feels pretty confident that her desire to see new places and things came from her father. She has often said that if he'd lived long enough he probably would have wound up in Peace River or Alaska.
Each place she visits has its own particular charm. She has been thoroughly fascinated in finding the stories that go with the periods and places she has visited; if it does have any historical significance, she enjoys mentally visualizing the events that happened on that very spot. When she was at Gettysburg she could visualize Lincoln making his famous address there. At Stratford-upon-Avon she saw the play Hamlet, and envisioned Shakespeare sitting in that identical theatre. When she travelled to the World War I Trenches of Death in Belgium, our Canadian soldiers, who died by the thousands in those very ditches, filled her imagination.
In some places that she has visited, the history and ambiance were provided. She remembers vividly her visit to the ruins of an ancient monastery in Ireland.. To provide atmosphere for the tourists, tapes of Gregorian chants were playing in the background. Her spine tingled as she pictured the monks walking down those deserted corridors, chanting or praying as they went.
Lillian travels at every opportunity! Many of her summers both before and during her Radville years were spent travelling, often at the invitation of good friends like the Orrs and the Baileys. One summer she went to California, another to Searcy Arkansas and the eastern states, and another to Ontario. Whenever she accepted an invitation to travel with someone, she paid for her share of the expenses; she recalls paying one cent a mile on one trip with the J.C. Baileys!
Each trip she took left her with a little more understanding of and appreciation for the captivating beauty of God's world and the people who populate it. There were, however, three major trips that made an unforgettable impact on her - her trip to British Columbia in 1935, the trip to Europe and Israel given to her by her former students in 1970 and her trip to Norway in 1974, where she found some of her relatives. Her memories of those and many of her other trips are in vivid technicolour.
Her first big trip was to Vancouver during the summer of 1935, and it was this great adventure that firmly imbedded the travel bug deep into her very being. It was still depression days and Tom Orr (Wilfred's father) had gone to Vancouver to look for work. When he was successful in finding a job, it was time for his wife Alice and their youngest daughter Gertrude to join him. When Wilfred decided to drive them out there, there were three empty spaces left in the car! Lillian, Clarice and Signe, all now teachers and always eager for adventure, offered to help pay the cost of the trip if they could go along and share the expenses.
Wilfred was taking not only his mother and sister, but the family car as well, which meant he would be leaving it in Vancouver with his father and they would have no car to drive home. When Lillian first heard about the trip she was eager to go, but had no money. If you remember, she had taught at Lake Alma that year and had received only seventy of her five hundred and fifty dollar salary. Clarice did have a little money though, and she offered to lend Lillian thirty dollars. This would pay for her share of the trip as well as all other expenses, including food. So away they all went, quite unconcerned about how they were going to get home!
After teaching all year and then quickly moving from that into three weeks of summer Bible school, Lillian was ready for a holiday. On July 1, her parents, sisters, Clarice and Eleanora and Mary Curtiss took her to meet the rest of the group at Jelsings in Blooming. The whole group sang God Be With You and the expedition got under way. And what an expedition it was! Travelling through the mountains was no small feat in those days. They were gone about two and a half weeks, travelling through the United States because Canadian roads through the mountains were not yet reliable enough.
They drove all night, stopping occasionally to buy food or find out where they were! Sometime after midnight Lillian and Clarice ran down a street trying to find the name of one small town. Close to 4:00 a.m. they were again on the street of a small town; this time they found a circus setting up to open the next day! Signe was so intrigued with it they had a struggle getting her back in the car again.
By morning they felt the need to refresh themselves so - just before 9:00 a.m., they stopped in the middle of the main street of Devon, Montana where Lillian and Clarice begged a pan of water which they then used for washing, brushing teeth, etc. In her diary, Lillian says, "We made coffee over a garbage fire, which was drunk by five people using two cups."
Lillian saw mountains for the first time and she still remembers what a "great and marvellous thrill" it was. They drove slowly for a while so that they could "feast their eyes on God's handiwork", as she wrote in her diary. It was one grand view after another - thousands of daffodils blooming just a few feet from snow banks, clouds above and below them as they ascended and descended the mountains, sparkling waterfalls, tunnels through the mountains, winding switchback roads, not to mention the wonder of having a snowball fight and seeing snowplows working in July!
It was definitely an economy trip! They bought bread, cheese and fruit which they ate in the car. The second night they stopped by the side of the road to sleep for a few hours; Clarice, Signe and Lillian made a bed on the ground, with two thin layers of clothing under them and a good warm quilt over them. They felt quite refreshed when they set out again at 4:00 a.m.
They made one stop near Coeur D'Alene in Idaho to visit Signe's sister Annie Clemetson. They spent a night and a day there and then set out again in the evening. It was some time after midnight, while Gertrude was driving, that Wilfred, who had been peacefully sleeping beside her sat bolt upright; stomped his feet on the floor; hollered, "Hold it!" and tried to wrestle the steering wheel away from her! He finally woke up with Signe pinching him, Clarice grabbing his shoulder, and Gertrude valiantly trying to keep the car out of the ditch! They finally arrived in Vancouver the evening of July 23, four days after they left Saskatchewan.
When they got to Vancouver they stayed at the home of Mrs. Orr's brother. The six days they spent on the coast gave the girls ample opportunity for sightseeing. They even took the ferry over to Victoria, which was another great adventure; that trip cost them each one dollar return. Lillian kept such copious notes on everything they did that somebody thought that she was a reporter for the London Gazette or the Vancouver Times.
Clarice had brought an extra thirty dollars, enough money to buy a car they could drive back, so while the girls enjoyed the sights of Victoria and Vancouver, Wilfred went car shopping. In fact, he spent the whole time there searching for a satisfactory car. He found one that had lots of gadgets on it, but Clarice said, no, she wasn't paying for gadgets! He finally found an old Chevrolet touring car with attached curtains and a fold up top that suited her and that they hoped would get them home.
On the morning of July 29, they embarked on the trip back. There were just four of them now, Wilfred, Clarice, Signe and Lillian. They had a little excitement in Washington, first with Clarice nearly hitting a car, and then problems with some watermelon seeds! We're not sure what all happened, but we are sure about the car going into a rather deep ditch and the girls having a good push to get it out.
The girls were in high spirits and as Lillian said in her diary, "The girls wanted some more excitement; they got it. Wilfred picked up some boys on the highway; it was strange how quiet the car suddenly became!" The hitchhikers stayed with them for the rest of that day; tried to help when the car broke down (the first time), but finally left them during the night as they were once again camped beside the road with car trouble. Wilfred worked on the car while the girls went mountain climbing and wading in the Fraser River. He couldn't find a connecting rod to fit, so finally he put in a piece of leather, and they set off again.
Oysters were a real bargain, so they bought some and made oyster soup. Of course, part of the problem was that prairie-bred Clarice, who made the soup, didn't know that the oysters needed to be cleaned first, to get rid of the sand! But their funds were limited, so gritty oyster soup became the staple diet for several days!
The car wasn't what they had hoped it would be, and as you've already heard, it wasn't long before they were having problems! About seven miles from the summit of one mountain they crossed, the connecting rod broke again. As Wilfred started to hitchhike the seventy five miles into Wenatchee for help, three very nervous young ladies sat alone, contemplating the possibility of a two day wait! Providentially, they sat only a short while when a car slowly passed them, stopped and backed up. It was a school teacher from North Dakota and she offered to tow them into Wenatchee.
And what a ride that was! She raced down the mountain, around the curves, on narrow roads with no guard rails, using a tow rope that broke numerous times! Lillian and Signe rode in the shiny new Ford with Audrey Barnhardt, their rescuer, while Clarice and Wilfred sat in the car being towed. Clarice's self-appointed job was to continuously butter bread and poke it into Wilfred's mouth to keep him chewing and awake. The other two, frightened though they were, were watching all of this from the car in front and shaking with laughter. There were some harrowing moments when they wondered if they'd ever make it. It was, in Lillian and Clarice's words, "an unforgettable experience"!
They decided to spend the night there in Wenatchee and they looked up some members of the church. The J.C. Bunn family was very gracious to them, feeding them, introducing them to other church people and giving them the royal tour of the area.
They left the next day and things went well until about five miles past a town - they ran out of gas! Again Wilfred went for help, leaving the girls alone. They decided they would push the car, which they did, until another fellow traveller came along and towed them back to town. Later that day, they had a flat tire; and the next day, as they approached Coeur D'Alene, they burned out another connecting rod! Out and push again! Again a helpful fellow traveller and again a tow - this time into Coeur D'Alene!
They left Signe at her sister's place and the other three took a little side trip to try and find Clarice's aunt. It was night; they were all very tired; Wilfred fell asleep and drove off the road into the side of a bridge. No great damage was done and so off they went again, this time with Clarice driving! At one point on that long trip back, they were all so very tired they decided to stop at the home of a preacher that Wilfred knew and get some rest. There was no one home, so they climbed in the window and made good use of the beds. Those were certainly different times!
They finally got home to Saskatchewan and how excited and free they felt to be back in Canada and on the prairies. A wonderful trip, but home looked better than ever! However, the travel bug had bitten deeply. The girls decided that the trip had been such a sensational experience that they would travel again - as soon as they had some more money! By the way, soon after their return, Clarice sold the car for the same price she'd paid for it. After all, it wasn't proper for young female teachers to have cars!
Regrettably, the three friends never did travel together again. It wasn't long before both Clarice and Signe married and were soon too busy raising their families to travel with Lillian. Lillian was the bridesmaid at Signe's wedding, and was asked to be the soloist at Clarice's wedding. (A fact she can hardly believe now, as she looks back on it!)
Lillian still has some very vivid memories of that trip. It was her first real trip as an adult and it opened her eyes to the wonders of travel. It amazes her when she thinks about it now that she could take such a two and a half week trip and pay her share of the expenses with only thirty dollars! She recalls well the exhilaration of seeing the mountains for the first time; while she has never wanted to live in the mountains, it was a tremendous experience to see them in all of their rugged magnificence. And, of course, she can still picture that sea of yellow daffodils juxtaposed against huge snowdrifts.
Nor will she ever forget all the car trouble. She says now, "It is amazing that we ever got home!" The brightest of her colourful reminiscences is the comical mental image she has of Clarice, Signe and herself rolled up in blankets, sleeping by the side of the road!
Another of Lillian's travel adventures was during the summer of 1944. After her busy year in university, Lillian was definitely ready for a holiday. Signe and Clarice were both married, so she decided to go to Ontario by herself. She spent six weeks visiting family and friends and seeing the sights. Her first three nights in Toronto she stayed in Willard Hall, a women's residence. The cost was one dollar and twenty-five cents a night! After that she was invited to stay in homes of church people.
The whole trip was a wonderful experience for her, visiting art galleries and museums, exploring historic sites and enjoying symphony concerts. As always, she kept a diary of the trip, and when she got home, she wrote the details of the three outstanding events of the summer.
The first was the train trip from Franz to Sault Ste.Marie. The scenery was breathtaking; she felt an almost ferocious power of nature that reminded her of Milton's Paradise Lost. She said, "I suppose every person has hidden somewhere that desire for communion with the majestic mingled with not gentle, but near cruel power. Is that, I wonder, a link with the divine?"
The second memorable event was the trip from Toronto to Niagara Falls. It was a three hour trip by boat and then seven miles by bus to the falls. She rode on the Maid Of The Mist and was amazed at the power and strength of the falls. She was standing behind a couple who were talking and overheard one of them say, "Oh, isn't that cute." Whatever adjectives Lillian could think of to describe Niagara Falls, cute was definitely not one of them!
From the falls, she walked to Queenston Heights to view Brock's Monument. She had taught about it for years and had always thought of it as a bare hill, similar to the ones in the Lake Alma area. She was shocked to discover a completely wooded hill.
The third event that was unforgettable was a symphony concert at Varsity Hall in Toronto. There were five thousand in attendance and it brought back memories of her normal school days when she had been exposed to so much beautiful music. The encore to the evening's performance made a profound impact on her and she wrote in her diary:
Erno Rapce conducted one of the most powerful, striking, forceful, vigorous selections I ever heard. It was familiar, but the name would not enter my mind. It hurled defiance, courage and triumphant victory against the foe. I wonder if it isn't one of the new patriotic war songs; the audience was so stirred. It was amusing to me the way hundreds started rushing out at the conclusion to get to their cars, but when the encore started, people stopped in their tracks, almost mesmerized. The applause was thunderous. It was one of the most stirring bits of music I ever heard.Lillian never had the opportunity to study music, but she has always responded to it. She says, "It relaxes me and keeps me sane, like walking does".
THE GREAT GIFT, 1970
We have described elsewhere Lillian's complete surprise and disbelief when her former students and other friends presented her with two thousand dollars for a trip to Europe and Israel. This was her first overseas trip and it was truly one of the most incredible experiences of her life. Here are some excerpts of her account that appeared in the Western Christian Messenger:
On July 29, Gertrude Weeks and I left by jet from Regina on our journey that took us through fourteen countries during the following forty-six days. During that time we visited friends in Roeselare and Klagenfurt, met missionaries in London, Heidelberg, Vienna and Athens, toured historical sites in Ypres, Rome and Paris, viewed art treasures in Ghent, Amsterdam and the Vatican. We enjoyed a Shakespearean production in Stratford, a medieval banquet in Bunratty Castle in Ireland, a symphony concert in Albert Hall in London and an opera at the Baths of Caracalla just outside of Rome.
We travelled by train through England, France and Italy, by bus and guided tour of eight countries that included Switzerland and Germany, by boat down the beautiful blue Danube River and across the English Channel, by car in Israel and Belgium, by horse at Killarney in Ireland, and by jet over large bodies of water, stopping at ten different airports.
The highlight of these countless rich experiences was our visit to Israel. How does a rather conservative northerner express one's gratitude for having the opportunity to stand on the Mount of Olives, to climb the Tower of David, to see the Tomb of the Patriarchs at Hebron, or The Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem or the Sea of Galilee?
She sent her parents forty-eight aerograms during those forty-six days, chronicling the exciting details of her adventure. Her mother kept those letters which Lillian later photocopied and put into an album. This has given her a wonderful history of that summer. She still overflows with gratitude for that gift. Not long after she got home she wrote the following for the Alumni Reporter:
How does one briefly summarize the experience of forty-six days packed with sightseeing, visiting old friends, making new friends, attending worship services in foreign lands, touring famous art galleries and enjoying musical productions. It just cannot be done and therefore I should end this editorial now. Yet you who were so kind as to make all of these experiences possible deserve to know some of the highlights of our tour of fourteen countries of Europe and of Israel. I am in a dilemma.
Vivid flashing pictures race through my mind as I recall the changing of the guard at Buckingham palace, the raw winds on Castle Rock in Edinburgh, the excitement of the medieval banquet at Bunratty Castle in Ireland, the one hundred steps up Blarney Castle to kiss its legendary stone, the sea wind washing my face as I stood on the deck of the Invicta, facing the white cliffs of Dover, the dark mystery of the Black Forest, the taxi trip climbing the narrow winding streets of Heidelberg, the picturesque beauty of tiny Liechtenstein and my long walk to the Mozarteum in Salzburg, rewarded by a very beautiful Mozart concert in the room where he used to entertain his family and friends.
Or, I recall driving through the magnificent mountains of beautiful Austria or touring forty unbelievably richly styled rooms of the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna, or viewing the ruins of the ancient Colosseum and the Roman Forum, or riding the Metro in Paris, or walking in the dark catacombs of Rome, or listening to the music of Aida at the Baths of Caracalla, or studying Michelangelo's Madonna and Child in Brugge, or travelling through the stark desolateness of the wilderness of Judea, or tasting the bitter saltiness of the Dead Sea............ or ...... or ..........! There is no end! You made this dream of a lifetime come true. Thank you. Thank you!"
As she looks back on that trip now, there are three outstanding highlights that remain bright in her memory. The first was seeing Hamlet performed in Stratford, the second, the performance of Verdi's Aida at the Baths of Caracalla in Rome. The third and most meaningful was walking the streets of Jerusalem and Bethlehem in the very places where Jesus walked. She remembers so vividly taking her lunch and walking down to the Sea of Galilee to get away from the crowds. She sat on a rock, took out her New Testament and read with fresh eyes some of the scriptures where the Sea was involved; like, for instance, Peter walking on the water during the great storm on the sea.
MEETING RELATIVES IN NORWAY, 1983
It had long been another dream of Lillian's to acquire some knowledge of her heritage, and, if possible, to find some of her relatives in Norway. So, in the Spring of 1983, accompanied by good friend Clarice Mooney, she set out to do just that. But before they joined their tour group that would take them to Norway, they spent four days in London. Needless to say, she didn't waste a minute of that time; she set out sightseeing and was particularly impressed with the National Art Gallery as well as Windsor Castle.
Windsor is out in the country near a town of approximately ten thousand people. It was built by William the Conqueror as one of nine fortifications to protect the city of London. Only two of those fortifications remain, Windsor and the Tower of London. Because the Queen was not in residence, they were able to view the state apartments. The china and the furnishings were magnificent and priceless paintings by the masters hung on the walls. Even the ceilings were richly ornamented.
The National Art Gallery was an aesthetic feast for her as well and between the two venues she was brimming with enthusiasm over the many new slides she was able to acquire for her art history class. It was a wonderful experience for her, again seeing originals of paintings she had been teaching.
As tired as they were from their long days of sightseeing, she was impatient to get started on their sixteen day bus tour that would take them through Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Holland and Belgium. When they arrived in Oslo, she left the tour for a day to spend time with some of her relatives, second and third cousins. It was the weekend, and Lillian phoned for information about the time and place for church service. She had intended to take a taxi, but the brethren there wouldn't hear of it.
She was picked up by Romeo and Rebecca Ilao at her hotel. They took her to the English speaking service in the home of Naomi Morley, whose husband was an American embassy employee. Lunch was served following the church service, and while visiting, Lillian discovered to her delight, that Naomi, while living in India, had met Allan and Betty Jacobs. What a small world it is in the church fellowship! Lillian had taught Allan during her very first year of teaching, back in Glen Curren! The Ilaos took her sightseeing for a couple of hours after the brunch and then took her back to her hotel.
Einar Engoy, who had agreed to take her to meet some cousins and act as her interpreter, picked her up at about two. He was a highly educated high school teacher, with seven years of university training in Oslo, and then two years of Bible study at Sunset School of Preaching in Lubbock, Texas. He had been taught the gospel by Magnar Knutson, another of her former students from Radville, and in fact, it had been Magnar who had helped her make the arrangements for him to interpret for her.
Einar had made prior contact with the cousins, so they were expected when they arrived at the home of Peter and Astrid Grottumsbraaten, about fifteen miles out of Oslo. The ride to Sorkedalen was spectacular, with deep valleys and heavily treed hillsides. The Grottumsbraatens live in a red house that, as far as Lillian could figure out, was the house in which her father had been born. What a thrill! Several other relatives were there to meet her as well, all related through Lillian's grandmother, Maren Torkelson. She had been born Maren Hansen and had grown up on the Grottumsbraaten farm. The local custom was that over time, people could, if they wished, take as their last name the name of the farm where they were born. Her host family had done that.
The relatives treated her royally. Astrid had produced a beautifully laid out smorsbord, made up of many different kinds of open-faced sandwiches (Lillian had never seen so many!). She also served a Norwegian cake, consisting of many layers, interspersed with fruit and topped with a whipped cream icing. The table was decorated with fresh flowers and lighted candles which, after visits in several other homes, she concluded must also be a custom.
Lillian saw Astrid's native costume and fell in love with it. It was of such delicate workmanship and was so beautifully decorated she thought she would like to buy one. When she found out it would cost her close to two thousand dollars, she quickly changed her mind!
Lillian had known before she went to Norway that she had a first cousin, Johann Grottumsbraaten, who had been a world class skier. At the Olympic Games in 1928 he had won the gold medal for the eighteen kilometer cross country, also the gold medal for the Nordic Combined event. Four years later, in 1932, he again won the gold in the Nordic Combined event; he is even mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records. So it was bewildering to her that none of the relatives seemed to want to talk about him.
She asked about skiing because, in Norway, everyone skis. (A common saying is that Norwegians are born on skis.) Several of the cousins showed her their own skiing trophies, some of them national champions, but none of them said a word about Johann. Lillian's cousin, Kenneth Torkelson, had had the same experience when he visited Norway the year before. Neither of them could figure out why the relatives seemed so reluctant to talk about their famous cousin.
On the other hand, being Johann Grottumsbraaten's cousin opened doors for her a little later!
One of the families in the church offered to take her sightseeing, since she had missed that being away from the tour. When she was asked where she would like to go she quickly replied, "the parliament buildings". They got inside the doors (accidentally, it turned out), but there were no tours allowed while the parliament was in session, which it was. However, when the men at the entrance learned that they were not local people and that Lillian was related to the great Grottumsbraaten, the older man (even older than she!) seemed to say, "Oh, so you're related to Johann Grottumsbraaten, the great skier. He died this spring." It was obvious he had known him. At that point the old man's face lit up; he talked to the younger man and they were allowed in.
She was quite puzzled about the two different reactions. She did know that during W.W. II, Johann was captured by the Nazis and forced to train ski patrols for them. His brother, on the other hand, fought with the Resistance movement and was subsequently killed. She wondered if perhaps there was some bitterness among the relatives because Johann survived the war by helping the Nazis (even though forced to do so), while his brother died fighting the Nazis. And the old man at the parliament buildings? Perhaps he had forgiven. It left her wanting to know more about the whole situation. She was reminded once again about the horror of war, dividing families and creating such sad and tragic situations.
Lillian has scores of memorable moments from her plentiful, but less spectacular journeys. She could easily say something significant about every trip she has taken in the last sixty years, but she has some very special memories from some of those travels. She remembers so well her trip to Yellowknife in June one year, and her charter flight to Coppermine, North West Territories; Robbie Robinson, a former student, took her for a walk on the Arctic Ocean with three inches of water on top of the ice! She also felt privileged to see an Inuit performance that same day.
In 1954, she and her old friend from normal school days, Ellen Black took a trip to Edmonton, Banff and on out to Creston, B.C., where Ellen's sister Frances was living. She remembers the moment, somewhere between Banff and Creston, when it was announced that Roger Bannister had broken the four minute mile.
She remembers when she went to California for the first time with the J.C. Baileys. One of the great delights of that trip for her was to see the original paintings of Gainsborough's Blue Boy and Lawrence's Pinkie.
She remembers her wonderful trip to Montreal's Expo with Pearl and Wilfred Orr and Anita Carruth in 1967. However, the real highlight of that trip for Lillian was not in Montreal at all, but in Ottawa. She had taught Canadian history with fervour for many years; to actually observe parliament in session and hear debates in progress was very special indeed!
She was not very impressed though, with the way members conducted themselves - reading the newspaper, writing letters, visiting with other members, rather than listening to whomever was speaking. That is, until John Diefenbaker got up to speak! The former Prime Minister, then Leader of the Opposition and member from Saskatoon, immediately drew everyone's attention. Even though he was now an old man, his presence electrified the room for the first time that afternoon and all members were alert and listening.
CANYONS AND CAVES
In 1990, Jim and Alice Williams took Lillian to the Grand Canyon, one of the most spectacular views to be seen anywhere. It was a snowy, foggy day, with near zero visibility. She wondered if it was even worth going, or whether they'd be able to see anything at all. The fog was still hanging over the canyon as they approached the watch tower and then, almost miraculously, the fog lifted and the sun came out. It was a most beautiful sight! The colours were changing in the light of the sun from brilliant red to lavender brown to sand, and cream, and grey. The ridges, the hills and valleys, the rocky cliffs were all breathtaking!
~On her 1992 trip to the eastern United States, she took a tour to the Luray Caverns in Virginia. To descend into the caves, it was a one and a half hour walk and then sixty-seven steps down! Some people there questioned whether an eighty year old woman could manage that. Obviously they didn't know Lillian Torkelson! And of course she was so keen to see what was down there she decided to try it.
Once again, the breathtaking sights were well worth the effort! There was a most amazing stalacpipe organ down there. It is the largest organ of its kind in the world and it plays music of concert quality on these stone formations. The stalactites and stalagmites were the pipes and she listened in amazement as the grand hymn A Mighty Fortress was played on it.
~Another impressive chain of caves that had a great impact on Lillian was the catacombs of Rome. In addition to their being a burial place, these dark sepulchers were often the meeting places of the early Christians who were being persecuted. The tour guide showed them the tombs, most of which had been opened by early barbarians looking for gold. There are four layers and eleven miles of these tunnels. Lillian dawdled a lot because there were so many fascinating things to examine. It was pitch black in there, and the guide, who led the way with a large torch, kept urging them to keep up with the group. Lillian suspected he was getting a little impatient with her when, at one point, he said, "Don't worry if you see bones. That's just tourists that didn't keep up with their guide!"
INSPIRING EXPERIENCES MEETING BRETHREN
In the fall of 1992, Lillian and Ivy Pawlak took a historic tour of the eastern United States, beginning in Washington, D.C. The tour began on the Sunday evening, so they looked for a congregation of the Church of Christ to attend in the morning. They wanted to visit the National Art Gallery in the afternoon, so chose the one closest to that. When they got to the church they discovered it was an Afro- American congregation and they were the only white people there.
The fellowship was delightful; everyone was very friendly, and they were made to feel completely at home. Neither Ivy nor Lillian will ever forget that Sunday morning worship service! It was one and a half hours long. The sermon was about twenty-five minutes long and with the exception of the communion, the rest was singing. And what singing it was! The sound of those two hundred voices raised in praise to God was so inspiring they were all but walking on air the rest of the day!
When she went to Papua New Guinea with Clarice Mooney in 1988, they went to several church services, but the one that sticks in her memory is the service out in one of the villages, where Jim and Bessie McGeachy took them. They met in the home of a middle class, well educated family. The part of the service that most affected Lillian was the people sitting on the floor around the emblems of the Lord's Supper, not because they were poor, but because that was the way they wanted to do it.
The great generosity of the church in Oslo made a lasting impression on her as well. Their insistence that she not take a taxi but accept a ride, their hospitality at the meal following the church service, and their taking her sightseeing as well, were all warm reminders of the wonderful fellowship there is among believers.
She well remembers, what was to her, a different custom that she observed in Vienna in 1970. When she and Gertrude Weeks walked into the meeting place, everyone cordially shook hands with them, as well as with everyone else in the room. The church service lasted about three hours, and then, as they left, everyone shook hands again! She also remembers that congregation's thoughtfulness about language difficulties. While the whole service was in German, they could pretty well follow what was being said during the Lord's Supper. But when it came time for the sermon, she, Gertrude and another tourist were asked if they would like to go into another room, where the sermon would be translated into English for them.
Also in 1970, they were in London one Sunday. They attended Hope Chapel in the morning, and then in the afternoon, they went to the Wembley congregation where the songleader happened to be the son of Roy Whitfield. Do you remember her meeting him while she was still in her teens and he visited in her home as he travelled around with H.A. Rogers? She was delighted to get to visit with him more that evening as the whole congregation was invited to the Whitfield home for a pizza party, incidentally, her first introduction to pizza.
Still in 1970, she and Gertrude had an interesting experience as a result of their meeting with the brethren in Athens. Their intention was to fly to Israel that afternoon, but it was just three years after the Seven Days War and Gertrude was quite nervous about going. So they had decided before they left their hotel that morning that they would ask about the safety of their plans while they were at church.
They went to the English service where most of the people were American service personnel. The first man she asked thought it was too dangerous, so she asked another who said, "It's safe. I was there last week and had no trouble at all." Lillian told Gertrude what the second man said, but not the first! One of the couples from the church took them to the airport, and they were both very glad they did go to Israel. It was one of the greatest highlights of that trip, or of any of her trips, for that matter.
~It is always a thrill for her to see former students participating fully in the life of the church. One time when she was visiting in Victoria, she counted eleven men that participated in the service that Sunday morning; nine of them were former students of Western Christian College. She was so delighted to be present there that day!
She also had a wonderful experience with former students in Ontario several years ago. She and Hazel Straker travelled together to visit Walter and Shirley Straker and then to attend Great Lakes Christian College Lectureship. They were invited to a Western Thanksgiving before they came home. There were seventy-five people present; all had either worked at RCC or WCC, had been a student or was a spouse. It was truly a red letter day for Lillian!
Lillian has visited in many, many different congregations, and has always found her brothers and sisters both hospitable and friendly, able to make her feel completely at home. She considers the church to be a tremendous support group, and is daily grateful for the fellowship of the church, one of the great blessings of being a Christian.
Published in The Old Paths Archive