Betty's Bouts and Battles
by E.C. Roemer
Last October, Betty Roemer was honoured by the Western Christian College Alumni Association conferring upon her a Certificate of Recognition for distinguished and valuable service in the field of religious education.
Betty, a former Saskatchewan public school teacher, has spent more than twenty-one years teaching the message of Christ chiefly in Germany and now at Klagenfurt, Austria.
In this booklet she briefly outlines her childhood, her handicapping illness, her early teaching years, and her first contact with simple New Testament Christianity before she describes her rich and varied experiences as a full-time worker for Christ in Europe.
On behalf of the Western Christian College Alumni Association, I wish to echo Betty's concluding words of this very interesting and exciting story of a woman dedicated completely to the service of the Lord.It is my sincerest wish that many a young person reading this story will be inspired to devote the best of his years and his talents in the serving of the great Master.
Lillian M. Torkelson
BETTY'S BOUTS AND BATTLES
Once upon a snow-storming morning in October of 1913, a particularly over-sized snow flake made its way down into a cozy old-country-styled cradle in the farm home owned by John and Marie Roemer, some three miles east of the town of Wolseley, in Saskatchewan. The hosts of the fair new-comer named it, (the baby) Elisabeth Christina, after their own mothers. John and Marie (Fehler) Roemer being originally from Germany and Austria, nicknamed their baby Lischen - having the connotation of Little Lisa. This was the name I was to be known by in my tender years.
Those tender or pre-school years passed all too quickly as only a mother can tell, but somehow they were not too early to get into heaps of mischief. According to my mother I could get into more of that than all the others put together - I doubt that, especially since I knew of the mischief others got into, but just weren't found out! My sister, Mary, being one and one-half year older than I and thereby a well-informed scholar, had many a tale to tell of what school was all about. My interest or curiosity had been aroused so that I could hardly wait for my first school day to arrive. In those days compulsory education was not in force until a child was seven years old. But since I was born in October, and school started in Spring, I had a long wait ahead of me.
Then one sunny spring day in 1921 the time had come. Preparations had been made, including a new school wardrobe for me. In my new outfit, my lunch-pail in hand, I strode cheerfully down the road and across the fields with Mary by my side. I had at last ventured out into the world - a strange new world filled with wonders, novelties and ever so many strange faces. My adventure trip into the land of books had only begun - (it will then end when my sight fails me). How exciting that first day of school was! The older girls took me into their care, helping me with my books, coat and lunch-pail - to see that everything was in the right place. They told me I was so pretty in my new dress and with my blond ringlets. (I needed all that too, because once I was among all those strange faces I became dreadfully shy and frightened.)
A bomb-shell fell on my young sweet head on that eventful first day. As the roll was called, my teacher informed me that my name would be Betty from then on (there were other girls in the same room named Elisabeth). I felt like crying and running home. I did not want to be a Betty, whatever that meant! I no longer felt that the teacher my sister had raved about was so sweet, and I was happy when after a few weeks she left the school.
To continue with that eventful first day - for reasons unknown, be it out of curiosity, mischief, or plain boredom, I set out, during the afternoon recess, to explore one of the bigger desks in the classroom, and there I saw, of all things, one of those old push-lid ink wells. Not knowing what would happen, I gave the lid a good push. You can guess the rest. My whole new school-starting outfit, was a mass of ink blotches (not the washable type of ink of later years). I wonder if everyone's first day at school held as many surprises as mine did for me. It did not end as rosy as it had begun. By the next morning I was ready to call a halt to all that nonsense of going to school. There was no turning back, however; I had laid my hand on that educational plough which was moving forward now. Learn I did - and especially to keep my fingers out of messy ink wells, as the days and years went on.
Reading was taught by phonics - which I later found out actually stems from the European system. Before I had been at school many weeks I was able to read every book available on the second-grade level. By the time I was nine years old, I had leap-frogged up to the fourth grade. I enjoyed school in every sense of the word. I found great enjoyment in delving into adventure books - from the school library, and delighted in all kinds of sports. The only thing that caused me any trouble was my unbounded sense of humor. It took very little to set off a giggling spell - and there was plenty to set it off in a classroom filled with children of every age and description!
I was often called a tom-boy because I liked to climb trees, play baseball and hockey or even sneak a (forbidden) ride on a school pony. I could run like a deer, and even jump fences like the boys!
Every grade at school provided its own adventures, though few children would think of it as such. I particularly recall going into the study of geography, history and physiology (Health Education). They opened up a whole new world of thinking and discovery for me. It was fun to draw maps, charts and diagrams. As great as my love for school was, so great was my aversion to staying at home for harvest and seeding time. How I hated all that heavy work at those times, when work on the farm had no end! As we grew older, Mary, John and I had to help in the fields, and often missed several weeks away from school. As I look back on it today, I wonder how much we really helped, after all.
On the whole my childhood years were filled with fun and adventure. To add to our fun, Father surprised us one day with two woolly, cuddly St. Bernard puppies. Because they were always hungry, we had many occasions to be around them. We called them Sultan and Nero - powerful names, while they were still so small and helpless. Much to the disgust of our parents, we delighted in the puppy mischief that they got into from day to day - like pulling the clothes off the line, or carrying someone's shoes out under the trees and so forth. When they were fully grown they were beautiful stately animals, each taking on his particular personality.
Nero was the better play-mate of the two. In winter when the snow lay in drifts and the sloughs were covered with ice, we would hitch him to a sled and go tramping about on the farm. It was fun to play crack-the-whip on the ice. This was done by making the dog run with his driver on the sled, and then having someone give the sled a side-long push, while it was in full swing. That would send the driver, dog and sled scooting across the ice.
By the time there were four of us going to school together, my father let us take a horse and sleigh by ourselves. It was not unusual, in those days for a blinding, freezing blizzard to blow up while we were at school. Since we had to cross open fields and the trans-Canada line of the Pacific Railway, this spelt no uncertain danger for us, were it not for one important factor. That factor spelled, Nero. He would leave home near school- closing time, run to school and lie down in the sleigh in front of the school, waiting to guide us home. We could cover up and under warm robes be sheltered from the bitter wind, knowing our faithful friend was leading the way.
Sultan took no part in our fun. For some unknown reason he became a self-made watch-dog. He patrolled the yard night and day. Should a stranger come to the door, the minute Mother appeared, Sultan would shove his way into the house and lie down beside her until the visitor left. (Our dogs were not permitted in the house under any circumstances.) Strange as it may seem, Sultan was as obedient and harmless as a lamb under normal conditions, but became ferocious as a lion when he felt his protection was needed. I tried to hold him by the collar one day when company was entering the yard. He jerked himself from my grip and bit me on the arm - and that so fast that I hardly realized what had happened. Sultan and Nero had grown very dear to our hearts in the fourteen years that they were with us. Sad the day when they died!
Miss Germaine, my teacher - the only teacher I had from the first to the eighth grade - was the source not only of valuable instruction, but also of many happy hours that she spent just having fun with her pupils. Although she had all the first eight grades and thirty-five pupils (most of the time) she found time to have something special for us the last hour on Friday afternoons. She would provide taffy-pulls, toasted apples, and fresh roasted popcorn (roasted over the coals in the old heater) on many occasions. At other times she would have a literary program for us. In summer she often organized nature hikes to teach us much about the plants, birds, and wild animals in their native haunts. In winter, with her skates in hand, she led the way to a merry skating party on the big slough right across the fence from the school-yard.
My childhood was also to have its share of the darkest hours of life. When I was almost ten years old my dear cousin, Elisabeth, passed away after a siege of a serious and painful illness. Her presence at school had meant so much to me - especially when I was younger and in need of consolation or help. Her death was such a blow that I was sure I would never like school again.
My sister Mary and I had been trained to sing duets for various occasions, and Elisabeth's funeral was supposed to be one of these! How I dreaded the thought of standing before the weeping parents, cousins, and other relatives who would be there. I just knew I could not get anything but tears out of my efforts. I was spared from that particular trial because on the day before the funeral I took sick with the measles and was too sick to even grasp what the funeral was all about.
The measles made the rounds in my family, and in fact in the whole community. After several weeks of absence it was good to be back at school. (It is wonderful the way a child overcomes the seemingly impossible.) I was happy to be with my teacher and classmates again.
My happiness was short-lived at that time for not many days after this, my mother gave birth to a baby brother who lived but three short hours. I recall looking at him by the hour as he lay in a beautiful white, satin lined coffin. Why did he have to die? What would happen next? - were questions that troubled me deeply. What a sad time that was! His funeral was the first one I ever witnessed, because my father saw fit to take his oldest three children with him for it. I can still see that snow-white casket as it was lowered into the grave and then covered by the cold black earth. For a long time my carefree happiness failed to return. I had learned the meaning of the cruelest word in the language - death. My classmates had little understanding for my broken heart. (Children, I learned, can be the cruelest creatures on earth if they have not been taught to feel with others.) Some of the older children even made light of our large family, saying that there were still enough of us around without the one that died!
Soon school went on at its regular pace, and for a whole year my life went on without any particular highlights. Then death or sickness struck home again. It was March, and the snow was melting in the warm sun and south wind. Everyone was looking forward to April showers and May flowers, on that bright morning when I awakened with a fat-head, as my brother called it. It wasn't so funny for me because the mumps had me down for a number of days. My face and jaws ached so much that I could not eat solids for the duration. I was amused when I looked in the mirror, though laughing did hurt. Brother Johnny's turn came next but his case was not nearly so severe. I wonder now if I laughed at him!
After that round, it was back to school again. What we were to hear at school rang another unhappy note: Scarlet Fever was making the rounds in the district! One of the families was already quarantined but another neighbor had been in contact with them before this. (Scarlet Fever can be carried on anything, even a letter.) Only one of the neighbor's children took the disease, which was in such a mild form that he came to school with it, and so spread it from there. How well I recall that Thursday before Easter: Miss Germaine was having a gay Easter party for her pupils. We colored, hid and found Easter eggs. Everyone was enjoying the fun but me. No matter how I tried I could not get with it. I couldn't wait till it was time to go home. I was feeling so nauseated that I hardly made it home. I was really ill by evening but tried not to let my parents know for fear of worrying them. My mother at that time had given birth to another baby, which had been born dead, and her own condition was critical at best. By night-fall the nausea that seized me would not give up and there was no more covering up.
The fever that followed during the night made me delirious, so that I no longer recognized those around me. When the doctor arrived, he diagnosed my illness as Scarlet Fever and put us all under quarantine. The doctor tried every known remedy to bring my fever down because it had almost reached a fatal high. When I regained consciousness, I was surrounded by hot water bottles. The accompanying chills had ceased, and my temperature was falling. Try as I might, I could swallow nothing. My tongue and throat felt as if they had been scorched with red hot irons. It took at least three weeks before I could stand even the mildest foods. Three more of my brothers and sister, Mary, became ill, but none had high fevers. Johnny even refused to stay in bed. I pitied the dear old Russian woman who had come to give my mother a hand while she was sick, for she ended up having a whole family plus a quarantine on her hands. Her hands were full night and day for many a week. How hard she tried to cook and bake the dishes that would please our choosy household!
The doctor was a daily visitor at our house for weeks on end. I am wondering now, how he kept from taking or spreading Scarlet Fever! When I was able to get up out of bed I was so thin and weak that I could scarcely stand, and for months after that, my hands and feet would swell up like puff- balls, and required treatment. Poor father, what a time of anxiety and doctor bills this was for him!
After about ten weeks of this, the doctor told us we could be released from quarantine, but that the house must first be fumigated and our clothes boiled. That done, we were all going back to school once more with but few days left till the summer vacation was on. To our surprise all of us were promoted to the next grade, although I know it was the skin of my teeth that saw me through. I found it impossible to even understand what was going on in Math after I had missed so much school.
During the summer months that followed, something wonderful and exciting was happening in our beloved school district. A new school building - so long over-due, was beginning to take shape. When school opened in the fall, construction was well under way. Big machines, lumber-trucks, cement mixers, and so forth, created a lot of interest (or distraction) as we gazed out of the windows during class time. Naturally all building ceased with the heavy fall-rains and the severe winter weather.
By the time school re-opened the following year, we were inside the beautiful new building. What a delight to have your own moveable desk, a shiny hard-wood floor under your feet, a whole wall of cheery glass windows, a hot-blast furnace and of all things, indoor toilets! After having taught in less convenient school-rooms, I can fully appreciate the relief that Miss Germaine must have felt when she moved with all her horde into those wonderfully improved accommodations.
By the fall of 1926, when I was twelve, I was growing by leaps and bounds. My clothes were becoming too small - faster than they could be replaced. I remember my mother gasping when she heard what my next shoe size was to be - it was larger than hers. I was as tall as a bean-pole weighing a full seventy-two pounds! My interests (contrary to present day youngsters) lay in art, music and literature. I could enjoy reading poetry by the hour, or painting with water colors whenever possible. My father was subscribing to a paper which had a whole center section for children. Among other things there was always a painting contest on the go. I often did the pictures just for something to do. Then one day I took one of the paintings I had done to school to show to my teacher. At her suggestion I reluctantly entered the contest, knowing that hundreds were doing the same. What a surprise there was for me when I received a letter stating that I had won first prize. It was this sort of thing that finally led me to trying other types of painting, including oils.
There was a time when all country schools took part in school fairs. Children were encouraged and helped by their teachers to enter various items. These were exhibited and judged for prizes - not only for the individual but for the school as such. The school that won the highest prize - points, for three consecutive years, would receive the gold and silver cup. (I wonder what happened to those school fairs!) I believe these fairs were stimulating factors in encouraging better quality of work. At any rate my school had already won one such cup and all of us were eager to win a second. I would have liked to enter some of my painting that particular year, but for whatever reason the teacher had, she wanted me to do some embroidery - something I detested! However, trying to please her, I bought (at her suggestion) a beige linen clothes-pin bag with a double rose pattern on both sides. Mary entered a page of her flawless hand-writing; John and Armin, vegetables they had grown. Others entered baking, pickles, sewing, knitting, etc. I was easily distracted from my project and did as little as possible before the deadline. My chief distraction was my new baby brother who was born in July that year.
That fall, as was so often the case, many children had some kind of intestinal flu - summer complaint they called it then, and I among others of the class had it. This meant that I was to miss school for from three to five days, and my project for the fair weighed heavily on my mind. Against my father's wishes to remain at home at least one more day (Friday) I pleaded with him to let me go. I wanted nothing more than to get my project ready. That day was the dead-line. I recall how difficult it was for me to get to and from school. Much to the disgust of my sister and brothers, I had to sit or lie down several times to and from school (we always had to stay together - father's orders). Yes, I finished my project, and in spite of myself got a third prize for it.
The following morning being Saturday meant a little longer rest. I was awakened by the cries of my little brother in a neighboring bedroom. Knowing that my parents were up and at work I jumped out of my bed with the intention of bringing him to bed with me. My thoughts died as fast as they had come, because I fell in a heap in front of the bed. Struggle as I might, I was not able to get up. In utter despair, I cried for help, awakening my sister, Mary. She came to my help but it was without avail. When my parents were called and told what had happened, I could see fear written all over their faces. What had happened. Had I hurt my back or my legs? Where did I hurt? And more were the questions that were asked. I was carefully lifted into bed and promised I would be attended to as soon as breakfast and the chores were over. Then my father, who was busy harvesting, tried to stimulate my circulation by massaging me all over. This he did every time he was in the house and he applied hot compresses to my right foot which seemed to be in the worst shape. Little knowing what he did, my father was using a method for polio cases that a woman in Australia later used and became famous for.
After two days, when no improvement was seen, my father carried me to the family car and took me to the doctor. Kind Dr. Elliot had been at our house so much that we came to think of him as Dr. Bill. To this day I am not sure, if it was out of ignorance, or deep sympathy for my father and me that he would not make a diagnosis of my case. He simply asked to call in Dr. Cooke, also an acquaintance of my family. The latter sat me on the floor, had me try certain movements, tested my reflexes, sounded my chest and so forth. Then he pronounced frankly (brutally as far as I was concerned), This child has infantile paralysis and will not be able to walk again without braces or crutches. I do not know how my father felt at hearing those words, but for me they spelled a death-knell. I was not ignorant of what I had heard, because I had read about this dread disease and its aftermath. To one who had been physically agile and in love with life itself, the full implication of that diagnosis took years to overcome. There was nothing that I wanted more than just to die. I did not want to spend the rest of my life a cripple - what a dreadful word. Yes, I was even called that by some of my acquaintances!
However, I thank God for a father who had more hope than all the rest. As he carried me back to the car, he said as forcefully as he could, Of course you will walk again, we'll see to that. And believe me, he did everything he could to help me do just that. He hired a woman to help mother with my treatment. During my waking hours, there were hot milk baths, exercises and rest times, endless hours of oily massages, delivered often by his own soft hands. Within two weeks, I was pushing a kitchen chair over the kitchen floor, trying to take steps like a baby.
As the days dragged into months and recuperation time seemed endless, I had become withdrawn, shy and resentful. More and more I became an introvert, suffering mental agony far worse than the physical. Outside of my immediate family, I spoke to no one after my illness. After a while I lost myself in books or painting. Then after long months at home undergoing intense treatment, and making every effort to walk, I was once again at school.
How I dreaded the humiliating appearance I would make as I hobbled between my sister and brother, who supported me from the car into the school. However, to my surprise some of my school-mates were really concerned about me. Taking turns, they would hold my arms and march me across the school yard. When I stumbled they laughed and picked me up. Before long they even urged me to try running a bit. So little by little my ankles gained strength and I was able to get about on my own, though with a limp.
Another blow was to follow that of my illness. For the first time in my life I was to fail making the grade. It is reasonable of course that that should happen, considering the amount of instruction I had missed. Try as I might I could not bridge the gap. Nevertheless, I felt disgraced (in my own eyes at least). But as time went on I was able to catch up with my classmates. By the time I was fourteen I was writing my high school entrance examinations, which at the time were a departmental affair. In the fall of 1929 I entered Wolseley High School, where I was making good progress except in mathematics (little wonder after all the months I had missed in elementary school!). It is one subject that needs a solid foundation!
The strange new environment at the High School caused me to relapse again into the dismal attitude I had had after my illness. There were so many things going on that automatically excluded me - like inter-school sports events, skating parties and so forth. In every sense of the word I had withdrawn and extricated myself to the extent that I failed to see all the doors still open for any bright-eyed young girl. (Why didn't they have child psychologists back then??) What a plight indeed! However, the first part of the first year there, was the worst. As time went on I began to make friends with some of my classmates, and to take a keen interest in my still favorite subjects - history, literature, and languages. I grew particularly fond of Miss Ritchie - a jovial and capable teacher of French and history. In a different way, I was also fond of my Latin and literature teacher. She had a very conservative, sedate manner when she spoke to any of us - very little of that outside of classes. Yet I believe that Miss Moas was one of the best instructors I ever had anywhere. My language classes gave me a great deal of enjoyment. This may have been an inherited trait, as my maternal grandmother spoke seven languages. I went about learning my vocabularies in a unique way. I would write out the day's assignments on every conceivable scrap of paper, anything from a grocery sack to the unwritten borders of the newspaper and then write out the English to fill in the foreign word for it. It paid off. I completed High School with my highest rating in Latin.
Before I forget to mention it - I did learn to walk in spite of what the doctor had said - and without crutches or braces. I walked the three miles to and from Wolseley High School many, many times, when my father was too busy to take me. In the fall of 1932 Mary, who had been my constant companion throughout all my school years, parted ways with me. She left home to attend Regina Normal School (Teacher Training College). Life for me then was to take on a different pace. Long and lonely was the way to and from town, without her gay talk, and our squabbles too! More and many responsibilities too, fell on my shoulders as far as the family was concerned. When I was in the tenth grade my sister Christine was born. This not only meant extra joys to share but responsibility as well. By that time our family had grown considerably. There were five boys and four girls, so it is understandable that the older children should have been called upon for a few hours of their undivided attention on the home front.
I completed High School in June of 1933. From that time until fall of 1934 my future plans were laid aside. My mother, whose health was in poor condition, required my help at home. Whenever I had time to think I pondered as to what my career would be - because I really wanted one! I answered various ads, announcing courses in photography - much to my father's displeasure. However, I found nothing that would be available where I was living, so it came to nothing. My childhood dreams of becoming a nurse had never quite left my mind; however, well I knew that the Polio had foiled any thought of it. About midway of my stay at home I was inspired by Mary's letters. She told of all the fun she was having - she knew how to have it too! Also my father started talking about my taking Normal School. Horrors! The thought of being a teacher, myself, struck me dumb! It had been the last of the professions I would have chosen - it was! I had so many complexes to overcome that - were it not for want of a change of routine - I would never have settled for it.
So in 1934-35 I was in Regina taking my Normal School. Seriously, my days at Normal were among the richest and most cherished of my life. It was during that stage of my life that a door opened to a whole new concept of the world about me. The study of philosophy, psychology, etc., were instrumental for this wonderful discovery, for therein I was to learn to evaluate the importance of each human being as a vital factor in the universe - including myself! I virtually crawled out of the shell of self-pity and ruin and blossomed. The shroud that had hung over my head so long had suddenly lifted - thanks to my beloved professors! I took a new interest in life. I recall purchasing a full length evening dress - out of money I had skimped from my food bill, in order to look smart at the annual banquet. I went to concerts, theaters, museums, yes, and various churches, to see or to be with friends from school. In doing so I learned so much about the way others think and believe, and to be better able to formulate my own thoughts and faith.
My early childhood humor returned at that time also, and I had many a hearty laugh at some of the lessons that were taught at Normal, during practice sessions, or in some out-of-the-way school in the city. One's humor is the best antidote for bridging an awkward situation, for waylaying frustrations or overcoming illness. I recall laughing with my pupils, during teaching days, until the tears rolled into my lap - in situations where others would have used sterner measures - the old hickory stick!
When I left Regina Normal in 1935 I was the proud possessor of a First Class Teacher's Certificate. However, with a heavy heart, I left those revered halls and dedicated friends and teachers. Out I went, to walk the path of undriven snow. The great adventure of my life lay before me - to be an instructor and leader of others. What an ideal!
Immediately after, yes, even before, Normal closed I was sending out applications seeking a position. These were followed by many more. Personal calls to nearby schools also proved unsuccessful. Why was all this necessary? At that time the depression was at its peak, and unemployment at its height - even among teachers. Salaries never were so low! The unexperienced just-graduated teacher was in for a set-back. The only ones to get consideration for hiring were experienced teachers. How were we to become experienced if no one trusted those of us who had come out with latest methods? For me the answer was soon to come. That is by January of 1936! A reply to an application arrived by letter to which I hastily replied acceptance of position.
In sheer excitement I had taken on an offer that would lead me to a place not marked on any map! I had, however, noted my telephone number when I answered my first letter from the school. Fortunately I had done so, because Mr. Weir, the chairman of the school, called me immediately to give me the necessary information, i.e. to meet him at the station at St. Walburg (which was on the map) the following week. What he did not say was that it would be at least forty miles removed from rail's end till I was at my destination. It was best that way too, or my father would have hindered me from going there.
Upon arriving at St. Walburg, I travelled - not by covered wagon - but by covered sleigh for many hours. Horses were changed several times along the way. The trail led through densest forest, where tree stump bumps helped to keep the overtaxed circulation on the go. Every few feet the sleigh would buck or lunge over the make-shift trail. At first I was worried at where I was going to land. Toward the latter end of the trip, which had lasted at least a half a year (in my weary mind), I began to see double. I looked out into the snow covered forest - to hold down the nausea that had gripped me on the first lap of the sleigh-ride, and as I looked I saw church steeples, black-robed monks, white-hooded nuns, and buildings of different shapes and sizes (none of which were there); I had reached the point of extreme exhaustion brought on by the hurried departure from home, the two day-long train ride, plus that final touch - my longest sleigh-ride ever! When the last change of horses was made we had only three miles left to go and daylight was appearing above the pines. This last part of the ride was in an open cutter or light sleigh, and I was grateful for the fresh air through which we were speeding with a good fast team.
After about fourteen hours of sleep I was ready to do some inquiring and looking about. What could interest me more than the school that would be mine for months to come? On Sunday afternoon Mrs. Weir took me to the school, showing me where I could make shortcuts as I would walk to school.
To say I was shocked when I saw the school would be an understatement, indeed! The building itself was an oversized log house. Like other buildings in the whole area, it was built from the timbers of the land on which it stood. It was located on a knoll or rise, which was advantageous when wet weather set in. The school was well equipped - so I was told; but upon investigation, found to my dismay - no sort of library nor other normal classroom equipment was at hand. The desks - heavy unmoveable, double seaters, were products of the local saw mill, whose polishing and smoothing down was left up to the general wear and tear of everyday usage of the children. The floor was made of rough wide boards of uneven lengths and widths, the cracks of which were filled with clay. The stove or heater, consisted of an old gasoline barrel, with the front turned into a door and part of the back into a smoke outlet which was joined by an enormously long stove pipe to the chimney. The fuel for this was wood, cut in about four-foot lengths, which had to be replaced at short intervals, if we were to remain comfortable at all. In summer, by the way, when huge swarms of mosquitos from the swamps filled the air, we used the stove to make smoke screens to drive those molesting creatures out. Several places in the walls (where the clay had fallen out) one could see outside without strain. The blackboard was a hand- painted beaver-board, hardly sufficient for one or two grades, let alone eight. As my hostess showed me around with a certain pride of the community's accomplishments, I was grinding my teeth and stomping my feet to keep from freezing to death. However, I was not about to make any complaints. Hadn't I myself chosen to come there, after all?
On the way back to Weirs, my landlady explained various facets of the community into which I had come. She told me that all the farmers who were living there had had good homes, farms, schools, roads and so forth, at their disposal in the south until the dust-storm years set in. Their fields had become a constant mass of moving sand and dust, their pastures dry, and monetary resources depleted! Therefore they had moved into the far north where moisture and shelter were in abundance. Each farmer, after obtaining a stretch of land, had set about clearing away the timbers and using these for the construction of his house, stable and other buildings. Pasture lands were available for common use along the river banks and open areas. By forming working Bees of co-operatives these farmers had made roads (trails through the forest) by felling timbers, and had put in log bridges, and finally, erected a school, post-office and a store. Having obtained this information, I appreciated more the pioneers with whom I had cast my lot for a spell. This was to be the time that this idealist teacher could prove her mental and physical stamina.
I soon grew used to having an occasional ride on a home- made lumber wagon, sometimes oxen drawn, as they bumped and rocked along over the stumpy but pine-scented forest trails. In winter, horse-drawn sleighs, sleds and toboggans provided a somewhat smoother mode of travel. Some of the more romantic farmers had even indulged in dogsleds, drawn by the real huskie dogs. At least one farmer in the district was blessed enough to be able to afford an old truck, and, as one might guess, found ample ground to use it. The sound of saw mills filled the air. These were small concerns usually family owned, but which produced an amazing supply of lumber. The whistle of the old-fashioned steam engine used for power at these mills, sounded forth its siren at noon and at closing time, and was often the standard by which one had to set his watch.
Well, Monday morning arrived and the forest was filled with the clang of lunch pails and the whoops and shouts of anxious youngsters on their way to school. As the noise grew closer and finally reached the school, figures of various ages and sizes clamored into the building, with the occasional, Good morning, teacher. All this and so much at once, was a shocking revelation to me. These were my pupils! This was my responsibility becoming larger and closer as the curious youngsters piled into the door! What was I to do first? And next? That youthful crowd in front of me were looking to me, their teacher, to do or say something.
Looking at my watch, I noticed that the time had come (to launch upon my career!) to get things under way! Seizing the old-fashioned long-handled bell I called a halt to the tumultuous storm before my eyes. Forty-one lively youngsters scrambled forward and each took a seat. After The King, and the Lord's Prayer, I registered the children in the prescribed book, and started to sort them out according to grades and to arrange them accordingly. Somehow I managed to employ them for the rest of the day as it would have been impossible to have class material aligned ahead of time. It is certain these children had a hey-day for a number of days until I was able to calculate the number of classes per day into whatever time and subject matter there was to deal with.
The midnight candle beamed out into the long winter nights as all the required lessons were worked out. When spring came with long warm days I spent many hours at the school after the children had gone home. This provided me with two essentials for better teaching, namely, quietness to concentrate, and privacy from the curious youngsters at the crowded boarding place.
I recall that one evening I overstayed my allotted daylight hours. The sun was setting somewhere beyond the tall evergreens that surrounded the school. Snatching up whatever books I needed, I hurried out into the pleasant summer air. As I hurried the shadows lengthened until I could barely see the path before me. Suddenly, I noticed a huge dark object in the failing light, standing in my way, just a few feet ahead. Fear gripped me and my heart raced to bursting point, as I thought myself standing face to face with a huge black bear, frequently seen in those woods. What was I to do? How was I to get home? Straining my eyes I tried to see, to get a better glance at this motionless giant. He must be standing on his hind feet, I thought, because I can see his fore-feet clearly. Scarcely breathing, I was rooted to the ground, afraid to move a limb. How long I stood there transfixed, I do not know. I did know that I must move on, either up a tree or down to the river where I had to cross a foot-bridge (which was still a quarter of a mile ahead). Finally, realizing that there was but to do or die, I made a lunge forward. In doing so, I was soon right up to my big black bear, which remained as still as it had stood before. To my greatest delight and relief I saw before me a huge pine stump that had been given its grotesque shape by a forest fire of former years. My fear subsided as I ran the rest of the way home to beat the last shimmer of daylight. I vowed I would never stay at school that long again.
However, the following winter - that was so easy to do, with mountains of exercise books to correct, etc., I had a similar experience. By this time I was living in another direction from the school. The sun had gone down much too early for my planning, and the moon was already riding high above the pines, when I left for home. As it was a beautiful evening I trudged slowly down the mountain road lined with dense forest on all sides. A clean layer of glistening snow in all this glorious landscape worked its magic on me. There I was singing a song, rhythmically swinging my book-bag as I went. Then from out of nowhere, a shadow leaping up and down appeared just below the shadow of my book satchel. My blood froze and in a split second I spun around, letting out a piercing scream, for there was an animal running after me as fast as it could. The poor thing got such a shock at my shriek that it got down on its haunches and whined. Only then did I see that it was the Collie that belonged to my hosts. How relieved I was to have discovered a friend instead of foe following me. Wolves and lynx in that immediate area had been seen not too long before this incident and that is what struck my mind when I saw the animal or its shadow. That dog received a special treat when we arrived home that night!
It was not long until my pupils detected the kid in me, because I enjoyed so much being in the school yard with them during recesses and lunch hours. I took part in their snow-fort building and the snow-ball fights that followed - with one exception - I didn't like to get all the snow-balls pitched at me because I happened to be the teacher! In summer, it took lots of hard work to clear away stumps, rocks and logs so that we could make a soft-ball field in the school yard. This was to provide hours of fun for all of us and it reminded me of my own childhood games as I shared the fun and taught fair play with these young bush-whackers.
Often after a hot day in June - yes, and in August, we would hurry home from school and run for the river - the Horse Head River, where the fresh cooling stream restored our spirits. There was a certain dare-devil stunt that even I attempted while we were at the swimming hole. We would get on horseback and speed up to a full gallop and into the river we would go. Just as we struck water, we would dive, only to get back into the saddle again. It is amazing that any of us came out of that fun alive! It was fun and we thought nothing else mattered at the time. The horses were tame old animals that carried children to school from day to day.
One winter night when the full moon was on, the young people of the district decided to have a sledding party, and I too was game to be a part of it. We lined up our sleds one behind the other on the highest shore of the river with the purpose of sledding down the bank and continuing on along the river. My particular sled (a home-made monstrosity) was lined up about mid-way. A furrow or path had been cut by the runners. When my turn came, I let loose, picking up speed too rapidly to change from the track I was following. Instead of going straight ahead and down the more gradual incline, my sled veered to the left turning over as it struck a stump, and going on its way without me. My momentum was stopped by a tall pine, not without leaving its mark. I had received a host of deep cuts on the underbrush and on the tree that I was astraddle when I halted my downward slide. The party went on while I went back to the house of our hosts to take stock of my injuries. From that day forth Pickwick didn't go sledding again!
Amateur programs, social evenings, horse-back riding in groups, provided good times on long winter evenings (for me only if they were planned for a weekend).
After about eighteen months of the fullness of the north I was ready to settle for a life, less demanding on my mental and physical energy. I had had sufficient thrills and spills as well as teaching experience to merit me a few demands for a change. My sumptuous salary of $20.00 monthly plus my constant moves from house to house, for board and room, were incentives enough to cast my eyes to greener pastures.
In the fall of 1937, I had found a pasture, a lot closer to home - a place on the western plains. However, the pasture, though with certain merits, was anything but green. As I was to discover upon arriving there, I found myself in the heart of the dust-bowl, near the Cypress Hills at Tompkins. It was there that I actually saw, though, what had inspired the people in the north to leave their former homes and move into a pioneering region up north. On the plains the scenery was one of constant sand or dust-storms. Daily the farms in that area became more and more impoverished by the removal of their top soil by the high and dry south-west winds. For the first two or three months after I arrived at Tompkins, the weather was relatively peaceful. There were actually a few farmers who were able to have small-yield crops to harvest. These were farms that were more or less sheltered by trees or the hills (all trees had been planted in better years).
Every morning of the late fall and early winter my pupils and I spent an hour or two cleaning dust off our desks and surroundings before we were ready to start school work.
Tramping to and from school through biting sand-storms was only possible when a cloth was tied over the face to keep from choking or becoming blind. The severity of the storms became less as the winter really set in and covered the ground with snow. The snow, after one sunny day would form a hard immovable crust. Although I was faring better in both salary and pupil-wise (my salary more than doubled and pupils less than half of the former situation) I could not help but yearn for the clean pine scented air of the northern forest country.
While I was teaching at Tompkins, Mary was holding down her position at Kincaid - closer than I was to any of the rest of my family. She and her fiancé sprang a surprise on me one bright spring weekend by inviting me to accompany them to the Swift Current Rodeo. (It must have been a long weekend!) So to the rodeo we went. It was a wild, wild show in my estimation and hardly the place for two demure school marms. Never again!
At this time Mary told me of her intentions of being married after school closed, and also that she was resigning from her school at the end of the term, and asked me if I wouldn't like to resign also, and to take over the place she was vacating. I followed her wishes and was fortunate in receiving the offer of filling her position. This put us closer together with but a few miles between us.
During the preceding action-packed years, there was a still small voice constantly whispering in my soul. Having been reared in a religious family, where family devotions and scripture reading belonged to the daily routine, I was somewhat disturbed and restless in regard to my spiritual welfare after I left home. From early childhood on, spiritual food seemed to be of utmost importance to me; I loved to sing Gospel hymns by the hour. While my father, who was the organist at the Reformed Church, would play and sing the accompaniment, we sang every Sunday afternoon. Mother, who, by anyone's standard, was a very busy woman, found time to read Bible stories to us children on Sunday afternoons. We were at service every Sunday morning as well. So, although my profession and all the social ties that were involved with it kept me busy, I felt a real deep need for regular Bible study and fellowship with kindred minds. But where was I to find these?
Often I was posted many miles from a church of any kind. (After hearing a missionary from China and one from India in my childhood the thought of serving God in a particular way had followed me.) But as time went on I felt empty. In the north, different churches held sporadic services (once in two months) in the school house but they just did not strike the right chord. Therefore, as time went on I started seeking out groups of young people who were meeting for devotionals, including Bible reading, hymn-singing and prayers. This seemed to be more of what I was searching for. But as I moved from one position to another the search had to be renewed. I called on various people to talk to them about this matter, and each time I was led to something new and different. Most of these groups seemed very sincere in what they believed, yet there seemed to be a great inconsistency among them. Each group claimed or hinted that it was the right church, and that I ought to join their association. How could I, when I was not certain which one was right? When I was teaching at Tompkins I learned of a group whose preacher was the secretary of the school I was teaching. Out of sheer curiosity I attended some of their services, and enjoyed them - that is until I was approached by someone who asked if I were saved. Finding the whole thing rather ridiculous I refrained from attending any more of those services. In fact this proved at least one thing: that I was ignorant of certain parts of the Bible.
When I started to work at Kincaid, I was delighted to be associated with a fine group of young people from the Moody- founded-organization. The folks were unabashed in their weekly Bible studies and get-togethers. They spoke freely about conversion, being saved, consecration, sanctification, etc. These ideas roused me to doing some very serious thinking. I was deeply impressed by their purity of life and the love they had for others. When winter came, most of these young people went to short-term Bible schools - some to prepare for foreign mission work. Being deeply moved about all this, I spoke to the minister of the United Church of Canada, who politely commended me for my deep spiritual interest, and took the occasion to ask me to start a weekly Sunday school at the school building. During our conversation he mentioned various religious groups I would have to deal with. Among these he mentioned people from the Church of Christ somewhat lightly.
Soon I got busy with my Sunday school program - after I had purchased a Hurlburt's Story of the Bible book. I must admit I began having a real satisfaction in this work such as I had never felt before. I taught the children some of the hymns I had learned on various occasions, as well as some I had learned as a child. It was as the minister had said, I would likely hear from some of the people who were not members of his church.
One young mother in the district, whose children I was teaching, and who lived right across the road from the school, had showed a very friendly attitude toward me from the beginning. She invited me off and on to join her family at dinner, and we were close friends before too long. On one such occasion while we were talking about the Sunday school class, she asked me if I were a Christian - bless her, how could she? I was shocked, wondering why she had not noticed it in my efforts. Seeing my reaction, she left the next question for a later date. At that time she inquired as to when I was baptized - or if I were baptized! Answering that I had been at the age of but a few weeks, she looked startled (I'm sure she had somehow felt that I was a baptized believer because of the zeal I had shown). She knew her Lord and His word better than I did and was not afraid to defend her faith. The seed had been sown, even if it took a while to germinate and grow.
During the winter of '39 the Pentecostal Church at Kincaid was holding a four to six weeks revival meeting that was led by two women preachers. One of their staunchest members was one of the men on my school board. Although he lived about twelve miles from town, he and his wife would call on my sister, her husband and me night after night, to take us to these meetings. That was not as simple as it sounds today. It involved travelling over rough, unpaved or not even gravelled country roads through all kinds of winter weather. Cars also lacked much of the cozy comfort taken for granted now. Knowing this, I was moved by their zeal and steadfastness. Much was said to and from those meetings, as well as at them, about accepting Jesus as one's personal Saviour. After attending many nights, my sister and I made our intention known. We wanted to be saved from our sins, and going to the front of the building one of the preachers prayed with us at the mourners' bench.
Overjoyed at my decision I hurried to tell my dear friend across the road about it. Pearl Dods, to my dismay, was disappointed rather than happy over my enthusiasm. This I couldn't understand, and entered into hefty arguments about what was being taught at these revivals, and what the Bible taught. Pearl was not easily assuaged and offered to debate or discuss with the preachers about the faith and came with me one night. Hardly waiting till the meeting was closed she opened her Bible and the debate began. Undaunted she defended statement after statement that was attacked, as she proved her stance from the Word of God.
As for me, I could but listen intently and be deeply impressed by the way this simple Christian could handle the scriptures. In reality I knew not a single scripture to defend my wavering faith - but I was eager to learn.
Toward spring, J.C. Bailey of Radville was holding a series of sermons on Radio Moose Jaw. Pearl wasted no time in telling me about it and in urging me to listen to these. The theme of those sermons was: Why I believe the Bible to be the word of the living God. Since the program was beamed out early in the morning, I was able to listen to it in bed. I was deeply impressed by the sobriety and sincerity of J.C. Bailey's presentation, and confounded at the truths he brought forth. I had to agree with the soundness of the doctrine presented but at the same time I became more confused as to what was really right in these matters. I continued to stay with the Pentecostal people, as my only guide-post, for the time. But Pearl Dods was a determined young woman! She wasted no time inviting Mr. Bailey to come to our school district to hold an evangelistic meeting. This was in April.
One night after the children had long left the school and while I was working at the next day's lessons, a knock at the door startled me. Upon opening it, I saw a young man standing there, loaded down with books and a gas light. Before I could open my mouth, he was introducing himself and telling me that he had come to prepare for the meeting that night. Taken a back because I had not been informed beforehand, I made my departure quickly and returned to my boarding place. No sooner home, I became aware that my young hosts were planning on an evening away from home. Upon inquiring what their plans were, I was informed that they were going to the school to hear Bailey, the man Pearl had told them about. Knowing my attitude, she must have avoided telling me directly. Though I had vowed I would not attend those meetings, I suddenly made up my mind to do so, out of sheer curiosity.
As Mr. Bailey had done on the radio, so he did the first night I heard him at the school. He delivered a sermon that I would not soon forget. There was no need for anyone to invite me to the following meetings. One particular statement he made on the first evening, I took very literally. He had said he had come to preach the unadulterated Word of God, hoping to make no mistake in doing so, because, he knew that God would hold him responsible for the slightest deviation from truth. He asked the audience to take down notes to show forth any mistakes he would make and stated that he would publicly revoke them. Notes I made, and studied, but errors I found none. During the days that followed I was really involving Mr. Bailey in a firing session. That is, I fired question after question at him about things that had unsettled my mind for years. Most of the time my sister and her husband were in on these sessions. (School was then out for a long Easter weekend.)
After about four days and night of this, I came to make the greatest decision of my life. On Monday night (Easter Monday) when the invitation was given to come forward to confess Christ before those assembled (Acts 8:37-38) I was out of my seat before it was finished and took my place beside the speaker as we sang: Just as I am without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me, O, lamb of God I come, I come! Raising my eyes from the hymn book for a second, I saw my beloved sister come down the aisle to take her place beside me. What a glorious evening that was, and yet a more glorious one came on the next day! The following evening with cars placed in a semi-circle to produce the necessary light, my sister and I were baptized on the Dods' farm. As Paul said in his letter to the Romans, we had been buried with Christ (Romans 6:4-7) and raised to walk in a new life in Him (Galatians 3:27). From then on I was filled with an abiding peace - the peace that passes understanding of which the Lord spoke when He was on earth. I knew then what it meant to be saved, consecrated, sanctified. I also knew that the church of the Bible, the church purchased by the blood of Christ - established on the first Pentecost after His resurrection, was not the choice of men but of God, therefore that one which was right. This church was the one that consisted of living stones, not made by hands (Acts 17:24). To Pearl Dods and her beloved family, I will ever be grateful - for her zeal, her love for souls - for mine.
In July, immediately after school closed, I was off to Radville Bible School (doing something I had in the years before heard others speak so enthusiastically about and secretly hoping that someday I would be able to do likewise). There, free from the regular grind, I was able to learn more of the great truths in God's word as I daily sat at the feet of devoted and qualified teachers. At the same time I became acquainted with brethren who are among my dearest friends on this earth - whose friendship will be mine for time and eternity.
When school reopened in the fall, I no longer needed a story book from which to teach the children; I was using the Bible! My life had taken on a richer, fuller meaning than it could ever have, had it not been for my acquaintance with the Friend of Friends - Jesus! Since I was attending worship services with my brethren, I no longer held the Sunday school classes but instead set aside one hour after school on Fridays for Bible instruction. Within the next two or three years, four of my pupils had become Christians. Three of these are faithful until this day.
After completing four years at Kincaid (chiefly because two families in the small church were planning to move away from the district) I decided to locate with a school where I knew that the church was active. This was at Harptree. Because of the mixed ethnic groups, I ran into various problems. First of all, the school was over-crowded. There seemed to be twice too many pupils for the size of the classroom, which did nothing to provide a solution for a serious health problem existing there. Many of the children came from crowded unkempt homes where sanitation was unknown. As a result I was confronted with discipline problems and infection of which I had only heard! Many of these children were covered with lice, impetigo and scabies. Had it not been for the brethren's support and encouragement, I would gladly have left the place at the end of the first week. The two Christian men on the school board told me to take whatever measures I thought right in order to clean up. Therefore, the doctor and a school nurse soon arrived to make extensive examinations of every child and every home represented at the school. At the end of these examinations, all but eleven out of the forty-three children were quarantined in their homes until such a time that the doctor would declare them healed and ready for school.
During the interval, the remaining children and I did a thorough house cleaning at school. Using Lysol and other antiseptics, we scrubbed and scoured everything in sight. As the only source of water was the well in the school yard, the only way to maintain the best possible cleanliness was to order a drinking fountain - a covered can with spout, and to have every child bring his own drinking cup. To accommodate each child, we put up hooks for not only their cups, but for their individual wash basins, towels and soap. By the end of the first month a clean bunch of children was back at school and the contagion mentioned never broke out again during my year there. The long walk to and from school, plus the heavy work connected with so many classes, was a strain too great for my health, so I resigned at the end of the year.
By July I was once again at Radville Bible School - this time as one of the teachers. My sister Joan, who was baptized at Harptree during our Easter vacation, joined me that summer. Her presence made Bible School days even more enjoyable for me.
When school opened again in the fall, I was not with it for the first time in eight years. The strain of the past was most markedly noticeable in my spine. I had the feeling that my head and feet were becoming detached from it. Upon the recommendation of a local doctor, I went to Moose Jaw to submit to therapeutic treatments of various types which were prolonged for months on end.
It was not until the following spring that I felt able to cope with teaching and its demands on me. However, without delay, upon answering one Ad in the paper I had found a position with an enrolment of but twelve to fifteen pupils - the discipline of which I discovered later was a full-time job. This school was north of Bengough near Glasnevyn where most of the district consisted of first-generation Canadians - their parents having immigrated from the Ukraine. Before long our relationship was good in every sense. The teacher that had preceded me had been the general foot-ball of those boys (all were boys but one). I could relax my severe hold on them and was able to enjoy good times with them. I believe that my teaching of the Bible and of hymns was instrumental in bringing about the change.
The first morning of the school, two men of the board were on the spot, in case these fellows were to do something uncalled for or hurtful to me or one another. These boys had prided themselves in being smart and strong enough to drive their teachers off. I dismissed the two men, saying I could manage very well with these few children, and I did, though somewhat shaky at first. To my surprise, when my intention of leaving the school was known, one father of five boys came by to tell me in broken English what I had done for his boys, and especially thanked me for teaching them from the Bible. This was reward enough for what efforts I had made. When I said good-bye to the children at the year's end program, they presented me with a beautiful - and I'm sure, expensive - beauty kit!
I was disheartened to leave my boys (for some reason I enjoy teaching boys more than girls) but I was not able to withstand the icy cold north winds and the long walks to and from school during the long cruel winter months. Then there was another equally important reason: the roads to Ogema, where I attended worship, were blocked most of the winter.
At the beginning of the next year (1945) I was playing a new role as a teacher. I was teaching in Aneroid, where I was appointed vice-principal of the school. My work there consisted of teaching the seventh and eighth grades in the elementary division and Latin on the high school level. I enjoyed my position there but it too was not to be of long duration. Work at school went on smoothly. I enjoyed my fellow-teachers and pupils. I was only a block from school. Everything seemed just right - and so it was until May.
However, one glorious day was to precede my emergency resignation. Six terrible years were coming to a halt all over the Western World. World War II that had robbed Canada, and many other nations, of the cream of their young men and women, had ended! The day! May 8th! Every newspaper and radio cast had blared out one horror story after another for so long that when peace, came tears and shouts of joy filled the spring air. We, at Aneroid planned a celebration for the school, the town and the surroundings - as did millions of other communities all over the world. Every imaginable entry for the big parade was in preparation. There were floats, choirs, bands and flag-bearing youngsters moving down the streets, and around block after block in town. Victory was in and everybody rejoiced.
That over, we were concentrating on the final weeks of the school year, when extra cramming on the part of teachers and pupils to complete the demands of curriculum was necessary. It was during this time that I received a phone call from my mother informing me that my father was critically ill. From the sound of her voice, I knew she needed help - my help. So without wasting time, I bid a hasty good-bye to my fellow- teachers and pupils and set out for Wolseley. When I arrived at home, my father recognized no one because he had had a cerebral stroke and was paralyzed. His condition improved very gradually, until he was able to get up and move about - but not without help. In the winter months when my brothers were relieved of some of the work on the farm, mother and I could rest more and have some time off because of their help. And thus it was that mother and I were able to attend my brother Henry's wedding at Vegerville, Alberta, in October of that year.
By January 1946, I felt that my father was sufficiently improved so that I might take on a teaching position. To be on the safe side I took on substitute work to relieve a friend of mine for a period of three months. This proved to be the most enjoyable group of pupils I ever taught. I was working in a Mennonite district north of Meyronne. The delight I received from teaching these children stemmed from the fact that they had come from good backgrounds. They were so adorably well- mannered and sweet that I resented having them for so short a time.
As the regular teacher was to be back after Easter I packed my things on Thursday before Good Friday and left immediately after school to be with Mary and the family until the following Saturday. I had planned to be at home by Saturday night - much against my sister's pressure to remain with them for a few days. As it was, early on Saturday morning a telegram arrived, saying that Father had passed away. How saddened we were that we had not been there before this happened. The time of this funeral was the only time in the years that followed that all of us children would be together again.
In May, my sister Joan and Magnar Knutson were married. (Joan had made plans to be married on her birthday long months ahead.) After Joan finished her school year at Harptree, she spent the summer at school, taking University work toward the advancement of her certificate. After the summer was over the Knutsons and I set off for Winnipeg. There I set about searching for a teaching position, but because of the time of the year, I was unable to obtain a regular position. The school board advised me to take on substitute work until the beginning of the next year. Consequently, I got onto their list of substitutes and awaited emergency calls.
This work in a city like Winnipeg proved rather frustrating at first. It was most revealing as to what the schools in the various areas of the city were all about! As my brother would say: A substitute is the right person in the wrong place! This, in my case, proved very true. One in such a position is on call all the time, though he may be working very little of the time at his disposal; neither is he able to prepare for those times that he may be called upon. An emergency call may grant you a couple of hours warning in advance (or at best one over-night). So, one is apt to be in trouble, especially if the place to be filled takes him into a class-room full of upper-level children. If you are not prepared you will be over a barrel, because these city kids have a lot to teach you! The type of work may vary from one day to another. You may be teaching first graders (for instance) to read Jerry and Jane or whatever - or be called upon to teach the day's assignment in the eighth grade, consisting of lessons on the function of the nervous system, or of such lessons as the alimentary canal, the theory of Pythagorus or the law of gravity. To do this without preparation is expecting the impossible. However, as tedious as this was, it put me in a better position of knowing in what part of the city I wanted to be employed.
I was fortunate at the beginning of 1947 to receive a place in one of the newest and finest suburbs of the city. The school itself was located near a natural park of the St. James area. It was a treat to be teaching just one grade - the third, although the room was filled to capacity.
It was during my stay in Winnipeg that I became acquainted with most of the members of the church then meeting at Banning Street, and was able to be active in the congregation. I got a great deal of satisfaction from our Friday night training classes that consisted of young and old. My particular class was made up of boys and girls between the ages of ten and twelve. The purpose of this class was for the children to learn to read the scriptures aloud, to make talks - mostly of their own choosing (Bible orientated), to lead in singing and prayer, to write letters to other children in other lands, and so forth. On the last Friday of each month all the classes met in the auditorium for a joint program. This gave an opportunity for the various groups or individuals to take part, either actively or by listening. Some of the children that were in my classes at that time are at present working as men and women in far-off fields as teachers, preachers, and missionaries - showing their families how to serve their Master from real life lessons and situations.
During the time I was teaching at St. James, Magnar and Joan had moved to Birnie, Manitoba, to work with a new and scattered group of church members in the area around Brantford and Neepawa. They were able to rent a big old house for meetings and classes as well as for a place to live. The Birnie School Board was at that time also looking for a temporary place for its over-flow of children. Strange as it seems, they came upon the same idea as the Knutsons. So there was a compromise. The old house was to serve both purposes. The front part of the building which was composed of an immense living room, and a guest room, was converted into a classroom and cloak room (which was also used for a class for children on Sundays). It limited Knutsons' living space but at the same time provided ample room for church services. This classroom was to accommodate the junior high school and the first two high school classes.
It was then that I received an invitation to change my position in St. James for that of Birnie, in order to help with the church at that place. This was in 1948, and the change was not hard to make because it was a joy to be around my favorite sister and brother-in-law, and their precious children, Sonja and Fred. I moved my belongings to Birnie at the end of school, returning to Winnipeg only to be part of a campaign.
Brother Andy Ritchie from Searcy, Arkansas - or better from Harding College, had arrived with about twenty students to conduct this campaign. All available Christians in the Winnipeg area, as well as those from other parts were invited to take part. By the time we were all assembled we formed a good-sized group. Before starting on our mission of knocking doors for the purpose of personally inviting interested people to our evening meetings, we had rousing instructions by our leaders. This was a new and thrilling experience for me, which was to be of great value in the years to follow. During the midday rest hour we gathered around Andy for a song fest at which all took part. Our daily song practice was intended to serve yet another purpose, and this was to be the climax of the campaign.
The church had rented for one day only one of the largest auditoriums in Winnipeg for the Sunday that fell mid-way in the campaign, and it was for this day that we were practising. All of us together formed a fine chorus, and it was this chorus that was to line up on the immense stage to sing praises to the King of Heaven on that Sunday evening. I remember to this day the opening hymn Let every heart rejoice and sing, and Brother Ritchie's terrific directing! We made those halls resound with a kind of music that had never before been voiced within those walls! The campaign came to an end as all things on this earth do. But the friendships formed during that time will go on eternally.
Among those with whom I became best acquainted were Bob and Ruth Hare (spending their honeymoon working on a campaign!). These two fine people told me of their intentions for the future. Bob was still in school but they planned to go into mission work as soon as they could. Their acquaintance and the glorious experience of the association of that devoted student body had a deep and abiding influence on me. I wanted to give up teaching in secular schools and to enter into mission work too. (With no particular field in mind at the time.) However, there had to be a period of preparation, which I knew would require financial resources. So I went to Birnie with a burning aspiration that all would work out for me to be able to attend Harding College by the following September.
The school year went by more quickly than I had anticipated. Being in a new field, with Magnar and Joan, I had ample opportunity to practise mission work. The weekends were well filled with services, classes and visits. Our visits took us far afield. Twice a month we would cover many miles - when roads and weather permitted, calling on people in Dauphin, Neepawa, and other towns whose names I do not recall. The fruits of those efforts are still moving forward.
As soon as school closed, I was flying low, trying to tie all the loose ends together before I could be on my way to Searcy. I visited my mother and other relatives in Saskatchewan as my first duty. Then off to Winnipeg to run the gamut of the various legal offices in order to get a passport and then a student's visa. I was to make the sad discovery that this involved a great deal more than that which meets the eye. Without having the final stamp in my passport, I purchased my bus ticket for a certain day. But there was no hurrying up of the officials in charge! Finally, one hour before departure time, I had summoned up all my courage and pressed my way to a counter lined with foreign immigrants, and asked to speak to the U.S. Consular representative. Within a few minutes I was on my way to the bus station, where my baggage had already been deposited. How happy was I when I was able to get into the bus and finally stop running.
As one who had never been out of his home land, I very soon learned some interesting things first hand. Things learned from books can be interesting and enlightening but there is nothing that transcends coming face to face with a strange new world. The first such experience was dealing with the customs officers of the country about to be entered, although I have never had any unpleasantries from any of these officials, in any country, but East Germany, in all my years of travel. As the bus proceeded southward the landscape changed constantly from golden corn fields to lofty blue mountains, with here and there patches of red and yellow earth. It was September, and Mother Nature was bathed in a sea of colors, and in particular the huge oaks and maples that lined the river and roadsides along the way. I had never dreamed I would be seeing and crossing such expansive rivers and bridges as we seemed to be doing over and over again.
Many times I had taught lessons about the neighbor to our south. Now at last I was to make the discovery that my knowledge had been most limited, in the light of reality. Upon reading Uncle Tom's Cabin to my pupils (and in private) I had formed a somewhat hazy picture of the people so vividly described on its pages. However, when we arrived in Missouri I was to see hundreds of negroes - most of them as poorly dressed as they were in Uncle Tom's day. Some of these people got into the bus finding a place at the back, since Blacks were not permitted a place elsewhere. On this subject I was to burn aplenty while I sojourned in the U.S.A. for nearly four years. It seemed a pity that intelligent people of the twentieth century had not yet learned to accept one another as equals under God.
While the endless miles rolled on I had ample time to meditate, to read, to sleep. Finally, with a glorious new landscape all around, I learned that it would not be long until we reached Little Rock. We were in the blue Ozarks - the first real mountains I had ever seen. What a beautiful sight wherever my eyes could turn! However when the higher altitudes were reached, this beauty for at least one passenger was short-lived. The increasing temperature and the growing weariness combined with the rapid incline turned me violently ill, and the kind bus driver did his best to help me overcome the waves of nausea that had gripped me. He had to make a number of stops before we were to leave all that glorious scenery for others to enjoy. Little Rock was the next big stop and change-over from the big Greyhound to a more modest vehicle.
By evening of the second day nothing ever looked better to me than the arched Welcome sign of Harding College. I knew I had arrived at my destination but exhaustion had taken all the excitement out of it for me. How grateful I was to be assigned a place - a bed on which to stretch my aching body.
After a good night's rest the day dawned bright and beautiful and I was eager to see some of the friends I had made so many months before. I was amazed at first at the strange accent used by most of the students and teachers, and began to realize that I indeed was a foreigner - a word often heard on College campuses! I realized too that I had many adjustments to make as a stranger - and above all as a student!
Registration: the first initiation of the school, was quickly taken care of since I had arrived one or two days late. (Otherwise this required hours of standing in line and waiting on the processing of hundreds of students.) As soon as I had lined up my professors, and the subjects I desired to take, I began making the rounds with the other students. Harding's campus was huge and the distances great from one study hall to the next. This often required running a race from one class to another in order not to be late.
One of the notable features about Harding College was the friendliness among its students. By the end of the first semester I was able to call by name at least three hundred and fifty of the students! Another feature was the rigidity with which the administrators controlled the movements of their students on the campus. Girls in the freshman year were not permitted to walk to the city center - a few blocks away, without a sponsor or upper classman. No girl was permitted off campus after six in the evening unless in the company of one of the faculty or someone of their choosing, and that only before nine-thirty, after which the dormitory doors were locked to the outside - with the exception of those who had special permission to stay in the library for a very limited time. Strange as this may sound, there were no strikes or signs of rebellion to these and other rigid regulations.
Life at Harding was never dull. In this select society there were many forms of distraction from the pressurized studium. There was a host of social clubs with their particular goals, an art club, a poetry club, a photo club, and others. For those who really were about to launch on their life's work there were study groups. There were mission study groups, and forums, personal evangelism nights, and home Bible Studies. To suit every type of mentality and class, there was one or more possibilities to further one's outlook on life. I took part in one of the girls' social clubs for the sake of having a closer relationship with young Christian women, who wanted to make the world a better place to live in, and, also, to have some really good times of fun and laughter.
Besides this, I chose to be a part of some of the mission groups. It was interesting to hear students from various lands tell about the peculiarities, customs and religions of their homeland (which was to become the mission field of some of those taking part). Whenever missionaries from foreign fields visited the college, they were invited to address the particular group that was planning to enter his particular field. It sometimes happened that students changed their plans upon hearing a certain missionary. This was what happened to me. I had plans to enter some part of English-speaking Africa, considering myself too old to learn a new foreign tongue. This change came about when Otis Gatewood, a missionary from Germany, appeared on the Lectureship program. In his emphatic salesman style he spoke to the whole student body about the great need there was in that country for dedicated men and women to work with the millions of war-widows and orphans. He succeeded in recruiting a few new members for the Deutschlanders among which I was included. It was there that I associated with people I was to work with in the years to come. These included the Mingles, Hares, Smiths, Marjorie Rogers (Kasmir) and others. Years later at a European lectureship a group of Hardingites got together and had a photo taken. If I remember correctly there were twenty-two missionaries at one gathering on this side of the ocean - all Harding people!
Immediately after having decided to enter Germany to do mission work, I concentrated on courses in the German language both in formal class studies as well as privately with individuals, and by hearing records, in particular.
By the end of 1950, I was ready to launch into my new work, but because financial backing and support had not been found, I decided to get a job of some kind to provide myself with the essentials of life until this would be forthcoming. My savings had been completely consumed by that time and because of this, although I would have enjoyed remaining at Harding to continue studying various subjects beneficial to my work in Germany and Austria, I accepted a position offered to me at Wichita, Kansas. The work that I was employed at was something new, interesting and rewarding! I had taken on the pleasant task of mothering the children in the nursery department of Maude Carpenter's Orphan Home, which was under the supervision of one of the churches there.
Since Brother Gatewood had promised to find support for me, I decided on temporary work only in order to be free to go whenever that should be. When by the end of the summer of 1951, I still had not heard from him in this matter, I decided to find a better paying job of some kind. Thus I found a job in Kansas City by answering an advertisement in the paper. From late fall till March 1952 I was employed by a large photo firm, where I retouched-improved photos with flaws or undesired blemishes (making beauties out of hags). It amazed me how much money people were willing to put into this sort of thing. I was grateful, however, to have obtained a place of work at a time when millions were unemployed. Although I had once dreamed of being a photographer (in my artistic days of youth!) I despised the type of thing that I had to do at that time to eke out a living.
My mistress (boss) had very little appreciation of her faithful workers and made life a nightmare for them by her inhuman demands. We had to stand at work from eight in the morning till five in the afternoon at an easel attached to the wall near shoulder-height and under bright glaring lights. She would enter the glittering shop cursing and fuming because no one could please her. One day I was so exhausted from the strain that I took some proofs and sat down under a good light and was working hard to get the required work done. It was not long until a blast of the familiar tirade from her lips followed that I was not soon to forget! Telling her why I had taken that position availed me nothing, so I told her that I was compelled to serve her two weeks' notice. (I had already signed up with the firm of Encyclopedia Americana, and was going to start work with them the following month.)
Almost precisely - that very day, upon retiring in my room, disappointed and blue, the telephone roused me out of my depression. It was a long distance call from Lubbock, Texas. On the line Brother Paul Sherrod of Texas was introducing himself, and said he was calling to tell me that support had been found, and that I could be off to Germany as soon as I wanted to go! Brother Sherrod was one of the elders of the Broadway church in Lubbock. Broadway was supporting the Gatewoods in Germany at that time. I recall how thrilled I was - I could hardly find words to answer, and the perspiration was running off my elbow while I held the receiver of the telephone. He informed me of the congregation that would be supplying my need and encouraged me to make the trip to Waxahatchie, Texas to make the acquaintance of the church there. As if directed by the Lord, I had resigned just at the right time.
The following two weeks I received better treatment from my boss plus a bonus in salary. I had informed her of my tentative plans when I went to work for her, so this was not new to her. During this interval, word got around to some of the churches in Kansas City that I was leaving for mission work in Germany shortly. So typical of my kind brethren, several of these got together and gave me a lovely send-off - a farewell including almost enough money to cover my travelling costs.
Soon I was on my way to Waxahatchie to meet the lovely people who had planned to sponsor my work in Germany. Words fail to describe my emotions when I saw what these dear souls had in store for me. The evening I arrived I was invited to a sumptuous dinner. (My meals in my room had been pretty skimpy.) This was held in the home of a fine couple. Just as dessert was about to be served, the doors on both sides of the house opened and people started pouring in, carrying cakes and parcels wrapped in pretty paper and ribbons. I was too startled to realize what was happening - but not for long. I was led to a big living room and seated in a comfortable chair. Before I could say Jack Robinson, a table stacked with gifts was shoved in front of me. Then I realized this was a well-planned shower by the ladies of the church. The gifts consisted of things I would need and use in my work in Germany.
The following day the elders and the preacher had a welcome and get-acquainted dinner for me. What a joy to meet consecrated men and women anywhere and particularly those who have opened their arms and hearts to send a fellow- Christian well-supplied into the field in which he has chosen to serve the Lord! On the Sunday following this, I spent the day becoming acquainted with the whole congregation and making my farewells to my dear, dear new friends and benefactors. How happy and grateful I was that my long wait had merited so much joy and blessing.
With mixed emotions, I left my dear American brethren and set out to make arrangements for the work ahead. It was close to the end of March when I left for Wolseley, Canada (stopping in Winnipeg over the weekend) to spend some time with my dear mother, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews, as well as some of the churches with which I had been acquainted for long years. On my way eastward I was invited to stop in Winnipeg to say goodbye to the brethren there. When I arrived there I was surprised that a lovely farewell and shower had been planned by them. I still have the quilt that those busy fingers of the sisters gave me at that time. It has helped to make many a guest comfortable during my time in Europe.
My last stop-over in Canada was in Toronto. Brother and sister Smart of the Bayview congregation, as well as brother Whitelaw, Sr., had become dear friends of mine during their visits at Harding College and had made a special plea that I visit with them before leaving. I had also learned to know many of the members of the Bayview congregation during a campaign in which I had had a part in the fall of 1949. So it was a pleasure to spend a few days with them. This church has been the most faithful of my many benefactors throughout all the years that I have been in Europe. Daddy and Mamma Smart saw me off at the main train station where I was about to make my last farewell and to be on my way.
As the train pulled into Grand Central Station in New York City I was overwhelmed to see a number of Harding friends there to meet me. I don't know how I ever would have managed without their assistance in that great metropolis where every mile seems like ten. It is wonderful how the Lord takes care of His children! I was taken by car (not taxi) to the various places I had to call on - customs clearing, baggage department - to have baggage put on board the boat and so forth. Then I was taken to brother R.C. Cannon's to spend the remaining days resting up from the strain of the foregoing weeks and days. I even had opportunity to meet the Wendell Brooms at Flushing and Walter Hart of the down-town church - both missionaries since those days. No one can fully realize what all these dear friends meant to me until he has traveled thousands and thousands of miles alone and into the unknown! Brother Cannon took me across this great city and under the Hudson River, out to the Holland-America pier, and saw me safely onto the boat.
On the 12th of May the old Veendam steamed out of port lunging and lurching out toward the open sea, while its passengers clung to the railing until the last outline of their friends dimmed into the harbor haze. The majestic sky-line of New York with the Statue of Liberty loomed large at first, but as we moved out and away, it also grew gradually less distinct and soon disappeared beyond the horizon altogether. With an indescribable feeling in the pit of my stomach I was slowly coming to the realization that I myself was leaving behind (only materially) all that had been necessary, meaningful, and dear to me, during all the years of my life up to that point. I had once again launched my frail bark upon the waters of the unknown.
During the following almost dozen days I had ample time to acquaint myself with this portion of my life's river. There was also time to reminisce, to meditate, to read and to pray. At the end of four days, we were out in mid-Atlantic where the weatherman seemed to be taking out his vengeance on all who had ventured into his grip. About that time more and more of the ship's passengers crowded out on main-deck, in spite of the biting icy winds, for out there they found the air more stimulating - an aid to warding off the nausea with which so many were seized. Before long, I was in their midst, shivering in the cold air, yet afraid to go down into the churning, rolling sea-water-scented inside of this sea monster. Fortunately, I had taken my old fur coat with me, which was the most appropriate garment to brace against that cold.
I grew to understand the meaning of the old proverb We're all in the same boat more fully than ever before. Out there in the middle of the ocean, no matter what the background of the individual passengers had been, each one was exposed to the same elements - of fear, loneliness, nostalgia, and helplessness.
For this reason it was not difficult to make friends with this strangely mixed multitude, although passengers were forbidden to enter the decks of other classes. I found among the passengers on the first Sunday aboard at least ten to twelve people with whom I could speak about things dear to my heart. There were seven young women travelling with us who were missionaries belonging to the Alliance and who were on their way to China and Africa. Another woman was on her way to Germany to conduct a youth rally with the Youth for Christ, organization. Then there was the Dutch Reformed preacher, with his wife, from Philadelphia who had taken it upon himself to conduct the Sunday morning worship. All of these made excellent conversational companions and helped to pass the long drab days away. There were others too, with whom I enjoyed exchanging ideas. As I was going to Germany, where a Hitler had dominated, I took particular interest in two Jewish women who were on their way back to that country for the first time since their flight from persecution. By the time we were to leave the boat I had marked one hundred and ten names on my passengers' list of the people I had learned to know on my journey over.
When at the end of eight days of seeing nothing but the dark and foreboding deep blue, below and above, we heard an announcement on the transmitter saying that land was in sight, there wasn't one passenger who didn't delight at such welcome words. We had approached some of the islands - the harbingers of Europe itself!
A full day later we arrived at Southhampton port, where hundreds of happy voyagers had reached their destination. The following day, after crossing the tumultuous torrent of the British Channel, we anchored at Calais in France, where others disembarked. Of great interest to me was the gigantic harbor machinery that plied back and forth removing heavy pieces of the ship's load as if they were toys. Cars, trucks, tractors and the like were picked up as it were by some colossal giant, and set gently on the shore. One day more and then Rotterdam! We arrived at this Dutch port in the evening of what was to be the last time the Veendam was to anchor anywhere. It was a good thing that none of the passengers knew this ahead of time because while we were in mid-ocean, where the sea was the wildest, I often felt that the creaks and groans of our boat were foreboding signs of her simply falling apart under the strain. She was to be completely dismantled after this, its last trip!
We knew that we would soon be into the harbour when the customs' officers came aboard. With precision-timing all their official matter was wrapped up as we pulled to the pier. With a long drawn-out siren, the captain made known that we had landed. Within a few minutes the gang-plank was in place and we began pouring out of the ship's belly what seemed like a never-ending stream of people. What a sensation to set foot on terra firma once more! Walking on wobbly legs, we went through the welcoming host of Dutchmen to the place where we were to identify and receive our baggage. With the excitement of landing and all its involvements I had forgotten what was really happening to many of those of us who had been together for so long a time.
While I was waiting for my baggage to come along the thought struck me, Here I am in Europe - I have arrived! Looking around me, the full impact of this thought struck me. Everything looked so very strange to this child of the Canadian Plains! Yes, and the sounds were strange too - hearing those who worked at getting the passengers and freight off their hands and speaking a foreign tongue, I knew I would have to become accustomed to hearing many strange tongues in Europe where I had landed. Strange was the feeling of being alone among strangers after spending long, long days with so many people who, to a great extent, had become familiar faces, or even friends. As I waited, questions crowded my mind. What must I do after I get my baggage cleared? Where do I go from here? Where do I get information in English? Thanks to the kind steward, I was soon directed to a waiting hotel room not far from the railway station from which I was to leave the following morning for Germany. I wonder how many of the conveniences that are ours today as we travel from country to country, were available when the great Apostle Paul and his fellow-workers sailed the stormy seas of long ago as they went about telling the Gospel story in far off lands.
At seven o'clock on the following morning I was at the railroad station where, after getting my baggage taken care of, I was to get on the Rhein Gold Express and to be on my way to Frankfurt. Within minutes we were flying low along the winding banks of this mighty river. Dazed by weariness, I soon drifted into sleep - knowing I had a five to seven hour ride ahead of me. When the train jerked to a halt, I looked out of the window to see where we were. The signs on the platform told the name of the city. Then my eyes caught sight of something that shocked me breathless, for out there I saw what I had never dreamed of seeing by 1952 - war ruins! Appalled I gazed at the gaping bomb craters, shattered bridges, fragments of houses, endless piles of rubble and debris of which I was to see mile after endless mile along the way! (For that matter these sights were not uncommon in parts of Berlin when I left there in 1968!) Here then, were the ruins of what once had been palatial homes and office buildings, hospitals, schools, castles, and churches. All this devastation was to leave an indelible impression on my mind. My heart pounded as I thought of the miserable deaths suffered by those millions that must surely have been buried alive under those very ruins during the dreadful war years. I had almost completely forgotten that there had been a war - hardly ever realized the full significance of it!
As I was still thinking about the gruesome sights, the door to my compartment opened. (European passenger trains have compartments to accommodate six to eight passengers.) I was to make the acquaintance of the first German officials or German people when two customs' officers came in saying something I found little sense in. Asking them if they spoke English, I got a friendly "Ja wohl!" Having nothing to declare, I was relieved as quickly as disturbed in my reverie. How the hours had flown! My stomach told me it must be getting around noon, so I wandered through the coaches to the dining car. There I ordered the only meal the menu offered. This consisted of good German Bratwurst, fried potatoes, and sauerkraut. As I was lingering over my meal I noticed the train slowing down. Stations are not called out as you approach them, as in Canada or U.S.A., i.e. not on the train, but from the station over a loud speaker. When I inquired of a fellow-passenger where we were, I received a reply indicating we had entered Frankfurt.
It was not long until we were to arrive at my destination. While we were pulling in toward Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof (main station) I worried what I would do if there were no one to meet me. What a foolish worry (as all worries are!). To my surprise, there were no less than fifteen to twenty persons on the station platform waiting to give me the heartiest welcome any one could have had. The still roofless and war-torn station faded from view while I was covered with caresses and huge bouquets of roses. What joy! I had finally arrived at my long hoped for destination!
I was in Germany after four long years of preparing, waiting, and waiting! Here I was to see again faces grown dear in former years. Most of those that met me were former Harding associates, like Hugh and Joy Mingle, Bob and Mary Belle Helsten, Marjorie Rogers, and the Gatewoods. These were accompanied by the J.C. Moores, Irene Johnson, Fred Kasmir, and the Artists. What a joy to meet those who had come to wage the war against Satan and his might.
The very hour that I arrived in Frankfurt, Fred and Marjorie had come from their civil wedding. Marjorie and I had become close friends after Otis' first visit to Harding College. We had joined the Deutschlander group and also studied German from records and other aids, together. Because she was a registered nurse, her capabilities as such would be a great asset toward helping the aged and sick in war-torn Germany.
I was grateful to have made it in time for their beautiful church wedding, which came almost a week after the civil court one. Here in Europe it is compulsory to clear a lot of red tape and to be married by a branch of the civil law court, set up for that purpose. Christian couples usually do not consider this sufficient evidence of their intentions for the future and thus have a wedding before the Lord's church, showing forth their faith in God and their pledge to keep their marriage bond in sanctity. After their wedding the Kasmirs went on a vacation- honeymoon that took them to Italy and other southern European countries.
In the meantime I was going through a breaking-in stage in real-on-the-field mission work. Someone had spread the word around that there at last was one missionary arriving on the field with the ability to speak the German language fluently! If only they could have known what a plight I was in when they asked me to help Irene Johnson with her tent-classes that were then in progress. There was a meeting going on in the tent each evening in the Bornheim area of Frankfurt, and during such sessions the brethren took advantage of the opportunity to reach many children by holding Bible classes suited to them. It was in such a class that I was invited to help Irene, who had been at this type of work for at least four or five years, and thus was most adept with it.
So when she asked me to teach the classes (or help with them) I discovered that none of that fluency would come out. Right there in front of some seventy to one hundred and twenty German children, I stood aghast for want of words. What in the world was I to do? Run from it? Should I take a stab in the dark? Act I must and did, but how I did is another matter! Wanting to attract the interest of the youngsters, I started out in all seriousness with Okay, let's .. when those children burst out in one roar of laughter. All right, now let's stop ...... More laughter! Some stuttering of what German I could recall followed, but I do not know how the rest of that historic first lesson went. I do know the next ones were worked out with the use of a German Bible and a bilingual dictionary.
About three weeks after this episode an enthusiastic, dynamic preacher from the city of Wiesbaden (around 25 miles from Frankfurt) came seeking the services of this experienced well-seasoned, fluently speaking missionary to ask her help in a similar children's work in his city. In fact this time I was to conduct the whole program - working other younger helpers into it. Horrors! How was I ever going to manage without Irene's assistance? No one can imagine the panic that seized this old school marm, as she stood in front of a tent full of eager children with whom she could scarcely communicate - and yet had so much she wanted to share with them! Using all the visual aids that Lloyd and Sarah Collier could get together, I let these be the substitute for most of the words that failed me. I wonder what our missionary brethren do in countries where remote languages are spoken when they first enter those fields like Korea, Thailand, East Indies, (or any of the tribes of Africa). English and German are very similar in many respects because of their common origin.
Right here, I want to comment on the language study classes taught at our Christian Colleges and high schools. It is my opinion that these are of little value if every-day conversation and expressions do not play a leading part during the study periods in which foreign languages are taught. Aside from the fundamentals in grammar there is no intrinsic value in the hours spent gleaning through and translating ancient literature which, in most cases, scarcely hint at terminology used in present day expression, unless the student intends to use this knowledge for other than conversational purposes. I had had six years of formal German in high school and college days and made A's in tests given. We spent many hours reading or trying to read from well-known poets and novelists but when I arrived on German soil, I did not even know how to buy the simplest item. I was devoid of the most essential vocabulary to carry on even the simplest conversation, although I had been quite capable of translating Mina von Barnhelm, Der Taugenechts, etc., etc., while at college. It took several months before I could even venture to assemble my thoughts to the extent that I could express them in German - to be able to deliver a lesson and feel that I had really been successful in putting my thoughts across.
No matter how difficult those two tent sessions had been, it was the best source of schooling in the language that I could have had. It was great, also, to be able to listen to powerful sermons delivered by young German preachers, night after night. At first I understood very little of what was said, but at the end of four to six weeks I could follow a sermon quite well. I had purchased a parallel translation of the New Testament to facilitate my understanding as well as to improve my vocabulary.
After my first month in Germany, which seemed like six months, I was ready to go to Heppenheim, a small city situated on an old Roman road that leads from Frankfurt to Heidelberg. The Kasmirs who had often written me, encouraging me to help them at Heppenheim, had returned from their honeymoon and were ready to settle down to the work with combined efforts. It was July and children were out of school, a good time to go into the highways and byways to cast one's net to bring them in to Bible classes. Mothers too, were glad to get their youngsters off their hands for a few hours a week. And thus it was that after my settling in at Heppenheim, not only the children's classes but also the women's, were thrown into my lap. Since I had never even attempted a women's Bible Class in English, it was with indescribable chitters that I faced my first ladies' Bible class in Heppenheim. I had to spend long hours getting suitable materials together. These I would work up in English and then translate into German. As my knowledge of everyday terminology increased, I regained my confidence and desire to communicate and to teach.
Sometime in June, Margaret Dunn and Dieter Goel had their church wedding in the building rented by the Niederraeder Lundstrasse church in Frankfurt. I had met Margaret at Marjorie's wedding and later at a shower given her by the American ladies at Frankfurt. It was at this wedding that a most charming young woman approached me, asking me to come to Heidelberg, where she and her family lived, to help them with women's, children's and teen-age girls' Bible classes once each week. The lady mentioned is Elaine Walker, wife of Richard Walker. (The Walkers were to become my co-workers for at least sixteen years.)
By September I had taken up this challenge and was making a bus trip to Heidelberg every weekend. I would arrive on Friday afternoon - just in time to conduct the women's Bible class. The evening was spent in teaching the teen-age girls (at the time there were no young men to be found interested in Gospel teaching). On Saturday afternoon about two hours were spent with the children, and then back to Heppenheim (25 or 30 miles).
Part of the summer was spent in meetings and vacation Bible schools. Both Heppenheim and Heidelberg had their own new church buildings suitable for these classes, with apartments for the evangelist. A small American church was meeting in the home of the P.D. Counts in the historically famous City of Worms. Accompanying the Kasmirs every Sunday afternoon, I was engaged in teaching a children's class in English and occasionally in conducting a women's Bible class too. In the evening we were back for services in Heppenheim. How happy was I to be busy sowing the seed of the Kingdom!
For some reason unknown to me, Heppenheim had a better climate than other parts of Germany. There was seldom ever snow in winter, which if it did come would melt within a day or two. By February I could look out of my window and see the beautiful Schloss-Berg (Castle Hill) with almond and peach trees in blossom. By late March and early April magnolia and other trees were in full bloom, and the air was filled with the hum of bees and the twitter of the song-birds busy feeding their young while the gentle breeze rustled in the new green leaves. Summers were mild too. That climate made it possible for me to ride my bicycle throughout the country-side making calls on new and older Christians - or even to make a short solitary flight from work and human problems into the surrounding Odenwald, a low mountain range covered with various kinds of trees.
In April 1953, the Kasmirs and I decided to take our vacation in Holland during tulip time. It was an interesting trip for me because Fred was so well versed on all the historic landmarks we passed along our way there and back. When we arrived in Holland we were somewhat disappointed because the weather was still very cold and damp. The grass was as green and thick as a carpet but the tulips we went to see were not yet out. The icy winds from the North Sea were not conducive to bringing out the blossoms. We did, however, have good fortune on our side because that was the year that the Floral Exhibition was on and we were able to see some of the most beautiful arrangements of flowers we had ever seen. The Exhibition was all under glass where the temperature was much higher than that outside.
We did not want to leave Holland without seeing a real windmill, some dykes, and without going to an Island in the Zuyder Zee. We saw a colorful but small costume parade in Vollendam and purchased some wooden shoes or replicas. Just before going on the Netherlands trip I had bought a movie camera, which made it possible, though in a very amateurish fashion, to carry back some of the highlights of the trip. When we returned to Heppenheim we were bathed in warm spring sunshine and surrounded by the most gloriously blossoming fields and orchards. Tulips, daffodils, narcissi, magnolias, violets, pansies, and hyacinths profusely filled the air with their fragrance. It was good to be back in God's garden - both externally and internally.
The church at Heppenheim had its struggles. We were few in number, while the Roman Catholic church boasted a 95% population. The Evangelical Lutheran Church consisted of a small congregation, and was dominated by a most autocratic preacher. The brethren had experienced more opposition from this man when they started working in Heppenheim than they did from all those in the bigger organization.
One fall day while Fred was in bed with a recurrence of malaria, which he had gotten during the war years, a dear kindly old brother died. Brother Krieger was living in an old folks' home, where this preacher used to call on non-Catholics and had included Brother Krieger among those visited. And so it happened that after brother Krieger's death, although we had received notice of his passing, this preacher sent out notices that he was going to assume burial rites for the deceased. Fred, though in fever, wrote him a letter telling him that brother Krieger had made arrangements prior to his death that the brethren should attend to his burial. At this, the Lutheran preacher became enraged, answering Fred's letter in a discourteous manner.
Time was short, so Marjorie and I paid this man a call. To our surprise he received us politely and even ordered tea and cake for us. Then he inquired what he could do for us, as I ventured meekly to tell him our mission. In a moment he was furious and ordered us out of his house asking us to mind our own business. As it happened Fred had typed up another letter, the contents of which I did not know and handed it to me, saying that if he refused or failed to let us carry out brother Krieger's last wish, to hand him that letter. This I tried to do as we were on the way out, but he would not take it from me, saying to return it to its author. I told him I had to follow orders and laid the letter on his desk near the door.
The following morning at seven o'clock the door-bell at Kasmirs rang. Quickly Margaret ran down the stairs to see who was there. She saw no one. However there was a letter sticking out of the mail box which she carried upstairs to her husband. It was a letter from the evangelical preacher, very briefly stating for us to go ahead with the burial, even giving details as to the funeral home, the relatives in question, etc., to be contacted. As Fred was still too ill to attend to this matter, Marjorie hurried over to my apartment to get me to call Frankfurt for help. To our delight Brother Gatewood and several others were on the spot at the right time to fulfill our dear old brother's last wish. From there on we felt no more opposition from this self-made opponent! However, we did have a rock hurled into one of our windows during an evening meeting.
After two years of climbing Heppenheim's hilly, winding streets, I was making plans to join my dear Walkers in a new field. The Kasmirs left for the U.S.A. in May 1954 so Fred could spend a year or two (it's nearly ten now) at one of the colleges to work on a degree. So the work there was to be carried on by Edgar and Dixie Knobel. Edgar had just completed his studies at Harding. The Walkers had also spent nine months on the home front. So while I was waiting for the Walkers to return, I continued to work with the new missionaries both in Heppenheim and Heidelberg.
Then in September of 1954 the Walkers and I made the big move to West Berlin. It was not easy to leave friends and brethren in West Germany and to live behind the Iron Curtain. For this reason I felt sad and reluctant all at once. Once more I was delving into the unknown and by all means the uncertain. Berlin at that time was going from one political crisis into another. Only a year before this, there had been a bloody uprising in that city that had taken many lives and proven the Soviets masters of the situation. As it was very risky to travel alone by train through the heavily guarded East German border, I decided to fly to West Berlin.
Great surprises were in store for me in Berlin! Here I was to find an open-hearted, kind, friendly and frankly outspoken people. I knew from the very first half-day that I was going to enjoy living in Berlin. One of the biggest surprises we had was the receptiveness of these good people toward Gospel teaching, right from the start.
After finding living quarters and a place in which to hold services and classes, we were open for business - the Lord's business! Fortunately, the Walkers and I found housing in the same villa in the beautiful Grunewald area of Berlin. This house with its twenty-four rooms had a quiet lake in the back of it and was surrounded by apple trees. It was in this huge back yard that we had many a sunny picnic for our new friends and brethren. Our (landlord-and-lady) hosts were the most charming and kind-hearted that I have met in my whole mess of moving about while in Europe! Usually renters are granted very few privileges outside of their immediate rented floor space. But the Kuborzy's were different. They allowed the children to play around the yard and for us to use the back yard. I almost said park, because it was more like a small park than a yard, for picnics, sing-songs, etc., and would often join us on these occasions.
Our meeting place, consisting of two rooms, was in a newly constructed apartment house, and the ground floor of the same, was still partly in the raw. Since we were in a hurry to get started, we did some of the final tasks to speed things up. Our appearance and activity soon attracted hordes of youngsters whose curiosity compelled them to stay around, and often to take part in the work. There were all kinds of refuse left by the builders that had to be carried out and away. There was painting to do, curtains to hang, and everything to clean up. Soon our friendly little helpers wanted to know what we were going to use this place for. This gave us opportunity, free of cost, to advertise our children's work, and services. The place had a huge shop window, which proved most convenient for posting up illustrated invitations and signs. I know of no better way of attracting children than children themselves. The Walker's children were always about us in those first weeks. (Later they enrolled in the British school.)
The day we opened for the first class we had seven children present. The following week there were seventeen. Before we knew it, at least two widowed mothers were taking an active interest in this new sect that had set up camp in their immediate area. One of these mothers became a Christian along with both her daughters within two years of the beginning we made at that time! There were at least two more mother- daughter pairs that followed suit within the same period.
On opening night of our Sunday services, we had an attendance of nine persons (four children - the Walker's) which was indeed a good beginning. By the end of November, the number of children in our classes had increased to thirty-eight and the adult attendance had increased to about ten. What is true of every new church, there are often curiosity enthusiasts who soon drop away, but a steady stream of newcomers grew as time went on.
About the middle of November, Ruth Ranschoff joined forces with us. Ruth's father was an official of the law, of Jewish origin. Her mother was German from Evangelical background. At the time of Hitler's persecution and purge of the Jews in Germany, the Ranschoffs were also involved. They fled from Germany and settled in the Dominican Republic. It was there that Ruth had become a teacher in the Spanish language (she spoke at least three languages fluently) and had earned her way back to her native land in 1952. It was during this visit to Germany that Ruth learned about the Lord's church, and had become a Christian. After her conversion, she spent at least one year attending the Bible School in Frankfurt and one year at A.C.C. When this talented young woman joined our ranks we were overjoyed. With Ruth's capable assistance a young people's class was soon under way.
As for me, I was able to get a ladies' Bible class started, though for a while this consisted of one lady besides myself. This dear soul was critically ill in spite of her trying to present a smile and a good front. Her body was riddled with cancer and her concern for her sixteen-year-old daughter was great! As she confessed her real status-quo to me, I was able to offer her the only consolation there is, that of surrendering all to her Lord and Master Jesus Christ. The Lord moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform. He plants His footsteps on the sea and rides upon the storm. The Lord moved in the lives of these two dear ladies. To our knowledge, Sister Achtelik was the first person to obey the Gospel call in Berlin and she lived to see the day when Barbara, too, would follow her! Her sweet daughter left for America the year following her death and entered Lubbock Christian College. She was one of the most active workers in project Bay Shore, in the North East, and at the World's Fair. Now she is married to a fine Christian instructor in the Navy, and lives in the New York area, continuing faithfully in her mission as God's child!
The Women's Bible Class grew that first winter from nine to twelve persons, some of whom became good Christian women. Up to this point, all our efforts centered in the Hollensee area of Berlin. By January 1955, upon hearing from our land-lady that Friedenau would be a good place to continue our efforts, we went (with her accompaniment) to the center of that area and found a cafe-restaurant that offered to let us meet within its rooms at a nominal price, mostly on condition that the guests put in an order for refreshments. Frau Kuborzy was right! On the first evening of a Bible study in the Cafe Kaisereiche, we were surprised to have several visitors though we had done very little advertising. By the end of January our number had grown to twenty-seven. What was interesting about this group was that there were at least seven different religious sects represented among those attending.
Since nearly all of those coming were women, I was urged to start a Women's Bible Class in Friedenau. This I did. We met in the different homes of those who invited us. My first lesson there was entitled The faith for once and always delivered. Needless to say this roused no uncommon interest. By the time May rolled around with its glorious spring weather, fifteen persons were ready to surrender their lives to Christ. Brother Von Nagelein was the first man to be baptized in Berlin. Though he was feeble with age, he was a shining example in his faithfulness. By November of the same year eleven more were added to our number. In the spring of 1956 Weldon Bennett from Hamburg held a good meeting at which several others were added.
By the fall of 1955 Ludwig Klinke and Manfred Kohontek had come to Berlin to study New Testament Greek under Brother Walker's tutorship. At the same time they did a great deal toward getting a children's work started in Friedenau, where we had rented a shop for meeting quarters, and I had a one-room apartment (kitchen and bath not counted as rooms). However, our two student helpers had to leave us before the New Year, leaving the children's work in my care. This meant that I had to give up the children's work I had started at Hollensee and let Ruth take over. Mine was the responsibility to conduct the women's classes in both places and the children's in Friedenau. Berlin is a large city and the places mentioned here were many miles apart.
Richard Walker rented a low building - similar to a college beanery or hot-dog stand, which had windows on all four sides, for the purpose of advertising various things - tracts, Bibles, functions of the church in the area, and posters advertising our evangelistic meetings. There was seldom a time when there was not someone studying this material.
In the spring of 1956 I had the good fortune to make a trip to Israel and Jordan. This journey was led and supervised by the Sorbonne University of Paris - hence French was the language in which the guide made his announcements and tours. However, a Catholic priest who accompanied the group as its spiritual advisor, spoke English perfectly and was kind enough to translate all necessary conversation for the four of us who spoke English. Although this trip did not reveal all the things I had hoped, it left its mark on my life. It provided valuable information toward the understanding and studying and teaching of the Bible. To be sure it was a thrilling adventure to walk the earth where once the Saviour of the world walked, to see the hill where He (according to tradition) died and to walk into the grave where His beloved followers laid His battered body and from which He arose victorious over sin and death. Because there was unrest and strife in the air between the two nations that claim ownership of its soil, it was difficult to be able to see all that we had hoped to see.
When I returned to Berlin I was wiser spiritually but weaker physically. While on the boat from Naples to Haifa (and on the way back) sea-sickness paid me a mean call and I was not able to be up and going for many hours at a time. I remember the steward who was to provide me with my meals while I kept my bed, saying to me, My dea'a you must eat; you are sick. You will die if you not eat. Try not eat what I don' give ya. Eat lots apples and mazza.
About that time it mattered little to me which way I was to go. I had had wet clothes on my back and feet for endless hours of sight-seeing in endless hours of pouring rain while I was in Jerusalem - on the Jordan side. By staying in a monastery we were not privileged to have a stove or any form of warmth, so that our clothes never did dry out. At the end of two or three days of that I came down with what must have been pneumonia. I was freezing to death with a burning fever one whole night and day before my dear friend Georgia Carver rounded up a doctor. When he came, he checked my heart and pulse first of all. He found my heart in bad shape and administered an intravenous injection. When he checked my breathing and found it quite faulty, he prescribed sulfa tablets (about one inch in diameter and about two cupfuls of these!) He found a French nurse in one of the orphanages nearby and had her check on me twice a day, since he himself was busy elsewhere. He returned once more, ordering the nurse to give me injections daily and to see to it that I had a pitcher of boiled water at my bed side, saying I must drink a cupful with every tablet every two hours around the clock.
During the day all the ladies who were put up in this monastery were away on sight-seeing tours and I was left alone at the mercy of the Arabs who cooked, cleaned, etc., at the place. On one such day I was frightened when there was a loud knock on the unlocked door to the room where I lay. I did not answer, but the door opened anyway and there stood an Arab monk, robes and all. He had come to see how the patient was faring. Because he knew monastery beds were mercilessly hard, he inquired if I needed a better, softer mattress and more covers. I told him I did and also a hot water bottle for my aching back. He waited until the other ladies came back for lunch and gave them what I wanted - a soft mattress, more covers and hot water bottles! The hot water bottles made me laugh because they consisted of two huge corked wine bottles - but they did relieve the chills. By evening the nurse was able to bring me a real rubber bottle. It was tragically amusing how all those people - all men showed their sympathetic consideration for me. Jordan truly has its good Samaritans even in the 20th century.
It was this bout with illness in Jerusalem that caused me to be so ghastly sick on the boat returning to Naples. By the time I arrived in Berlin I had lost enough weight to be able to double my suit around me. A trip to the medical professor, who was my doctor, told me that I still had inflammation of the lining of the stomach and put me on a strict diet for some time to come.
In the fall of 1955 the Walkers moved from Grunewald to Friedenau, where they had a whole house and garden for their own use. After my return from the Israel trip, I moved into a big apartment right across the street from them. Those were pleasant days for me and I'm sure for them as well. We were back and forth so frequently that we felt like one family. The children loved to spend a night or two with Tante Betty (Aunt Betty).
Our bigger housing facilities came in handy during the campaigns the following two years. We were able to accommodate our guests - if their number did not exceed a limited one. I could always have at least two to three guests. The first season I had two lovely lady campaigners from California to stay with me. The next year my niece from Norway spent three weeks visiting her aunt - and the Walker children. Darlene Gatewood spent two weeks with me while her daddy preached at the tent meetings. In the fall I had a student nurse, Christel Kampher, to stay three months. The Walkers' home usually hosted the preacher or visiting elders.
Guests were always welcome in a city like Berlin. However, none ever were as welcome as those who drove off our loneliness in the first dismal months of our sojourn behind the Iron Curtain. There was an isolation that was deeply felt. Visiting brethren brought fresh air with them as they drifted in. After the first year, we had loving brethren and a host of friends within the city walls and the feeling of being cut off was less acute.
Until August 13, 1961 we were able to traverse from the western to the eastern part of the city without difficulty. But that came to a terrible halt on that eventful night when the barbed-wire fences and concrete blocks were erected to block the streets and roads leading from one side to the other - and in fact all around the city itself. We were no longer able to cross over to the East to visit our brethren there without going through hateful controls on the border and submitting to a search of grocery and hand-bags, having passports controlled and taken away for what seemed to be an endless quarter of an hour, showing your money purse and listing your valuables (rings, watches, fur coats) on forms they issued. At first cameras were forbidden; later they were allowed but only limited pictures could be taken, i.e. not of any public, military, or official building, nor of persons serving in these. No longer could some eight of our brethren attend worship services in Friedenau, as all people in the East were restricted from even approaching the border. In spite of the fear and threat brought on by these measures, it was a thrill to make the occasional call on our brethren, whose undaunted good humor and faith kept the smile on their faces and love in their hearts.
Thrilling to me were the first evangelistic meetings we had in Berlin. I shall never forget the joy we shared when Dieter Goebel came from Hamburg to conduct our first meeting in Hollensee (where our first start was made). I'm sure he must have wondered what was wrong with us, at the way he was received. He was not only the first one to hold a meeting, he was our first guest from any church outside Berlin. During the following year we had two such meetings, both of these in Friedenau. One of these was with Weldon Bennett, the other with Otis Gatewood. With each meeting our numbers increased. Unfortunately many of these dear brethren were old and feeble when they came to us, and therefore were not to be with us for long. During one period of twenty months we lost around twenty-two of our brethren through death.
The campaign in 1957 was not so large as the following year. There was a group of about twelve students and adults from the U.S.A. This meeting took place in the Friedenau meeting place, which was so crowded toward the end that we were compelled to seat guests in the back rooms (where I had lived) with the use of a loud speaker. It was a special treat to have Alma Gatewood with us that summer, as she was a bundle of inspiration and activity - on fire for the Lord! By the end of this campaign our number in Berlin had doubled.
After this campaign, we were blessed to have our first children's camp in Berlin (and the last). This took place in the Grunewald park. There we lived in house-tents - large enough for six army cots supplied by the youth and child-welfare organization, free of charge. We were also supplied ample straw bales to fill the canvas mattress sacks, and to use as outdoor seats during morning and evening devotion. These also provided good stage or drama properties for me, while I taught lessons on obedience to God. We formed the walls of Jericho and Ai out of these. They made good altars (fireless) and many other props for the dramatization of Bible stories and stunts! There were twenty-five of us, teachers included, at the camp, and we felt greatly privileged to have been granted permission to use this otherwise forbidden territory for our children. The whole area was covered by huge forest trees, while a swimming pool (lake) was a mere fifteen-minute walk from the camp site. It was all very delightful except for the nights or days when it rained, or on those mornings that the Soviets, stationed across the river from us, had target practice at three or four in the morning, and scared us out of our sleep. Our meals were brought to us by truck in heavy, tightly sealed cans. This service is rendered by all city kitchens (catering service) to groups like ours for less than we could have cooked them. We were not allowed to use any type of fire - anything that could start a forest fire - so were most thankful for the steaming hot meals.
Besides the children getting plenty of fresh air, sunshine and exercise, they had daily Bible classes and hymn singing. Often visitors from the city broke the monotony - if there were any. Several baptisms resulted indirectly from this effort - four of them in East Berlin. As Brother Walker put it one day, Life as a missionary never gets monotonous; it is always exciting, thrilling, changing; nothing like spending day after day behind a machine or an office desk.
In 1958 we were to have the best campaign yet! This was scheduled at the time when we had purchased our own Gospel Tent for a real old-fashioned tent meeting. The seating capacity was 195. Excitement reached a high peak the night that a large group of our American brethren, plus several German brethren from West Germany, arrived at Tempelhof Airport. After all had had a big hearty Berliner welcome (there were a large number who were on the welcome stand) we brought them by city bus to their respective abodes and retired for the night.
Early the next morning, after rising and a devotion, all were off in pairs knocking doors. Each one was urged to be as kind and mannerly as possible, but as emphatic as possible also, in making the Gospel plea, and at inviting people to come to the tent meeting night after night.
Brother Gatewood held hundreds in the audience spell- bound by his animated and hearty proclamation of the Gospel. Every night the crowds outside increased - standing the whole period through. The seats were usually filled half an hour before starting, because of the choral selections brought by the group. The seed that was sown was visibly rewarded. It grew up in the hearts of around sixty souls. It was a great day for all of us to see so many yield to the call of the Lord. The church had grown right out of our facilities that year and so for the rest of the summer we met in the tent for our regular services until it grew too cold in the fall to continue. At that time we had to have two morning worship periods in Friedenau (the tent was in Friedenau all this time).
Because we had observed in Western Germany that children's classes were greatly improved by having children's hour at the tent each day, we decided to try this in Berlin. The results surpassed all expectation. Each afternoon a Bible lesson and group singing brought out hundreds of interested youngsters. This made it necessary to use the microphone, while delivering the lesson. We were fortunate that summer to have among the workers a chorus leader and music teacher at our disposal. The children loved the story and particularly the singing. At times we had as many as one hundred and sixty- nine youngsters in the tent. The cheerful noise made by these many voices often drew crowds of adult persons who lined up outside to listen. I made it a point to teach one Bible verse daily and to give each child a carry-home lesson. This required hours of preparation, which some of the teachers among our campaigners helped to carry out. My apartment often resembled some kind of factory, with paper, glue, scissors, Bibles, etc., all over it, from one end to the other.
At least three of these teachers have been dear friends of mine since that time. Ruby Thornton of Corsicana did not cease to help with our work in Berlin when the campaign was over. She went home and started stirring up interest in her home congregation to help us with necessary supplies. She has helped in many, many ways to make my task lighter. When in 1959 I lost my support, it was through Ruby's kind recommendation that her home congregation took up the task of supporting me. Martha Murphree, another teacher of music, was so moved by our work in Berlin, and later in Austria, that she gave up her position and entered Salzburg, Austria as a missionary for two years.
Others of those in the campaign group returned to German speaking areas in Europe to be all-time campaigners- missionaries. Thus an effort like this encourages the helpers to have a greater feeling of responsibility toward the lost.
During the 1958 campaign in Berlin a Bible student from Frankfurt came to help us. With very little persuasion Jaro Schubert stayed on to assist us with our new brethren and in every other way possible. Jaroslav was at one time a full- fledged Roman Catholic priest, behind the Iron Curtain. He and several others fled from there in 1956 to take up residence and work in the Munich area. It was during an evangelistic meeting - or better said, right after one, that Jaro saw a sign before the church building in Munich while he was on his way to administer aid to refugees from his homeland, and others. He immediately took an interest in what he saw, and went to investigate. After several discussion and study periods with Jack Nedlaw and other men of the Munich church, he laid off his black robes and put on Christ. He then spent many months studying in Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg, etc., under the guidance of the missionaries there. That summer when he arrived in Berlin, he was looking for a job, to begin after the campaign. His aim was to help his fiancée to return from America. Jana had been a religion teacher under his supervision in their native land, and was then waiting to be enlisted as a nurse or teacher in a convent in America. After we offered Jaro the position - and aid, he was not long in getting Jana over. She arrived in Berlin around the 24th of September, was baptized on the 5th of October (the best birthday present I ever had) and married Jaro on the 25th of the month. These two faithful people stayed to work with us for more than ten years. Almost immediately, he took over the work in the Hollensee area, which moved to the Wilmersdorf section the following year.
Early in the spring of 1960 the church in Friedenau rejoiced with exceeding great joy, for March 19th marked the opening of a lovely new church building, made possible by brethren who had helped with the campaign of '58 and various churches, especially the Herring Avenue congregation in Waco, that had played the largest role in the work in Berlin even before this. The church building was erected on the very spot where the tent meeting of '58 had been held. This was a bombed out place that had been cleared of debris and levelled off and was still obtainable, for which we were most grateful. The new building would seat 150-175 persons and was equipped with two class-rooms. We were delighted to have around one hundred-twenty present for opening Sunday.
During the early part of the 60's the Wilmersdorf congregation, which was having financial problems, merged with Friedenau. At the same time Ruth left us for work in the U.S.A., which meant that Jaro and I had to take over the work she had been doing. In the winter of '58-'59 the Dieter Goebel family moved from Hamburg to Berlin and settled down in a new work in the Lichtenrade area.
The Walkers also moved, around that time, to Lichterfelde where a new work was started through tent meetings. With the start of these new churches, my number of classes increased. This meant that I had to spend many hours each week on the various means of transportation in West Berlin. Except at traffic peaks, these tours were interesting and even relaxing, providing a period for meditation, prayer and study. Often parts of these bus rides took one into the beautiful farmlands or parklands in the suburbs, which were very scenic in every season of the year.
On other occasions, when the so-called ice-rains fell, it became treacherous not only for vehicles but for pedestrians as well. One afternoon as I was waiting for the ladies to arrive for the Bible class at the Lichtenrade church building, I heard voices outside that sounded like children scratching and calling. Because such a sound was not uncommon, I went on glancing over my lesson. All of a sudden the door opened and a stranger walked in asking me to come outside to help her with a lady who had fallen on the ice. There lay poor Sister Scheffler crying with pain. Half afraid to move her, and yet fearing to leave her in the bitter cold, the stranger (for want of a name!) and I managed to ease the Sister onto a chair and to carry her inside. By this time, the pain had become unbearable, so Sister Lucie who had arrived on the scene called the fire department - as they arrive faster than anyone else. The stretcher-bearers carried her out to the ambulance, while the policeman who had followed the firemen asked me all sorts of questions connected with the accident. All that done, I put on my coat and got into the ambulance with Erna and we went bee-baa-bee-baa (the sound of German emergency vehicles) to the first hospital in the area.
While the x-rays were being made, I waited in the hall - my knees shaking - to await Erna's husband, who at best was difficult to cope with. By the time he arrived, Erna had had an injection to deaden the pain and was on her way to a room. Mr. Scheffler was visibly upset and wanted to know all the details, so he could file a complaint against those people who had neglected to strew sand or salt around the premises. The church members lived many blocks from the building; however, the owners of any property in Germany and Austria are held responsible for the safety of the side-walk and drive-ways connected with their property. So if he were going to sue, it would have been us! We were grateful because Brother Horst, who had a very important place in the Berlin police force, was able to calm down Mr. Scheffler. Sister Erna had a complicated fracture of the hipbone, which required surgery.
Up to this time it was well-nigh impossible for the brethren to get in touch with her husband. He had avoided them every time they tried to talk to him. Now we were to see him daily at the hospital and become acquainted with him. He reminded me of an S.S. officer whose picture I had often seen in papers - he was that stern. It gave the sisters opportunity to show him genuine Christianity at work, as they baked, cooked, washed, etc., for Mr. Scheffler and the son. Erna spent approximately six weeks at the hospital and by the time she left, she was able to walk with a cane. When I left Berlin in 1968 she walked along as if nothing had happened and was back at the office where she worked!
Unfortunately the Goebel family were not able to stay in Berlin for many years but their work in Lichtenrade is still a living example of their capability. Three of the men who were led to Christ through Dieter's efforts are now very capable preachers of the Gospel, and three of the ladies are very good at carrying on the children's classes.
Along with the work among the German churches, and Berliners in general, there was always an active, though sometimes very small, congregation of the American service men stationed in Berlin. These dear people provided a variety of fellowship for those of us who liked to be able to speak English and sing old familiar hymns together. Often these brethren helped the German work by sharing their regular contributions, to cover costs of meetings, camps, building expenses and so forth. It was a joy to help them with the children's classes, ladies classes, and to share the never-to-be-forgotten pot-luck dinners that came up spontaneously whenever an unexpected guest showed up, or someone had an anniversary to remember, or some dear family had been informed that their tour of duty was expiring in the near future. Our American children's classes were often exemplary in their regular attendance and interest shown, to the German-speaking children, who would see each other come and go. At one time I had fourteen teen-agers in my English speaking class. (There is now no Greek or Jew was our motto - Gal. 3:28.)
While I was in Berlin, I took two breaks for campaigns in Scotland. The first time (1962) Sally Rogers and I drove up in her little red bug - VW car. It boosted one's spirit to travel those long miles across Germany, Belgium and England with Sally. Her sense of humor never waned as she laid those winding stretches of road behind her. I shall never forget Sally's attempts to keep left, as the signs in Great Britain read all along the way from Bristol harbor and neither shall I forget her reaction to the petrol man's politeness when he said, Hello, ladies, and then looking at Sally, Well, Love, what can ay dew foor ye?
Travelling as if all the hares and hounds of Britain were after us, we reached the border of England and Scotland on Saturday night (thinking this would give us ample time to be at the meeting place in Glasgow in time for services on Sunday morning). We had found the way to Glasgow without a hitch, but to find our way around that city was a horse of another color. We kept stopping to ask for directions, only to hear that we must first travel so many miles to the left and so many to the right - and this over and over again, till we happened on the scene just in time for luncheon with the other campaigners.
Monday morning marked the beginning of the campaign. The campaigners consisted of preachers, teachers, and students with Ivan Stewart as personal work director and Fred Walker of David Lipscomb College, as speaker. After a stout lesson on how to meet and teach people, by Ivan, and a short prayer and hymn session we were divided into groups under group leaders. These men had maps for each of the workers with the area marked where each pair of campaigners would work. It was exciting, rewarding work, though many of us had blistered feet when the day drew to an end - if it did! It was a delight to work among the whole and hearty Scots. Their interest in the Gospel teaching was evident by the crowds that attended the meetings each night.
In 1962 Dr. L.C. Sears from Harding College was my fellow door-knocker until he took ill. Because Brother Sears had been my professor at Harding College years before, it was a special thrill to be able to share his gracious company, and to learn valuable lessons from this experienced soldier of the cross. Often we were invited by our newly-made friends to study the Bible with them after the evening service. This was usually preceded by a big supper, even if we had already eaten at the hotel where we stayed. It was not unusual to be poring over scripture after scripture as late (or as early?) as three and four in the morning! As we tramped from door to door in cold icy rains, we were invited again and again each day to come in and have a spot of tea and a sweet. I wonder who ever invented the tale about the Scots being stingy! We found the Glaswegians as generous as people anywhere.
Our meeting in Glasgow in 1962 was held in a lovely school budding where we were able to use the auditorium. Classes also were conducted in the regular classrooms an hour before meetings. By the time I returned for a second campaign, the brethren had erected a new church building.
At that time (1964) there were around ninety campaigners. It was a delight to work with a student from A.C.C. who was very capable at making calls and setting up Bible studies. Tom Wicker and I had real success in the area where we worked because at least four of our contacts became Christians during the meeting or shortly afterwards. One of these was a Bible teacher in the Presbyterian church before she became a member of the Lord's church, and it was not long until she was busy with children's work at the Castlemilk congregation.
During this campaign I was overjoyed to meet people I knew from the 1962 effort - as well as preachers from the U.S.A. whose relatives I had met at Harding. Sister Wycoff, whose daughter was married to an opera singer in Germany, was a '62 friend. I will never forget her because of an experience we shared.
The last evening of a meeting is always one where it is hard to take leave and go home. This was also the case at the '64 Glasgow campaign. As is usual, most of the campaigners planned to leave the morning after these farewells and to take off into the four winds. Lutz and I were returning to Berlin and were booked on an early flight from Glasgow, when Golda Wycoff told us that she was booked for the same flight, which was a happy coincidence - happy for a time that is! Lutz, Golda and I, all lived in different parts of Glasgow, which meant that we could not be in personal touch with each other. Jim Brown, a high school teacher in Glasgow, and a member of the Castlemilk church had offered to pick us up (collect us as they say over there). Somehow Jim and Lutz had forgotten to set an alarm clock or to hear one if they had, but Golda and I waited together for them to show up at the appointed 7:00 a.m., but without avail. Finally, after calling the n'th time we aroused them and hoped for the best. At that time of day, an industrial city like Glasgow has very busy traffic on its streets, so it was with misgivings that we started out for the airport. Jim did his best to avoid the busiest streets and soon we were speeding out of the city at neck-break tempo. After about thirty minutes of this I was beginning to unwind, realizing that if it were much farther to the airport, we may as well take another flight, as time was getting very short. Just then Golda remarked, This looks very much like the Prestwick area, doesn't it? (Prestwick is the main international airport some distance from Glasgow.) Jim held his breath, slammed his foot on the brakes and groaned, You don't say! Are we not to be going to Prestwick? So we all answered with a shocked, No, we are supposed to be leaving from Renfrew airport this very minute. What was there left to do but to turn around and head for Glasgow's airport (Renfrew). The only thing we could do then would be to hope for the next flight going out - and to our surprise we made it by the skin of our teeth. Had it not been for three of our fellow- workers who were sent off that same plane, we would have had no place on it.
We arrived in London an hour later, which meant that the flight we had planned to take had left for Germany. But we were undaunted. We had to go on, so we went from one airline to another. This is hard to imagine - for one who hasn't experienced a London airport. We tried in every way to emphasize the situation we were in, to try to urge someone to let us go as far as Dusseldorf, as soon as possible. Golda had her daughter and son-in-law posted to meet her there at twelve noon. They had driven many miles as well as having cancelled the opera practice for the time.
Finally, the K.L.M. people found space for us on one of their machines going to Dusseldorf. However, we still had to get our tickets changed, passports examined and the airport tax to paid before we could leave the building, regardless of the fact that the plane was ready for take-off. That done, one of the airport police, wanting to help us find the right exit, etc., grabbed some of our bags and ran on ahead, telling us to follow him. Overheated and exhausted we fell into our seats, and felt relieved and grateful to have been rushed through a crowded building, with all that involves, and onto a plane heading east at long last.
Then like a lightning-bolt out of the blue came the pleasant voice of the stewardess. Ladies and gentlemen we welcome you aboard our K.L.M. Clipper (No. so and so). We will be arriving in Amsterdam at one o'clock. The captain and the crew wish you a pleasant flight. When Golda heard the name Amsterdam, she nearly jumped out of the window. Noticing hers and my consternation, the stewardess came to see what was wrong. She consoled us by saying that we would be flown to Dusseldorf on their 3:00 p.m. flight, and everything would work out right. What could we do but try to relax? Not an easy matter when one has driven himself to the last drop of adrenalin.
When we arrived in Amsterdam (at least its airport) we checked with the information section as to the earliest possible flight for Dusseldorf, only to hear the same words as those of the stewardess. At the airport in Amsterdam, we had the desk clerk teletype the Dusseldorf airport so the Jennings might be informed of our misfortune. With nothing to do for two hours we sat or paced the transit terminal at Amsterdam. How I wished we could have had permission to take a cab and get out to see a bit of historic Amsterdam; time would have flown. However, at 3:00 p.m. our flight to Dusseldorf was called.
Then once again we hurried to take a place among the over-anxious fellow travellers (never saw such elbowing in my life!). After everyone was comfortably seated and checked in, the motors on the old prop started roaring, first one then another. To our dismay we watched the repair crew go to task. They literally took parts and pieces off one of the motors to re- examine their faulty insides. Soon a half hour had flown, but not the plane, it could not leave the ground - one of the motors failed to start. I do not know why this hadn't been done before departure time. As much as I wanted to get on my long last lap home, I was most dreadfully leery of continuing my trip in a vehicle that wouldn't move on the ground. I would gladly have walked off and waited for another one - if only the ramp were still handy! I'm sure it took more than two hours before we were airborne. Never was I more relieved on any flight as when that machine set down at Dusseldorf airport.
Our excitement had not yet quite ended! When we got to the information counter to check with the clerk about any information concerning the Jennings, we were told that no one by that name had left a message. Then we asked the same clerk if our message had come through from Amsterdam, only to be told she knew nothing about it! There was only one thing to do (I mean one at a time!): to page the Jennings, if by any chance, at the end of six hours of waiting, they might still be in Dusseldorf at all. This effected results. The poor frightened people could think of nothing else but that we were at the bottom of the sea. They had taken a place somewhere in the airport where they could hear all the announcements and see most of the in-coming passengers, so when they heard their names on the loud-speaker they were ready for the worst. We were mighty thankful to assuage their fears. They caused quite a little stir with the sloppy treatment our message had received - the one from Amsterdam. The clerk who had taken it, laid down the note, and went off her shift. (I wouldn't be surprised if that young lady lost her job!)
Golda Wycoff and her family left for Bielefeld, while Lutz tried to get our baggage and I tried to get a flight to Berlin. I tried the latter but goofed up on it by letting a certain clerk take the tickets with baggage tags, promising me she could find our luggage before Lutz. Before I knew it, Lutz had the bags but I had no tags to show. While Lutz fought it out with the customs' officers I was chasing around looking for my clerk! I finally caught up with both. There's no description for the way we looked or felt by the time we embarked PAN AM for Berlin. All this was in the heat of summer, with all of us in warm suits - suitable for chilly Scotland. Once we were on the plane the both of us laughed hysterically till I'm sure people must have thought we had had some old English Ale along the way. That is just one episode of my European travels. Needless to say, I have never had a venture just like that one again, though there have been others almost as diversified and thrilling.
There is one trip that I look forward to, beginning at the time I have just arrived back. This one is the best thing that happens to me about every four years - a trip to the home- front. It is great to be with my dear old mother, brothers, sister, nieces, nephews, and all those wonderful brethren, strewn from the far south to the north - in Canada and the U.S.A. It is a blessing and a source of edification to be able to associate with the congregations that hold up one's hands spiritually and materially.
As I am sitting here in my noisy apartment (a five way traffic corner running into a four-lane highway passes within a few feet of here) which gives ample view of the snow-peaked Alps, my mind is crowded with hundreds of events of a busy life that I would gladly pen - were it not for that busy life!
Klagenfurt is a beautiful city with a population of about 80,000. It is the capital city of the province of Carinthia, which is one of the most gorgeous tourist areas in Europe. The city is built along the shores of Worther Lake (or Klagenfurt Lake) and several traversing rivers and canals. Its scenic beauty is the main source of its income. Tourists, from neighboring countries to the north, are attracted by the long hot sunny days in summer, while tourists from the south and west enjoy the variety of winter sports. In fact skiing is not limited to any one season of the year. Boating takes place during three of the seasons. Hunting (the Alps furnish endless game) provides an excellent sport in late fall. Because of the tourist trade, nearly every home throughout the mountain areas has made provision for guests. Even the smallest house has at least one or two such guest rooms. This provides a good source of income if the house or chalet is located near a ski lift or other sporting center. Yes, even if there is nothing but a good quiet mountain view, you will find these provisions. Klagenfurt has numerous modern hotels that have a variety of offers to make, to provide their guests with tours, hikes, hunting, boat-tours, etc. But here comes the drab side of it: Klagenfurt, as does the province in general, loves the creation - and has forgotten its Creator.
After leaving Berlin in 1968 - and with it a host of Christian friends, I felt as if I had come to a dead-end-street. For alas, it was most difficult to find any one whom I could engage in spiritual topics of conversation. I realized what it means to be home-sick for the first time in my life. I was homesick for my beloved Berlin! I missed also the eager loving brethren with whom I had just completed three months of campaign in the Ruhr Valley and in Cologne. It was great to be with enthusiastic brethren who were making good inroads with the Gospel in those areas.
When the Walkers returned from a needed break in America, we entered this field together at Klagenfurt, Austria with the anticipation of being able to do great things here. We had received word from missionaries in Austria that Klagenfurt was ripe unto the harvest, because there were some eighty subscribers of the Festes Fundament, in this city and outskirts. However, we were soon to discover that people in this area were, in general, not at all interested in the Gospel of Christ nor in any other aspect of spiritual teaching. Out of those eighty people with whom we took up contact, there were only two elderly ladies who were really concerned about salvation and these are now faithful members of the church. One other lady who attended our first meeting was an Adventist who made the change to become a New Testament Christian. A radio contact and also personal contact was Maria Longner, who lives about twenty-five miles away. Maria was a Mormon who required little teaching to become a Christian. Then there was a young man - a bachelor who was baptized who lived only a few months after his conversion.
Many, many house calls and written invitations to attend meetings or set up Bible studies proved fruitless. People had no time or interest when we called - so very sad, isn't it? We had great difficulty in finding a meeting place. It actually took close to two years to find our present location. Up to that time, we met for a time in the Walkers' house for mid-week Bible classes, in a high school room for Sunday services, and later (for both of these) in a room in a recreation center.
By January of 1969 Elaine Walker and I had started children's Bible classes, which met alternately at her house or my apartment. At first these classes for children found little attraction but as time went on, we had from eight to fourteen coming irregularly. All of these youngsters came from one suburb or Settlement, as it is called here. Some of the residents there are refugees from Russia, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and so forth. However, most of the others came from broken homes, hence are a very rowdy and undisciplined lot. We had to spend part of each period calming down the restless sea around us - before we could get a lesson or a song underway! In order to maintain some sort of order we offered prizes for good behavior, also for regular attendance. To make our sessions more desirable and attractive, we tried various things like playing games (these were so loud and wild that my nerves were always frayed by the time we were half-way through - since children are not taught how to play or work together here in their schools) or serving cookies, fruit punch, popcorn, etc.
Soon the number of children grew to twenty and more, so we divided them into three study groups. As the children's classes grew, I could no longer accommodate them in my apartment. Children in Europe are taught it's improper to sit on the floor. Because my six to eight available chairs, proved inadequate, we moved all the classes except the Sunday morning one, out to the Walkers' house. Poor Elaine, this meant a major house-cleaning after these three groups left. When we moved our services to the recreation center, we moved our Sunday classes there too. Richard Walker would collect the children one and a half hours before time for service, and take them home before service started.
One girl of nine years of age formed the nucleus around which we built our children's classes. It was through her that we made our first contacts. She was able to round up the youngsters in her immediate area. Karolina is now thirteen and is a promising young lady, if we can save her from the clutches of immorality, so popular and widespread in the whole settlement. I have taken Karolina to stay with me months at a time for the sake of influencing her for good. Her parents were divorced when she was very small. The mother married when Karolina and her two brothers were still small. The father married about a year ago and lives in northern Germany. So these children, like most of the others in the district, know very little of what we know and take for granted as a home-life and parental love and affection. The result is the same there as in any slum section of any city, though the houses are well built - provided by the state.
We tried to help one boy, who at the age of twelve was put in a reform home. This boy's parents who were divorced and remarried had little or no love for Guschy. Visitors to the home are allowed for a period of about two hours on the first Sunday of the month. Whenever we called on Guschy he looked melancholy and disinterested, but soon brightened up when we unpacked the goodies we brought him. Because of his particular emotional problem, he became a particular problem to the home, so when he was fifteen the welfare people sent him to his father - also in Germany. However good his father and stepmother were, Guschy would not apply himself to his studies at the school where he was to learn a trade. This lasted almost one year and then he was back in Klagenfurt. Here he tried at least three different places to train as a waiter in various hotels, but he had grown to be lazy and indifferent.
At about this time we took up connection with him again. We invited him to our classes - and for a while he seemed interested - he even carried his Bible with him to the very few classes he attended. Outside influence had a stronger pull and before long Guschy was taking dope, living licentiously and using profane language profusely - especially around those whom he knew he could hurt the deepest!
In the fall of '72 Guschy broke into a girls' dormitory, where he was attending school (for hotel management, etc.). The law caught up with him in no time and expelled him from the institute. Again his emotions went wild. This time he slit his wrists, and ended up, after a neighbor found him unconscious, in the psychiatric ward of the general hospital. Once again Watsons (Diane and Tom) and I visited Guschy. We tried to reason with him and show him the way to true happiness, to true freedom. His mother refused to see him, saying he had too deeply wounded her by his foolish behavior, his brutality to his younger brother and sisters. However, he became so arrogant and unbearable among the other patients and to the nurses that he was thrown out. Having no contact with his home, he stuck it out with one friend here and one there until his mother softened and brought him home.
At this time, Tom Watson started a youth program to which young people were invited for a game of ping-pong and other games - for the sake of becoming acquainted. Hoping to win Guschy's confidence, Tom allowed him to be in charge of opening and locking doors, having charge of equipment, etc. (This, only, whenever Tom had to leave for a quick errand.) Guschy had other things in mind, quite contrary to what was intended by Tom. He took the keys that fit the entrance door to the house and our rooms of the church meeting place and had copies made of them.
One Sunday morning early, I heard voices in the meeting place and wondered if Tom had permitted out-of-town guests to stay over-night here. Upon phoning him, I discovered that he had not, so I hurried to dress and to check on the situation. (I live on the same floor as the meeting place - just a wall separates the two.) To our extreme disgust, we discovered that four young people had spent at least a part of the night there together. This required investigation. Who had keys to enter? etc., etc. As I've stated, Guschy had the keys - his own. A hefty quarrel followed, at which the culprit used the vilest language, being so hostile that we had to have police assistance. He was taken in and questioned and warned because he had threatened at least two persons to lay wait for them to beat them to pulp.
We had tried everything we knew to help a poor neglected boy, but the forces of evil had their full sway with him. Where the home failed we could not make good. A few days later Guschy was out with two of his counterparts, just to get drunk and was in luck at that! A car salesman who had just sold a car, entered the same restaurant at the same time as the three boys. He offered them all drinks and decided to pay and get back to work. While he was paying the bill, Guschy and his comrades took notice of the man's overstuffed wallet. They followed him and beat him down, taking his wallet, and fled. As it happened the police patrol was just making its midnight rounds when they saw the fellows fleeing. Two of them were caught (one was Guschy) while the third one who had the money managed to escape till the following night. He had only used $32 of the stolen $1600. So now we have no way of helping a malformed character while he spends two to five years in a youth penitentiary.
We are, however, doing all we can for his fourteen-year old brother, Meckie, who was found taking dope which he had received from University students. He has spent more than a year in psychiatric wards, reform institutions and so forth. Last summer we took full responsibility for him while he attended our Bible Camp in the mountains. Since then we have been looking for a Christian home to take him in as a foster son. A family who was assisting from Germany with the camp work has consented to do this.
We are happy to have been able to be spiritual guides to many such neglected children. This is not as easily done as told. Since last summer we have been to jails three times, youth welfare officials a host of times, and even at the police department's drug-addict division, reform homes and so forth, to press the cause of Christ for those who need Him most!
Among our own workers we often have changes - changes for various reasons. Climatic unfitness, improper school facilities, ill health, are but a few. In the summer of 1969 my beloved co-workers of some sixteen years left the work we had begun in Klagenfurt in order to put their children into a suitable educational environment. The Walkers' children had attended the German-American school in Berlin, and found the Austrian system almost impossible to adjust to. Since there is an American High School in Vienna, Richard and Elaine felt compelled to move there in order that their teen-agers might find the right school. Richard Walker was replaced by the Tom Turner family. In the fall of 1970 the Leo Blohas and Tom Watsons joined us here. For a year we had a really active group here in Klagenfurt. Much was accomplished in the way of making visits in and outside of the city. Tom Turner spent many hours weekly assisting with the publishing of the "Festes Fundament. All went well until Tom Turner had a series of heart attacks and was forced to leave for his home in America. He returned in 1971 but his health seemed impaired by the altitude or whatever, until he too decided to go to Vienna. They left Klagenfurt in August of '72. Moreover, our Wiener friends, the Blahas, Leo and Liane lasted only one year until they were back in their native Vienna.
At this writing the Tom Watsons and I are holding the fort in this difficult field. We have three children's groups meeting during the week (Wednesday and Sunday services are extra). A Ladies' Bible Class meets once a week in my apartment. The youth meetings, partly for fun and partly for Bible discussions, meet three times each week (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) for two and one half hours at a time. Guest speakers are invited to address the youth once a week. One night when old fighter Bob Hare addressed the group he asked the young people how many believed in God. We were appalled (since all are R.C. church-goers) because less than half have any faith whatsoever. Bob told them that he found far better faith in Russia than here. So the challenge is great in front of the Iron Curtain, as well as behind it!
Whenever time permits, I am working out a series of teachers' manuals for Bible teaching for children. While doing these, I take into consideration not only the historical, spiritual and educational backgrounds of the children but also that of the teacher. Many adults with whom I have come in contact know as good as nothing about the Bible because of their upbringing.
We are looking forward to a lovely group of Christian young people from Paris, and their song leader Don Daugherty, to be with us during Easter break. This chorus will sing every night in an auditorium which we will rent, the main purpose of which will be to have a successful meeting with the young people that we have learned to know through our program here. Ours is an interesting and rewarding work indeed. There is always something going on or in the planning that involves all of our faculties - mental, physical, and spiritual.
After I had finished writing, I remembered Sonja. This was a girl of seventeen I took in as a protégé in 1965 and kept till close to the end of 1967. She was a girl whose parents were divorced and re-married - and neither had a place for Sonja in their hearts. I met Sonja at her father's, where she had been coaxed by his promises to provide for her, against the decision of the judge who granted the divorce. After a few months of her stay in Berlin she and her step-mother (twelve years older than Sonja) had a falling-out. So I took her in and was her Tante Mutti (as she called me then) until she married a fine Christian boy in the American Air Force - now a custom's officer in New Mexico. While she was with me she learned to know the truth and became a Christian. It was at my place that she became acquainted with other Christian young people, and especially Larry. Today she is the mother of two darling little girls and writes to me as Tante Omi, (Aunty Grandma). She and Larry are planning to visit me this year - a treat which I can hardly wait for. This story belongs to my Berlin favorites!
When I look back upon the time that I have spent in Europe it seems but a day. The five years I had planned on staying have been multiplied by four. By May 27th of this year (1973) I will have completed twenty-one years on the east side of the broad Atlantic. The Lord has been good to me. He has answered my many prayers and richly blessed my meager efforts. He has guided me to the realization of many a childhood dream and adult aspiration. His hand has led me gently up the river of life, regardless of the rocks and shoals that tried to bar the way. May He yet grant me health and wisdom to continue to tell the wondrous story of Jesus and His love.
It is my sincerest wish that many a young person reading this will be inspired to devote the best of his years and his talents in the service of the great Master and thereby lay up treasures in Heaven where decay is not known. May he, like the prophet of old, stretch out his hand to the pleading Saviour, saying: Lord, here am I, send me!
Published in The Old Paths Archive