Home Again and the Harvest Call
My comprehending readers may vividly imagine what it was like to first catch a glimpse of my wife and four children upon my arrival in Colorado Springs after having been separated for seventeen months. Wife’s load had been too heavy, for besides the responsibility of four children, she had taken a heavy course in school work and had also served as assistant teacher in Latin part time. Such had not been my will for her, but it had been her choice. She loaded herself too heavily and almost suffered a complete breakdown. She had nobly borne the home responsibility and unwaveringly believed that my going abroad had been in the will of God.
My heart was deeply touched by the actions of my baby girl who had in reality never known her father. She was about a year and a half old when I left home for Australia, but I had been away in evangelistic labors most of the time before my trip abroad. After I arrived home this child would stand off to one side and look at me as if to say, “What strange man is this in our house?” Of course she knew it was her father, for the older children had told her that I was on the way, yet she could not remember me and for her it was a strange experience to have a father in the home. This was not easy for me, but this is part of the price of obedience to the Lord’s leadings. We soon became closely attached, and, perhaps as some sort of atonement for those first three years she has since then seemed a little closer to me than the other children. I have lightly been accused of being a bit partial to her, but I don’t think I have been. All of my children are very dear to me.
An immediate atonement was made on my part, for within three weeks I was away in another evangelistic campaign. This time I took my three year old daughter with me. It was hard on her, however, for discipline became necessary and she was not accustomed to have a man correct her. She became a good student and soon learned that I was boss, so have been the best of friends ever since, even though I have repeatedly been away from home for many months on a stretch.
There is a solemn and unspeakable chapter for this junction of my life. Good meaning people who were dead sure that I was missing the will of God by going to the far away land of Australia had planted their merciless darts deep in the heart by declaring, “It would be Australia of hell with me before I would go,” “He surely doesn’t love his family,” “He is leaving his family on the mercy of the world,” “He will not be able to go, for he has no money,” “He is acting the part of a fool to even talk of going,” and many other such remarks. It would not have hurt so deeply had the world thus spoken, but such remarks came from those who professed the same as I. It had been my sincere belief that after some of these good folk had seen how signally the Lord provided and had known of the many souls He had given me around the world their attitudes would change, but to the contrary I was “a big fool, and self-willed character for having gone.” Perhaps I was not as dead to what folk thought as I should have been, and not so well weaned from human opinions as I might have been, so all of this cut very deeply, and more than all in certain circles I was an “outsider” without a slender chance. Doors for Gospel services were securely closed in the face of the “incorrigible rebel.” Most of these dear folk meant well, but nevertheless it hurt more deeply than words can effectively tell. Lest my readers misunderstand, please do not feel that bitterness toward such has found a lodging place in my heart. The fact is, God overruled all of this for my own good as well as for the good of others. My heart was completely crushed, but not embittered; deeply disappointed, but not discouraged. In God’s overruling providence these merciless shafts of suffering were transmuted into tremendous values in my life. Praise Him! Praise Him! I needed the weaning from earthly dependencies that first of all I might learn to trust only in Him. Satan took advantage of all this and made the way appear perilously dark — so dark until I could see no way. I could have said with tested Job, “Behold, I go forward, but He is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive Him; on the left hand where He doth work, but I cannot behold Him: He hideth Himself on the right hand that I cannot see Him: but He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (free translation-‘ ‘come forth shining”) Job 23:8-10.
Being left to fend alone and to find my way through the shadows, my cry was raised to God for His direction. My good wife was not too well, so I sought to lift all the load possible from her heart and head, and yet I could only say, “The Lord will make a way.” One of the exceeding great and precious promises which became very dear to me at this time is found in Habakkuk 3:17, 18: “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” A door was opened for us in the sand hills of Nebraska to conduct a tent meeting. The battle was hard, but God gave us fruit. One fine young man who was brought to the Lord and blessed is now preaching the Gospel. Near the close of the meeting, from which we did not receive sufficient funds to get to the next one thirteen hundred miles away, a storm arose one night after service. The tent came down, and a deluge of water threatened to ruin seats and piano while your writer and a young man assisting him fought desperately to save them. Satan took advantage of this dismal circumstance and subtly suggested that this was my “Waterloo.” The meeting was about ended, we were practically penniless, and my wife was sick in bed. It was too dark to see. Suddenly a sweet voice came from somewhere, “There is work for you in the West Indies.” Immediately I passed this word from the Lord on to my friend. The Master had spoken from out of the double darkness which surrounded me, and I knew His voice.
The above meeting came to a close, we packed our belongings, crowded my wife and children, and C. J. Goodspeed, (now a missionary in the Bahamas) within the limits of an old model Chevrolet and started thirteen hundred miles with a tank of gasoline and eleven dollars in money. Such a venture was no minor matter, but we were “crowded to this cross.” There was no alternative. There was only one man with whom we were acquainted along the way for the first six hundred miles. This man possessed little of this world’s goods and lived in humble quarters. It had been our plan to spend the first night in his small house, then swing out, into the unknown to us, early the next day. We made it a rule to tell no one of our personal needs, and decided to adhere to this principle enroute across the country. Soon after our arrival at the home of our friend that afternoon I was called aside and asked if we had means enough to make the trip. I was at a loss to answer this question. I could not say yes, nor did I wish to say no. My reply was, “We have some money.” Without further questioning he said, “I am going to do what God told me to do. Before you arrived I felt led to go borrow money to give you, so I am going to do so.” We sought to dissuade him from borrowing, but he would not listen to us. He soon laid in our hands sufficient money for the long journey ahead. Again the old devil was proven a liar.
The following months were times of testing, for the way was not open, and yet I knew the Lord would have me somewhere in the West Indies. We had no contacts in that part of the world, but eventually a letter came from Jamaica asking me to come there to labor. I thought this might be the place, still I sought the Lord’s clear leadings. While conducting services near Newcastle, Indiana I had a clear conviction that I should go to the Bahama Islands as my first stop in the West Indies. I had never heard of anyone on these islands, but with a solid conviction that I should go to Andros of the Bahamas, this was decided upon. Means came for the West Indies trip, then the hour of farewell — Christmas Day of 1939. (Another six months without seeing the family).
Two nights were spent in Tampa, Fla., with my sister, then the take off for Miami, and on to Nassau of the Bahamas by boat. Upon arrival in Nassau a native accosted me with, “Do you want a boat?” “Yes,” was the reply, “I want one for Andros Island.” “Oh, the mail boat has just gone, and there will not be another for two weeks. I have a motor boat and will take you over for $60.” The distance was only thirty-five to fifty miles according to where I would wish to land, so my answer was, “The price is prohibitive.” What could I do now! for Nassau is a Tourist Resort, and the cost of staying there for another two weeks was beyond my limited means. The man said, “You might arrange to go on a sailboat” as he pointed across the harbor to a place where these were anchored to the Sponge Exchange Docks. Considering this suggestion I made my way around there praying as I went. The prayer in my heart ran something like this, “Dear Lord, in the promise which Thou gavest me Thou didst say, ‘And when He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them.’ Thou knowest I haven’t the slightest idea where I should go on Andros Island, so Thou must lead me as to what boat I should take, and as to where I should go.” With this prayer in my heart I turned down a certain street which led to the boats. Upon arriving at the wharf I saw a man standing on his little boat. (See picture No. 2). It seems that I can almost see him yet as I approached and asked him if he knew of a boat from Andros Island. His ready reply was, “This one goes to Stanyard Creek.” I had never heard of Stanyard Creek, or of any other settlement on the Island, so my next word was, “Is Stanyard Creek on Andros?” He looked at me strangely and said, “Yes.” “What will you charge me to make the trip with you to Stanyard Creek?” “Four shillings,” was his reply. I chuckled at the cheapness of the fare, four shillings then amounted to exactly eighty cents American. My next question was, “When do you leave here for Andros?” “At 10:30 tonight,” said the native captain. “I shall be on hand,” said the passenger, and was on his way for his suitcases to store them aboard ship, for there was surely no time to spend in a hotel.
Within a brief course of time my suitcases were being loaded aboard this twenty foot fishing smack ready for the brief voyage (?) at 10:30 that night (?). About this time I took note of the clouded countenance of the captain who, with a faltering voice, said, “Did you say you are a preacher?” My reply was, “I am, and I have some papers which will prove my claims.” He seemed anxious to see the papers, so they were produced for his inspection. (He could read a bit). After glancing over these for some little time his troubled face took on a different expression. Months later I learned the facts. At that time Germany was in war with England and Hitler was making raids in all directions. The natives of the Bahamas possessed the fearful feeling that their islands would be his next landing place. Some man had come to this boatman with the warning, “That man is a German and will kill all you folks at Stanyard Creek.” His clouded face was the fruit of real fear. It had been a relief to him to have some proof that I was a preacher.
My last experience on the Atlantic waters had been aboard the Queen Mary, a thousand foot ocean liner. Now my new experience was to sail across a tongue of the Atlantic aboard a twenty foot sailing craft. In all the travels around the globe I had never missed a ship’s schedule, so I was determined to be aboard this craft when its moorings were loosed. At 10:30 I was there. At eleven o’clock we were still there. Upon inquiry as to the delay in departure, the answer was, “The passengers have not come from over the hill yet.” I was advised to take my blanket and spread it out on the board bunk below and take a rest until they came. The captain’s orders were obeyed, but there was little sleep on this hard board, and no rest, even though I was well rocked by the brisk breeze bringing in rolling waves. At daybreak on Sunday morning our ship had not sailed. In vain we waited for passengers “from over the hill” As the time approached nine o’clock the lone passenger gave orders to the captain that he was going somewhere in search of a church service if the ship were not sailing before noon. The courteous rejoinder assured me, “We will wait for you.”
Knowing nothing of the city I ventured forth “over the hill” in search of a place of worship. After walking for perhaps a half mile I saw a native with a clerical collar and decided to follow him. Shortly he entered a church house with his American follower not far behind. Upon being seated in the house the preacher came back and asked if I were a Christian. An affirmative answer was given. A little while later as a few worshipers were gathering in the “Reverend” came back and asked if I ever prayed in public. “Sometimes,” was the simple answer. Then he said, “I want you to pray this morning.” About eleven o’clock, the service began with only a few present. Following a song or two and the prayer my inquisitor came again and said, “Does you ever speak in public?” “At times,” said the visitor. Then the preacher apologized for the smallness of the crowd and asked if I would speak to them. The message was simple, brief, and undamaging in its content. No one was hit and no harm inflicted. The pastor liked the “talk very much.”
“Dr. Bustin, we showly did like that message this monin. Tonight is the last night of the old year, and this place will be packed out, fur my folks think the Lord might come tonight and they wants to be in church all ready fur His comm. Would you come back and preach fur us tonight at the watch-night hour.” An explanation was given that my title is not “Dr.,” but that I would be on hand if “my boat doesn’t sail.” Knowingly he exclaimed, “It will not sail tonight.”
My boat was still tied to the wharf and the passengers “from over the hill” had not yet arrived. Upon relating the pastor’s request that I preach for him that night reassurance was given that the “boat would wait.”
In the afternoon another walk was taken over the hill handing out tracts. This was followed by an open air service. Upon handing a tract to a native girl she said, “I’s fallin fur you.” Not being acquainted with the Bahamian lingo I hardly understood her expression, so asked her what she said. This time she enunciated clearly, “Honey, I loves you.” Later I learned that she had been patronized by godless Americans. She attended the open air service and raised her hand for prayer.
At 10:30 Sunday night, December 31st, 1939 I entered the parson’s church accompanied by my captain. We had to worm our way through the crowded isles. The master of ceremonies introduced the speaker with a mighty eulogy. Only once before in my life had such a eulogy been rendered on my behalf. My readers will remember that as the occasion of my “fifty cent sermon.” After speaking at length on the merits of the morning message, I was given the go-ahead. In the meantime the Lord had loaded my heart with blasting truths, and for one hour He helped me drop Gospel bombs — a message on what it meant to be ready for Christ’s coming. The parishioners groaned and the pastor grunted. All acclamations soon ceased, for, according to what I learned later, both pastor and people were living in moral rottenness. No peons of praise from the preacher followed my message, but with the assurance that I had pleased God my soul was at peace.
Back to my board waiting for the passengers from “over the hill.” It was not until eight o’clock the next morning that I learned the why of the delay. It is the native custom to have some sort of “tomfoolery parade” early in the morning of the New Year. Our passengers and crew — fourteen of us — were packed aboard the fishy-smelling vessel, the sails were hoisted, and we began our voyage. I had purchased a bit of food to use on the way, but I was assured that we would “be home by noon. The strong breeze was directly head, so tacking back and forth was the order of the day. The constant cry of the boatmen was, “comin roun.” This was a warning to the passengers to duck down each time the low-swinging boom crossed over the deck as the boat tacked about. After leaving the harbor the sea was dreadfully rough. At noontime we were far from land on the other side, but the rolling and rocking had so indisposed my abdominal regions until there was not the slightest desire for food. It was given to the native children. Better for them to have it fresh than for the fish to get it second-mouthed.
When the sun sank behind the big waves we were anchored about eighteen miles from where we started that morning. “We will anchor until the moon comes up,” said the captain, then we will sail on and reach home by breakfast time.” Unable to breathe well below when thirteen others came down, I came on top and sat shivering in the salty breeze while waiting for the moon to rise. Such joy a little while after dark to watch the golden globe rise out of the distant sea and cast its silvery sheen upon the dark waves.
“Captain,” cried the stranger-passenger, “the moon is up, and it is time to sail on.” After a considerable delay the boatman lazily lifted his head through the hatchway and looked out upon the moon-mellowed waters, rubbed his sleep-sodden eyes and said, “We’ll wait a little while.” He did. There were plenty of shivers running along the deck passenger’s spine before the sun arose the next morning at which time the captain gave orders to pull in the anchor and hoist sail. Since Satan is not omnipresent he surely didn’t bother everybody everywhere through the course of that long cold night, for he spent a considerable portion of it with me mercilessly mocking my folly.
Prospects of getting to Andros Island appeared a bit brighter as we compassed our course and sailed serenely in the direction of “home.” Then something happened! Our sails were aimlessly flapping in the face of an impotent breeze. There was nothing to do but idly drift on the dead waves. By this time the “would-be missionary” was hungry, thirsty, and sick from exposure. The natives were patiently and, apparently, unconcernedly singing as we disconsolately rocked on the waves. It was then that I requested the group to bow their heads while prayer was offered that the Lord might send us some wind. He answered, and as the sun dropped behind the coconut palms on the sandy shores of Stanyard Creek we went ashore. Imagine my feelings when the discovery was made that the name of our little boat was ENDURANCE.