My First Fifty Years – By Gerald Bustin

Chapter 11

War Breaks Out on Andros Island

“Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” (II Tim. 2: 3)

“Come at once,” said the native schoolmaster in terrified tone, as he rushed up to the native hut where I was staying, “something is wrong with my sister.” He scampered along the sandy trail with the missionary at his heels. The discovery was soon made that the sister was suffering from the discomforts of moral heart disease — a virulent case of old-time sin-sickness. Her sobs, cries, moans, and intermittent confessions indicated that she had already begun to apply the remedy of repentance. With a few promises from God’s Book and a little in the way of admonition to look to Jesus for deliverance her heart-heaviness soon turned to joy and her sobs to shouts of praise. Already a crowd of people had gathered in the public school building, so the service was soon underway in an electrified atmosphere. God’s presence was manifestly there. This was my fourth night on the island. The revival was on.

My camping quarters at that time consisted of a tiny room in the small hut of Mr. Barr, the Roman Catholic sea captain who had brought me to the island. One morning at about two o’clock I was awakened by a sudden outcry followed by moans and groans and convulsive sobs. For an instant I was puzzled as to where these might be coming from, but upon getting awake it became clear that these were originating in the next room. At this I rolled off my cot and began joining the penitent in prayer. Yes, Mrs. Barr was upon her knees earnestly seeking God to save her soul. Within a brief period of time her penitential cries turned to praiseful confessions of victory. The poor husband was upon his knees too for a time, for he had been awakened in startling fear. The spiritual awakening which was then in evidence on that part of the island cannot be described. For months it was a common thing to hear people crying out for mercy at all hours of the night.

To begin with the missionary was at a loss to understand the reason for this mighty awakening which had seemed to sweep upon us so suddenly, like unto one of those freak storms which sometimes appear to arise from nowhere and suddenly strike with smiting power. One night while the “heavenly hurricane” was striking its heartening blows an old lady arose and stood erectly with flashing eyes. “Dis am de man,” said she, “de man de Lawd showed me in a vision, dis here white man comin tousands an tousands of miles across de haungry ocean to preach de Gospel to dese folks in Sodom.” Never shall your writer forget that night. This old lady’s English was not good, but what did she care about good English. She had something to say, and she said it. She went on to tell how that for long years she had prayed for her people that they might be awakened to the truth. She told how that she had seen a white man coming to Stanyard Creek with a message and that her people were turning to God. In holy eloquence she warned the wicked to turn from their evil ways and seek God while He was near. Later, I learned that forty years before this time the dear old lady had found peace with God, and that from her conversion she had cried to God to send a revival among her people. She had told others before now of her vision of a white man coming there to preach the pure Gospel. Now I was able to understand why the Lord had spoken to me near New Castle, Indiana, laying a burden on my heart to go to Andros Island of which I knew nothing.

As the revival continued it was a common thing to see strong men and women smitten down as if they had been shot. Some of these soon prayed and confessed through to blessed victory, but many of them were carried to their little houses where they lay speechless, and without food or water, for three days and nights. They could not be aroused until the three days and nights had passed. Practically all of these came through praising God for victory. Some were smitten down in the meetings when they tried to flee from the presence of God. Able-bodied seamen sought to find refuge from conviction by taking to the sea, but became so sick they were brought back to the land to bow before God and plead for mercy, Many of the school children (specially the girls) were under such conviction until they had no desire to play during recess and the noon hour. They would meet here and there to pray on the school ground, then upon returning to their humble homes they would club up underneath coconut trees and cry to God to save them, and to save their people. Many of these little ones found God and became a problem to their teacher. The teacher had been quietly converted some time before. It was customary for school to open each morning with a song. While singing these joy-filled little ones would sometimes give vent to their emotions by weeping or by audibly praising God. Their schoolmaster tried to tell them that this was not necessary, and that they should curb their emotions. They replied, “Teacher, we don’t try to do this, but it just comes out anyway.” About that time another wave of blessing would sweep over their souls. This continued until one morning when the presence of God was so marked in the school room, the teacher himself could no longer hold in. He arose and tried to speak rather sternly to the children about their demonstration, but suddenly demanded his sister to take care of the school, then turned and rushed into his living quarters where he sobbed out his heart to God. A little while later he returned to his students with a sober face, but with red eyes. Discerning little minds knew what had happened. A few weeks later the schoolmaster was thoroughly awakened to his need of a clean heart and power in his life. Before daybreak one morning he touched heaven with his prayers and was mightily baptized with the Holy Spirit and at the same time received a call to preach the Gospel. Now the revival was well on in the school, and the children were doubly blessed because the Lord had answered their prayers in making their teacher free.

There were many outstanding conversions. Among the most noted of these mention will be specially made of only three. The first of these was a fine type of young manhood, yet quite wicked. Upon being thoroughly awakened to his need he began to take his place among the seekers at the front, but in view of the altar already being well filled he lifted his own little bench above his head and made his way through the crowd looking for a place to lodge it, then knelt in penitence before the Lord. For some reason conditions of faith were not fully met, so it was like this every night for sometime. Each night the bench was seen coming to the front above the head of the seeker. One thing of interest was that other seekers knelt at the same bench and found peace with God while its owner seemed to get nothing. This was no little trial to him that others would have their souls blessed at his altar while he received no help. One night he came to do business with heaven, so confessed and forsook his sins, then believed unto salvation. He has been preaching the Gospel now for more than thirteen years.

“Jennie,” said someone to the concubine of an outstanding young man belonging to Andros Island, “you should be home now, for there is a white man preaching the Gospel at Stanyard Creek and a great revival is on. People are seeking and finding God everywhere, and there is great rejoicing.”

“‘Taint necessary to act the fool like that to be saved,” said Jennie Smith, a staunch Roman Catholic and mother of two children born out of wedlock. She was then at Nassua where I had waited so long for the passengers to come “from over the hill.” A few days later she arrived at Stanyard Creek and made her way to the meetings that night. During the after service she pushed her way to the front and looked on with a proud and defiant air as seekers poured out their hearts to God. She was well dressed and wore a broad-brimmed flowered hat which was set on her head at about a forty degree angle. Suddenly, as if stricken by lightning, her head and heels hit the floor about the same time. The big hat went rolling — no one knows where — while its owner literally screamed for mercy. Within about thirty minutes this woman was on her feet praising God, and has continued to praise Him for these fourteen years. She was saved from a shameful life of sin and moral rottenness, but immediately she was a new creature. The priest had the grandfather drive her and her child from his home with the expectation that she would recant and return to the Catholic fold. She was bitterly persecuted, but remained true. The man with whom she had lived in adultery tried to turn her back, but all was to no avail. Jennie Smith has preached the Gospel for thirteen years and has seen many of her people brought to Christ. She led her old grandfather to the Lord before he died, also prayed many others through in their last days.

Within a few weeks after the revival began my good friend C. J. Goodspeed arrived on Andros to help in the work. We were camping together in a native hut which was about 10 x 13 feet in size. This was divided into two rooms — our reception and dining room, and our bedroom in the rear. One morning we had just finished washing the breakfast dishes when a trembling voice was heard at the front: “Brother Boston, would youse pray for the old man?” “Yes, come right in Brother Burns.” We hadn’t seen much of this old man, but we knew that he was the father of Sister Watkins, the old lady who had had the vision of my coming after praying for forty years. We had also been told that he was a Roman Catholic catechist, and that he had brought Catholicism to the island thirty years before. For weeks he had lived under conviction and had now come calling for prayer. Immediately he fell upon his knees and began to pour out his soul to God in confession to God while tears were literally pooled into a puddle on the floor. Within a few minutes his prayers were turned to praise, and the old man was beside himself with joy. Jubilant in his newly found faith the old fellow shuffled his way along the sandy shore, telling the good news as he returned to his little thatched-roof home. At the age of eighty-four he helped us build our first open tabernacle at Stanyard Creek. His joy was unbounded as he often testified of the preciousness of Christ in his life.

Nearly four years after the above experience, someone came to the writer saying, “Brother Bustin, do you know that Brother Burns is quite low? He will not be here long.” I had been away from Stanyard Creek then for some weeks, so had not heard of his illness. Soon at his bedside I said, “Brother Burns, do you know me?” “Brother Boston, eh?” Then followed a gracious smile.

Upon being asked if all was well between his soul and his Saviour his face became aglow while with a weak voice he answered “All is well.” I learned that the priest had visited him and sought to give him absolution, whereupon Brother Burns rejoined, “Jesus has already given me absolution.” Later I was back to visit the dear old Brother who was then near the crossing for the other shore. His eyes were glassy and the rattle of death was in his throat.

“Brother Burns, do you know me?” No reply.

“Brother Burns, do you know Jesus?” There was no effort to speak, but his time-wrinkled face was wreathed with an assenting smile. A few days later we witnessed one of the sweetest funerals some of us had ever known as we laid the mortal to rest in a sandy grave, half-filled with water brought in from the Atlantic with the high tide. All of this seemed in order for the occasion, for upon the bosom of the Atlantic he had sailed as an old seaman for many years. Brother Goodspeed one day said to me, “Brother Bustin, if none other had been reached for God and made it through to heaven, the salvation of Brother Burns is worth all our efforts.”

Time prohibits my telling of the many experiences of the great awakening in 1940. Some of these are sad, as is always true when God comes in great power and some souls seal their destiny for eternal damnation. There were many pleasant experiences as we beheld the miraculous transformations which transpired. There was hard work, and plenty of it. We were soon driven out of the school building on account of wicked reports sent in to the Capital, so we had to buy land and build. To begin with we erected a large open tabernacle. Most of the timbers for this were brought out on our shoulders and heads. The missionaries took the lead into the woods to cut timber suitable for this work. Our native people walked barefooted over sharp rocks in order to get the timber usually from a mile and a half to two miles back in the bush. We worked with them, and much of the time we too walked barefooted over the rocks, for at high tide we had to wade water for more than a quarter of a mile while crossing the “swash” between the village and the woods. Then came the larger and more dangerous task when it came time to thatch the building. More than ten thousand palmetto leaves went into the roof. Many of these were brought in for miles, and sometimes we had more than a mile of water to wade. Our feet were often bruised and bleeding. It is impossible to describe the sharpness of these coral rocks to those who have never seen such. After the tabernacle was finished we set about to build the Mission House. This work was started with less than $100, and it was our policy to pay as we went. This work involved a long and hazardous voyage by sailboat to one of the big islands to the north of us where a sawmill was located. We were almost destroyed by a terrific storm while enroute. My native friends wept and sorrowed for me and others aboard the boat, for they were certain that the little barque would never be able to survive that horrible tempest which swept over the Bahamian waters that night. With a mile of water beneath us the boat was beaten, pounded, tossed, and driven all through the night. Our sails were down, so naturally we were at the mercy of the furious waves until the storm died away the next morning. Old experienced seamen said they never expected us to live through this ordeal. We sailed on and brought back with us a fine load of lumber after being gone nearly a week.

During the six months spent in the Bahamas before returning to the States for my family there was never a monotonous day, for things were happening all about us. Wicked men turned in all sorts of evil reports about the “notorious foreigner,” “German spy,” “fifth columnist,” “American devil,” and whatnot. Specially religious men whose concubines had forsaken them to follow Christ were up in arms. They had plenty of alarming reports to turn in to the Government. On more than one occasion Government men came to deal with me, but found most of Stanyard Creek as our friends. Wicked men had repeatedly tried to have a dance since the outbreak of the revival, but could not succeed, for most of the women had been converted, or else were under such conviction until they were afraid to dance. Of course these men were angered and joined with others in trying to dispose of me. I would have soon been out of the way if they could have “fixed” me with their witchcraft, but the power of Christ was more than a match for their superstitions. There was an unrelenting battle on during this whole period, but God had given us the victory over everything. The climax of this six months period came when Mr. Forsythe, the Chief Commissioner of Andros Island came to see me the second time and I boarded the boat with him for Nassau. His verdict was, as I prepared to leave for the States, “Mr. Bustin, I am turning in a favorable report. See the Immigration Office before you leave for the U.S.” “The Chief of Immigration said, “Everything is all right. Just let us know when you are ready to come back to the Bahamas.”