My First Fifty Years – By Gerald Bustin

Chapter 12

The War Rages — Enemies Are Slain

“When a man’s ways please the Lord, He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” Prov. 16:7.

Back in the States with my family plans were being made for us to move to the Bahamas in early autumn. Following one Camp Meeting, where I was one of the evangelists, and a few missionary meetings along the way, we were enroute to Florida when a message came from the Colonial Secretary in the Bahamas stating “You are not allowed to return to the Bahamas for the purpose of doing missionary work.” Why this holdup we could not understand, for the leadings to the Bahamas had been clear and urgent. We believed surely the Lord would have us go there to continue our labors. C. J. Goodspeed was still on the Island of Andros, and at that time two other brethren — E. T. Shirley and David Rosentrater — were over there working on the Mission House and doing missionary work besides. We continued our journey as far as Intercession City, Fla., where, at that time, a godly woman, Miss Osie England was at the head of a thriving Bible School.

We found many warm-hearted friends in Intercession City, and, after months of testings, could see the overruling hand of God in permitting the delay. We needed to make more prayer contacts among the people of God, and we needed time personally for more prayer. At first we hoped the decision might be reversed within a few weeks, but the weeks dragged into months. We were in constant touch with the Bahamas and learned that our beloved Andros people were mightily praying that the tightly closed door would open. Our friends in the States were also crying to God for victory over our foes. In the meantime we were believing for victory and praying for some things needed in the work down there. This included a good boat which could be used to carry the Gospel and to make necessary voyages in the interest of the work. One morning in family worship our baby girl, Joanna Ruth, then four years of age, softly prayed “Lord, give daddy a boat for the Bahamas.” A little while later that morning a man of God, who is now with the Lord, knocked at the door of our apartment and handed me enough money to buy a very fine sailboat to use in the work. There were other signal answers to prayer.

Some days after the answer to prayer concerning the boat a letter came saying, “Either you or Mr. Goodspeed, whosoever the Mission prefers, may work in the Bahamas.” Brother Goodspeed felt that it would be best for me to go back there since I had pioneered the work. We were soon packed up and on our way to the Bahamas accompanied by another missionary, Miss Margaret Holtzinger who later became Mrs. C. J. Goodspeed. I went a little ahead of the family and Miss Holtzinger, however, to get our living quarters in order, and to purchase the boat.

Our friends on Andros knew nothing of my coming, but they decided to have an all night of prayer for the return of “Brother Bustin.” They met under the old tabernacle and were having a great time of prayer for victory over the enemies. I had landed in Nassau that day and was seen by a seaman from Stanyard Creek who was leaving for Andros late that afternoon. The wind being favorable he arrived on the island about eleven o’clock the same night and hurried to the tabernacle to say that I was then in Nassau and would be in Stanyard Creek the next morning. The prayer meeting was broken up, but a praise meeting continued on through the night. What a meeting when I arrived on the shore the next morning! My precious people held on to me and said, “We’se not gonna let you leave shore again.” It was only a matter of days until I was gone again after our boat, and to bring more lumber for the Mission House. The next time they saw me was with my wife and children as we came ashore from our Mission Boat, the ANGELOS.

Our enemies were puzzled at the way God had worked, but this had not taken the fight out of them. They were constantly threatening and dogmatically declaring that they would have us driven from the island. These barkings didn’t stop us from forging ahead with our work, but they were rather annoying at times. During the course of a tent meeting at Stanyard Creek we faced much opposition from religious folk who blasphemed and raved like mad bulls. Among the fighters were two men who lived within about a stone’s throw of the tent. On the last night of this meeting I was led to exclaim, “God loves you and wants to save you, and has therefore sent this meeting here for your good, but some will not be saved. I am constrained to say that some who have a chance tonight will never again hear a Gospel message.” The meeting closed, and the tent was taken away. Within a few weeks a storm warning came that a mighty hurricane was headed in our direction. Doors and window shutters were “battened” up, boats were secured in places of comparative safety, little houses were “strengthened on the leaning side,” and a general preparation was made. Some of the Stanyard Creek seamen, including the two blasphemers of whom mention has been made, had been out on a fishing trip and did not learn of the onrushing hurricane until the day it was scheduled to strike. They were then in Nassau. Already the harbingers (hard gusts of wind with rain) of the hurricane had arrived. It was dangerous to leave the harbor in Nassau, but it was considered more dangerous to remain there, so it was decided to lift a little of the sail and let the heavy wind drive them home. The wind was fair (blowing in the right direction) so they slipped across the water with the speed of a motor boat, and boasted of having outwitted the winds. Among the seven was one Christian man. The two blasphemers were so viciously vile in their attacks until this man of God hugged the mast of the vessel and wept in their behalf. As they neared the open harbor at Stanyard Creek the hurricane was on with terrific force. The anchor was cast and as much of the hawser as possible was run out in order that the boat might better ride the mountainous waves. With this done the seven men leaped into the small life boat and began to pull for the shore. They had made some little progress when, being overtaken by a furious wave, the boat capsized and thrust the men into the sea to struggle for their lives. With narrow escapes five men reached the shore, but two were missing. In the darkness of the night and in the teeth of the hurricane which was then blowing at a furious rate nothing could be done in behalf of the missing men.

Until early morning hours the hideous hurricane continued its course of devastation and death. Houses were blown down, hundreds of coconut trees destroyed, our big tabernacle was in ruins, and at the break of day the two blasphemers were digged out of the sand. Much property was destroyed, but there were only the two deaths in our section of the island. Other enemies were sober only for a time.

Within a few weeks after the hurricane took away our tabernacle we undertook to build a stone structure. This was slow work, for lime must be burned out in the “back” where stones and wood were available, then stones must be boated in from various directions. Again our enemies, like Sanballat and Tobiah of Nehemiah’s time, bestirred themselves when they heard that we were planning to build. About this time they had a new “joiner” for their ranks. Before now the battle against our work had largely been waged by adulterous native men who had succeeded in stirring up white priests and bishops to take the matter on to Governmental authorities. A British Methodist missionary who had a church on the eastern shore of Stanyard Creek, and who paid periodic visits to this place, suddenly stepped into the fighting ring and, after writing me a sixteen page typewritten letter telling me how erroneous was my teaching in telling people there is complete deliverance from sin (old-time Methodist teaching), he wrote a postscript informing me that he was about ready to join for the first time with others in a move to put me off the island. My crime had been that of preaching the Gospel which had brought conviction and conversion to an ungodly young woman in his church. At her own request she had been baptized, yet had not left the Methodist Church. I foolishly took time to answer this doctrinal attack which in reality contained some of the most senseless statements I had ever read from the pen of a Protestant, so-called. Later I felt checked about what I had written, so my reply was never sent. This infuriated man went straight to Government men and turned in his report which put the officials on the war-path again. In the meanwhile the war in Europe had reached such dimensions, and was going so unfavorably against the allies that the food problem in the Bahamas was becoming serious. Assisted by my eight year old son, and even my oldest daughters, and some of the natives boys of our Mission, we mined well rotted seaweed from beneath the sand on the shores, boated tons of it up the creek and literally covered our small piece of ground which was mostly poor white sand. This was well mixed with the sand and prepared for vegetation. Rotted compost was also worked into the soil. Seed beds were prepared, then gardening followed in good order. In those days my children spoke of the seed catalog as “Daddy’s Bible.” In addition to the gardening done on the sandy ridge we planted corn, potatoes, and other things among the rocks out in the black land.

One day while I was engaged in the field work out among the rocks a Government man, Mr. Forsythe, came to see me. He visited our home garden and was quite impressed by the visible marks of our labors. He had come to deal with me about the reports handed to the Government, but for some reason did not stay. Another day he came when I was again in the field. By this time our garden was flourishing. This appealed to the Commissioner who for years had tried to tell the natives of the wealth they had in the seaweed if they would use it. Here were concrete proofs of his arguments. Charles, my eight year old son, had wrestled like a warrior in keeping the vegetables watered during the dry seasons, and especially when the plants were small. He had drawn and carried literally thousands of gallons of water for the thirsty plants. Now we were being rewarded. We were able to use from the garden as many as twenty-five different vegetables at one time. It was at such a time that Mr. Forsythe appeared on the scene. This time he waited until I came from the field in order to inform me that the Government had given him the right to say the final word for me to go or stay. Again he said, “Mr. Bustin, I am turning in a favorable report. I have told Mr. _____, the Methodist preacher, to attend to his own business, for you are the only one among the preachers on this island that is doing anything.” He went on to commend me for my gardening and encouraged me to keep up the good work. This was the beginning of the armistice on Andros, but not the end of the war in the Bahamas.

Perhaps a word is in order as to how our enemy was slain. He had been away from Stanyard Creek sometime, but was now back again. This was in the heart of our vegetable season. I called Charles and asked him what he thought about taking a nice basket of vegetables to the Methodist preacher. He was tickled at the thought of doing so, and was soon in the boat carrying a fine selection of fresh vegetables to the man who had hated me with such bitterness. Charles knocked at the door, then, upon the approach of the preacher, asked if he would like to have some fresh vegetables. “I most certainly would, for such are scarce items in these parts.” He was then told to empty the basket. The basket being emptied he prepared to pay for the vegetables, but was taken aback when Charles said, “No, daddy said he didn’t want any pay, and he also said to tell you to come over and get vegetables at anytime when you are here.” Another enemy was slain.

During our stay at Stanyard Creek our fifth child was born. This was quite a test, for no doctor was available and only a native nurse, but God was with us. This was the first white child, to the best of our knowledge, to have been born on Andros Island. When Paul Wesley was tiny the natives would come from all about to see him. They would say, “This is we baby, so they can’t tell him to leave.” This precious little bundle was born only about sixty feet from the Atlantic waters which lapped the shore in front of our door steps.