Witnessing Under Emergency Conditions

A "Zamzam" passenger relates an experience after leaving the ill-fated ship.

By HELEN M. HYATT, Teacher, Helderberg College, South Africa

After the "Zamzam" was shelled and sunk in the South Atlantic, the passen­gers were taken by a devious route to Europe. There the United States consuls had to wrestle with the problem of their repatria­tion.

It was impossible to obtain passage for the entire group to sail back to America together, as ships from Lisbon were all booked long in advance. So we returned in small groups on several vessels, and some by Clipper.

It was my lot to sail on the Portuguese ship "Mouzinho," with twenty-five other women, all but one of whom were missionaries. This boat had been chartered by the Friends' Society of Philadelphia to bring Jewish refugees to the United States. It was so crowded that many passengers—men, women, and children—had to sleep on the decks. Fifty women were accommodated in one hold, and in another one hundred sixteen children between the ages of six and sixteen had bunks.

In all they were a sorry-looking group, show­ing signs of the horrors of the last three years —undernourished, distrustful, and afraid. Many had been in concentration camps.. Their plight excited our pity. "Is there anything that we can do to help these poor people?" we asked ourselves.

The French doctor who had charge of the children was happy to have classes arranged for them, and soon one could hear their childish voices singing "The Star-Spangled Banner," "Jesus Loves Me," and other songs. Conver­sation classes in English were also conducted for them.

The adults crowded into the room and were so interested in what was being done for the children that they really hindered the work. So I volunteered to teach the adult group. So many came that the room was filled. They were so eager for the classes, and asked so many questions, that it was hard to get away from them. When I went on deck, I was sur­rounded by these unfortunate people, who told their sad stories, and asked advice which I felt powerless to give.

In our classes I undertook to teach the words and sentences that I had needed most when I found myself in a land in which the language was entirely strange to me. We talked about customs peculiar to America, about transportation and travel, what to do at the docks, how to get food, especially at the cafeteria and the automat, and how to handle American money.

°One day we had an arithmetic lesson. I took coins to the class, and we discussed their values and purchasing power. Then I called attention to the words, "In God We Trust." I told the story of America—the coming of the Pilgrim Fathers to find freedom to worship God as they chose, and liberty to think, speak, and live their own lives. I told them that America is a Chris­tian nation, and I tried to point out to them that none but Christian nations were opening their doors to receive the world's refugees.

I reminded them that someone had said, "The God of our fathers has failed us, our country has failed us ; now we must find a new country and start again to build a new home and a new life."

Then I said, "God has not failed you, but you have not approached Him in the right way. When our Lord Jesus was on earth, He said, 'I am the way.' I have never known anyone to fail to find God if he approached by the way of Christ." I urged them to accept Christ and find peace with God, and become good citizens of the United States.

When Sunday came, the other missionary women asked that I conduct their Protestant service. I felt that I could not do it. I am not a public speaker—just a schoolteacher—but I was strongly impressed to accept. I had prayed to be used in some way, and felt that I must not refuse whatever openings my heavenly Father made for me.

I had no outline of texts or study prepared. but I did have a copy of "Steps to Christ." I read and reread the first chapters and tried to present the simple gospel story in the beautiful way it is given in that little book. The Lord helped. The large room was crowded with attentive listeners. In closing, I asked our choir to sing the chorus, "Come into my heart, Lord Jesus."

The audience was composed entirely of Jews and missionaries of other societies. When the service ended, they flocked round to shake hands and to express their appreciation of the message. Several asked to what church I be­longed. They were,free to say that they were no longer Orthodox Jews, and that they were seeking a new religion in their new home. God only knows the result of our efforts, and we leave the matter with Him.

When we met for our last class, I reminded them that we really did not know one another. I asked them to introduce themselves to me, to tell where they had come from, their occupa­tion, where they were going, and why. I was astonished to find that my class consisted al­most entirely of professional men and women. There were doctors of medicine, law, and phi­losophy, professors from the leading tmiversi­ties and medical colleges of Europe. I am glad that I did not know this before. I would not have dared to try to teach them. But they had been so eager to attend the classes and so appreciative of my efforts, that no man-fear­ing thought had entered my mind.

Their need was our opportunity. It was a most encouraging experience and came just when I needed it, too. For I was much disap­pointed and almost low-spirited over havino­to turn back when we were so near Africa. At times I wondered whether God had anything still for me in His service. I was greatly cheered as a result of the work for these Jewish refugees. I believe there is a work to be done for these people by our churches, especially in the large cities. They have indeed come through great tribulation, and their hearts are easily touched by kindness just now. Let us capitalize on the opportunity. Delay will be fatal. Oth­ers will reap the harvest that might have been ours.

Too many preachers are more anxious to impress their congregation than to help them; too many prayers are exhibitions of fine phras­ing rather than appeals to God.—Channing Pollock.


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By HELEN M. HYATT, Teacher, Helderberg College, South Africa

October 1941

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