When persistent bombing by the Japanese had forced upon us the realization that we must leave our beloved field of labor in Tondano, Menado, Netherlands Indies, we hurriedly gathered together three suitcases of clothing and started out on our perilous twenty-five-day trip across the Celebes Island. After entering the native canoe and launching out in the Pacific, we were forced by a series of misfortunes to land at some very remote compounds. The natives in these compounds were invariably Mohammedans, and many of them had never seen a white family. As we sat by the bonfire one night drying our clothes, which had been soaked with salt water when a huge wave rolled into our little craft, a group of Mohammedan natives gathered about us.
After drying our clothing and repacking the canoe for a venture out into the sea again in the middle of the night, we were moved as we looked upon this group of human beings for whom Christ died, and we thought about the remote possibility of their ever hearing the message of God's soon coming. So, in the middle of the night, by the dying embers of the palm-leaf fire, we asked for silence and attention. For a few moments we told them in simple Malay the story of Christ, and of His soon coming. We spoke of the storm of war which was now threatening the peace of their homes, and told them that this was a sign of His coming. We suggested that if they had any doubt, they should pray to the great Father of us all and ask Him what His truth is for this time.
We felt, in suggesting this type of prayer, that their minds would be opened to the influence of the Holy Spirit. We know that God will do His part in warning these people who have the disadvantage of being out of contact with the ordinary modes of communication and travel.
A second compound was warned in much the same way. We opened the conversation by informing them that we, too, though we belonged to a Christian body, refused to partake of unclean meats such as pork, crabs, and clams. We told them that we did not drink spiritous liquors or smoke tobacco. It seemed to be a novel thought to the Mohammedan people to think of Christians as creatures of clean habits. The fact that we abstained from unclean foods gave us the entering wedge, and once more in simple words we told the story of Jesus. As we talked we prayed that God would by His Spirit illumine the truths that were planted in their minds. One man, a hodji (priest), showed particular interest, and when two ruffians began to be disorderly, he told them to be silent, making the statement that these were words of life.
On the way home on the boat we prayed daily that we might be able to use the otherwise-trying hours to the glory of God. As a result of this prayer, a young man, an engineer for one of the oil companies in Sumatra, made request for Bible studies. He was interested in comparative religions, and studied three hours a day for almost the whole forty-two days. He said that he had never studied the Bible and that he was eager to understand it. It seemed only fair to him to present the Book and its message as free from denominational and sectarian bias as possible.
As a proof of our eagerness to present the subjects free from what he might consider a sectarian view, we invited the young engineer to ask any question on any related subject. After we began, it was interesting to take a text around which controversy has raged, and to present the teachings of various denominations upon the text, then to present all the less-known or familiar texts on the same subject. In this way it was easy and inspiring to reveal the only honest manner in which Bible study should be attempted.
Studies With Young Engineer
One comment he made was that earlier in his career he had been a high-school principal and teacher. He said that if he had known the Bible then as now, he could have given much more satisfactory answers to his pupils in science when questions of a philosophical nature arose. He also said that whereas he had begun the studies without faith or hope, it was almost beyond his comprehension that at the close of forty-two days he could have acquired such a decidedly different view.
He felt sure he would be called into the Army, and said he was glad to have learned how to trust and pray before going into military service. Upon reaching New York, he requested some of our literature, and is studying it today.
We do thank God for this opportunity to help in the advancement of His work. On every trip we have found it possible to give the message. If anyone reading this article has found his own religious experience growing dull, our suggestion is that he find a reader, and as he teaches the subjects outlined in God's word and thinks God's thoughts after Him, he will find within his own heart an answering glow. Life will take on a new and vivid coloring as he finds his first-love experience brought back to life.