Upon entering our new field in Ambon (Moluccas, Netherlands Indies) in 1931, we thought one good method of contact would be to open a women's gymnasium class. It was the first of its kind in the island, and those of our friends and non-Adventist acquaintances who attended it were very enthusiastic about it. It proved instrumental in bringing a large group of young people into contact with our people. Although the class was never used for religious propaganda, yet it did give us ready acquaintance among the people and broke down much prejudice.
A leader of another church in our city had become very much annoyed with us. The group in his catechism class had been attending the classes of various religious groups, with the idea of investigating the doctrines of various religious bodies. Seven of his class, after studying the Seventh-day Adventist doctrines, accepted our faith and were baptized. For some reason he confused their connection with my gymnasium class as having drawn them from his group to our group, and this roused his ire.
Several years later, ongoing to our new field in Minahassa, we found that this same president was at the head of the other religious group in our new field. Some months after arriving in Minahassa, I decided to open another gymnasium class for women. While attending a birthday party, we asked some of the ladies in the community if they would care to have a ladies' gymnasium class. There was much enthusiasm, and we were offered the use of the auditorium in the village high school without cost. Our classes were conducted without any charge, except that we paid the janitor to keep the building clean.
Fifty-six women, European and native teachers and mothers, attended the opening meeting of the gymnasium class, and there was great enthusiasm. The class continued with much success. Everyone seemed to enjoy it thoroughly, and it was a contributing factor to health. We saw some women whose health had been impaired by lack of proper exercise restored to normal health, happiness, and improved appearance as a result of their participation in this class.
In the midst of our first term, the non-Adventist religious leader previously mentioned, took it upon himself to announce that a Bible school would be opened in our community for Protestant youth. Since this had never been done before, outside of the regularly organized catechism classes, it was received with great enthusiasm by the Protestant teachers and intelligent young people of the community. There were many who took part in this new venture by this Protestant body.
The class was large, and it was with great interest that everyone listened to the opening remarks of the dominie. Instead of beginning with the study of the Bible, he immediately began with a systematic vituperation of our work and of this gymnasium class I had been conducting. He remarked that this was used purely as a class for religious propaganda, and he forbade his church members' taking part in a class conducted by a member of our group. His remarks were so scathing that instead of arousing the sympathy of all in his pseudo Bible class, many of his friends who were members of our gymnasium class felt called upon to defend it. One of the women said:
"It is very strange, Dominie, that the preacher who preceded you here was on very friendly terms with the Adventist minister. In fact, be went horseback riding with him. But now you are teaching us not to love our enemies, as Christ taught, but to hate sincere people of another religious group. This family has never used the gymnasium for religious propaganda as long as we have met there. And as long as it is not used for religious propaganda, we intend to attend it. We are not children.
If at any time the class is used for religious propaganda, then and only then, shall we feel obliged to cease attending it."
As a result of this, no one left the class. In fact a few more began to attend. A few weeks after this, the president of the local church board of this Protestant group called at our home one evening, and his request ran something like this:
"Mrs. Kime, the only hospital in the community is a mission project of the Protestant church. Its expenses, which are not met by income from the patients, must be met by the church. In order to get the money we need for our project for this year, the church has decided to put on a musical program. We have a violin sextet. We have been studying together and playing together for years, but we do not have anyone who can accompany us. We would like very much to have you accompany us at the forthcoming program, and also to sing a solo."
Our reply was that we would be glad to render any assistance possible, but that we felt it would be best to get permission from the local dominie before asking those of our religious faith to take part in the program. I declined to sing the solo, feeling it would be very much better to remain in the background as much as possible under these conditions. He went to the dominie, who grudgingly gave his permission. We started in with a rehearsal each night, which continued for two weeks, or until the night of the program. On that night the lady who was to have sung the solos with the sextet found herself indisposed with a cold, and so the singing fell upon my shoulders after all. The musical numbers were well received. The sextet did well, and there were other numbers, in which we did not participate. Although the whole program was three hours long, the people received it with great enthusism, and a large sum of money was raised. To say we enjoyed this contact would be putting it mildly, and we formed many friendships.
The result of all this was that our co-operation with other religious groups broke down a great deal of prejudice. A new feeling of camaraderie came in. Colporteurs found entrance to homes with literature, where before they had been turned away. We heard favorable repercussions from this simple act of co-operation as far as two hundred miles distant.
We feel that this friendly act was responsible for an entirely new phase of our work, for a few months later when a leading native worker opened a public effort under my husband's direction, there was great enthusiasm and a record attendance. Much of the criticism and misunderstanding which had been in the minds and hearts of many in that part of the world, creating prejudice and hatred and persecution, cleared away. We have never forced our discussions upon any, but we have prayed most sincerely that God would open the minds and hearts of others that they might be disposed to ask questions. We thank God for this opportunity and pray that the work may not have been in vain.