In a California Earthquake

Lessons from a recent evangelistic event.

By MAURICE SILVER, Instructor, Washington Missionary College

It was a sultry, warm Friday evening in Los Angeles and vicinity. It was the kind that people there call "earthquake weather"—except that no one really expected an earth­quake, not even the fortunetellers.

The H. M. S. Richards tabernacle was lo­cated on Long Beach Boulevard in suburban South Gate. Elder Richards was in his study preparing for the evening service when sud­denly volumes of information came tumbling down upon him! That first terrific shock, which did most of the damage to the affected area, caused almost every volume of his library to literally jump at him and all around him.

Those of us who were not at the tabernacle quickly arrived from our respective quarters.

Fortunately, the telephone line was not broken. People called—people came—with but a single question, "Will there be a meeting tonight ?" Elder Richards instructed us to tell them there would be a meeting if enough came—and more than enough came. The place was filled.

By then it had become dark, and we were fully aware of the absence of lights. To supply light for the congregation was quite simple.

The tabernacle was of the usual rectangular form—with two large double doors on each side of the building and two double doors at the front. We opened the doors and drove an au­tomobile up to each opening, leaving ample room for a hasty exist if need be. Then we turned on the lights. That was fine for the song service, but two more problems presented themselves. First, it did not light the platform adequately for the speaker ; second, we did not want to run the batteries down.

The second problem was quickly solved by deciding to use "full lights" only during the song service. During the sermon the ushers in charge of lights would alternately use dim lights from the two diagonally opposite cars.

That arrangement gave ample soft light for everyone to see his neighbor and also his first emergency step—just in case. One man was at each car, ready to give full lights upon a signal from the head usher.

In the meantime the problem of platform lighting was solved by a Mr. Von Center, who had been a metallurgist in mining camps and was used to meeting emergencies. He bor­rowed several garden hose from neighbors, and having connected the hose together, connected one end to a gas line in one of the houses and brought the other end into the tabernacle. A lighted match reacted normally in the presence of gas "and there was light." The writer of this narrative was promptly nominated as "torch bearer" for the evening. For a reflector, some­one quickly lowered the picture screen.

' When these preparations were completed, "Uncle Henry" and Mrs. de Fluiter brought their timely and unusually well-conducted song service to a close, and Elder Richards "took over." Standing on that platform was like standing on two surf boards at once, with one board on a crest and the other in a trough al­ternately—how the tremors persisted! All went well until about midway of the sermon when the second severe shock came. The tab­ernacle twisted visibly; its joints squawked audibly; a woman screamed; the congregation rose as one person—making but few sounds. Elder Richards stopped and reached for the nearest stabilizer—the pulpit, The "torch bearer" nearly landed on the floor in an effort to keep out of the screen.

Then it was we all learned the value of a real song evangelist and an expert accompanist.

"Uncle Henry" came to his feet singing and Mrs. de Fluiter, who had everything in Gospel  and Song memorized, somehow managed to land on the piano bench with her hands full of music to accompany Mr. de Fluiter's singing. The people sat down quietly. A few left, but the sermon went on to a grand finish with an earnest reconsecration of souls.


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By MAURICE SILVER, Instructor, Washington Missionary College

January 1947

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