Whether it be war or peace our watchword in Great Britain is "Evangelize." In 1939 it was war. Britain under the storm cloud of battle was our field to evangelize. What opportunities were ours ! What schemes and plans were afoot ! What obstacles and problems to surmount ! But evangelize we must. He who had given the command to "go" had "all power in heaven and in earth."
Our program was riot an easy one. "Militarize" had become the watchword of Britain's wartime government. The whole populace became a vast marshaled army; the whole land a mighty military encampment. Men, women, and youth were conscripted in the national program, and none might say nay.
Our watchword was still "Evangelize," but now it was evangelize in a military encampment. Troops thronged the cities, towns, and villages. Wearied workmen and tired mothers craved sleep and rest ; bombs came hurtling down, and death stalked every night.
Halls had to be found, and means to advertise had to be arranged for. The blacking out of lights must be considered. Bomb shelter must be adequate in the case of raiders. Fire equipment must be at hand, and a capable person in charge to deal with the dangerous incendiary bombs. First-aid posts must be nearby; and a multitude of other details must be considered.
Halls, and especially town halls, were taken over by the military authorities, to be used for the housing of troops, emergency hospitals, or gas decontamination. The few halls left were in great demand, and it took good management to find a suitable building. A hall was rarely secured without diligent and diplomatic search. Once our hall was secured we turned to our advertising. Paper would rarely permit more than a two-inch single column. It became increasingly difficult to obtain handbills as the war grew older, and if they could be had they were odd in size, strange in color, and by no means ideal. For commercial firms posters were allowed above double-crown size (20" x 30"), and then twelve was the maximum permitted. The churches did not, however, come into the restriction paper order. So naturally the evangelist sought a field of advertising here, but this largely depended upon the paper available and one's persuasive powers with the bill-posting companies, who feared the heavy penalties imposed when any breakage of restrictions was made.
Window bills and bus and streetcar advertising strips were used, but the black-out of lights limited their power. For distribution of handbills and placard carrying, man power was not available. Loudspeaker motor vans were not considered of national importance; hence no petrol (gasoline) was allowed. Thus a glimpse of a few of our difficulties in the advertising field can be imagined.
This, however, can be said: despite the restrictions, what advertising we did was noticed and read, and gathered congregations to listen to our wonderful message. But here again we were confronted with more problems. Visiting homes was not easy. Rarely during the day were people at home, for all worked, and many of them worked seven days a week. At night the black-out made visitation extremely dangerous and unprofitable. Bombing raids frequently shattered the homes of interested people, and tracing names was a problem. Sometimes halls, too, as in my second campaign of the war, were blown to pieces by high explosives, and the evangelist was left with yet another task of rehabilitation. But our watchword always was, and still is, "Evangelize," and we thank God who gave us the power to "go" and call a people out in the crisis hour.