I was sojourning for five days recently on the Queen Mary—a small city of about 3,500 floating in the midst of the mighty Atlantic. It was a little world of its own, isolated from the rest of the world except for radio contacts, and yet it represented a fair cross section of the world at large.
Carrying the British flag at the masthead, the ship's population was made up of representatives of every major race, creed, and color. Aboard were Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Hindus, Mohammedans, Buddhists, and many others. There were a number of Catholic priests, rabbis, and Protestant ministers aboard. Among the latter was one lone Seventh-day Adventist —one among 3,500 souls. Mass was said in the library several times a day. There was a moderate attendance at divine services at eleven on Sunday morning, conducted by the captain and the purser. A Christian Scientist meeting was held in the afternoon and a full gospel preaching service in the tourist cinema at night. A Jewish service also was scheduled on Sunday night.
There were concerts morning and afternoon, and a heavily attended motion picture was a daily feature. Besides, there were races and betting, booze, and gambling. Two thirds of the people smoked and an appalling number drank. And these were the ones who attended the religious services. The Seventh-day Adventist preacher was one of four men in his cabin—one German skeptic, an Armenian Christian, and one Englishman with Church of England background. The first evening out all three imbibed from whisky bottles until they were irresponsible. All three drank daily. The teetotaler preacher broke the chain of conviviality.
At the dining table there were six of us—two Italian Roman Catholics, one Canadian Catholic from Montreal, an English deist, a German Jew, and a Seventh-day Adventist. The latter was the odd one—apparently the only one in the entire dining saloon who asked divine blessing upon his meals. He was the only one at the table who did not drink liquor, tea, or coffee, and who did not smoke or eat meat.
The library was filled with fiction, widely read. The smoking room was filled with women playing cards and drinking and smoking with the men. The cocktail bars were crowded with men and women, young and old. The main lounge was just like the smoking room and the cocktail bar—blue with smoke, and decorated with bottles and glasses of wine, gin, and whisky.
The open godlessness of the crowd appalled one. How to arrest the attention ! How to kindle a spark of interest, and fan it to a continuing flame ! That was the all-important question. Beautiful appointments, high intelligence, and smug self-satisfaction form a strong crust that is almost impenetrable. Yet such groups must be reached. And this was only one world—a tiny world at that, a temporary floating world that soon would merge into a larger world at the port of destination. There are thousands of such floating worlds, as well as worlds on wheels, and permanent worlds in communities, cities, countries, and continents, with their teeming millions.
A few bright spots provided the exceptions to the rule. A community sing of old folk songs brought together i5o people who made a better appearance—fresh, wholesome-looking folks, young and old, who would have been lost to view in the crowd had they not been brought together.
Then there was the Chinese businessman from Shanghai who knew our work favorably and one of our best-known doctors. And, too, there was the elderly woman who knew and esteemed our Portland sanitarium and its surgeon. In her home the widow of one of our former vice-presidents from Africa had stayed, and had made a deep impression. There was a Protestant from Catholic Montreal, who was greatly perturbed over Catholic aggression; and also a Christian worker for youth who knew a mutual friend—a well-known Bible teacher formerly at Moody Bible Institute. These opened the way for frank and friendly conversation on the Bible and prophetic truth.
How shall we touch them, influence them, win them? Human plans and ingenuity can never do it. Only the Spirit of the Infinite can do it. We must be imbued with power from on high. That is our sole hope of success, our sole source of power, to break through the callous exterior, to penetrate responsive hearts, to grip lives that are now the essence of worldliness, and transform them into examples of godliness. How we need to cry out for that power, to pray, to plead, to lay hold of the promised blessing in its train. O God, give us the blessing and the power with men that we need and want and must have.
L. E. F.