As these words are penned your secretary is homeward bound on the good S.S. Brazil, as she plows the waters, first of the South Atlantic and now of the North, for we crossed the equator last evening on its seven teen day, 6,409-mile voyage from Buenos Aires to New York. Soon after I boarded the ship the purser asked me to conduct the three Protestant worship services on the three Sundays of the voyage, February 5, 12, and 19. This invitation I was glad to accept. And as a result, I found many friendly and interested folk, both in first-class and tourist passenger groups.
The social directress, who arranged the de tails, came to my cabin for a list of the hymns and Scripture lesson just when I was in the midst of writing the captions for the school and graduation pictures of our Seminary Field Ex tension School in Uruguay. These seemed to impress her, and she evidently told a group of experienced Y.W.C.A. secretaries aboard. At the close of the first Sunday service they gathered about me and asked for a special meeting with them to learn about this unique educational venture in South America, and specifically just what I had been teaching these eighty men during my course on prophetic interpretation.
That Sunday afternoon I gave them a fairly comprehensive survey. But this seemed only to whet their appetite, and they asked for two other appointments. Their chief desire seemed to be actually to hear from the lips of a Seventh-day Adventist minister what we really believe, not only about prophecy, but about world affairs, religious world trends, and why we do not join in interchurch movements and the like. I have answered all questions frankly. Their whole vision of Seventh-day ' Adventism is being revolutionized, and they have come to have a profound respect for us and our beliefs. These were profitable hours.
Numerous talks and interviews have stemmed out of the public services. One was particularly impressive. The second Sunday I spoke on the prodigal son. That afternoon there was a knock on my cabin door. A passenger, returning from several years' residence in Brazil, came in and said, "I am the prodigal son. Had you known my life story, you could not have described my plight any more accurately. I am in a mess, and need help." He unfolded a sordid tale extending back over years, and involving others in a very serious way. His was indeed a complicated life. He had once been a nominal Christian, but had drifted far, far away, and had long since ceased to pray or to attend church. He felt impressed to come to the meeting that morning, and the arrow of conviction had reached home. After a long, frank talk on fundamental principles and responsibilities, and the provision and promises of God for forgiveness and restoration, I got him on his knees and helped him ask for divine help in rectifying his wrongs and in changing his life. It was a tangible result of the morning message.
There are aching hearts and restless, dissatisfied lives everywhere. Many were on this ship a missionary's wife, whose husband she had just buried two weeks before; and a Polish refugee, a young woman whose immediate family had been wiped out in Warsaw during the war, while she was made a prisoner of war and sent to southern Germany. She escaped and fled to Switzerland, and was now on her way to the land of liberty and opportunity. She had already had three years of medical training in Zurich and hoped to finish in America. There was a Jew whose parents and brothers and sisters were all liquidated in the gas chambers of Buchenwald and so the list might be continued.
My practice of vegetarianism was of interest to some; also the page proofs of volume i of The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, with its numerous illustrations, which I had been reading critically day by day, elicited a good many inquiries of interest. What was I doing and why? And what were those pictures about? Naturally I was glad to explain. More opportunities were thus afforded.
A ship is a great place in which to study and read, if you have a bent that way, and are con strained for time. There are no telephones, a minimum of callers, and but a reasonable number of interruptions, and fortunately I had my cabin (designed for three) to myself for three quarters of the voyage. It had a good table desk, excellent lights,, and plenty of fresh air from two portholes. What more could an editor-author wish!
There were other interesting features. On the staff personnel list of the ship, under "chap lain," were the names of two Roman Catholic priests. Inquiry elicited the information that many Catholics will not travel on a large ship unless there is a priest aboard, so they can hear mass occasionally. So the ship company arranges free ocean voyages for priests, available with first-class accommodations, to provide a Catholic "chaplain." There is no other responsibility. The plan provides a unique vacation opportunity. There is never any shortage of Catholic "chaplains," I am told. It is an interesting situation that needs no comment. Needless to say, it is not an arrangement into which we would wish to enter.