What a privilege the Lord gave to us in Philadelphia, the "City of Brotherly Love" this past summer! Certainly we had our ideas and misgivings, but when the way opened for this evangelistic campaign in such a providential manner, then we were willing to ignore our own ideas and follow God's leading. In every phase of the program—the planning, securing a location, and getting permits—we could see the hand of God. This gave us confidence and an assurance from the very beginning that we were being allowed to work along with God in one of His big endeavors.
Another pleasant experience was that of working with three gifted ministers in the Philadelphia area who were also good personal friends. I refer to Jethro Lester, William DeShay, and A. B. Humphrey. Their zeal and faithfulness were rewarded over and over with wonderful divine providences. The city of Philadelphia has very stringent statutes governing public meetings, particularly those held in tents and temporary pavilions. Without the diligence, prayer, faith, and heroic persistence of these local pastors, we might never have started a meeting there at all.
Lay Bible Instructors
God also guided us in the selection of a team of Bible instructors. The idea of our cooperating in an evangelistic campaign was a rather late one. By the time we were sure, the pitifully few experienced Bible instructors in our conference were already booked up. W. L. Cheatham and W. A. Thompson, of the Allegheny Conference, helped us by recruiting lay workers. This, too, proved a blessing as God evidently guided us in this selection. We had the happy experience of working with fifteen godly women from the various areas. I could never say enough concerning these cheerful and faithful workers who had a real burning desire for souls. We had excellent musical help from Charles L. Brooks and Cleveland Tivy, both of Pine Forge.
Our meetings got under way July 19, 1964, on a beautiful Sunday evening. Our three-pole tent was packed with hearers who flowed out under the stars in a huge fan to either side of the tent. I suppose one of the richest blessings of all was good attendance throughout the campaign. The churches in several all-night prayer meetings had "asked." And God "gave."
Riots and the Sabbath Truth
There were many trials, not the least of which was the famous (or infamous) riot of midsummer. Following close on the heels of such devilry in Harlem and Rochester, the trouble struck Philadelphia at a strategic time—just as we were presenting the Sabbath truth. The sirens had kept us awake all night Friday and since there was no radio or newspaper in our home during Sabbath hours, naturally we were unaware of our problem. When we entered the streets en route to church, however, we didn't need to be told. Rubble, litter, and destruction, the results of hate and evil, were seen everywhere, and our tent was in the disaster area! Of course, there was only one thing to do and we did it, and so did Christians around the nation who knew we were there. Other evangelists, deeply involved in their own struggles with the devil, prayed for us. Thank God, prayers were answered.
Police and Angels
The only really bad moment was one of personal crisis when the mayor requested on Sunday morning that all religious services be canceled and that all Christians pray at home. I was studying when I heard his appeal, and demons of fear and doubt filled the room. However, in a few minutes our decision was made—we would go on. We were aware that the mayor's appeal was to enclosed churches and daylight congregations. Certainly he didn't want a public meeting conducted in the darkness and in the open air to go on that night. But we were also aware of the prayers going up in our behalf from coast to coast. Then out of the uneasy quietness of that troubled morning came that never-failing voice of inspiration that calms and assures and speaks peace. That night as hundreds gathered amid racing police cars and flashing red lights, God was there and we knew things would go on. A truck load of riot police ran up into our parking lot and waited. They must have been satisfied with what they heard from us, or from angels, for after the sermon they left and though the riot continued and the tension mounted for several days—we were unmolested. The merchants reported to our workers that they felt their stores were spared because we were there. I wouldn't be surprised. After all, isn't this why the world is spared—because God's people are here? When they leave, the earth will be in ruins.
It would be impractical to try to chronicle all the marvelous blessings that were ours last summer. Let us just mention the best part. Two hundred and eighty-nine new believers were baptized into this precious truth. Churches as far away as Wilmington, Delaware, and Chester, Pennsylvania, were benefited. For this and for all things, we thank God and praise His name. With fellow evangelists everywhere whose hearts burn with thanksgiving for this wonderful year in evangelism and the fruit which God so graciously gave to us, we ascribe all glory and honor to Him, and are overjoyed for the honor He shares with us in allowing us to cooperate with Him in the greatest work on earth.