There was a quick knock on my door and my neighbor from across the hall entered before I could answer. I had barely arrived home, having walked the few blocks from the General Conference office. She began at once:
"Who is he? Who is he? I've stood this as long as I can. I've just got to find out, and hope you can help me."
Katherine Johnston, my Catholic neighbor, had come to Takoma Park to live because she liked the peace and quiet of the more residential area. She worked in a library in Washington, D.C. When she left the city bus she rode another six blocks on the smaller bus that went up Carroll Avenue, where she got off within a block of the apartment house where we both lived.
"I've been watching this man now these weeks since I moved out here. Almost every evening he boards this small bus at the D.C. line, usually carrying an armful of books. Everybody seems to know him. They address him respectfully by name, but I never quite catch it. Apparently he travels and has been all over the world. He's the most unusual person I have ever seen. Can you tell me who he is? What he does? How and why?" Katherine stopped only for breath.
With a good inkling in my mind as to whom she had seen on the bus, I said, "Tell me more about him. How do you know he travels?"
"How do I know?" the question-exclamation interrupted. "He is scarcely seated before somebody asks, 'Did you see my uncle when you were in South Africa?' Let's see now' he muses, 'your uncle is so and so. Yes, I know him well. I saw him about six months ago. I should have told you. He is well and happy in his work.'
"Another is waiting," Katherine went on. 'How long since you were in Pakistan?' 'Oh, I'd say it's been more than a year—and yes, I know what you're going to ask; I saw your good brother over there. He's doing a fine work.'
"Still another: 'Did you visit the college in the Philippines on your last trip to the Far East?' 0h,' he replies, 'I'm glad to see you; your folks sent greetings. I've been meaning to look you up. You can be proud of such wonderful parents. They're looking forward to the time when you will be joining them—and I believe they said a fine young lady is to accompany you,' he finished with a twinkle in his kindly eyes.
"On and on it goes," continued Katherine. "I'll miss him if he goes on another trip afar. I admit I have spotted the place where he usually sits and if I board the bus ahead of him I try to get a seat where I can see and hear all that goes on. I have learned more geography! In fact, I often make a note and look up the places he mentions when I go to the library the next morning.
"Tonight was the most precious of all. A little girl of perhaps eight years slid into the seat beside this elderly man, and asked shyly, 'Did you see my brother in South America?"Well, sweetheart,' he said kindly, 'let's see now—who is your brother? Yes, I know—you look like him. How long has he been in South America?' Two years,' replied the little sister, 'and I miss Rob so much; it seems like such a long time.' 'Well, well, I'm sorry but I haven't been in South America for more than two years, so I haven't seen him since you did.' There was a disappointed little silence. Then hopefully, he said, 'You know, just last evening I ran across a little trinket that I picked up one time from almost the very place where your brother is working. I think you'd like to have it. If you'll ask your mother maybe she'll let you get off the bus with me and I'll give it to you.' The child's eyes sparkled—and soon she was back with mother's permission.
"I need to know who this man is. Everybody else on the bus seems to know him, and love him-_______ and a mother trusts her child to him. Who is he?"
Opportunity was wide open to tell Katherine of our dear Elder W. A. Spicer's long service in Seventh-day Adventist work—secretary, president, and now in older years field secretary, still traveling to give hope and courage to the workers afar—and bringing loving messages to the dear ones at home.
The evening lengthened with stories of our work of which this Catholic woman knew nothing. Other evenings of such talk followed. I wish I could say that Katherine Johnston accepted our message, which she did come to admire very much. All too soon our paths separated. I still send her the Signs of the Times, and still write her an occasional note. Often enough she does not reply—for two or three years. I was sure I had lost her—she had retired somewhere in Pennsylvania. But just the other day I was reminded of all this by one of those rare notes from Katherine. "I've just been thinking and thinking about you," she wrote. "Thinking of those wonderful evening chats we had during those few months that we were neighbors."
Now the reason for telling you this unfinished story is to raise this question: As you travel at home and abroad, do you remember to bring messages from workers afar and convey them to loved ones and friends who long for firsthand information? Hearts can really yearn for just a word —made personal by personal repeating—from the dear ones who perhaps are so overwhelmed with the immensity of the task confronting them that they do not find time to write as often as they might like. Anyway, a personal message is better than a letter.
I know of a fine and valued friendship that has sprung up between an old, retired worker and one of a younger generation who girdles the globe betimes—all because that younger worker took time to visit a lonely little mound in a certain mission field, took a picture of it, and at the first opportunity made it a point to visit the retired worker, gave him the snapshot, and told him how the present mission folks are caring for the little grave—until Jesus comes!
Once upon a time it was my privilege to be secretary to a man who, when he was assigned to travel abroad, gleaned from various sources information about the mission folks' relatives in their homeland. Some