ON THE sixth of September, 1966, I landed on the beautiful island of Trinidad at the city of Port of Spain, little knowing the blessings that awaited me there. It is a modern city with all the physical conveniences of big-city life apparent in other developed areas of the world, and its peoples are a literate people with four colleges in the immediate vicinity. It is a progressive little island country with paved roads, adequate lighting, and an economy so sound that it permits the average laborer to own some type of automobile. I remarked to one of my associates upon arriving there that if Trinidad and Tobago is a "developing country," my tent should be surrounded with bicycles instead of automobiles. And yet, on any given evening, to get to the meeting you would have to thread your way between a veritable sea of cars.
The government of Trinidad and Tobago has a religious liberty clause in its constitution, and the distinguished prime minister of this country, Dr. Eric Williams, takes this clause seriously, hence, religion is treated in this country on an equal basis, with no group receiving preferential privileges. Port of Spain is largely Catholic, and the Anglican religion is second in influence.
The city of Port of Spain holds no more than 180,000 people altogether, and the population is largely heterogeneous in nature.
812 in 11 Weeks
Public evangelism has not been notably successful in this large area, which was one of the reasons that the division brethren had for scheduling this large field school here. Furthermore, the campaign was run during the height of the rainy season. These facts only served to demonstrate the magnitude of the Lord's power, for in a city where it was not likely to happen, 812 souls were baptized within an eleven-week period, and on the last night of the campaign an additional 327 indicated their desire to become Seventh-day Adventists. The figures listed above refer only to those souls whose names were not on Seventh-day Adventist Church rolls. There were scores of others immersed who were moved by the Spirit's power to renew their vows by baptism.
"One Accord" Spirit
Forty-six ministers from all over the Caribbean area were brought in for the field school aspects of the campaign. These faithful men committed themselves totally to the success of the campaign. This accounts in part for the divine favor conferred upon us. These men were housed together for a period of eleven weeks. Although differing in background and culture the unanimity exhibited by the disciples prior to Pentecost was certainly evident among my fellow ministers. They met daily, Monday through Friday, for classwork from 9:00 to 11:00 A.m. Our workers' meeting ran from eleven until twelve or twelve-thirty. We then went to the tent to straighten it up for the night service. Dinner followed, after which the workers were sent out two by two to do personal work. After an afternoon of intensive visitation these men returned for supper and then made their way to the tent. For the next two hours they were on duty there.
Eleven weeks of this type of physical attrition took its toll, but though we were tired we were happy men at the campaign's conclusion, for the Lord crowned each man's conscientious effort with personal success. One visitation team alone accounted for more than 100 baptisms. These men were joined in personal service by four faithful Bible instructors whose influence among us was both wholesome and spiritually refreshing.
What Happens When Departments Unite?
Perhaps the most beautiful aspect of this program was the total commitment of the total organizational church structure to the success of the campaign. From the very start it was a cooperative effort. E. J. Murray, the acting president of the Caribbean Union, was in charge of the offering each night. W. W. Weithers manned the electronics equipment nightly. The man in charge of planning the, entire logistical aspects of the campaign and who bore the largest single individual burden was Roy Hoyte, the educational and MV secretary of the Caribbean Union.The finesse with which he managed this aspect of the program contributed greatly to the successful outcome of the campaign. S. L. Gadsby, president of the South Caribbean Conference, made the announcements nightly. J. Grimshaw, treasurer of the conference, handled the offerings and statistical end of the program as well as participating actively night by night in various aspects of the public presentation. H. Phillips, the educational and MV secretary of the South Caribbean Conference, was the Sabbath school superintendent. W. W. Thomson, administrator for the Seventh-day Adventist hospital in Port of Spain, superintended the program night by night, and his medical staff, led by Dr. James Miyashiro and four other Loma Linda graduates, conducted meaningful health lectures three nights a week throughout the eleven weeks. This fine medical staff must also be cited for having maintained the good health of the 46 ministers who were in this program, most of whom, with the speaker, at one time or another were recipients of their professional assistance. C. L. Powers, president of the Inter-American Division, traveled to Port of Spain and participated publicly in the campaign for two evenings and was most liberal in the division financial outlay for the campaign.
When United Laymen Unite With United Ministers
It would seem to me, therefore, a proper conclusion that God blessed the brethren because of the unity of the entire departmental structure of the church in the Caribbean area. Undergirding all of this was the thorough organization of the local Seventh-day Adventist churches under the leadership of C. Manoram who night by night provided the broad base on which our baptisms were built. There were some outstanding examples of laymen who made three trips a night to the tent from their neighborhoods, bringing their interested relatives and friends. The head deaconess of the Port of Spain church wept tears of joy on the day of the first baptism as she saw her husband of 35 years at last yield his heart to the influence of the Holy Spirit and be baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This man said to me proudly after the baptism, "God is a patient God. It took Him a long time, but He finally got me." Two taxi owners transported friends to the meetings nightly, making two trips a night. These men were not baptized, but many of those that they brought were.
The tent was located on the Prince's Building Grounds in the very heart of the park area of Port of Spain, hence, to get to the tent from the nearest home would involve at least two blocks of walking, and yet people were observed traveling on foot over the mountains each night to and from the meeting after working hard all day.
Tent Major Tourist Attraction
During the early stages of the program the tourist bureau advised people coming off ships that the tent was one of the major centers of attraction on the island and a thing to see. This led a Swedish reporter and his wife who were visiting Trinidad to sit through one of our meetings, and he was so impressed that he interviewed me for two hours at the hotel after the program. The subject that night was "The Key to Happiness." He could not understand that anyone would believe that true happiness is possible in this life. It was my privilege to preach the gospel to this reporter, thanks to the tourist bureau of the city.
Trinidad's Parting of the Red Sea
In spite of the fact that this campaign began and closed at the height of the rainy season, not one single meeting was rained out. We preached six nights a week, and after four weeks, twice on the Sabbath day. The word went out across that island that "between the time that the meetings began and ended the rain couldn't fall." As a matter of fact, we became so sure of the Lord's providences in this respect that on one evening when there were almost as many people outside the tent as inside and a few drops fell and the lightning flashed, and some of the people got up to move, S. L. Gadsby stood up and asked the people to remain seated, saying that it wouldn't rain until the meeting was over. Believe it or not, it didn't rain, even though clouds were hanging heavy over our heads for the rest of the evening. Those who have lived there for years tell us that this was as great a miracle as the parting of the Red Sea during the exodus of Israel from Egypt. We believe what they say. In this same connection, I have known it to rain on Sabbath morning right up until seven o'clock and then the sky break clear so that we could have our Sabbath services. Also, during the day of our first baptism the heavy monsoon-type rains came up to the mountain just above the valley in which we were baptizing, and it rained all around the area, totally flooding roads and washing out bridges, but not a drop of rain fell to mar our large outdoor baptismal service.
On the last Sabbath of the campaign an enterprising young city laborer arrived on the tent grounds with a large bulldozer, intent on moving some earth during the time that we were to hold our Sabbath services. Now the motor of the bulldozer could be heard at least two blocks away. He began his labor at seven o'clock. Sabbath school was to begin promptly at nine-fifteen. He drove the bulldozer on one trip, removing some earth, and then turned to make another pass when suddenly there was an explosion in his engine like the sound of a rocket blasting off. This was a signal to the worker himself to blast off: We next saw him about five hours later furtively peering under the hood to see just what the trouble was with the engine. He reported to us that aside from a bearing being ruined there was no other general damage. It seemed to us that God must have taken a direct hand in this affair, altering the machinery that the gospel might be preached unhindered.
But the most remarkable victories were those that occurred within human hearts and lives. There were eleven marriages performed during a seven-week portion of the campaign. One or both of the contracting parties were getting ready for baptism into the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This is surely evidence of the deep movings of the Spirit. I think of the dear woman who came to me during one of my counseling periods and sat patiently while others moved in and out of the counseling room, and when it was her turn, this was her testimony: "I have been out of the Seventh-day Adventist Church for 38 years, and I was a very bitter apostate. I was baptized in the same baptism and by the same minister as Pastor Weithers who is now in the Caribbean Union. It was during your meetings that I became convinced again of the love of God and of the necessity of my renewing my covenant with Christ. You baptized me in your first baptismal service and I came today to thank you for showing me the way back home."
Bishop's Stewardess Baptized
Baptized also was the chief stewardess in the home of the Roman Catholic bishop of Trinidad. This woman provided all of his meals and supervised his household. She made her decision the night before the first baptism but was in deep perplexity as to how to break the news to him. We counseled her to be prepared for the second baptism a week hence. This would give her time not only to inform the bishop of her decision but to make other plans with reference to her job. She worked the next Sabbath morning but rushed to the tent in the afternoon, testifying that it was the most miserable day that she had spent in her life. The following Sunday morning she informed the bishop of her decision. His kindly words were, "Be sure and order enough food for the rest of the week, and may God bless you." We baptized this woman on the Sabbath of the second baptism, and she is happily rejoicing in the Lord. She was standing in front of the tent the night after her baptism, having no job, naturally wondering what the future held, when a large automobile rolled up in front of the tent and a European woman called her and asked her if she knew of anybody in that large audience who would like to take a job in her home. Our sister immediately accepted the job herself and is now happily working for her new employer, with Sabbath privileges.
Baptized was the sister of the permanent secretary to the prime minister, and also a close friend of hers. These people come from the very highest strata of Trinidadian society, living in lovely homes, one of them with a three-car garage and three cars in the garage. I found the story of her friend very interesting.
Thirty Years of Dormancy
Thirty years ago she and a friend of hers took a vacation on one of the tiny islands in the Caribbean. An Adventist local elder happened to be running a laymen's campaign in the area, and out of curiosity these two women went down to hear him preach. They were fascinated by the Bible truths unfolded by this layman and after five weeks of attending were convinced that Seventh-day Adventists do indeed proclaim the truth of God. But environmental factors prevented their full acceptance of the message then, and for thirty years the seed of truth lay apparently dormant in their hearts, only to spring to life during our Port of Spain campaign. It was my privilege to baptize one of these women in the meeting there.
A mother came to me in obvious distress one day. She was not and is not a member of our church, but I am confident that someday she will join us. Her problem was that she had a son about 22 years old who was obviously demon possessed. He would sleep by day and pace the floor by night, threatening to kill everybody in the house and raising general havoc. This had gone on for years. She had had him examined by a psychiatrist, and it was determined that the boy was sane, the only other answer being that Lucifer would give his soul no rest. The young man had not been able to go to school or to hold a job. As a matter of fact, he told me in a later conversation that he had walked up to a store to go in and was suddenly whirled around by a force stronger than himself and aimed away from the store. He, too, desired to be free from this evil power. We brought this young man to our class session one Monday morning, and the 46 ministers knelt around him in prayer. There were no visible manifestations of change in the room, no screaming devils emerged shrieking their defiance, nor was there any wild scene that normally accompanies the expulsion of a demon, but there was evidence that on that morning Christ literally removed this evil power from that man's life as He did 1,900 years ago in expelling demons from those so afflicted. The young man sleeps at night now, has taken a job, and at my last hearing was successfully holding it and doing well.
Another young man about 27 years old came to me one day in obvious distress. He had for one year been in conversation with a spirit power who communicated with him through his wife while she was asleep. It was a different voice from hers, he said, and it would awaken him at different hours of the night, ask him questions about himself, and give him counsel. In earlier years he had been quite a rowdy young man, but this power had spoken to him and told him that he should stop living that type of life, that he should be a kind husband to his wife and a good father to his children. It was this voice that had sobered him up, and now he was a self-respecting young man, holding down a job and doing well. But he heard my sermon on spiritualism and became disturbed as to the true identity of the voice that was talking to him. This is what occasioned his visit. I questioned him closely, first of all with reference to the nature of the counsel that this voice gave him, and at our first meeting everything that he quoted the voice as saying was above criticism. After all, it had corrected his life, it had given him guidance with reference to the kind treatment of his family, et cetera. However, I recognized that while the counsel given was Biblically sound, the method was obviously satanic, but the problem was how to pin it down and convince this young man with whom he was dealing. So I made another appointment with him. The second appointment was no more successful than the first, for as we probed deeper and deeper into the revelations being made to this young man, the counsel was above reproach. So I made yet a third appointment with him and this was indeed fortunate. He brought a typewritten sheet of a conversation held with this power just the night before. In it he asked this power (1) "Is there a God in heaven?" The answer came, "Yes, there is." (2) "Are there three up there, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost?" The answer: "Yes, there are." (3) "What is the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost?" No answer. (4) "Is there a heaven and is there a hell?" Answer: "There is a heaven and a hell." (5) "When do the righteous go to heaven and the wicked to hell?" Answer: "At death the wicked go to hell immediately, but the righteous go to a place of purging and from there they will enter heaven." This was my first clue to the identity of this power, for now he was repeating the same lie that he told in the beginning, which began the great rebellion of man against God. I gave my brother another study on the spirits of spiritualism, had prayer with him, and dismissed him. Apparently the requirements were too stiff for him to meet, and like the rich young ruler, he went away sorrowful. But the seed has been sown.
Larger Attendance After Sabbath Presentation
I have read in the biography of Dr. Wilbur Chapman that he often preached with a prayer group stationed in a little room directly under the pulpit who prayed for him during the entire course of his sermon. In Port of Spain, Trinidad, we had the deaconesses and deacons from the various churches alternating in prayer in a certain section of the tent each night during the sermon itself. I literally experienced in my heart the renewing influence of the Holy Spirit on a night-to-night basis in the preaching of the Word, and at no time during the eleven-week program was there under 2,200 people in attendance. The attendance reached its peak on the concluding night with seven thousand present. We experienced our largest attendence after the Sabbath was presented.
In Excess of $9,000
Prior to the meetings, during the make-up of the budget, it was anticipated that the offering income would be in the vicinity of $2,000. At the conclusion of the campaign the offerings were in excess of $9,000. This is indicative not only of the blessing of God on our campaign but of the financially affluent society in which our campaign was being operated. At this point I think it bears repeating that Port of Spain has no mission-type atmosphere but is a modern city with all the built-in inhibitions of the large cities of the most progressive nations of the earth. Therefore, the power of Christ and the gospel in attaining this victory cannot be minimized by any of the traditional reservations. My own conclusion is that given the right circumstances and the total cooperation that we found in Trinidad, this type of thing can probably happen in any of the large cities of the earth.
Thousands of Spectators
There were 199 Roman Catholics baptized in this campaign. Of the people baptized, 320 were over 30 years of age. One hundred and twenty-nine of them were between the ages of 21 and 30. Two hundred and fifty-five of them were between the ages of 13 and 20, and 108 were between the ages of 10 and 12. The first baptism of itself was a thing of beauty. It took eleven buses to transport the baptismal candidates to the waterside. The baptism was held at a large beach front with adequate facilities for dressing, et cetera. The government officials were most solicitous in providing these facilities for our use. After the eleven o'clock service we had a review of the candidates just prior to entering the buses, and then this giant procession made its way through the city out to the lovely beach front where there must have been eight or nine thousand spectators. Brethren White and Thompson organized and supervised the baptismal service. Forty ministers entered the water, and forty candidates were taken into the water and out to the ministers who baptized the candidates for the next hour and a half, completing the baptism of 480 candidates in well under two hours.
The Cathedral Quartet of North America was with us for those baptismal services. Pastors Scales, Edgecombe, Shepperd, and Reeves, who worked with me for a period of five years across North America, were a real spiritual lift to us during this crucial period.
Trinidadians will never forget the services of C. L. Brooks, educational secretary of the Allegheny Conference, who spent two weeks in the early stages of our campaign and completely captured the hearts of our listeners. Long after these brethren had departed the campaign, we played the tapes of their music to the obvious delight of our audience, and on the last evening, adding a touch of nostalgia to the closing, as I stood signing autographs for an hour and a half after the benediction, the music of the quartet and of Pastor Brooks rang out over the neighborhood in a fitting benediction and testimonial to the glory and power of God and the strength of the gospel in the twilight hours of the history of man.