Pastor Richards, I know that you had Bible instructors with your large evangelistic campaigns when you were a young evangelist. Did the conferences have budgets for hiring them?
In Ottawa, Canada, Pastor F. W. Stray, president of that union (and it was a small union), came up to help me hold meetings. We rented the Regent Theatre, right in the center of town. It was to be a city-wide effort in the capital of Canada. We were in the middle of the great depression, and of course the conference had very little money. He and I were practically the only workers. There were no Bible instructors in the conference, not even a president, as he resigned his office to preach and save a salary. But we knew we had to have Bible instructors in spite of the fact that we had no budget to hire them.
How did you solve your problem?
We devised this plan: We decided to prepare our own Bible instructors. We rented a building next to the Adventist church. We had just a little church there, but the building we rented was quite a large building, two stories, and we turned it into a dormitory for Bible instructors. We put a notice in the union paper about the coming meetings, and explained that we wanted to train some women to be Bible instructors. We asked for women to come who felt they would like to be in Bible work either as regular Bible instructors under conference pay or as volunteers. We told them we would give them three months' training, and those that responded in a way that we felt was sufficient would be employed as far as possible. We didn't make any promises we couldn't fulfill.
What kind of a response did you get?
I forget just how many came, but I believe there must have been about thirty women. Some were unmarried young women just out of high school, some were married women older ones who came with their husbands and some were widows.
What kind of daily program did you plan for these women?
The women would attend the meetings every night learning all they could, and we would do our part in the meetings to show them what to do. During the early mornings, of course, they had their own work to do. We had a house mother and father, a good Christian couple that we hired, but the cooking and cleaning were done by the women. Then from nine o'clock on we held classes. There were several classes, one of which was on how to give Bible studies, and practical training was given. They were asked to make up outlines, and there was required reading. So the mornings were spent in training them in theoretical truths as well as practical aid in giving Bible studies. Then the afternoons were spent in visiting and handing out advertisements for the meetings. We sent them out two and two so they could encourage and help each other. Then they began to hold Bible studies themselves.
When the meetings were over did you have any well-trained Bible instructors who were hired as regular employees?
Well, when that series of meetings was over along toward the fall, we had from those thirty people seven or eight good Bible instructors. I can see some of the women now, faithful in God's work, people who were wonderful helpers in evangelistic campaigns. The various conferences in the unions were happy to hire them. Several more, because they enjoyed it so, were willing to work as volunteers for temporary periods during meetings held where they were living. Some, if we would pay their transportation, would come and work with us.
Pastor Richards, we have volunteer service organizations in our hospitals and in other agencies. Do you think something of this nature could be developed in our church organization?
I think we have a great reservoir of help who would be volunteers if we would work on it. At the Voice of Prophecy right now we have one good-sized room full of volunteer workers both men and women. We have a woman, one of our hired workers, who is in charge of them and she has developed a tremendous thing. They have done thousands of dollars' worth of work for us in the past few months. We believe that with proper organization, and as we study it and work it out with the workers, they can do half of our work. The money that we save would be utilized for radio time and for other things we need so badly.
Could this volunteer help include those in retirement?
It is wonderful the number of willing workers we have, and the potential that is available in those who are having more and more retirement time and don't know what to do with themselves. The work does them good and they enjoy it.
Usually we think of Bible instructors as single individuals. Do you feel that many of our married women could make a real contribution in this area of Bible instructors' work?
I really believe, with all said and done, that the most productive Bible instructors are those who have had quite a bit of experience in life. I like a Bible instructor who knows what life is all about if possible, someone who has been married and has had children so that there's a family contact there; so that when she goes to visit people she knows how to act, how to talk, and how to counsel in a good, sensible way. Many of these very fine workers we trained in Ottawa were older women who had been married. Some of them were widows who had a contribution to make to God's cause.
What about women who have special training in other categories of work?
In this first experience in Ottawa to which I have referred, there were two out standing young women one was a nurse, and she has given her whole life to Bible work. She is now retired in the Columbia Union. She married after she left us in Ottawa, but she kept on with her work.
Do you think it is an absolute necessity for a Bible instructor to have a college course?
I could tell you about several very fine workers who did not have college courses in Bible work; they didn't have the privilege, but they were ready to work. Instead of saying we have no Bible instructors and that we can get no Bible instructors, we could produce these practical workers, and they are the best kind in the world. We need to expand our Bible instructor forces immediately. They are among the most valuable workers in our church.