Shepherdess

Madonna of the Sawdust Trail, Part II. Evangelistic wives of yesteryear were made of very stem stuff indeed.

Miriam Wood, author of books and numerous magazine articles, is a regular columnist for the Review.

Dear Shepherdess: I'm sure you can hardly wait for the second installment of Miriam Wood's "Madonna of the Saw dust Trail." It's with pleasure that I share it with you this month.

A quotation from The Ministry of Healing reminds us: "The Father's presence encircled Christ, and nothing befell Him but that which infinite love permit ted for the blessing of the world. Here was His source of comfort, and it is for us. He who is imbued with the Spirit of Christ abides in Christ. Whatever comes to him comes from the Saviour, who surrounds him with His presence. Nothing can touch him except by the Lord's permission. All our sufferings and sorrows, all our temptations and trials, all our sadness and griefs, all our persecutions and privations, in short, all things work together for our good. All experiences and circumstances are Cod's workmen whereby good is brought to us."—Pages 488, 489.

May your life be filled with faith and peace. With love, Kay.

Early in their experience, Ted and Louise Carcich, along with their small boy (they'd gone back to college, and he'd graduated after they had been married a few years), were assigned to help with a tent effort. When their small family tent arrived, they pitched it, settled in as best a young couple with a small child could with no conveniences, and waited for the big evangelistic tent to arrive. But for some reason it was delayed.

Finally, on Friday morning, it came. Feverishly the senior evangelist and the two young Carcichesmale and femaleworked to get it pitched and pegged down as securely as possible be fore Sabbath. Exhausted, the couple fell into bed after a light supper and family worship. But their relief and rest were of short duration, for one of the worst storms in years hit the area that Friday night. Through the flimsy walls of their little tent they could hear the wind howling and the canvas of the big tent ballooning and reverberating. As they peered into the darkness, they saw the canvas beginning to bulge out in great circles. Louise threw on her clothes, gave strict instructions to little Teddy to stay in the small tent, and with her husband plunged out into the rain and wind.

"Louise," Ted shouted, "I'm going to pound each of the stakes down with this sledgehammer; you hold them as steady as possible." Louise nodded and hoped devoutly that he'd hit the stakes instead of her hands. But each time they got a few stakes pounded into the softening ground, the wind ripped them out again. And then the lightning began to flash so close to them and the peals of the thunder became so earsplitting that they prayed for their very lives and that of little Teddy.

"Let's take off our shoes," Louise shouted to Ted above the wind. "Maybe we won't be such targets for the lightning." And they proceeded to do so.

Just then they noticed that one section of the tent had sagged, collecting a huge pocket of water. "Help me tip this part up, Louise!" Ted screamed to her, but, without waiting, he grabbed the canvas. Instantly he reeled back, having received a large jolt of electricity.

"Don't touch that, Louise!" he shouted to her. "A wire must be down somewhere and lying on the tent."

Somehow, some way, they saved the tent and, incidentally, their lives. The next day they learned that a large circus tent just a couple of miles away had been blown down and ripped to pieces. Boats had been carried in from the lake and tossed on land as though they were toys.

During another series of meetings, which found the Carciches (miraculously) living in a tiny apartment, Louise began to feel sick. After a few days she was very ill. Telling herself that it was nothinga young evangelistic helper's wife wouldn't dare be sick, for this might prove a detriment to himshe continued her eighteen-hour days as greater, pianist, Bible worker, wife, mother, and all the rest. But on the first Sabbath morning that the meetings were transferred to the church building, she had such a high fever and such chills that she knew she had reached the end of her endurance. Something had to be done.

"Ted, you take Teddy and go on to church, you have to be there. I'll find a doctor," she declared bravely through chattering teeth. Her young husband was reluctant to abandon her, but evangelistic wives were made of very stern stuff indeed. She insisted. After the two had gone, Louise managed to dress herself. Her entire body ached, her head pounded, her body was suffused with perspiration. They did not own a car. There was no money for a taxi. She would have to walk, trying to find a doctor. But could she walk? Gritting her teeth, she remembered seeing a doctor's shingle several blocks away. Earnestly she prayed as she moved slowly along that God would lead her to a doctor who would help her. Alas, the nearby shingle was that of a pediatrician, but he kindly directed her to a colleague down the block who, after one look at her, announced, "Lady, you belong in the hospital."

Fear shot through her. By dint of hard work and the most stringent economy she and Ted had finished college, owing not one penny (while totally supporting themselves and their little son), but also having not one penny left in their pockets. Ted's beginning salary was that familiar $18 per week. There was no denominational medical plan at that time to cover the hospital bill of an intern's wife. Louise falteringly explained to the doctor that she just could not go to the hospital. He said that he would not agree to treat her unless she went. So Louise made the long walk home, each step agony.

At last, from her bed, she heard the blessed sound of the front door opening; Ted and Teddy were home from Sabbath school and church, and, wonder of wonders, with them was a kind physician whom the local church elder had contacted. This non-Adventist doctor was a beautiful Christian. When he had examined Louise and she had told him all her symptoms and fears, he said, quoting Paul, " 'I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.' If you are healed quickly, it will be the power of Jesus working through me."

Then he told her that he thought she had picked up some particularly virulent germ (today virus would probably be the term), possibly in the drinking water. He prescribed several medications. Her eyeballs had turned a distinct yellow, a condition that alarmed Louise consider ably. As she began the medication and the rest he had prescribed, she anxiously and frequently checked her eyeballs in the mirror. Great was her rejoicing when the yellow began to fade. Even greater was her rejoicing that she did not have to be admitted to a hospital and plunge the little family into what would have seemed hopeless debt.

As winter settled in up-State New Yorksurely one of the coldest, most snowy areas in the United Statesthe meetings continued five nights a week in the church. But the Carciches still couldn't manage to buy a car, nor could they afford a baby-sitter. So night after night the three of them waited in zero or subzero weather on the corner in the cutting wind and snow for a bus to take them to the church. After the meeting came the plunge out into the icy wind again, little Teddy whimpering as Ted cuddled him in his arms to protect him from the elements as best he could.

Louise chuckles now as she re members the night that only one person showed up, though it wasn't a laughing matter then. "Ted led the song service just as if the church were filled. I played the piano, and little Teddy sat on the front seat. Ted presented the subject of the millennium as if he had a hall packed to the rafters. Later this lady was baptized and became a pillar of the church."

When their first few years in evangelism were over, Louise and Ted had a district of their own, comprised of six churches stretching 150 miles across upper New York State. They were expected to keep constant evangelistic efforts going, of course, in addition to their pastoral work. No one had yet conceived the idea of a rent allowance. The only thing they could find to live in that they could remotely afford was a four-room apartment in a private home. Washing machine? Louise was the machine, plying her trade in the bathtub! "I'm very tall, you know, and it was quite a chore for me to kneel by the tub, try to hold the washboard in place, rub and scrub the clothes, wring them out, rinse them, wring them, rinse them, and wring them out a final time. Sheets were the worst," she remembers. "I certainly had some backaches."

In another of their domiciles, this one a two-family house, a coal-burning range heated the kitchen, while a potbellied stove functioned in the living room. But their budget was so scanty they couldn't afford to buy coal in the customary way, by the ton; they had to suffer the ignominy of buying it by the 100-pound sack. And how those stoves could eat it up! It disappeared faster than a magician's rabbit. Very soon they were brought face to face with the stark realization that they couldn't afford to heat the living room every day; only when they had visitors could they indulge. But when things got too much like the South Pole, Louise would strain the ashes from the kitchen stove through a fine sieve and use any bits of burnable coal in the living room stove. "A glass of water left over night in any room other than the kitchen would be frozen solid by morning," she states.

Surely Louise Carcich has reason to look forward to a residence in heaven with reasonable conveniences, for even when her husband was elected lay activities director of the New York Conference, her living conditions didn't improve all that much. The conference office at that time was in Union Springs. As they were moving into their humble house, they got a surprise. There was no such thing then in that town as city water. For drinking and for cooking they had to haul water from the town well two blocks away. A cistern in the basement took care of water for other purposes.

"I have never seen an innovation be fore or since like the one for our indoor plumbing," Louise chuckles. "On top of the toilet tank was an old-fashioned hand pump. It took twenty-twowe counted them over and overstrokes of the pump to fill the tank. But believe me, we were so happy to have that house, in stead of the little one at the end of the path, that we didn't mind."

Baths created yet another problem. In the summer, on Friday afternoon, most people would take a bar of soap down to Cayuga Lake and, as young Ted put it, "take a bath in our thirty-eight-mile-long bathtub." As for winter baths, the least said the better.

 

(To be continued.)

 

 

Prayers from the parsonage

by Cherry B. Habenicht

Thank You, Father, for the two weeks that have passed since Dick came home from prayer meeting, reporting what Mrs. Q had done.

Incredulous, I said, "You mean she asked him in front of everybody?"

"I'm sure a few didn't hear."

"What did Matt say?"

"He was embarrassed, of course, but how could he avoid her?"

"It isn't any of her business!"

"I know."

Mrs. Q is one of those "busybodies, speaking things which they ought not" (1 Tim. 5:13). Her callous curiosity so upset me that I hurried outside for a long walk and sputtered to the stars about insensitive talebearers.

Within a few days the story had spread through the church, with members commenting on the episode in the smug way of people who think they have an inside scoop.

I wanted to defend poor Matt and corner Mrs. Q. If I had met her then, my attitude would have been cold at best.

As she and I chatted today during the potluck dinner, I could almost forget my intolerance of self-styled announcers.

Almost.

But, Lord, someone should alert her to the effect her prodding questions have on others. Am I the one to help her realize the hurt her tongue can cause? If she is bored, should I involve her in a better cause? If she is manipulative, can I show her that the headiest power is self-control?

Surely she craves attention, to have created this reputation for seeking and knowing the latest. Oh, God, if I am the one to confront her, make my words "fitly spoken" (Prov. 25:11) and tempered with love.

 

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Miriam Wood, author of books and numerous magazine articles, is a regular columnist for the Review.

April 1979

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