Madonna of the Sawdust Trail—4

Memories of a fly down the throat, delayed permission papers, and an abandoned baby.

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

Dear Shepherdess: May I share with you some comments from a sheaf of interviews brought back by Elder W. C. Scales, Jr., from an evangelistic crusade he conducted in Guyana late in 1978? As he talked with a number of church members who are active in soul winning, he discovered that in Guyana, women are holding lay crusades and reaping a bountiful harvest!

Mrs. Olga Richards, a member of the Carmel church in Georgetown, says, "I am a shy person, but not too shy to give the Word. ... In my little gathering seven persons were baptized. . . . I plead with women wherever you are, won't you do God's will? He's counting on you."

Mrs. Joyce Carmichael reported, "In Guyana, 20 of the almost 100 lay preachers are women. ... In 1978 I pitched a small tent and 67 souls were baptized. . . . God is willing to use women in these times."

As we conclude Miriam Wood's series of articles on the exploits of evangelistic wives in past decades, perhaps we ought to remind ourselves that even greater efforts and more amazing results are in store for both women and men.

"The work to be done today is just as real, and the truth is just as much truth; only we are to give the message with as much more earnestness as the coming of the Lord is nearer. The message for this time is positive, simple, and of the deepest importance. We must act like men and women who believe it. Waiting, watching, working, praying, warning the world—this is our work. "—Review and Herald, Nov. 13, 1913. With love, Kay.

A small fly stands out distinctly in Bertha Fearing's evangelistic memory. She and Andrew were singing a duet in a tent meeting, although they did not then, or later, consider themselves singers. Since there had to be special music, and because there was no one else to provide it, they sang. A fly, utterly entranced with Bertha, buzzed around and around her face during the song, lighting on her at each opportunity. She kept brushing at it discreetly, trying not to distract the audience. Then it happened. Between stanzas, Bertha took in a deep breath—and sucked the fly down her throat!

She was horrified and instantly nauseated, but there was nothing to do but continue singing. The meeting must go on. As soon as the duet was over, she raced behind the tent and did her best to regurgitate the fly, but to no avail. She waited out the next few days amidst visions of being afflicted with everything from bubonic plague to typhoid fever, but nothing happened. "That must have been a pretty clean fly," she concluded.

From Australia, Myrtle Knight describes the heart-in-mouth existence of young wives as they hovered anxiously over equally young evangelistic husbands.

"After we were married, my husband was appointed to West Australia as the assistant to the evangelist. One particular night he was to preach his very first sermon. Much prayer, many hours, and even days had been spent in preparation. We were bravely hopeful. The meeting got underway. The song service ended. The prayer was offered. Then, horrors! During the song just before the sermon, who should majestically march in but the conference president? This tall, formidable-appearing gentleman settled in a seat in the middle of the front row!

"Perched nervously at the pedal organ, I was terrified at this awesome spectacle, knowing the effect it would have on my poor husband. Sure enough, after the hymn his voice, strangely unnatural and high-pitched, began screeching out the message of Daniel 2, portrayed on a fearsome-looking chart dangling overhead. Unnerved, I fled down the street, but still that pitiful voice followed me!

"It was all over in about 15 minutes the whole thing, from head to toe (liter ally), and although my memory is not too clear on this point I evidently returned in time to play the closing hymn. To our amazement,, my dear, consecrated husband was not dropped from the work. He was not even transferred to another conference by our stern but (as we dis covered) warmhearted conference president!"

In the tapestry of evangelistic wife. hood, some poignant scenes drift back across the years as vividly as when they happened. Dollis Pierson carries the memory of a mother in India, whom she met staggering along a dusty road, carrying in her arms a tiny baby. Gazing at Dollis with dim eyes, she gasped, "Dorasani, if you don't buy my baby for two rupees (then 72 cents) I am going to throw him into the river and jump in also."

Horrified, and new to this strange and often tragic land, Dollis kept repeating, "Wait, wait." She thought, I must get back to the mission station, where someone can tell me what to do; we've been here such a short time. I don't want to do anything to get the church in trouble; I don't know the customs. But the staggering mother was clinging to her and the tiny baby was whimpering weakly.

Just then, behind her, she heard the voice of one of the experienced evangelists in India, who said to the mother, "We'll help you. Just come with us." So, with Dollis and the minister each holding one of the woman's arms, and with Dollis carrying the baby, they helped her to the mission compound.

There, missionaries reasoned with the little mother. They tried to convince her to keep her baby. They told her of God and how He loved her and would help her. They fed her a good meal and fed the baby. For four days they continued to ply her with all the nourishing food she could eat, and to reassure her. But on the fifth day she slipped away silently, leaving the tiny, frail baby. Dollis took care of the mite until it was adopted later. Evangelists' wives could do much more than play the piano.

This same hot, dusty road presented Dollis with yet another heartache when one day she saw a woman who had been faithfully attending the evangelistic meetings each night. Dollis had wondered why the woman always kept her face completely covered by her sari, with only her eyes showing. On this hot day, she found out. Not noticing Dollis, the lady bent over. Her sari fell away from her face, and there it was—an ugly sore that bled profusely and covered one entire cheek! The flesh seemed eaten away nearly to the bone.

Dollis approached the suffering woman, expressed her deep concern, and begged to be allowed to pray for her. The woman gratefully acquiesced.

This one touching experience had a happy ending. Soon the woman accepted all the truths being presented at the meetings and was baptized. Later her face healed and became normal.

In spite of her extraordinarily strong faith, Dollis Pierson, like other evangelists' wives, admits to occasional bouts of worry. Her husband once planned a series of meetings in Nagercoil and applied to the government for the necessary permission papers. When the papers failed to arrive as expected, he, in faith, advertised the meetings anyway. After all, the arrangements had been made; the permission had been applied for and promised. There seemed no reason why all should not go as planned.

Dollis knew that it was a serious crime to hold public meetings without the proper permission. She also knew that her husband was not one to cancel a series of meetings for any reason what soever. Her heart took up residence in her mouth. But on the very day the meetings were to begin, the necessary permission arrived! Sweet relief. But the relief was short-lived, for when the two of them went outside the compound, they saw on the walls in large letters, "Go home, seven-day devils!"

Should they postpone or cancel the evangelistic campaign? Never! Dollis hastily rounded up some helpers and busily cleaned the walls. As she scrubbed, she prayed, wondering what would happen at the opening meeting that night. To her relief nothing happened—nothing bad. A good crowd came and continued throughout the series. A happy group of converts were baptized in due season.

These incidents, and those described in preceding articles, are typical of the experiences of the evangelists' wives in a golden era of the church's history. These women were not angels; they had the common failings of all humanity. During the stress of fatigue and poverty, sharp, discouraging words occasionally were spoken. But such small failures pale into insignificance beside the total picture of their enormous contribution not yet fully understood or recognized.



Prayers from the parsonage

by Cherry B. Habenicht

Yes, I'm thankful for a telephone. In dispensable, it saves time, assures quick contact, and facilitates communication. But I need patience on those frequent days when the phone manipulates life.

It wakens me the morning I'm catching some sleep after being up with the children every two hours all night. It intrudes on meals, forcing us to quiet our talk and laughter as Dick takes the receiver, its cord dangling so close to Hansi's highchair that he grabs the bouncing coils with tiny, food-smeared hands. It orders me inside and I race to answer, usually arriving just as the last buzz vibrates. It shatters the peaceful night with its shrill ring.

Show us, God, how to use the telephone as a resource. Temper our impulse to drop everything and run at the first jingle. We can be in control, refusing to interrupt worship, quiet time, or important conversation.

Guide us as we teach others that our home, though dedicated to helping people, is not the center for a 24-hour hot line. Emergencies are rare, certainly not as frequent as the calls we get at inopportune times.

When exasperating calls come—an early-morning request for a source of beeswax for the Pathfinders' candlemaking honor, and an "I hope I didn't get you out of bed" introduction at mid night—may we be gracious.

Usually the caller wants to talk with Dick. As "secretary" at home, I jot down messages, promising that my husband will phone when he returns. Keep me alert to matters that need prompt attention, but help me tactfully to divert calls that waste time. Perhaps I can listen and counsel, but please don't let me be come entangled in problems that should not be my concern. "To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!" (Prov. 15:23, R.S.V.).

Bless our use of this object whose ring so often jangles nerves. Thank You for one more tool in our ministry.


Advertisement - RevivalandReformation 300x250

Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

comments powered by Disqus
Miriam Wood, author of books and numerous magazine articles, is a regular columnist for the Adventist Review.

October 1979

Download PDF
Ministry Cover

More Articles In This Issue

Preaching from Job

This book has been apotheosized, crystalized, and mummified——but deep insights await the one who is willing to dig for the treasures buried there.

Is Jesus a friend or a doctrine?

No matter how carefully formulated, propositional truth is at best a cold, lifeless corpse without the quickening spirit of a personal relationship.

2, 000 Baptized!

Laymen and ministers in El Salvador unite in the most productive evangelistic effort in the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

How to be yourself and a pastor

A pastor needs the personal confidence to say, "I can do a number of jobs well, but God has called me to the ministry and humbly I accept the challenge."

The Royal Touch

"The greatest honor a man can receive is conferred by a touch on the heart."

Authority in the church

The local congregation is the most visible manifestation of the body of Christ, and the church is the depository of authority."

Seeds in the air

James David Chase and Jere Wallack take a second look at local radio evangelism, examining some of the reasons pastors are not on the air.

From the Editor

Response and Reaction to Elder Wilson's "Open Letter." MINISTRY summarizes comments from readers and analyzes them.

Health and Religion

Making the Five-Day Plan Evangelistic. Don't abandon your graduates! Use a follow-up plan to win them to Christ.

Biblical Archeology

Do similarities between this document and early church teachings mean the church borrowed from Qumran?

New day in Australian evangelism

TV commercials filmed on location in the Middle East draw record-breaking crowds in Melbourne.

Science and Religion

Laboratory experiment demonstrates that time is no longer a problem.

Recommended Reading

Monthly book reviews.

View All Issue Contents

Digital delivery

If you're a print subscriber, we'll complement your print copy of Ministry with an electronic version.

Sign up
Advertisement - Southern Adv Univ 180x150 - Animated


Recent issues

See All
Advertisement - Healthy and Happy Family - Skyscraper 160x600