THIRTY-NINE YEARS AGO
It is not my intention to try to outline each year of the forty years I have preached. But I am telling the story of the early years as I feel certain things happened then that might encourage some boy to be a gospel preacher. Sometimes we are told that a certain boy cannot go to school. Some one says that he would preach if he had support. If you want to go to school BADLY ENOUGH you will go to school. If you want to preach, I mean if you REALLY WANT TO PREACH, and God has given you the ability, then preach.
I returned to Ontario in the spring of 1922. I worked on the railroad that summer to pay some debts I had made in going to school. I made enough money to pay my way back to Saskatchewan in the fall. I had a good fall in the harvest field. I was back in school that fall for the last time as a student. Before we deal with that, however, I would like to say here that the fall of 1922 was the first time that I preached every Sunday over a period of time. There was a church that met in the Schnellar school house. Of those twelve or fourteen sermons I am not sure what one of them was now. Several of those faithful members have crossed the Jordan and I hope to meet them when my pilgrimage is over. Of those who remain I can only recall Sister Gavel, as now being faithful to the Lord. (She was Sister Davies then.)
There was an event that happened during the season that I think should be recorded. May it serve as a warning to all parents who read this. I worked for a family that were members of the church. That is, the father and mother were members of the church. They had four small children. One more child came to bless that union after that time. They very seldom attended the church services. One day I rather bluntly, perhaps, asked this sister why they did not attend the services. She said that she worked hard all week and that Sunday afternoon was the only time that she had to enjoy her children for a little while. Years passed and I was back in that community holding some meetings; I sat in the same parlor and this same sister said to me, Brother Bailey, when I lay on a hospital bed last winter, and the doctor gave me no hope of living, I prayed to God and said, 'Lord if you will spare my life I will never rest day or night until I have brought all my children to the foot of the cross.' The Lord spared her life. During the coming months I held several meetings in that part of the country. I watched the tears stream down this good sister's face but not the face of the children. A few years later one cold night in January, as a blizzard swept across the western prairies, the call came so suddenly that not even her husband was able to reach her bedside before she had passed to the spirit world. To this day not one of that family has ever rendered obedience to the gospel that Peter, by inspiration, preached on the day of Pentecost. What sad words: I only have a little while Sunday afternoon to enjoy my children.
I returned from Bromhead, Saskatchewan, to Carman, Manitoba, in the fall of 1922 to attend school. Before I arrived Brother E. N. Golphenee from Montana had arrived. The first time he met me was out at Brother and Sister Husband's home. He asked me if I would go to Montana to preach. I told him I would. This proved to be a very eventful decision.
This second year at school I stayed with Brother and Sister Daniel Stewart. They were godly people and have since gone to their reward. Their two daughters are faithful members of the church. Sister Stebbings is at Grand Forks and Sister Taylor is at Carman still. There were two other students who made their home with the Stewarts. Brother Lorne Laycock has passed to his eternal reward. Brother Walter Stebbings is an active member of the Grand Forks congregation. The friendship born then has continued through the years. There was one thing that happened that winter that caused Brother Walter not to feel too kindly. I taught a class of boys. If I were away he was to teach. The boys were so unruly I could not handle them. I told those in charge that I was not going to attempt to teach the class any more. They insisted, I demurred. When Sunday morning came I told Walter that I would not go to Sunday School. I can see him yet walking down the sidewalk and I was looking out the window. I do not remember all those boys, but of the two that I remember one has long since passed the scenes of time and the other one is still in rebellion. He preaches for a large sectarian church. If I had been more wise would the result have been different? The end of March came. School was over. I owed some money for my board. I did not have the money to pay my fare. I borrowed twenty-five dollars. I bought a ticket to Culbertson, Montana, according to my instructions. I stayed in Estevan, Saskatchewan, over the Lord's Day. Brother L. L. McGill preached that morning and I preached that night. Brother McGill was back from a meeting at MacRorie, and he told of two baptisms there. I can remember praying in my seat that God would grant me two souls that year. I was serving the One, who does above all we ask or think. For before that year ended some twenty were to render obedience to the gospel.
There was no church sponsoring me. The brethren in Montana promised me forty dollars for the two months. Who paid it I don't know. I know that fall I paid back that twenty-five dollars I had borrowed to buy a railroad ticket and I also paid the rest of my board.
Brother Asa Hall was supposed to meet me at Culbertson. The train from Estevan, via Minot, North Dakota, did not arrive until rather late in the evening. Our means of transportation from Culbertson to Mona, 22 miles was buckboard. Brother Hall sent in word that he would be in the next morning. I paid for the cheapest room I could find and went to bed. During the night the Missouri River had begun to break up. They told me that I might be able to cross by ferry in a day, or a week, or more, depending on the weather. I was then instructed to buy a ticket on a branch line next day and go in to the south of Mona. I bought my ticket, and I had the sum of 22c left. I had no breakfast. I had no dinner and late in the evening we went to Bainville on the train to await the mixed that would cross the river and go to Lambert the next day. I had no supper but I had 22c. It was snowing a little and there was no place to stay.
I saw a snow plough on a siding and I thought that if it was not locked I might get in there and spend the night. I started across the field toward this siding as it was closer than walking down the railroad. I had not gone far when a man rode up to me on a dashing horse and asked me where I was going. I simply told him my story. He pointed to a house and said, Do you see that house? I said that I did. He told me to go there and I would find a place to stay and food to eat. He rode off and informed my hostess of my coming. Soon after I entered (I did not travel as fast as the horse), there was a meal prepared, and I never saw so much food put on the table for one person. I ate until I was ashamed and quit. I was soon shown my bed. I told the woman not to bother getting up in the morning as I had to catch the train at 6:40, with about two miles to walk. She assured me that she would be up. She called me at 5:20 and there was a fine breakfast prepared. She told me that if I missed the train to come back and stay until the next morning. I still had my 22c.
God has said that He will supply our needs. I needed food. He supplied it. I needed a place to stay and it was there. Who was my benefactor? In the years before this time he had been a partner in a horse ranch with Brother Asa Hall. That is before Brother Hall became a Christian. Brother Hall had gone one way and he another. When I told him that I was on my way to Asa Hall's he felt especially bound to show hospitality. Why did he not take me to his own home? Well, I found out the reason for that, too. He had a still and when he saw this fellow start across the field he was afraid it was a revenue man. He came to investigate. He was watching for a revenue man. God had a servant that needed supper and a place to stay.
I boarded the mixed on time and we spent some eight hours going some sixty miles. I arrived at Lambert. Soon I was in the home of Brother J. 0. Golphenee. He took me out to Brother Hall's. When Sunday came I was into my first protracted meeting. There were good crowds. Some came on horse back, some came with wagons, and some walked. There were a few that came in Model T Fords. Most of them had never seen a Canadian before and I had never seen a Missourian. (Most of the people that lived in that part of the country had migrated from Missouri about ten years before.) I know they thought I was rather queer and would it be unjust, or unkind, to say that the feeling was rather mutual? Despite any feelings of the kind many friendships were formed that summer that I hold as among the dearest I have ever made.
Sunday morning I still had my 22c so I put it in the collection plate. Like the widow I gave all that I had. Where I got the money to buy stamps, writing paper, etc., I do not recall. I know I did not use my 22c that way.
Among those who attended that meeting was a young lady who certain brethren suggested would make me a good wife. I was not interested but I changed my mind. More about that later.
After a one week meeting we moved on to the Goodwin School house. Then we went to McKinley School house. We had good crowds and good interest. I am not sure who was the first one to make the good confession but I think it was Sister Harvey Spence. I asked Brother Elza Wood to baptize her. Then I asked Brother J. 0. Golphenee to baptize several but he told me that from then on I would have to do my own baptizing.
Shortly after this two women came forward and on the thirteenth day of May in the presence of many witnesses I baptized first Mrs. Jim Westfall and then Mrs. Grover Wilson. Long since they laid the body of Sister Westfall to rest beneath Montana sod to await the judgment morning. Sister Wilson lives in Washington State and my wife and I had the privilege of visiting her not too long ago. The entire summer was spent in meetings from one school house to another. My two months had passed and I had no intention of leaving! Among those who obeyed the gospel that summer I can recall several that are still faithful members of the church.
When the news of the success of the work I was doing went back to Canada one brother wrote me and said that I should not try to baptize TOO many. I did not take the advice too seriously. If the gospel is preached and people respond to the gospel, you cannot baptize TOO many.
With one more item I shall end the story of this year. (Remember, my years have started with July and ended with June.) For some reason we did not have a meeting one night. So a number of us decided that we would attend a certain sectarian meeting. They had a period in which they asked people to get up and testify. Brother J. 0. Golphenee and I both testified. There may have been others. This disconcerted the preacher no little. After the meeting I talked to him about his sermon and in all the years that I have preached I have never seen any one so unable to defend his doctrine. There were some in the crowd that were highly displeased. Some weeks later these people brought in one of their big preachers. They dispensed with their testifying. He opened his sermon with some remarks like this: I do not argue, I do not believe in argument. I was too much of a gentleman to try to start an argument after that statement. After the meeting two men came up to me and said, Look here, young man, you are not going to make a fool out of this preacher, like you did the last one. I told them I had no intention of talking to him as he said he would not argue. About this time a man stepped up beside me and said to these two men, Look here, if you are looking for trouble, just step outside, and I will give both of you all the trouble you want. They assured him that they were not looking for any trouble. He said, Very well, then leave this young fellow alone. They let me alone.
What memories of the bitter sweet days of yesteryear!
Published in The Old Paths Archive
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