Here I raise my Ebenezer
Autobiography by Roy Allen Davison
An Ebenezer is a monument to commemorate help
received from God. After Israel had defeated enemies, Samuel set
up a stone of commemoration that he called, Ebenezer, saying,
Thus far the LORD has helped us (1 Samuel 7:12). Ebenezer
means stone of help in Hebrew.
The second verse of the song, O, Thou fount of every
blessing, written by Robert Robinson in 1758, which he published
in 1759 as A Collection of Hymns Used by the Church of Christ in
Angel Alley, Bishopgate begins:
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
When I was 73 a friend asked me to recount significant
spiritual influences and formative experiences in my life.
Spiritual Heritage and Early Years
My grandparents, Pearl and Charles Kincaid
Charles Jones and Pearl Mary Kincaid (Collins) were dedicated
Christians. After my mother passed away, my brother, Dale, sent
me a tract written by my grandfather that was among her things:
Why should I be a Baptist? Most of his extended family were
Baptists and I presume he was raised as a Baptist, but at some
point he came in contact with people who were striving to restore
the ancient order. His formal education was limited to grade
school, but mother said he had educated himself with a Bible and
a dictionary. He was a janitor at White Rogers to support his family of five
children, one of whom died when he was thirteen from what
would be a minor foot infection now. There were no antibiotics
When my mother was eight, she contracted spinal meningitis and was in the hospital hovering between life and death for two weeks. At the time the disease was incurable and almost always fatal. Any who survived where usually blind, deaf or crippled, and sometimes all three. After three months in the hospital, she was finally able to go home and by the grace of God she recovered completely. You may read her own account of the ordeal here.
Granddad preached on occasion. When I visited the Central
Church of Christ as a young man, when passing through Saint Louis,
I met a man who remembered my grandparents. He said Charles
and Pearl had beautiful voices and sang duets at area singings. I
do not remember my grandfather at all because he passed away
when I was three, yet via my mother, he and my grandmother
had a significant influence on my life. I cherish some letters they
wrote my parents during the Second World War.
Bessie and Charles Davison, Spring 1939
My parents, Charles Henry Davison [February 26, 1914 - February 8, 1996] and Bessie Inez Kincaid [March 6, 1920 - October 24, 1982], were married at Saint Louis, Missouri on January 14, 1939. Mother was eighteen and Dad was twenty-four. Dad had received a diploma as an electronics technician from the Ranken Trade School in June of 1938.
I was born at Saint Louis on September 15, 1940.
After Dad joined the Navy in January of 1942, he was stationed first at San Francisco and then in Florida. He was on a top-secret research team that developed and improved sonar during the war. He was first stationed at Key West, where my brother, Dale, was born on November 22, 1943. In March of 1945 Dad was transferred to Fort Lauderdale.
Picture taken at my grandmother Davison’s cabin near Branson, Missouri when I was two and a half.
Charles A. and Mabel Davison (nee Brashers)
My grandparents owned a farm near Branson, Missouri. Grandfather Davison died when I was two years old. He had owned a business in Springfield, but used savings to buy a farm to support his family of eight children during the Depression.
My father, Charles Henry Davison, is second from the left.
Mr Grandfather, Charles A. Davison is second from the right, holding my cousin, Richard.
Uncle Bill is on the left and uncle Roger is on the right.
Picture taken in the early 1930s.
After the War
My parents did not attend church during the war.
Dad’s dream was to live on a small farm which he thought
would be a good environment for raising children.
Thus, after the war, in September of 1945, we moved to a
15 acre farm near
Lutesville, Missouri that Dad had bought and paid for during the war.
His research colleagues in the navy accepted employment as
civilians with the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington D.C.
and encouraged Dad to do the same, but he chose the farm
instead, where he also had a radio repair shop.
Our house on a farm near Lutesville
I went to the first grade in Lutesville and the farm was
indeed a great place for a six and three year old boy, but things
did not work out well financially, so after a year Dad gave in to
the continuing encouragement of his former colleagues at the
Naval Research Laboratory and we moved to Clinton, Maryland
near the District of Columbia where I attended school for the second, and
half of the third grade.
"Which church should we attend?"
In 1948, when I was seven and my brother, Dale, was four,
my parents decided to start going to church. Sunday school would
be good for their children.
But which church should they attend?
My father had attended the Methodist church as a boy, but
felt no particular loyalty to that denomination.
My mother had attended the Christian Church, and had been
baptized into Christ when she was twelve. After she left home,
however, her parents left the Christian Church and became
members of the Central Church of Christ in Saint Louis, Missouri.
After some discussion, my parents decided to visit the Christian Church and the Church of Christ. I remember those visits well!
We first visited the National City Christian Church at 5
Thomas Circle in Washington, DC. It was a congregation of almost
2000 members. I remember the impressive building with its large
columns like a Greek temple. But most of all, I remember the
steps! There are 31 stone steps from the street up to the door.
There was no handrail. It was scary! I would need to be very
careful on those steps! If I fell, I might tumble all the way down
to the bottom and really hurt myself!
The Sunday school classes were putting on a big pageant for
the parents that day. So my brother and I were put on two chairs
in the corner of the classroom while the other children put on
their costumes. One boy was dressed like a Roman soldier and
had a wooden sword. The whole class then filed out into the
auditorium with all the other classes, and took seats at the
front. The teacher told us that
when the other children got up to go on stage, we should just
stay in our seats, since we would not know what to do. I
remember feeling very lonely and conspicuous after the others
got up. Dale and I sat alone in the midst of all those empty seats.
During the worship service, I noticed that the preacher wore
special clothes. It looked like he had his collar on backwards.
The next Sunday we visited the Anacostia Church of Christ
(in 1952 the name was changed to the Southeast Church of Christ
when they built their own building). It had less than a hundred
members and met in a rented lodge hall. The building was used
for dancing on Saturday nights, so someone had to come early on
Sunday morning to sweep up the broken beer bottles and open
the windows to air the place out.
My brother and I had an interesting Bible class, and I
remember how nice the singing sounded. The people were
friendly and made us feel like long-lost friends.
Can you guess which congregation my parents decided to
attend? They were zealous and attended all the services and Bible
studies. Although my father came from a denominational
background, he thought he was a Christian. He had been
immersed when he was a teenager, so he thought his baptism
A gospel meeting was held with Bond Stocks doing the
preaching shortly thereafter and my father went up and down our
street inviting people to attend. During that meeting, in October
of 1948, he was baptized for the remission of his sins (Acts 2:38).
The clear preaching of the gospel caused him to realize that his
previous immersion was not valid, and that he actually was not
yet a Christian.
When he was a teenager, his mother had told him he was
old enough to join the church. He asked how he was supposed to
do that, and she told him to talk to the preacher. When my father
heard the true gospel preached during that meeting, he realized
that his previous immersion was just to please his mother and to
join the Methodist Church, not to put on Christ (Galatians 3:27).
We drove 45 minutes to services in D.C. I remember one
Sunday evening when I rode with Dad alone to services because
mother was ill. We passed several church buildings on the way.
(One was a Catholic building with a big sign in the yard, BINGO
EVERY THURSDAY EVENING!) I asked Dad where all the different
churches came from. During the 45-minute drive home he
reviewed church history telling about the Apostasy resulting in the
Catholic Church, the Reformation resulting in various Protestant
churches, and the restoration movement to form churches of
Dad had been attending night classes to earn credits toward
a BS degree in physics. After he became a Christian he decided to
further his education at a Christian school so he could learn to
preach. He had always tried to do what was right, but simply did
not know what was right. He thought there were probably others
like that too, and he wanted to be able to help them.
So I attended the second half of grade 3 and the first half of
grade 4 at Finger, Tennessee near Henderson. Dad went to
Freed-Hardeman College on the GI Bill that financed education for
veterans after the war. We lived in a motel that had been
converted to student housing across the highway from Logan’s
That year my cousin, Sandy, became my sister through
adoption. It was great to have a two-year-old sister! (The adoption
was finalized a year later.)
During the summer Dad preached for the church in Butler, Missouri.
When we were learning to use a dictionary in the fourth
grade I discovered that in my school changes I had missed
learning the alphabet! I remember going over my ABC’s to learn
the alphabet on the bus on the way to school one morning.
At that school I was cast as the preacher in Tom Thumb’s
Wedding. Mother made me a tuxedo with tails from cheap black
cloth and I performed my first wedding when I was eight! I still
remember my lines consisting of 29 words!
At the time, Freed-Hardeman was only a junior college, so
from there we moved to Portales, New Mexico where Dad studied
at the Bible Chair and earned a BS degree in Physics and Religious Education
from Eastern New Mexico University. I attended the second half of
the fourth grade and the first half of the fifth grade at Portales.
I walked for half an hour home from school. A boy (who was
much taller than I) at a house I passed would regularly ask me if
I wanted to have a fight with him. (He had six fingers on each
hand.) I got tired of it, so agreed one day to fight him at the
neighborhood playground at 10 a.m. the next Saturday. I had
several friends along as moral support. He was alone. I told him,
I don’t have any reason to fight with you. But you want to fight,
so if you want to hit me or something, go ahead! He did not
want to just haul off and hit me, so he gave me a little push. Each
time he gave me a push, I would back up a little. He pushed me
all the way across the playground and then turned me around and
started pushing me the other direction! His pushes were getting
harder and I misjudged the force of one push and fell down. He
then sat on top of me. That was not a problem except that in New
Mexico, even the grass has stickers! So I started to cry because
of the stickers! He then let me up and went home. The next time
I passed his house he asked, Do you want to have another
fight? I said, Sure! Any time! He said, No. That won’t be
necessary. After that he would greet me when I passed his
house, and he never asked for a fight again.
From Portales we went back to the D.C. area and Dad
resumed his work with the Naval Research Laboratory and
preached on occasion for small congregations. I was baptized into
Christ by Jim Oldham on Sunday evening, March 4, 1951 at Alexandria, Virginia.
I attended the second half of the fifth grade at Indian Head,
Various men who worked at the Naval Research Laboratory
were invited to work for a new guided missile division the Bureau
of Standards was setting up in Southern California. (I have no
idea why the Bureau of Standards had a guided missile division!)
When a small congregation near the new division asked Dad to
help them as a self-supporting preacher, he accepted the job and
we moved to the Riverside, California area in August of 1951. I
attended the sixth grade and the first half of the seventh grade in
Our family when we lived near Riverside, California
Preaching for the small congregation did not work out. (The
daughter of one of the elders was offended by something Dad
said.) So we started attending services at the Ninth & Lime
congregation in Riverside, which was a great blessing! They had
excellent Sunday school classes in which daily Bible reading was
encouraged. When I was 12 I started reading five chapters from
the Bible every night before I went to sleep and did not miss a
day doing this for several years thereafter. By then I was
planning to be a preacher.
As Dad grew spiritually he began to question whether a
Christian should be designing guidance systems for weapons of
mass destruction! Especially Romans 1:30, inventors of evil
things, caused him to give up his well-paying government job
with a good pension plan. He worked for a TV repair company for
a while until he learned that the boss was dishonest and wanted
him to lie to customers. He started doing TV repair work on his
In the middle of my seventh grade we moved to Socorro,
New Mexico where Dad was hired to preach full time. That was
the only one of our many moves that caused my grades to suffer
significantly. But I learned a lot! My homeroom teacher was also
the high school speech teacher. So I got to listen in on Mr. Miller’s
speech classes which I found extremely interesting! At Socorro I
also learned the wonders of the local library and read biographies
and science fiction books (when I should have been studying or
Shortly after we moved to Socorro, two of the best givers in
the congregation were unexpectedly transferred away, so the
congregation could no longer support Dad.
A wonderful summer!
Dad saw an ad in the Christian Chronicle in which Alvin
Jennings, who was preaching at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in
Canada, was seeking someone to move to Prince Albert,
Saskatchewan to start a congregation there.
So at the end of the school year we packed our belongings
into a trailer and went to Saskatoon, where we lived temporarily
in the basement of the church building.
Dad could not find a job at Prince Albert, but got a job right
away with the University of Saskatchewan as an electronics
technician. There was a shortage of housing in Saskatoon,
however, and we could not find an affordable house to rent.
But I had a wonderful summer! In Saskatchewan at the time
various congregations had what they called summer Bible
schools. They were something like Bible Camps except that
instead of being mostly camp with a little Bible, Bible classes
were taught from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and there was preaching every
night for two weeks. (There was plenty of time for recreation
after four!) I attended the schools held at Perryville and at
That summer I also learned about Radville Christian College,
a small boarding secondary school in Saskatchewan, and decided
that, Lord willing, I would attend high school there a year later.
The church building in Saskatoon
Here my brother and sister, Dale and Sandy, are standing with me on the steps
of the building in Saskatoon when I was twelve. The Lock house is in the background.
Hugh was still living at home. I enjoyed watching him fly his wire-controlled airplane,
Hillbilly, in the back yard.
The Lock house to the left of the building
Sister and Brother Lock senior are to the left, Ellen Kristianson is in the middle, and Elizabeth and Ray Lock are to the right. The little girl is June Samways. She lived right behind the church building and often came to services although her parents did not.
Part of the Saskatoon Church of Christ - Summer 1953
Our dog, Tippy, was not an official member of the congregation, of course. But I had told him to stay! so he also posed for the picture. Front row, from right to left: Roy, Dale, Sandy and Tippy Davison.
We could not find a suitable house in Saskatoon. My sister,
Sandy, who was six, was tired of living in the church basement
and asked mother one day, Mom, when are we going to start
living again? Mother probably felt the same way.
The folks learned from the real estate agency that was
renting out our house in Southern California that the renters had
moved out owing several months’ rent. Since the rent money was
used to pay the mortgage there was danger of losing the house.
So at the end of the summer the folks decided to go back to
California to save the house.
Financially nothing worked out well that year, and Dad
concluded that he should have stayed in Saskatoon rather than
try to save a house.
A great year in the eighth grade
But for me it was a great blessing because I had a
tremendous homeroom and science teacher for the eighth grade!
Walter Gardner was qualified to teach in university but
preferred teaching the eighth grade. During successive periods of
a few weeks we made an in-depth study of various branches of
science: geology, meteorology, anatomy, etc. He challenged us in
this way: We have a 45 minute class. Actually, if we work hard
we can learn what we need to learn in 30 minutes, and then have
15 minutes at the end of the period to have fun! The fun was
usually doing some kind of scientific experiment, but sometimes
we could just visit. We usually got our work done in 30 minutes!
My best friend Skipper (Larry Snyder) and I won second
place in the school science fair. (The girl who won first place had
boiled all the meat off a chicken and had glued and wired all the
bones together to make a chicken skeleton!) Skipper and I had a
display of our rock collection we had assembled on our Saturday
hikes into the hills. We also put an electric eye on the display so
the light would come on when someone stood in front of the box.
That year in Physical Education classes we were given
dancing lessons. I thought, This is not something a Christian
should be doing! So I asked Dad to write me a note requesting that I
Two girls who sat near my desk in homeroom chided me,
What’s wrong? Are you afraid of girls? Actually, I was! But that
was not the reason. I said, It’s against my religion. I could see
that the Japanese girl was favorably impressed.
For some reason my classmates that year affectionately
called me, The old man. Fortunately, I have continually become
younger since! When I did not join in on some of their escapades,
they would roll their eyes and make the shape of a square with
their fingers. It was a great year and a great class!
We also had a great exercise in democracy! There were
several homerooms for each grade, and each eighth-grade
homeroom nominated a classmate for student body president the
We nominated a tall black boy: handsome, good student,
sociable and a friend to everyone.
The school was completely integrated racially. Among 700
students there were about 10 blacks and about 50 Mexicans. The
latter formed something of a clique, no doubt because of the
language. But among the students I noticed no racial prejudice
When the candidates were announced, we were first shocked
and then very angry, that our nominee had been left off the list!
The nominee of each class was supposed to be on the ballot! No
explanation was given but we concluded that the school
administration had rejected him because he was black.
So our class mounted a write-in campaign for our nominee,
and he won the election!
Thirteen years old
Near the end of the school year a special assembly was held
to give various awards. The auditorium was packed, with students
standing in the aisles on each side because there were not
enough seats. I was standing way at the back.
They were talking about some kind of a good citizenship
award when suddenly my name was called out. I thought there
must be some mistake, so I did not react at first. The principal
said, Is Roy Davison here? I thought, Well, there is no other
Roy Davison in this school, so he must mean me. In a daze I
walked up to the front with students making way so I could get
through. On stage I still thought, This must be some kind of a
mistake. They gave me a medal with a red, white and blue
ribbon. I turned it over and my name was engraved on the back.
Then I thought, Well, it really must be for me!
On my way home, my bicycle was stopped by one of the
school rowdies. He said, Let me see your medal! I took it out
and gave it to him. He said, What would you do if I kept it? I
said, Well, I guess there wouldn’t be much I could do. He gave
it back and said, No. You deserve it, and rode off on his bicycle.
He was the boy I had reported for having made a master
key for the student lockers. Skipper and I had the job of going
around after school and using a master key to lock any lockers
that had been left unlocked. The boy who stopped me had
bragged to me one day, I have a key like that too! And he
showed me his key that he had filed off.
Although Dad did not preach full time while we lived in
Southern California, he baptized 30 people he taught in home
Heading north to only-the-Lord-knows-where
Since Dad thought he should have stayed in Canada the year
before, he contacted the University of Saskatchewan to see if he
could get the same job back and they accepted him immediately.
Thus, during the summer we packed all of our belongings
into two trailers and were all ready to move back to Saskatoon.
The day before we were to leave, however, Dad got a call from
the university saying that they could not give him the job after all
because some had complained that the work should be given to a
Canadian (although they could not find anyone with qualifications
as good as Dad’s). So what should we do?
Since the original intention had been to move north to
establish a new congregation, Dad decided we would head for
Saskatoon as planned, and he would look for a job there or in
Prince Albert. Along the way, however, he would also investigate
other possibilities for establishing a new congregation in a needed
area as a self-employed preacher.
The larger trailer was 8 by 8 by 16 feet. We had a Nash car
and a very small van Dad used in his TV repair business, a
Thames English Ford. He intended to make two trips, first with
the car pulling the large trailer and then with the van pulling the
smaller trailer. But when he hitched the loaded large trailer to the
car, the Nash springs were so soft that the back almost touched
the ground. He tried hitching it to the van and its springs were
stiff enough to bear the load. But when he tried to move, the
small engine did not have enough power to move the trailer. He
had the engine checked, and it had virtually no compression.
Thus, he had an overnight valve job done, and the next day Dad
and I, and our dog Tippy, set out on the first trip. On the level,
the maximum speed the rig would go was 30 mph. The van had
two seats and the dog rode in a box behind my seat.
English Ford Thames Van like the one we drove
Things went ok until we hit a 20 mile grade in California
where road construction was being done. The van had no water
pump but convection cooling and was definitely not designed for
what we were asking it to do. Fortunately, the construction
company had placed laybys about every 200 yards with barrels of
water for cars that overheated. We overheated every 200 yards
and barely made it from one water barrel to the next before the
engine began to vapor lock. We would cool down the engine (Dad
found that it stayed cooler if he left the radiator cap off and just
let it boil) and then start out again. On the grade the engine
barely had enough power to get us started in low, so I would
push to help get us going and then jump in. It was a great
adventure for a thirteen-year-old boy with his Dad!
As we crossed the Mojave Desert on the way to Las Vegas,
to say it was hot would be an extreme understatement. Tippy was
so hot that he would lay his head on my shoulder and intersperse
his pants with a moan now and then. At first we had two five
gallon cans of radiator water along and one five gallon can of
drain oil that Dad got free at filling stations. But the toiling little
engine, that had to run in low or second gear most of the time,
was using so much oil that we decided we needed two cans of oil
and one can of water.
When we saw a sign in the middle of the desert, Watch out
for cattle on the road! Dad quipped, This must be where they
raise that dried beef!
A double mattress was loaded last on top of the trailer and
made up as a bed. At night we would climb up on the trailer, prop
up part of the canvas to make a little tent, and sleep on top of the
trailer. There was no money for motels.
After we passed Vegas and headed for Salt Lake City we
were thankful that the temperature dropped some. There were
two short, steep hills on the trip that the van just was not
powerful enough to climb. We had to wait for a pickup to come
along with a friendly driver willing to tow us to the top of the hill!
Downhill, Dad always had to put the engine in low gear because
the breaks were not strong enough to slow the rig downhill.
As we approached Salt Lake City several big trucks blew
their horns as we met them. We thought there must be
something wrong with the rig so we would pull off and check
everything but could find nothing wrong. Then we noticed a
distinctive truck and remembered that it had passed us some
time before. Then we realized that the truckers had passed us on
their way to Salt Lake City and were just saying hello when they
saw us again on their way back to California! So after that, when
they blasted their horns at us, we tooted back!
When we passed through West Yellowstone, Montana at
6667 feet altitude there was snow on the ground. We did not
mind at all after the sweltering heat of the desert! The next
morning there was snow on the canvas above our heads when we
When we visited a congregation in central Montana, Dad
asked if they knew of any cities that might be good places to
establish a new congregation. It was mentioned that there was
only one church of Christ in all of North Dakota, at Bismarck. A
brother agreed that we could leave the trailer at his house while
we scouted for a place to go. So, without the trailer, the little
Thames took off like a jack rabbit as we headed for Bismarck,
North Dakota to visit Gordon Pennock who was preaching there.
Brother Pennock suggested Fargo as a good place to
establish a congregation. Dad went to Fargo and found a job as a
TV repairman right away.
Gordon was going to Saskatoon to conduct a gospel
meeting. Since I knew the brethren there from the summer
before, it was arranged that I would go to Saskatoon with Gordon
while Dad went back to California to get my mother, brother and
sister, and to drive the car and the other trailer to Fargo. Dad
found a car to drive that a dealer wanted to move to the
When I returned from Saskatoon to Fargo the folks were
camping in an empty house. When they had arrived in Fargo for
the purpose of establishing a congregation there, Dad had a
job lined up but only one dollar and fifty-six cents in his pocket,
$300 worth of gasoline bills, and nowhere to live. He left the
family in the car and walked down the street. The first man he met
knew of an empty house they could use free of charge for one month
while they looked for something else!
Radville Christian College
RCC campus 1957, from a painting by Fred Brehaut
In September of 1954, after being with the family for a week, a couple of weeks
short of my 14th birthday, I went to Radville, Saskatchewan to
attend secondary school at Radville Christian College. It was a
small Christian boarding school serving churches of Christ.
Attending a boarding school with forty students is like being
part of a large family. Close and valued friendships were formed
with students and faculty, and I met the girl who fourteen years
later, by the providence of God, would become my precious wife.
Since the school was 500 miles from
Fargo, I was able to go home only at Christmas, Easter and for
two months in the summer. So much could be told about my
three years at Radville, and one year at Weyburn after the school
moved there, that it is difficult to know what to tell and what to
I began writing this autobiography because a friend asked me to recount significant
spiritual influences in my life. The blessing
I had of attending this unique Christian secondary school in Canada for four
years was clearly the most formative experience in my life.
You will understand why if you examine the yearbooks for
each grade provided below. In addition, I will give an account of some happenings
each year that were especially meaningful.
I was blessed by my association with teachers and students who were among
the most wonderful Christians in the world! I cannot begin to do justice to
them all, but I will mention some who had a great impact on my life.
Northern Lights 54-55
Yearbook of Radville Christian College for 1954-1955.
So as not to interfere with his work, my father brought me the 500 miles to Radville a few days before school started. The first evening I was taken to the MacLeod’s in Ceylon for supper since the school’s dining room was not yet open. I met the MacLeod children and their cousins, Mary and Betty Baily, who had also arrived early. That night I was assigned a bunk bed in the boy’s dorm and a busy year began. The next day I dug carrots in the school garden.
I peeled a lot of potatoes
All students took turns doing certain chores, like washing dishes, for which we were not paid. In grades nine, ten and eleven, I was privileged to have a job peeling potatoes for which I was paid $15 a month! It was not easy for my parents to pay the monthly fees, so I was able to earn what I needed for minor expenses such as tooth paste and soap.
When I was twelve my father started giving me a small weekly allowance. I put half of it in the collection on Sunday and I saved the other half for my education. By the time I went to RCC I had not saved much, but it was enough to pay the first month’s fees, which was a significant help since my parents had just moved to Fargo and Dad had just started a new job.
Advantages of a Christian school
My grade eight in California was as good as a secular school can be for a Christian. I had an excellent homeroom teacher and a good class. But a Christian high school was so much better! The teachers and staff were dedicated Christians. Most of the fellow-students were Christians. And all activities were designed to be compatible with Christian living.
In junior high I had never participated in chorus, sports or other extra-curricular activities because they all involved commitments that would conflict with regular meetings of the church. At RCC everything was scheduled so as not to interfere with service to God. There was a Bible class every day, chapel in the morning and a devotional before going to bed. In chapel there was an opportunity for the boys to learn to present lessons, to read the Bible aloud and to lead in prayer. On Monday and Tuesday nights there was a two-hour study period in the classrooms for resident students.
A year of growth
My first year was a time of physical growth. I grew 4 inches, from being 5’ to being 5’4, from being a child to being a very young man. It was also a time of spiritual development. I gave lessons in chapel and when I was home for the Christmas holidays I presented my first full-length sermon at the small congregation my folks were establishing.
My activities in grade nine included chorus and drama. In Pipistrelle of Acquitaine I was a minstrel-spy who went singing from castle to castle trying to learn where King Richard was being held prisoner. In Our dream house I was a younger brother who pretended he thought he was Napoleon as part of a family plot to scare off his sister’s boy friend. I was a member of the debating club and was on the library committee.
Rita and I
My wife, Rita, and I both attended the school for our four years of high school. (She was then known as Reta. When she applied for a passport to come to Belgium we discovered that her birth certificate had Rita rather than Reta as her parents had requested!) As I write these lines, we have known each other for 65 years, but we have been married for only 51 years. When I was in grade nine, she was in grade twelve. The age difference was too great at that time for there to be any romantic interest between us. We were both part of the school family, however, and therefore knew each other well. When I was in grade ten, she attended the Bible Department that studied Bible full-time during the winter months. And when I was in grade eleven, she was the school secretary the second half of the year. When we married, the age difference was no longer significant, but that is a story for later.
Rita’s brother and two sisters were also fellow students: Shirley Lewis, Bob Lewis and Betty Lewis. The spouses of her sisters, Walter Straker and Wayne Kemp, also attended the school. Thus the school provides common memories for us all.
Lillian M. Torkelson
Miss Torkelson (Miss T as she was affectionately called by her students - and she did not mind) was the principal and guiding star of RCC. She was an extremely capable classroom teacher, disciplinarian and administrator. She was 100% devoted to her students and she was 100% fair in her dealings with them. She was strict but she understood young people, so was merciful as well. As an administrator, she led by persuasion and consensus. She once told me that she believed that most people could accomplish much if they were given just a little encouragement and leadership. Most of the school activities were conducted by the students themselves via the Students’ Assembly. She respected her fellow teachers and staff, and they respected her. Without her abilities and dedication, Radville Christian College probably would not have existed. You will be blessed if you read her biography written by Marjorie Roberts: A Prairie Dreamer. It also explains how a group of dedicated young people planned and worked toward the establishment of a Christian school in Western Canada. Encourage young people to read it. To understand the important role she played, you can also read the following portion of the history of the school written by Lillian Torkelson and Roger Peterson: A Vision Splendid.
Even while in school, I was privileged to be something of a confidant of Miss Torkelson. During the years that followed, she visited us once in Belgium and through the many letters she wrote to us and during periodic visits, she became not only a respected former teacher but also a dear friend.
John Carlos (J.C.) Bailey
J.C. Bailey was still head of the Bible Department during my first year at RCC. He was the most persuasive and powerful preacher I have ever heard. With his booming voice he preached without compromise and backed everything he said with the Scriptures. He once said, I love to preach! I count it an honor to have known him. He became a life-long friend and fellow worker in the Kingdom.
Here is a brief biography. You will be blessed if you read his and his wife’s autobiographies Forty Years a Canadian Preacher and Evidences of the Personal Touch.
After having preached in Radville for eleven years, in July of 1955 J.C. accepted an invitation to work with the church in Carman, Manitoba. In addition to his preaching and publication (including printing) of the Gospel Herald, he also served as business manager of RCC from 1945 to 1952. Expressing her concern about the school going into debt, Miss Torkelson once told me: When J.C. was business manager, the school did not go in debt because he refused to spend money we did not have! In this writer’s opinion, the school would have been better off if that policy had been maintained. It is never easy to raise money, but it is easier to raise money to do something, than to pay off a debt.
Lawrence and Mary Anderson
The only privacy the Andersons had was a small apartment (bedroom) that Roger Peterson had partitioned off in the corner of the dining room. Because of heating requirements, the partition did not even go to the ceiling.
During my grades nine, ten and eleven, brother Anderson was boy’s supervisor and general handyman, and Sister Anderson was kitchen and dining hall supervisor, cooked eleven meals a week and prepared snacks. She also taught sewing.
Brother Anderson was a gentle, quiet and wise man. Our dormitory was right above the Anderson’s apartment. Lights were to be out at ten thirty, but sometimes talking was done after that. Without a warning sound, brother Anderson’s voice would sometimes suddenly be heard in the hall, Boys, it’s time to get to sleep. He knew how much leeway to give and only became strict when it became necessary.
Sister Anderson managed the kitchen well under less than ideal circumstances. There was a large old fashioned coal cook stove. There was no running water until the last year the school was at Radville. Finances were scarce, and she knew how to feed forty students well on a limited budget. Rhubarb grew profusely down by the river, so in the spring we had a lot of rhubarb for dessert, sometimes with the luxury of having a few strawberries mixed with it, sometimes in the form of rhubarb pudding, but usually just plain sweetened rhubarb sauce.
The Andersons served the school and students sacrificially from 1952 to 1957. I had great respect for them both.
Sister Williams was a widow with five children living in Cortez, Colorado before she moved her family to Radville in 1952 to become girl’s supervisor and part-time cook (ten meals a week).
Sister Williams was a fine Christian lady who served as a good role model for the students. She also knew how to allow some leeway with young people before calling a halt. Maybe she sometimes was even a little too lenient, because she was mischievous herself and knew that if she were in their place, she would be doing the same thing!
I had tremendous respect for Sister Williams. She served the school well from 1952 until 1959, which included the whole time I was there.
Northern Lights 55-56
Yearbook of Radville Christian College for 1955-1956.
During my grade-ten year I enjoyed being in chorus and drama club again. I was convener of the Library
Committee responsible for acquiring, repairing and arranging books in the library. Other members
were Beatrice Runions and Robert Olson. At the interschool Track and Field Meet I was on the four-man
relay team for my age group that won second place. Others on the team were Ted Labatte, Lloyd
Hotchkiss and John Ulrich.
To earn spending money, I was in the kitchen each day peeling potatoes. We were obligated to be at
breakfast every day except Saturday. On Saturday, many students slept in, so there were not many at
breakfast. I always went for breakfast and sometimes I went down early to help Sister Anderson make
toast in the oven so we would have something special at breakfast that Saturday. The stove was an
old fashioned coal cook stove with round removable plates on the top. Delicious unsliced bread was
purchased from the town bakery. It had to be sliced by hand by the students who helped prepare the
meal. The bread crusts did not go on the tables but were dried in the oven and placed in a can on a
shelf in the corner. Students who wanted a snack, could get a bread crust, free of charge. You could
also put syrup on it for two cents. I sometimes got a crust but could not afford the luxury of syrup!
I developed an ulcer in grade ten. Only after I was 70 did I discover that I am gluten intolerant, which
might have been the cause. The doctor prescribed belladonna, which was effective, and Sister
Anderson would put left-over oatmeal on the back of the stove for me to eat between meals.
The print shop
J.C. Bailey donated his Gospel-Herald printing equipment to the school when he turned the paper
over to brethren in Ontario. After the print shop was moved to the campus, I helped Roger Peterson
assemble the presses. I learned to set type and to operate the platen and cylinder presses. Each year
after that I helped print the yearbook and other material for the school.
First row: Laveena MacLeod, Beatrice Runions, Margaret Anderson, Shirley Lewis, Helen Peterson, Janice Mooney; Second row: Roy Davison, Robert Olson, Manley Gilpin, David Lidbury, Roger Peterson.
RCC’s first traveling chorus was composed of teachers and students. We sang at Kisbey, Wawota, Saskatoon, Harptree and Bengough.
A tremendous advantage of a Christian secondary school is that during the time when one starts being
interested in the other gender, one is surrounded by young people who are Christians, and most of
whom have high moral standards. At the school it was accepted and even suggested that dating could
be educational. Many fine marriages were contracted in later years between former students of the
school, including ours!
In grade ten I dated Beatrice Runions for a while. She was a lovely girl, sensitive and spiritually minded. I liked her very much. Dating someone at the
school involved little more than walking to services together and sitting together at
But one day when I was in the empty classroom, I noticed that she had written my name on a
notebook and under it, Faith marriage! I was shocked. What? Marriage! I’m
only fifteen years old! Since her thoughts were so different from mine, I felt I had to stop dating her.
It hurt her deeply and it hurt me knowing that I had hurt her so much. The bad thing was that I did not
even have the courage to tell her why. She did not return to the school the next year.
Dating had indeed been a learning experience. I learned that you can break a girl’s heart by dating
her. I concluded that dating was for people who were seriously seeking someone suitable to marry. I
did not have another date in high school and I had only two dates in university.
I had very good friends among the girls at school, however, and felt that - at that stage in my life -
friendship was a better way to get acquainted with girls than romance!
Only recently did I learn some details that made me sad, and made me realize that you can also
break a girl’s heart by not dating her and by being afraid to tell her that you loved her,
because you lacked confidence. Yet, the Lord is in control of our lives and He often must disappoint
us now so He can give us something better in the future.
Robert Olson was my roommate in grade nine. Actually, at Radville each room
in the boy’s dorm was just a partitioned-off section of a larger room. The partitions were
not much higher than the bunk beds. Yet, it was your room and a special relationship developed
with the one you shared it with. Robert Olson was a very precise and orderly person, and he had
a beautiful tenor singing voice.
After Robert graduated, Fred Brehaut became my roommate. We had a common interest in electronics
so built a work bench in the corner of our room on which we did various experiments. I had a
wire recorder with a built-in CB radio transmitter that we used to set up a campus radio station
for a time.
At Weyburn Fred Brehaut and Manly Gilpin were my roommates. We had the luxury of having the only
closed off room in the dorm. The other boys had their beds in long halls that had not yet been divided
into separate rooms.
A little prayer
When the river was frozen, we could just walk across the river to town to go to services. In the fall and spring we had to walk along the river to the train tracks and then walk across the train tressle bridge over the river being careful not to step in the cracks between the ties. Then we walked through the train yards and into town. One night, as I walked back to the school through the train yards, I said a little prayer: "Lord, whatever you want me to do with my life, I’m willing to do it."
Roger W. Peterson
In grades nine and ten, Roger Peterson was my science teacher and chorus director. I have never
known a more versatile man!
First and foremost, he was a Christian gentleman. He was a teacher and a preacher. When he married
his lovely wife, Helen Marie Sinclair in October of 1954, he bought the lumber and built the house
they lived in with his own hands! He was an excellent photographer and he taught me how to operate
the presses in the print shop. He installed the school’s telephone system. The last time Rita and I
visited Roger and Helen, Roger had just returned from an overseas mission trip.
Roger’s work for the school spanned a period of thirty-five years. His service in so many different ways was a blessing to countless young people.
Three of my teachers
After my grade ten year, during a chorus trip in July of 1956,
I was with David Olson, David Lidbury and Roger Peterson in a camera shop
when the owner took our picture with a Poleroid camera he wanted to sell us.
We were amused by his sales pitch: This is good for when you go to
parties and take pictures you wouldn’t want to send away
to have developed.
Chorus tour July 1956. Front row: Roger Peterson, Janice Mooney, Laveena MacLeod, Shirley Lewis, Beatrice Runions, Roy Davison. Back row: David Lidbury, Manley Gilpin, Helen Peterson, Margaret Anderson, Robert Olson, David Olson.
In addition to the teachers I mention separately, I had other exceptional teachers at the school: John Bailey (who later became a dentist and after retirement established a foundation to do dental and medical mission work in developing countries), David Lidbury (who served the school in various capacities for seventeen years), David Olson (who later was a professor in the Education Department of the University of Toronto) and Donald Perry (who later taught at Great Lakes Christian College and was a missionary, serving as headmaster of the Mawlai Christian School at Assam, India).
Northern Lights 56-57
Yearbook of Radville Christian College for 1956-1957.
During the summer Dad gave me driving lessons. Since I was sixteen, I could get my license. He was a good teacher. I had to drive with a small bottle standing on the dashboard that was not to fall over!
Dad bought an old Henry J that I could earn by painting. It was grey and had a few dents. I sanded it down, knocked out the dents and painted it powder blue. I used a brush, so it had some brush marks, but it looked quite nice. By having my own car I could drive back and forth to school and Dad would not have to make that long 500 mile trip each way. He knew I would use the car responsibly. Most Henry J’s had a four-cylinder engine. This one had a six-cylinder engine and overdrive. I never drove it as fast as it could go! (I was responsible, remember.) As usual, I went back to school a little early and helped get the campus ready.
Thus began what would become my best year in high school. I was editor of the yearbook which I really enjoyed and I was in the usual clubs. I played the part of Demus in Thou fool! a modern version of the Rich Man and Lazarus, and I had the main singing part in The rising of the moon as an Irish rebel leader trying to escape from the British. I was in the chorus and the mixed sextet and octet. I won second place in the interschool oratorical contest with a speech entitled, The good life. Books were read aloud at Miss Torkelson’s house for Literary Club each Thursday night. She served us popcorn and fudge (with spoons because she could never get it to harden!). I spent many enjoyable hours in the print shop printing the yearbook and other material.
At the end of October, Fred Brehaut and I won a prize for the most original costume at the Hallowe’en party. He was dressed as a farmer and I was his horse made of a sawhorse with a tail tacked on the back (where a tail is supposed to be) and with a radio hidden in its head. I was up on a counter in the Anderson’s apartment so I could see over the partition but no one could see me. I had a transmitter so I could talk through the radio in the horse’s head. Since I could see and hear what was going on, the sawhorse could mysteriously answer questions and call people by name.
A trip to California at Christmas
The folks decided to visit relatives in California during the Christmas holiday and we invited David Olson to go along. We rode in David’s car from the school down to Montana where we were to meet my parents on their way west from Fargo. Betty Lewis, Rita’s sister, and Lee Schoonover rode along on their way home for the holidays.
When we met the folks, there was some discussion as to whether some of the Montana people could ride on farther toward home with my parents, but the car would have been crowded. After some discussion I said, Well, let’s just flip a coin. My Dad’s reply was: No, you don’t flip a coin to decide something where logic is involved! It was decided that the car would be too crowded.
The three drivers took turns as we drove all night toward California. I was driving, and everyone else was asleep, when I found it strange that there was not much traffic on the road. Then there was undisturbed fresh snow on the road. That was even stranger for a main highway! Then there was a barrier with a sign that the road was closed for the winter. I had missed a turn in the last town. So I had to repent and go back to the last town. We lost a half an hour. If in life you begin to notice strange things happening along the way, maybe you should check to be sure you are still on the right road.
Back row: My uncle Ray Coleman, my cousin Jackie Coleman, David Olson, my father Charles Davison; Front row: my uncle Earl Kincaid, Roy Davison.
(My uncle Ray Coleman smoked heavily. Both he and my aunt Flora died young of cancer.)
We visited my mother’s sister and brother and their families who gathered at my uncle’s place in San Liandro for Christmas. David Olson enjoyed sitting in a short-sleeved shirt in the California sun, far from the snow drifts of Saskatchewan.
A major repair job
During the winter I put my car up on blocks. It was not needed to go home at Christmas because of the trip to California. In the spring there was a problem with the clutch. The fork that operated the throw-out bearing had worn through. The new part was only a few dollars, but to replace it, the whole transmission had to be taken out! I could not afford to have that done! So with much help from Virley Elliott, we removed and replaced the transmission.
The decision to move the school to Weyburn
There was a shortage of space at Radville. Plans had been made to build a new building the year before, but the necessary $80,000 had not been raised. Instead the school was $10,000 in debt.
Through his contacts with the provincial government, Cecil Bailey had found buildings at the Weyburn airport that could be rented for a low price.
There was a heated debate at the shareholders’ meeting. Cecil Bailey spoke in favor of the move. His brother, J.C. Bailey was against it. J.C.’s arguments were mainly emotional. Cecil’s logical. By a significant majority, they voted to move the school.
The Radville brethren did not want the school to move because they knew it would greatly reduce the membership and activity of the local congregation.
A local brother with a Norwegian accent was very angry. He said, The only reason, the only reason they move the school is that Cecil is more, is more vindy than J.C.! Cecil thought that was choice, that anyone would think he was more windy than his brother J.C.!
Miss Torkelson was very sad to leave the beautiful campus at Radville with its many memories, but she voted in favor of the move.
Cecil T. Bailey
The first time I saw Cecil Bailey was when he preached a sermon at the Radville congregation when I was in grade nine. Knowing that Cecil would be there for an event at the school, the brethren had put him on to speak, but had forgotten to notify him! Thus he did not know he was to preach until he got to the building!
When he went to the front, I noticed that his hair stuck straight out because it was so wiry and his voice was rather raspy. But as soon as he began to speak, all that was forgotten.
Sixty years later, I still remember the sermon! (And I have used it myself a few times!) The title was, YOU ARE IMPORTANT! The text was 1 Peter 2:9 - But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. He made it clear that how we lived our lives as Christians would make a difference in the history of the world!
Cecil Bailey became principal of the school when I was in grade eleven.
During the two years that Cecil Bailey was my teacher, I learned more from him that influenced my life for good than I have learned from any other person.
He taught me things I needed to know academically, but even more important was what I learned about the meaning of being a Christian and the Christian approach to life. In the areas of psychology and mental health I also learned important lessons. Most of these things were not taught formally, but in passing and sometimes in the form of a story.
Cecil loved literature! And his enthusiasm was contagious.
I had always liked sciences and math, but did not do well in language-related subjects, so was less enthusiastic about them. I was a terrible speller. If someone had told me when I was trying to pass a spelling test in grade seven that I would one day be a writer, master a second language, and be a professional translator for 40 years, I would have thought he was a looney from cuckoo land for sure!
Anything I have accomplished in the area of communication is thanks to Cecil Bailey.
In our first Composition lesson in grade twelve he asked each student what he intended to do in life. He showed each one how the ability to speak and write well would be helpful in that profession. Teachers and preachers must of course know how to communicate. Farmers can improve their lot if they join an association to defend their rights and get a fair price for their products. And, of course, a knowledge of grammar and composition was necessary to communicate well. Through Cecil’s influence and encouragement, my main goal when I went to university was to learn to write and speak better.
Northern Lights 57-58
Yearbook of Western Christian College for 1957-1958.
My grade twelve graduating class
First row: Brenda Meneer, Sharon Fisher, Betty Bailey; Second row: Margaret Anderson (behind Brenda), Loretta Williams; Third row: Roy Davison, Willene Dunn, Janice Mooney; Fourth row: Morris Brown, Gordon Hobbs, Lloyd Hotchkiss, Milton McCaslin, Manley Gilpin, Alex Muller; Not shown: Robert Hillis.
Margaret Anderson, hidden in the above picture
Robert Hillis, not in the above picture
The quality of a school is determined not only by the quality of its teachers but also by the quality of its students. I had the blessing of going to secondary school with some of the most wonderful people in the world!
Because of the move to Weyburn, the school had to open two weeks late. Ernest Andreas and Allison Parker, the new custodian, assisted by his sons, had worked very hard all summer to get the old World War II, wooden air-force buildings ready for school in the fall. I went to the campus early and helped by hanging doors in the boys’ dormitory.
Teachers and staff were assigned sections of the buildings that could be remodeled into apartments. One day I noticed a saw blade protruding from the side of a building. I knew from the vigor of the sawing that it must be Cecil Bailey working on their apartment. Mary Bailey happened to come around the corner. When she noticed my amusement, she joked, Yes, we locked Dad in the bathroom. Boy is he mad! He, of course, was sawing a hole for a window in the bathroom.
This is a picture of my corner in our dorm room at Weyburn. Fred Brehaut and Manley Gilpin had a bunk bed against the other wall. I had brought my own bed to the school.
I was class president and enjoyed being in the chorus and mixed octet. I was assistant editor of the yearbook and helped Alex Muller print it. Although I enjoyed drama, I decided not to be in plays that year so I could spend more time on my studies. My roommate overheard a visitor at one of the programs complain: But the main reason I came was to see Roy in a play!
As a member of the travelling chorus, I really enjoyed our trip to Carman, Manitoba at the end of November!
Christmas holiday 1957
Since Morris Brown was not able to go all the way to Nova Scotia for the Christmas holiday, I invited him to come home with me to Fargo. After graduation Morris became a journalist and continued in that profession until retirement.
Unjustly selected as valedictorian
The valedictorian had to be selected before the end of the year on the basis of grades up to that point. I was selected, but a year later I learned that Betty Bailey’s grades were slightly (less than 1%) higher than mine! Yet her father, who was principal, insisted that I be selected. I certainly would have objected if I had known this at the time! As it turned out, Betty’s grades on the final exams were much higher than mine. I am glad that she received the trophy for the highest grades at the end of the year. She should have been valedictorian! The award was presented to Betty by T.C. Douglas, Premier of Saskatchewan, in a ceremony at the school on October 8, 1958.
Because of depression, I did not do well in my studies the latter part of the year. Actually, based on the first grading of the final provincial exams, I failed the year because I got only 42% for Composition! When, on request, the paper was checked by another grader, it was increased to 62%, allowing me to pass. Possibly one of the section scores was missed when adding up the total points, or possibly the first grader did not like the religious theme of one of my answers, or possibly the second grader was merciful!
I enjoyed being on the basketball team in grade twelve. We were all short - as basketball players go - and our best player, Vaughn Warriner, was the shortest man on the team! But he could make about half of the baskets he tried from the middle of the court! When you are short you have to be fast. Vaughn called me Speedy Gonzales because of the contrast between how I was on the basketball court and how I was off the court! Speedy has never been one of my recognizable characteristics! Except on the basketball court.
We placed second in the provincial quarter finals. Our last two games were against a school that gave basketball scholarships. Their shortest man was taller than our tallest. The first time they saw us they openly ridiculed us. They won, but they soon discovered that they would have to work for their victory.
During the second half of grade twelve I went through a period of deep depression. I fell in the habit of thinking too much about my shortcomings and being discouraged. As the Lord helped me out of the dungeon of despair I learned a valuable lesson about the grace of God. Before, I knew full well that salvation is possible only by grace! But I came to understand that God’s grace must be drawn on every single day! O to grace how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be, from the third verse of O, Thou fount of every blessing, by Robert Robinson.
Among the many valuable lessons I learned from Cecil Bailey was that being overly weighed down by one’s shortcomings can be a form of self-centeredness. I gradually overcame depression by concentrating on how I could be a blessing to others in spite of my weaknesses. This became an important principle for the rest of my life. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us (2 Corinthians 4:7).
Confronted by a classmate
Faithful are the wounds of a friend (Proverbs 27:6).
After chapel one morning, as we were crowding into the hall to go to our classrooms, a classmate turned to me and said, I know what’s wrong with you! You are just too proud! If she had slapped me in the face, it would not have shocked me more. It was worse because I had admired her since the first time I met her four years earlier. I then recalled that I had once overheard her say, Pride is God’s gift to little men. If I had been more mature and confident I would have sought an opportunity to ask her what she meant and why she said it. After mulling it over for a while, I concluded that, for whatever reason she said it, she was no doubt right. After a week or two I went forward at services and requested prayers that I might learn to be less proud.
A man is not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think (Romans 12:3). Many times in my life I thought I knew the answer when I should have been asking questions rather than giving answers.
Thomas Ward Bailey
I count it a great privilege to have heard Thomas Bailey preach! He and his wife, Edith, visited the campus at Weyburn. He was 83. (He passed away a year later on June 13, 1959.) His and Edith’s eight children had a tremendous impact for good. I knew J.C. and Cecil well and met several of their other children.
When Thomas spoke at the school on May 7, 1958 he had about seven points he wanted to make. They were not closely related. They were just things he wanted to say. He joked, I may ramble around a bit, but that’s OK. You will follow me wherever I go!
When he started discussing each point he would be standing behind the pulpit. When he finished the point, he would be standing in front of the pulpit. He would slowly walk around the pulpit (it was quite large), look at his notes, and then start the next point. Each time he finished a point, he was standing in front of the pulpit, but his speaking was so intriguing that I never saw him walk around to the front even though I had decided I was going to watch for it.
I thought, Well if I can still preach like that when I am 83, I don’t mind getting old! I thought that was really old back then! Now, for some reason, it doesn’t seem so old any more! [Additional information about Thomas Bailey can be found here.]
A leadership conflict
During my last year at WCC a leadership crisis began to develop at the school that would have sad consequences. The conflicts were facilitated by poorly defined and overlapping leadership roles.
At Radville the high school was led by what could be called a headmaster system in which the principal, being the only administrator on campus, had much authority, and led the daily activities of the school. Cecil Bailey had served in that capacity at Radville for one year before the school moved to Weyburn.
After serving on the Board as chairman, Richard Dacus had been appointed as off-campus president in 1956 while the school was still at Radville. He was one of the finest and most dedicated men I have known, but he was in an extremely difficult position as president when he was not on campus! He preached full time for the church in Estevan. I once saw him break down and weep because of something that had happened at the school for which he felt responsible, although he had had nothing directly to do with it!
At Weyburn, the school had for the first time an on-campus full-time business manager, Ernest Andreas, who was instrumental in accomplishing the draconian task of moving the school.
There had been virtually no financial planning for the move to Weyburn. I was at the shareholders’ meeting that made the decision to move. There had been no feasibility study and there was no business plan estimating what the move would cost or what the operating expenses at Weyburn would be. As a result, after the move, the school was urgently in need of additional funding.
In February of 1958, during my last year at WCC, to meet this need, D. W. Dryden Sinclair was hired as full-time Public Relations Director. Dryden was the son of D. A. Sinclair who was a pioneer preacher in Saskatchewan, and Dryden’s brother, Robert, had founded the Gospel Herald.
Although Dryden was an effective fund raiser, I questioned at the time the wisdom of appointing someone as director of public relations who had tarnished his reputation among the older, core supporters of the school by infidelity some twenty years earlier. After his three-year term as public relations director, Miss Torkelson gave this description of the situation in her history of the school: "The College was suffering from both financial and public relations problems. The Board and Administration were fighting indifference and some open antagonism in the brotherhood." To aggravate further the financial situation this year, the enrollment was low. In the fall (1961) we started with 79 pupils but we concluded in June with only 66.
Thus, after the move to Weyburn, there was an off-campus president, and there was an on-campus principal, business manager and public relations director, whose various roles and areas of authority had not been clearly defined. This was a formula for disaster. To make matters worse, the next year Dryden was appointed as vice-president!
To illustrate the kind of thing that happened, while I was preaching at Sarnia, Ontario (61-62) a brother in Michigan wanted to talk with me when he learned that I was a graduate of WCC. He showed me a two-page letter he had received from Dryden Sinclair when he was vice-president asking him if he would be interested in serving as president of Western Christian College. This brother would have been academically well-qualified.
At his own expense he made a trip from Michigan to Weyburn to investigate the school. When he arrived, Dryden was not there and he was greatly embarrassed because no one at the school knew anything about the letter or understood why he was there. He said he heard no more about it and no one ever thanked him for making the trip.
At the same time, someone was circulating criticisms of Cecil Bailey, mainly with regard to how he dressed, and suggesting that he was not qualified to be principal. Cecil was the typical genial, lost in thought, absent-minded professor, whose hair might sometimes be messed up and whose shoes might not always match the color of his suit. At one time while I was there, he ran out and jumped in his car to drive away, and then discovered that he was in the back seat. To most of us, this just endeared him to us, and certainly did not disqualify him from being principal!
This picture of Cecil Bailey was taken a few months before he resigned.
Dissatisfied with the conflicts and criticisms of his person, Cecil resigned in June of 1960 hoping that this would cause the Board to improve the situation. Instead, they just accepted his resignation.
In my opinion, accepting Cecil’s resignation was the worst blunder the Board ever made.
Cecil and Lavine were part of the original group of young people who dreamed and planned and sacrificed to prepare themselves to teach at a Christian school in Western Canada. The last two years I was there, Cecil beamed because he was so happy to finally be teaching at the school of their dreams for which they had sacrificed and worked so hard.
Cecil and Lavine were devastated. Cecil was hired as a principal in the public school system and WCC lost a tremendous teacher.
Miss Torkelson describes it thus: In June, as a protest against certain Board decisions, Cecil T. Bailey shocked everyone by resigning as principal of the College after four years in that position. Both parties acted in good faith, with high purpose, but the disagreement could not be settled. This resignation had far reaching consequences, not only because Western lost an exciting teacher loved by young people and a Christian gentleman who had devoted many years preparing himself to fulfill a dream, but also because some brethren blamed the College for his resignation so that for a period of time the College did not enjoy the wholehearted support of the Western Canadian brethren which it had previously sustained.
My reaction would be: If it was not the fault of the school, whose fault was it? Although he resigned as a protest against how he was being treated, he certainly did not want to leave the school!
Cecil sent me this poem written at midnight on October 27, 1960 at Forbisher, Saskatchewan. He explained that he did not want to react to his detracters and defamers in an unchristlike way.
I Am Resolved
Stealing softly through the midnight’s sorrow
Comes a Peace that overshadows pain;
Bringing balm-of-Gilead for the morrow,
Comfort, rest and healing from life’s bane.
No more shall the bickerings and the slander
Pierce the quick or fest the cankering sore;
He has tuned my heart to sing a grander
Song than earth had ever heard before.
Mighty God and Everlasting Father,
Praised be Thy Name most Excellent and Great!
Life’s storms may beat and vicious tempests gather,
But open are Thine arms and Heaven’s gate
To those by Christ empowered to say anew,
Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.
Cecil T. Bailey
Dan Wieb appointed as president
The Board realized that they needed a president who lived on campus, so in September of 1960, E. D. Wieb was appointed president with the understanding that he would move to Weyburn in a year.
In January of 1961 Dryden and his family moved to Wichita Falls, Texas, where he became executive director of Western Christian Foundation which he had helped to establish in 1958. A portion of the funds raised by this foundation was passed on to WCC for 25 years. A significant amount had to be deducted for salaries, travel expenses and other fund-raising expenses. In an open letter dated November 27, 1984, Dryden notified the school that he and the foundation had decided to stop raising funds for WCC and to devote all their efforts to a Spanish Literature work. The literature was published by the foundation.
In June of 1961 the school was in a terrible state financially. An emergency shareholders’ meeting was called in which it was announced that if $25,000 were not raised by August 31 to pay certain bills, the school would have to close. The minimum amount was found and the school was able to open in the fall.
That fall I was at a shareholders’ meeting and lectureship at the school. As I sat in the cafeteria, an older farmer, a longtime supporter of the school, asked me: Aren’t there any books people can read to learn how to run a school?
My own evaluation is that the school had some of the best teachers in the world, but that the business administration was often defective and some extremely bad management decisions were made.
Through the years, however, because of certain excellent and doctrinally sound teachers, the school was a blessing to many students. My brother Dale was there in 59-60 and my sister Sandy was there 61-62 and 62-63.
Closure of the school in 2012
Western Christian College closed at the end of June in 2012. In a
news item in the Christian Chronicle of January 31, 2012, Bill
An economic crisis created by a steady decline in enrollment, donors and donations over the past decade has affected our cash flow to a point where we can no longer consider Western Christian a fiscally viable entity. A recommendation to close the school was made by our Board of Directors and our Chief Operating Officer, Karen Cooper, and supported by myself and three other school administrators. After reviewing the data presented, the Society voted 97 percent in favor of three motions which initiate the process of closure. ... Western Christian has been around for 67 years and will leave behind a rich and impressive legacy with alumni stretching all over the globe. Our great sadness is for our students, both those who are here presently and those who dreamed to be alumni one day. We also lament the ripple effect this will have on Churches of Christ in Canada. We are one of only two Church of Christ-affiliated high schools and colleges in the entire nation. Western Christian was a spiritual center and a hub for ministry and missions training among churches in Western Canada. It is important to state that this was a logical and necessary decision. Our goal now is to finish our history well and be God honoring in all we do, especially in dealing with our staff, students, vendors and creditors. Glorifying God through a necessary ending is just as important as glorifying Him through new beginnings.
The following comment of mine was published under this news item on February 1, 2012: As an alumnus of WCC I have fond memories of the dedicated and Biblically sound teachers and staff who were at the school when I was there in the fifties. I have been saddened over the last few decades by certain changes in stance and emphasis, which in my opinion have contributed to the lack of students and support, leading to the decline and demise of the school.
Eugene Perry also made a comment: Evelyn and I taught at Radville Christian College in 1950-1952 and treasure the experience and find satisfaction in the fruitful service of many of the students of those days. These were my initial years in the classroom and prepared me for service at Great Lakes Christian College in Ontario and later at Namwianga Christian Secondary School in Zambia. Now in my 90th year and having had all these years to observe, I, as Roy Davison, wonder whether supporters have lost confidence in the school because of recent trends. Whatever the causes, we are saddened to learn of the closing.
A brother who taught at the school when it was in Regina told me that one reason he left was because the school was having a bad influence on his children!
Our family moves to Abilene, Texas
This is in Nebraska on our way from Fargo to Abilene. My poor Henry J burned out its valves pulling that heavy trailer, so had to be sold for scrap.
My parents moved to Abilene so I could continue my
education at a Christian school. They could afford putting me
through school only if I could live at home to avoid dormitory
expenses. I had chosen Abilene Christian College because it
offered a major in journalism. A higher standard of education in
Saskatchewan enabled me to begin as a sophomore.
Back then, most of the professors at ACC still believed in the
necessity and attainability of the restoration of New Testament
Christianity. Unfortunately this is no longer the case at Abilene
Christian University. So much so that I am embarrassed for
people to know that I am a graduate of Abilene Christian, for fear
that they might not realize that the school was still true to the
intentions of its founders when I was there.
Our family when we moved to Abilene, Texas.
Dad established a TV repair business in Abilene: A1-TV.
Because of his expertise, he could repair TVs in people’s homes
which saved on overhead since he did not need a shop. I helped
by distributing advertising door-to-door. On the cards it said, No
service calls at church time. This let people know that he was a
believer and that he was willing to make evening calls. He also
gave free service to shut-ins. First we lived across town but later
moved near the campus so I could walk to class.
I met a friendly Dutchman
Cornelius Van Ewijk
For two weeks before school started, I worked in the
maintenance department with a crew that chopped weeds (called goatheads) out of
the lawns. A fellow worker was a Dutchman, Cor Van Ewijk.
We became good friends. I was already planning to do mission
work someplace but had not selected a field. Cor invited me to
come to Holland and I began preparations to do so. During my
Senior year I took private Dutch lessons from Cor.
Difficulty with the local dialect
In the first lesson of a class on the history of English
literature, the teacher began talking about poh tree. There was
not enough context for me to understand the meaning so I raised
my hand and asked, What is poh tree? She gave a patient
explanation, thinking that I was a poor soul who did not even
know what poetry was! As soon as it dawned on me what poh
tree was, I was very embarrassed.
The cat that didn’t fly
I really enjoyed a gymnastics class! We learned limbering-up
exercises that I still use regularly now! At the end of the semester
I was invited to join the gymnastics team, the Flying Cats, but I
thought it would detract from my studies.
I tried to sell Bibles to earn money the first summer. I was a
terrible salesman! Yet, like a moth attracted to a flame, I tried it
again the next summer, and even sold for two weeks after
It taught me a lot about people, including myself: namely
that I was not cut out to be a door-to-door salesman! You must
keep a positive attitude. I could not. You had to knock on that
next door even if it was the last thing in the world you wanted to
do. Often, I did not. Yet, I did learn that even a bad salesman
can earn money selling something if he cannot find a better job!
They made the mistake in sales school of telling us we could
find books on salesmanship at the local library. The problem is
that libraries contain books on other subjects too! The second
summer that I was supposed to be selling Bibles, I read Carl
Sandberg’s six-volume biography of Abraham Lincoln! It was
educational! Sandberg was a great writer! So, I guess you could
say that I studied the life of Lincoln in my own private summer
I felt guilty, of course. One day, when I came back to our
room, I said to Charles Yeats, my selling partner, I’m a failure!
He began to laugh. I asked, What’s so funny? He said, That’s
quite an accomplishment! Twenty years old, and already a
I intended to major in journalism until I was in Mrs. Montie
McGinty’s class on The Oral Interpretation of Literature! Oral
interpretation is not acting. You do not ask the listener to believe
that you are the character, but by reading aloud you create the
character in the mind of the listener. I knew immediately: This is
what I want to study! I obtained my B.A. degree majoring in
Oral Interpretation, with minors in Bible and Greek.
Mrs. McGinty was an excellent teacher. She helped me
improve my pronunciation and diction.
Personal study of writing
Since I would not be studying journalism, I read books on
creative writing in the library to improve my writing skills. I was a
member of the Pickwickian creative writers’ club and was its
president my Senior year. We wrote material to read at the club
meetings. Here is a poem I wrote:
The Rocky Mountains
by Roy Davison
The rugged Rockies stand
With snow-capped peaks
Pointing toward the sky.
Majestic loneliness speaks
Her cold wind words with a sigh
Through nature’s no-man’s land.
A wilderness spirit haunts
The mountain crags
And inhabits the heart of man.
Debating was not for me
In the fall of 1959 I was on the debating team for a short
time. I won two of my debates at a Texas Tech tournament. We
were assigned a proposition that we had to be able to affirm or
deny. The proposition was ridiculous. I did not mind refuting it,
but to affirm it, I would have to say things that were not true. I
could not do that with a clear conscience, even though it was
just an exercise, so I stopped debating.
I remember Time Remembered
In December of 1959 our oral interpretation class presented
a group reading of the play, Time remembered, a comedy by
Jean Anouilh. Larry Black was narrator and the two main parts
were read by Kay Howard and Annita Hartsell. Other readers were
Doug Young and Stanley Mallory. I read the minor part of a
French waiter. At one point I was supposed to answer a question
with Yes. Instead I said No. I froze, not knowing what to do.
Without a moment’s hesitation, Kay Howard corrected my error
by adlibbing, Oh yes she is! I was grateful!
The Book of Job
During my Junior year, on January 11, 1960, the oral
interpretation class presented a group reading of the Book of Job.
Mrs. McGinty asked me to make a cutting of the book. All
speeches of the various characters were retained but with
portions omitted, so the entire reading was about 45 minutes.
I read the part of Job and Doug Young read the voice of God
from off-stage. Eliphaz the Temanite was read by Stanley Mallory,
Bildad the Shuhite by Larry Black and Zophar the Naamathite by
Maurice Week. Larry Black also read the arrogant young Elihu,
who speaks after the three friends, and he also read Satan. The
narrative sections were read by Kay Howard and Annita Hartsell.
About 200 people attended. My parents said that some in
the audience were crying from sympathy for Job.
My Senior oral interpretation project was a public reading of
the book of Ecclesiastes. Effective oral reading of the Bible is
powerful! We need more of it in our public worship. I love to read
the Bible aloud!
Matters of the heart
There was one classmate for whom I had great respect. In
fact, I held her in such high esteem that I could not fathom why a
girl like that would be interested in me, although she seemed to be.
Only later in life did I learn that matters of the heart are
too deep to fathom, and one should not try.
I did have one date with her, if you could call it that. I had
no money for dating. But I asked her to go with me to Sunday
services. The problem was that I drove the church bus to take
students to Hillcrest. So I took her to services and back in a forty
passenger bus. We had lunch together at the school cafeteria. I
admired her for accepting the invitation, but I was embarrassed.
Another time she was giving a presentation in Sewell
Auditorium that I really wanted to attend. But the admission was
$1.90 and I did not have money for a ticket. I wanted to see her,
if only briefly, so I waited until the program had started and went
in the back for a few moments. She inserted, Asseyez-vous!
into her presentation, inviting me to sit down in French, which
she knew I understood. But I considered it wrong to stay when I
did not have a ticket! So I slipped out, as I had slipped in. I was
too dull to realize that she could invite me to stay if she wished,
since it was her presentation!
I was disappointed when I learned that she married a young
dental surgeon about a year after graduation, but I also thought:
Yes! He can give her what she needs! From the beautiful family
pictures on Facebook, showing their four children and many
grandchildren, taken at their home on the shore of Lake
Buchanan, I am sure he did!
Another little prayer
I remember a brief prayer I said while in Abilene, Lord, help
me make good use of the talents you have given me.
Bible and Greek
My minors were Bible and Greek. I had enough classes in
Bible that I could have selected Bible as my major rather than
My study of Koine Greek has been valuable in my preaching
and writing. Through private study since, I have increased my
knowledge of Greek significantly.
The Bible classes at ACC were helpful but not really
significant. I already had a good foundation from daily Bible
reading and from Bible classes at Radville Christian College. The
Bible is an inexhaustible source of spiritual nourishment. What I
learned at ACC was only a smidgen compared to what I have
Discussion and conference leadership
A valuable class I took was on discussion and conference
leadership, taught by Milton Copeland. We learned how to chair
and how to participate in decision-making groups, how to
facilitate decisions and how to deal with various types of
participants, for example, people who tend to be against
everything and people who get offended if their ideas are not
We were given a logic test as part of the course. Texts
stating certain facts were provided, on the basis of which various
statements had to be evaluated as true, probably true, not
enough information to know, probably false or false. I asked if I
had done something wrong, since my score was way off the top
of the chart. Milton said, No you just answered more questions
right than those who drew up the test thought was possible! It
was interesting that all the errors of most students were either in
one direction or the other. One student would think things were
probably true or false, when actually they were definitely true or
false, whereas another student would think things were definitely
true or false, when actually they were only probably true or false.
Because I had been careful to take all required subjects first,
I could take three elective courses my last year. I decided to take
psychology and counseling courses.
I appreciated Dr. Max Leach, head of the psychology
department, because he believed, and was not afraid to teach,
that a Christian should not be an active participant in war.
He introduced a general psychology class by saying, If you
notice that I make a mistake, do not hesitate to tell me. The
combined knowledge of this class is greater than my knowledge! I
know some things, however, that most of you do not know, and
we will be discussing those things as much as possible!
One day a student said, Brother Leach, when we drove by
your house the other day, you had your nose in the grass, and
you stayed that way for a long time! He replied, Have you never
In a class on personal counseling taught by Dr. Paul Southern, a student would slightly pull down one of the roll-down maps at the front of the room before brother Southern entered the room. He would notice it and fix it. The student did this many times, and each time brother Southern would fix it. If he ever realized it was being done on purpose, he did not show it.
I had much respect for brother Southern. He was biblically sound without being fanatical. He was scholarly, yet his sermons and classes were easy for everyone to understand. He was dignified, but not haughty. His New Testament in Survey and his doctor’s dissertation on the use of the Greek presposition KATA are in the Old Paths Archive: Works by Paul Southern.
There was an active group of Canadians at the school. Since
I had studied in Canada, I participated, and gatherings were
sometimes held at our house.
During my Senior year, Blenus Wright, a prelaw student,
was leader. (He became a judge with the Ontario Court of Justice
on April 15, 1991 and served until June 2, 2009. Blenus passed
away on June 6, 2017.)
Two evangelistic efforts in Canada were being planned. One
group was making plans to move to Port Arthur - Fort William,
Ontario after graduation, find employment, and establish a church
Evangelistic campaign to Western Canada
Another group, of which I was a part, spent many hours
during the 1960-1961 school year planning, raising funds and
making preparations to help with two evangelistic campaigns in
Western Canada. The Hillcrest congregation in Abilene provided
oversight. US participants were of course also welcome.
Since we were not scheduled to leave for British Columbia
until several weeks after school was out, Jimmie Roden and I decided
to sell Bibles for two weeks. Actually, I sold almost as much during those two
weeks as I had sold the whole summer before! Maybe it helped
that I knew it was only a temporary ordeal!
This is the car I used for the campaign. Jimmie Roden, Mary
Morren and Audrey Wright rode with me. Blenus had decided to
go on a campaign to London, England and to skip the campaign in
My car did not have much power and was heavily loaded.
Jimmie Roden said it had two speeds, uphill and downhill!
The trip took several days, so at night we rented two rooms,
one for the girls and one for the boys, but requested that they be
side by side for security reasons. At one motel they
misunderstood our intentions and gave us a suite! We clarified
the matter and got two rooms as requested.
We had an excellent month-long campaign at Salmon Arm,
BC where Lynn Anderson was preaching. They had just put up a
prefab, log building that was not finished. So first they wanted us
to help finish the building! We varnished the exterior and laid tile
in four classrooms.
Participants at Salmon Arm were Manly Gilpin from Moose
Jaw, Saskatchewan; Jack Close from Winnipeg, Manitoba; Mary
Morren from Barrie, Ontario; Jimmie Roden from Hubbard, Texas;
Eugene Craig from Highlands, California, and Roy Davison. There was also a group of
seven brethren from Glendale, California who had come with Paul
Harper who preached for the gospel meetings in the evening.
Extensive advertising was done for the meeting via leaflets,
newspaper and radio. We went door-to-door to enroll children for
the Vacation Bible School. Although the congregation had less
than 20 members, we had an average of 103 children in the VBS.
Four were baptized during the meeting and ten home Bible
studies were arranged. After the campaign Gene Craig remained
to help with followup. Lynn Anderson had to be away for a
gospel meeting elsewhere.
None of the girls wanted to teach the youngest children! So
Gene Craig volunteered and did a good job. It was too hot to
close the door, so to keep the toddlers from escaping, Gene
blocked off the door with a big box. One day he was sitting on the
floor making a cow of clay. One little boy commented, You forgot
the tits. The children were pasting trees on a sheet of paper.
Another boy slapped Gene on the back and said, There’s a tree
on your back!
We had planned one day at the end of the month for rest
and recreation. Brother and Sister Armstrong invited us to their
cabin on Shuswap Lake, which is shaped like an H and has 700
miles of shoreline! It is fed by snow from the mountains. Gene
and I decided to row the mile across the lake and climb the
mountain on the other side. We made the mistake of trying to
come down a different way, ended up at the top of a cliff, and
had to make a long detour to get back down. At one point I said
to Gene, I am so tired that I can’t go another step. He replied,
But you have to. I learned two things that day: (1) never try to
go down a different way on an unfamiliar mountain; (2) you can
keep going even when you can’t, if you must.
The mountain across the lake is the one we climbed. The cliff in the middle of the picture is the one we had to skirt when we tried to come down a different way.
They were worried about us because it was so late, so sent a
motorboat across the lake to look for us. We were very relieved
that we did not have to row that mile back across the lake.
Brother Armstrong provided T-bone steaks for everyone, so
large they would not fit on a plate! I am usually a light eater, but
I ate the whole thing!
Louie Armstrong is the tall brother at the back in this picture of the Salmon Arm congregation in 1961.
The Armstrongs told us about their baptism into Christ (Galatians 3:27).
Brother Armstrong was an insurance salesman, and a member of
the million dollar roundtable. You must sell a million dollars’ worth
of insurance a year to be a member. He had been very active in
the Baptist church for many years. But some members of the
church of Christ in Glendale, California had irritated him because
they suggested that he was not yet a Christian because he had
not been baptized according to the Scriptures. The Baptist church
does not baptize for the forgiveness of sins.
So Brother Armstrong decided he would make a thorough
study of salvation when they went to their cabin in BC during the
summer. Sister Armstrong said she remembered the day when,
after he had been studying for two weeks, he suddenly jumped
up from the table and said, It says it right there: Be baptized
for the remission of sins! His Bible was open to Acts 2:38. He
paced around the room for a while, picked up his Bible, looked at
it, laid it down, and paced some more. The next day they drove
seven hundred miles to the nearest church of Christ they knew
about, and were baptized into Christ. Brother Armstrong said he
had known that verse by heart for many years, but had never
noticed what it actually said!
I decided to drive to Alberta through the Rockies. Most
people went through the States via better roads. The all-Canada
route included 150 miles of gravel road. The Trans-Canada
highway had not yet been completed. It was a beautiful drive, but
very bumpy for that 150 miles. It almost shook the teeth out of
my little car!
Next we helped with a month-long evangelistic campaign at
Edmonton, Alberta. Gerald Fruizia was preaching there. And
guess what they wanted us to do first. Help finish their
classrooms and build benches! Jimmie Roden joked, Maybe next
year we should conduct a campaign to finish buildings!
Pictured above are Gerald Fruizia, Mary Morren, Barrie, Ontario;
Audrey and Blenus Wright, Toronto, Ontario; Jimmie Roden, Hubbard, Texas;
Maureen Knight, Meaford, Ontario; Roy Davison and Ron Zavitz, Toronto, Ontario.
An amusing incident was that Mary Morren had insisted,
when guidelines were being drawn up, that no dating be allowed
between members of the group during the campaigns. She may
have wished she had not made that rule, because at Edmonton
she became interested in Ron Zavitz! But their not dating during the
campaign did not prevent them from getting married eventually!
Once again mass advertising was done and we went door-to-door
enrolling children for the VBS. There was an average of 201
in attendance for the VBS and 260 were present at the closing
exercise. A gospel meeting was held from August 11th - 18th on the theme
The church of 20 centuries with preaching by H. R. Little
of Houston, Texas.
Looking for a place to preach
After the campaign at Edmonton I went to Saskatchewan
where I knew many people and where I thought I might find a
place to preach for a year or two before going to Holland. I
wanted some experience preaching in English before preaching in
another language. I also still had to prove to myself that I could
make a living! I had depended on my parents’ help so far!
This had also prevented me from forming a serious
relationship with a view to marriage because I thought: How can
I be thinking of forming a family when, so far, I have not even
taken care of myself?
I visited with Jim Williams at Saskatoon and accompanied
him on a visit to the Red Pheasant Indian Reserve where a
congregation was meeting. We visited in the home of Chief Wuttunee.
Then I went to Weyburn where Western Christian College
was having a lectureship and shareholders’ meeting in November.
I spoke with Rita for a few minutes at the lectureship and
told her how sorry I was that she had lost her husband. She was
visiting her sister and brother-in-law in
Regina, Betty and Wayne Kemp. That is when I saw Stuart for the
first time who was one year old. I had no idea that seven years
later he would be my son!
An amazing thing happened at the lectureship. Otis
Gatewood was present to give a lecture. They had a panel
discussion on mission work with several Canadian brethren on the
stage, most of whom had never been overseas. Brother
Gatewood was left sitting in the audience! He was one of the
most experienced and knowledgeable men in the brotherhood in
the field of missions! I was flabbergasted!
Miss Torkelson encouraged me to be involved in the future of
the school but I told her that I planned to go to Europe in a year
or two, so would be too far away to contribute much.
I visited with Cecil Bailey and his family who were still
hurting from the events that led to Cecil’s no longer being a
teacher at the school. I invited Betty Bailey to go with me to
Radville to visit Janice Mooney. They both were in my graduating
class at WCC. I viewed them as two of the finest Christian young
women in the world! The husbands the Lord later gave them were
I asked J.C. Bailey where I might find a place to preach. He
said he knew of nothing in Saskatchewan but that Windsor,
Ontario was looking for a preacher. His son, John Bailey, had
preached there for a year but had left to continue his education.
J.C. added, Windsor wants a Canadian, but since you went to
Western, you might get in under the wire!
I went to Windsor and preached for them one Sunday. At a
meeting in the evening I explained that I would want to
emphasize personal evangelism. I was instructed to go to the
home of one of the elders at 10 o’clock on Monday morning to
learn their decision. Brother Bruce was at work but his wife
opened the door and told me they had decided not to have me
come. After I came to Europe, the Windsor congregation helped
with our support.
From Windsor I went to Beamsville to ask Eugene Perry if he
knew of a congregation looking for a preacher. He and Evelyn
were very hospitable and invited me to stay in their home for a
few days. Eugene said that Sarnia, Ontario was looking for
someone but he also explained, They cannot provide full
support, but since you are single, you might be able to get by on
what they can pay.
I also visited with Geoff Ellis, who was president of Great
Lakes Christian College at Beamsville. He showed me around the
campus and told me about the school. GLCC is a Christian high school
in Ontario similar to the former WCC in Saskatchewan.
Arrangements were made for me to visit Sarnia.
Preaching at Sarnia, Ontario
Christians really are the most wonderful people in the world!
A royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own special people (1
Peter 2:9). The Lord could not have given me a better
congregation as the first place for me to preach full time.
This picture was taken in the summer of 1962
After hearing me preach on November 18, 1961 the brethren decided that they wanted
me to work with them. They could provide $50 a week support.
I was paying my car off at $50 a month. I would not have
enough to operate a car, so I arranged to leave my car in the
US in the garage of Bill Smart in Port Huron,
Michigan, just across the river.
The brethren wanted me to preach only once each Sunday and
one of the men in the congregation would preach for the other
service. That corresponded exactly with my own conviction that
it is better for a congregation if more than one brother does the
I told them that I planned to be there only one year because I
wanted to go to Holland as a missionary.
It took me a while to find suitable housing. First I rented a
room in a boarding house. The woman in the next room
watched wrestling on TV until late at night and cheered for her
favorite wrestler with loud exclamations such as, Kill him!
Knock him down! Don’t let him up! I stayed there only a week
until I found a better room!
Sister Hibbard senior in the congregation rented out rooms in
the house she had formerly lived in, so I was first able to rent a
room there. Later, when a small one-roomed apartment in
that house became available, I was able to rent that. It was
ideal. Actually, it had been the back porch of the house! It had
a bathroom and shower, kitchen facilities, a bed and a desk.
Everything I needed! And it was quiet.
I visited all the members.
I first visited all the homes to get acquainted. The congregation
was made up of some of the most loving people I have ever
known! There were a few doctrinal disagreements caused by a
false teacher who had been there previously, but the prevailing
love had enabled them to make compromises to preserve
When I visited an elderly couple who had moved to Canada
from the United States, the brother pointed to something in his
driveway and said, I bet you don’t know what that is! I
replied, Well, it looks like a hydraulic ram. He was surprised
that I knew what a hydraulic ram is.
I kept track of how I spent my time and made a report to the
monthly men’s meeting. One brother exclaimed, Why you
work as many hours as we do!
I budgeted $5 per week for food. I went shopping on Monday,
cooked my meals for the whole week, and froze a meal for
Most of the families in the congregation invited me to their
homes for meals on many occasions.
Bob and Wadene Adams would often invite me to their house
for dinner after services on Sunday.
I learned much from them by observing their loving
family relations, and I was included in the family!
I was able to set up home Bible studies and through them
several were baptized including the husband of
one of the members, Andy McNeil, who was baptized on June 7th.
I arranged to take Dutch lessons from a school teacher who
had come to Canada from Holland.
Now where do you find that in be Bible?
After I made a certain statement in the adult Bible class I was
teaching, one of the older brethren asked with a nice smile,
Now where do you find that in the Bible? I said I did not
recall, but would investigate it. I discovered that what I had
said is not in the Bible. So I acknowledged my error the next
Excellent children’s Bible classes
Brother Ralph Perry who was preaching at London, Ontario had
conducted a training series at Sarnia to teach the sisters how to
improve their children’s Bible classes.
The parents of young children decided they wanted to have
children’s classes during the week as well as on Sunday
morning. They wanted to do this on Friday nights because the
children did not have school the next day, but some of the
older brethren wanted to continue having midweek services on
Wednesday nights. So they compromised and had midweek
services on Wednesday nights and children’s classes on Friday
nights! I taught the teenage class.
ACC Lectureship - April 17-20, 1962
In April the brethren allowed me to go to the ACC spring
lectureship. Alvin Jennings, who was preaching at Montreal,
Quebec, was driving down and had asked if I would like to go
along and help with driving.
My parents lived in Abilene so I was able to see them. I
enjoyed visiting with several former classmates from
Saskatchewan who had also gone to the lectures.
This picture was taken at my parents’ house.
Back row: Laveena MacLeod, Janice Mooney, Jean Harkness and Betty Bailey.
Front row: Roy Davison, Jelsing Bailey who was studying at ACC, and Greg Close.
Ray Jacobs at Sarnia.
Ray Jacobs came to Sarnia in February of 1962 to work as a store manager. On Saturday, May 19th, I rode with him on a quick trip to Ottawa, Ontario (the capital of Canada) where we saw the tulips in bloom. The queen of Holland had lived in Canada during the German occupation of World War II. After the war she sent a large number of tulip bulbs as thanks, and since then beautiful tulips bloom in Ottawa each spring.
On Sunday morning, May 20th, I preached for the church in Ottawa.
In the afternoon a chorus from GLCC sang and in the evening we had
supper with Ron Zavitz. We visited with Ron Zavitz and the
Roy Merritts on Monday and then drove back to Sarnia Monday evening.
Omagh Bible Camp
From July 8th to August 5th, Bob Adams of Sarnia directed the
Omagh Bible Camp at Omagh, Ontario. During the first two weeks,
I taught a daily Bible class for young teenagers.
At Omagh I met a fine young Christian lady who was secretary
to the president at GLCC. I dated and corresponded with her
for a while but finally decided that she was not the one for me.
I felt bad about it because she was dating someone else when I
first showed an interest in her, and it was many years before
she found someone.
The miracle arm man
The first part of August in 1962 a faith healer, Leroy Jenkins,
set up a big tent outside Sarnia and conducted healing
services. Supposedly his arm had been chopped off when he
was a boy but by prayer it had been stuck back on, and after
that he could heal people with that arm!
I went one evening but stood at the back. I was asked to either
sit down or leave, so I went outside the tent. Two reporters
had also been asked to leave because the girl was wearing
pedal pushers rather than a dress. When I asked them what
they thought of the proceedings they were cagy until I told
them I was a preacher for the church of Christ and did not
agree with what Mr. Jenkins was doing. I suggested that they
could provide a great service to the city if they would just
observe and describe what they saw.
The next day an excellent news item appeared in The Sarnia Observer. They described an instance where Mr. Jenkins had pronounced a man eternally healed but that he hobbled off the stage afterwards obviously no different from when he had hobbled on!
They also reported that although Mr. Jenkins claimed he
received only $200 a month, he drove a new Cadillac, so must
really know how to budget his money!
I knew the newspaper would get flak from Pentecostals in the
city, so I wrote the following letter to the editor and walked to
the post office in the middle of the night to be sure they would
get it the next morning.
They published excerpts from a few negative letters and then
printed my letter in full:
I want to commend Mr. Neil Reynolds for his good reporting in
his article ‘Fervor Goes Hand In Hand With The Miracle Arm
As was complained at the big tent, only one of the religious
groups in town was willing to sponsor Mr. Jenkins’ big show.
This is no wonder, for I am sure that Jesus does not approve
of the spectacle either.
The healing of Christ was done as inconspicuously as possible.
In Luke 8:56 Jesus told the parents of a girl He had raised from
the dead (and there is a challenge for Mr. Jenkins if he really
has the power of God) that they should tell no one what was
Also, we have no record of Jesus asking for money. I can’t
quite picture Him passing buckets around after one of His
healings. And, do you really suppose that Jesus would drive a
1961 Cadillac convertible if He were here today?
There is a power behind Mr. Jenkins, all right. But I am afraid
that it is not the power of God. And I feel sorry most for those
who are honestly deceived.
The next night Mr. Jenkins accused me of trying to run him out of town, but assured the audience of about 3000 people that he was going to stay. And to prove that he was not interested in money, he announced that God had told him not to take up a collection that particular evening. (He resumed collections the next night.) In the next three services he repeated criticisms of the church of Christ and said it was a dead church and that he was going to attend next Sunday and put some life into our services! We had one visitor who came just to see if he would keep his word, which he of course did not do!
An elderly man who roomed across the hall from me said he
had gone to the healing meeting. I asked if he had been
healed. He said, No, I went for my leg. He grabbed my
walking stick, broke it over his knee and told me I would not
need that anymore! I asked, Did your leg get better? He
said, No. All I got was a broken walking stick! And it was an
expensive one too!
When one of the brethren went to an office supply store
downtown the owner said, You are a member of the church of
Christ aren’t you? I want to commend you because your
preacher was the only one in this city who dared speak out
against that man!
Vacation Bible School
I directed a summer vacation Bible school at Sarnia from
August the 13th to the 18th with an average attendance of 139. My parents,
Bessie and Charles Davison, and my sister, Sandy, came to help.
Seven were baptized during the week.
My father would close his business during the summer months
and help with vacation Bible schools in the north. That summer
they helped at Minot, North Dakota; Nelson, Wisconsin; and in
Ontario at Sault Ste. Marie, Sundridge, Huntsville and Sarnia.
Once a month while I was in Sarnia I presented a Bible reading on Sunday evening rather than a sermon. Readings included: In the beginning, Abraham - the friend of God, Job, Moses - the servant of the Lord, David - a man after God’s own heart, Ecclesiastes, The Life of Christ, Acts of the Apostles, Our beloved brother Paul, and Revelation. From Sunday October 21st through Sunday the 28th I presented these ten Bible readings at the congregation in Beamsville, Ontario.
Three-week gospel meeting
Beginning on Sunday, November 4th we conducted a gospel meeting for three weeks. There was a different speaker each week: Harold Hawley, Ray Miller and Ralph Perry. The theme was, What does the Bible say? Average attendance was 59 and more than 30 different outsiders came.
On two Saturdays, a group from Michigan Christian College came to help
distribute advertising and knock on doors inviting people to attend.
Lunch and supper were provided in the basement of the building for
those who came.
My last Sunday in Sarnia was December 30, 1962. After I left,
the brethren placed this news item in the Gospel Herald:
We, the church in Sarnia, were fortunate to have Brother Roy Davison work with us for about fifteen months beginning in November, 1961. Roy has a deep knowledge of God’s word and shows much wisdom in using this knowledge. Although he is still a very young man he has shown us a wonderful example of Christian living and dedication to Christ. As he left us on December 30 to begin making plans to enter the mission field in Holland in April, there was sadness in the hearts of many. May God bless him in the work for the Master.
During the year 1962 there were nine baptisms in Sarnia including seven young people during our vacation Bible school. Brother Andy McNeill was also baptized during the summer and Allan Redmond was baptized December 30th while in Sarnia on a visit. Allan is a nephew of Brother and Sister Ralph Hibbard and attends the Strathmore congregation in Toronto.
The Aubrey Hibbard family, Charity Hibbard (Aubrey's mother), Roy Davison & Vilma Brown
The Ralph Hibbard family and Charity Hibbard (Ralph's mother)
After I went to Holland, the Sarnia congregation started
contributing to my support and continued to do so for many years.
Many of the brethren who were there then, have gone to be
with the Lord. I look forward to a glad reunion with them after
this life is over!
A car with a smokestack
The heater in my English Ford was not designed for Canadian winters. More heat was needed for a trip from Sarnia to Saskatchewan in the middle of winter! I bought a little kerosine space heater with a round wick and had a tinsmith make a cap and stovepipe for it. The right front seat folded completely under the dashboard, so the stove stood beside me and the pipe went back and out the side sliding window that was closed off with a piece of flat tin. I failed to have a damper installed in the pipe, so there was too much draft while driving but it did provide some extra heat. And when the car was stopped it was as warm as toast in there, even if it was 20 below outside! If I should get stuck in a blizard, I could keep warm. When I came out of a restaurant after a meal, a whole group of men would be gathered around my car!
On my way west I stopped at Michigan Christian College to talk with Otis Gatewood, who was president, to get advice for raising funds. In Europe, many years later, when Otis was speaking where I was present he said, Roy Davison is the only man I ever knew who had a smokestack on his car! But here he is in Europe and he seems to be doing a good job!
Seeking support to go to Holland
The congregation at Utrecht, Holland had invited me to come
and work with them to assist brother Dan Boyd who was a
missionary there at the time. [Danny Douglass Boyd, October 18, 1933 - June 11, 2009.] Christians had started meeting in
Utrecht in 1952 and they had a Sunday attendance of about 25.
I left Sarnia after morning worship on December 30th. That evening I spoke at Windsor, Ontario on behalf of the Dutch work. On Wednesday evening, January 2, 1963, I spoke at the Strathmore congregation in Toronto. On Thursday evening I spoke at Fern Avenue and on Friday evening at Bayview, also in Toronto.
From January 6th - 13th I gave the series of ten Bible readings at Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario and from January 20th - 27th I gave the same series at Weyburn, Saskatchewan. My sister, Sandy, was in school at WCC. I also told these two congregations about my proposed work in Holland. In time the brethren in Weyburn would become our most faithful supporters. First a few ladies in the congregation started helping personally, and later the congregation decided to start helping. I was a member of the Weyburn congregation the first year it met.
From Weyburn I headed south, visiting congregations where I knew
someone. I was naive enough to think I could raise support in three
months and go to Holland in April of 1963. It turned out
otherwise. At the end of February I had spoken to sixteen
congregations about the Holland work and had promise of only
$20 a month regular support.
A providential visit
Seeking support to go to Holland, I visited a congregation in
Kansas where I knew the brethren because I had sold Bibles
there. They agreed to provide $10 per month support if I could
find a sponsoring congregation. I never did, so they discontinued
their support when I arrived in Holland.
From there I was going to Abilene, Texas where my parents lived, and a sister in that congregation asked to ride with me to visit her daughter in Abilene. Because I did not understand a certain situation, I said something, however, that offended her, and she decided not to ride with me after all!
If she had gone with me, I would have driven straight to Abilene. Since I was alone, I decided to go via Mulvane, Kansas and visit Rita Hamm (nee Lewis), a former schoolmate from Radville Christian College. She had been a widow for two years and had a son, Stuart Jay, who was three. We visited as friends for a couple of hours and I went on my way. But I did notice that she was an extremely attractive young woman!
Rita and Cliff
Rita Lewis attended ACC for the spring semester of 57-58. She then transferred to York College in Nebraska where she sang in the chorus and in a girls’ quartet, and was in drama.
At York she met a young man by the name of Clifford Hamm who was planning to become a preacher. Cliff and Rita were married by Rita’s father, Marion Lewis, on August 21, 1959 at Livingston, Montana, Rita’s home town. After Cliff completed his schooling, he was hired to preach for the church in Mulvane, Kansas.
On Tuesday, July 11, 1961 Cliff, Rita and Stuart (who was ten months old) went on an outing to Lake Afton. Although he could not swim, Cliff decided to go wading. He did not know that there was a deep hole near the shore. He stepped into it and was swept into the lake by an undercurrent. An experienced swimmer had drowned there a year earlier because of the undercurrent, yet the area had not been marked as dangerous.
Cliff was only 22 years old. His funeral was held at the building of the church of Christ in Isabel, Kansas where many of his relatives attended. He was buried at Cairo Cemetery near Pratt, Kansas. Cliff was born at Pratt, Kansas on October 11, 1938 and passed away on July 11, 1961.
Rita and Stuart continued living in Mulvane until 1965. The
congregation showed Rita much love during that difficult time,
especially Bertie and Ray Ramsey.
In 1965 Rita and Stuart moved to Lubbock, Texas where Rita
was employed as secretary to the Dean at Lubbock Christian
Potential support that fell through
From Abilene I went to visit a congregation in east Texas where
the elders agreed that they would provide support if I would
visit each member of the congregation and see if they would be
willing to increase their contribution to help cover my support.
This went well and various ones were happy that the congregation was going to support mission work, which they had not done before. A significant amount had been promised, but when I visited one of the deacons, he blew his stacks! He said that if the elders wanted the congregation to give for missions, they should visit the members themselves and not send someone else around to do so! He caused such a stink that the whole project fell through.
A young couple in the congregation, Brother and Sister Larry Speers, offered to mail out reports for me at their own expense and did so for several years.
Chart I used when seeking support.
I must be one of the world’s worst fund raisers. I visited many congregations, and some of them gave onetime donations toward travel fund, but very little regular support was found.
One elder told me point blank that he did not think I was qualified to be a missionary. He no doubt was right, but I recalled that David was not qualified to fight Goliath either, and I was depending on help from the same God who helped him. I did not impress people as a dynamic, powerful preacher I guess.
I had hoped to find support in three months and go to Holland in April of 1963. In June, after six months, I had contacted over 200 congregatons, spoken to 35 in Canada, Michigan, Kansas, Texas, Arizona and California and I had promise of $70 a month support!
I was discouraged and when visiting my parents in Abilene I asked Carl Spain, who was preaching at the Hillcrest congregation, and for whom I had great respect, if I could speak with him.
My parents had sold their house and were living in a trailer.
Visiting my parents,
Carl Spain, June 1963.
Brother Spain came by the trailer and we had a talk. He asked how much promise of support I had and if I had travel fund. I had enough for a ticket to Holland. Many congregations are willing to give a small lump sum before they send you on your way! Brother Spain said, Well, why don’t you just go on to Holland. Maybe the Lord will provide what you need after you get there. I was not quite ready to take that advice yet, but I kept it in mind.
I went to Houston so I could take a concentrated course in Dutch from the Berlitz language school. I took a Dutch lesson every day and tried to find support from area congregations.
One congregation had lost many of their members because their building was not air-conditioned, so they had just spent much money on air-conditioning and on more comfortable seats. Their budget was full.
One of the elders of another congregation said they were looking for a place where they could be in charge of all the mission work in a whole country! I had to do some mission work on the spot and explain why such would not be scriptural. Other workers were already in Holland supported by various congregations, so it would not be possible for them to be in charge of all the mission work in Holland, nor would being in charge of other congregations be right.
I learned about a four-week summer course on mission work at the Harding Graduate School in Memphis, Tennessee so decided to enroll. Wendell Broom, who had been in Africa; George Gurganus, who had been in Japan; and Otis Gatewood, who had preached in Europe, were teachers. I gained many valuable insights.
While in Memphis I had the privilege of hearing Marshall Keeble speak for the second time. He baptized 40,000 people during his lifetime. You can find information about him and listen to some of his sermons here. He told a group of preacher students that it is important how the gospel is presented. He said, If you go to the meat market to get a pound of hamburger, you don’t want the man to just stick his hand in the hamburger and splat in on the counter! You want him to wrap it up first. It’s the same with the gospel, you need to wrap it up so people can take it home with them!
From Memphis I went to visit my parents who had moved from Abilene, Texas to Burlington, Vermont.
This picture was taken at Burlington, Vermont shortly before I went to Holland.
An agreement with my brother
I decided to take Carl Spain’s advice and just go on to Holland. I did not think it was responsible to go, however, if I might not have enough to live on! My brother Dale was working to save money to go back to school. I made an agreement with him that if I did not have enough, he would loan me money and I would come back after a year and work to repay him so he could go to school.
As it turned out, brother Spain was right. When I got to Holland various brethren I had visited, who had not promised anything, started helping and I had enough to get by. I did not have to borrow anything from Dale! My first five years in Europe I averaged a little less than $200 a month support. Being single, not having a car, and by tightening my belt, I was able to make ends meet.
It was amusing that after a year, a congregation in Toronto wrote to say that they were sorry but they would have to discontinue their $30 a month support. That was strange because they had never sent anything! The letter explained that they had put my support on the end of their budget! But for a whole year they had not been able to get that far down their budget, so had been unable to send anything. Thus they decided to discontinue their support!
Off to Holland
With my brother and mother at the airport
Thus on September 11, 1963 - four days before my 23rd birthday - I flew with KLM from Montreal to Amsterdam. The least expensive ticket I could find was by taking a prop plane KLM was still operating. It took ten hours to fly from Montreal to Amsterdam.
As a way to integrate into Dutch society, I had enrolled at the University of Utrecht to study mathematics. It was helpful but my knowledge of Dutch was not sufficient for me to keep up, so I discontinued those studies after a while.
My room from the balcony. The bed folded down almost to the door.
In Utrecht I rented a student room in the home of a fine Dutch
family. This was an excellent way to become familiar with
Dutch home life (and Dutch frugality). The room was very
small! The single bed folded up against one wall and a desk
folded up against the other wall! The rent included two bread
meals a day with the family, and I ate my warm meals at a
student restaurant that offered good food at low prices by
having only two items on the menu each day, but each day the
items were different.
My fund-raising ordeal illustrated
After I had been in Holland for a few months, two different friends, who knew how much trouble I had for nine months trying to raise support, sent me the same Peanuts cartoon!
PEANUTS © 1964 Peanuts Worldwide LLC. Dist. By ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
Ways to learn a language
I viewed my first two years as preparation. The first year, I
averaged 22 hours a week studying Dutch. I had studied Dutch
for two years and had studied Dutch with Berlitz in Houston
each day for three weeks, but I like to joke that when I arrived
in Holland I could understand everything I said in Dutch! But
when the Dutch started speaking Dutch, that was something
else! Yet my Dutch studies prior to coming were extremely
My study of phonetics at ACC was helpful. I had annoyed Sister Clevenger at ACC by writing down all the extra diphthongs and triphthongs of her southern accent when she gave dictation, but although she did not want to admit it, those really were the sounds she was putting in!
Most European languages have about fifty basic sounds. If one learns to form them correctly in the beginning it is helpful. Otherwise you learn everything incorrectly and it is difficult to correct your pronunciation later. The first year I took regular lessons from two speech therapists to master the phonemes of Dutch.
I would prepare a sermon in Dutch and take it to my regular Dutch teacher to have the language corrected. Then I would take the corrected text to the speech therapist and learn how to read it aloud correctly. I took regular Dutch lessons from private teachers the first five years.
Reading the New Testament in Dutch.
Knowing the Bible is extremely helpful in learning another language. When you read the Bible in the new language, you already know what the passage says, so you can figure out many of the words! I read through the New Testament in Dutch during the first six months I was in Holland.
Reading children’s books is also helpful. If you try to read an adult book in the beginning you do not know enough of the words to fill in the blanks from the context. But children’s books use a limited vocabulary and usually deal with concrete situations, so you can enjoy reading the story and figure out the meaning of new words as you go along!
I became a member of a children’s library and would stand in line with the little kids to check out my books!
Learning a language is tiring! Your brain must work at full capacity trying to figure out the meaning of words from the context. I found that I needed ten hours of sleep the first year when I spent so much time in language study.
I also enjoyed going to plays to learn Dutch. They are better than films because real people are speaking, and since they are using stage diction, the words are easier to understand than everyday speech.
It takes about two years to gain a rough working knowledge of a new language and about five years to be able to say just about anything you want to say fluently.
Lifetime dedication is needed for world evangelism.
Much mission work has been done on a tour-of-duty basis, with people going to the mission field not even intending to stay for more than four or five years! This is ridiculous, especially if one must learn a new language. It is as if a medical student would say, I only plan to be an MD for a few years, then I’ll do something else. Of course many flunk out of medical school. And it is also difficult to adjust to another culture, so it is no dishonor if one discovers that he is not able to adapt to another country. But the goal ought to be to serve on the mission field for life.
Brother W. N. Short went to Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) as a missionary in November of 1921 and served there for 59 years until his death in 1980. In 1962 I had the privilege of meeting him in Michigan on one of his few trips to the States.
William Newton Short (1894-1980), Nancy A’Delia Short (1896-1982)
Will and Delia Short before they went to Africa in 1921
Will and Delia Short around 1970
After I was in Holland I wrote brother Short a letter and received this
Dear Brother Davison,
Your letter received some time ago, too long ago. What with company and work - but no need to offer excuses.
J.D. Merritt came to Africa in 1926 and is still here. S.D. Garrett came to Africa in 1930 and is still here. O.D. Bixler went to Japan in 1919 and is still there. Myself, came to Africa in 1921, still here, and hope to be the remainder of my life.
What is mission work? Is it a job, working for some concern? Is it a pleasure trip? Is it a holiday occasion? Or is it a life work for the Master to save souls?
Brother Sherriff came to Africa in 1897 and stayed here until his death. He did not have to run home every two years, making the excuse ‘health’. The wife and I stayed on the field for 17 years without a break. Brother and Sister Scott stayed 20 years before he went back home. Then he returned to Africa and stayed until he was 80 when he passed away.
People are always saying, But you must get away every two or three years for health. I do not believe it. I believe that is only an excuse to get away.
Even in Nigeria where we are told you must get away every two years, I do not believe that either. Mary Slessher stayed there forty years without a break doing mission work.
Certainly if I do not have any interest in saving souls, two years is long enough, or five, or seven. But if I am interested in the souls that are lost, why should I try to run home every few years to save my earthly life? What do I love most? Earthly pleasures, my life, mother, father, children, possessions, worldly profit? Is that what I prize most? Or our Lord Jesus Christ and lost souls?
Certainly I know a few individuals are exceptions. But when these exceptions include three-quarters of the workers, there is something wrong.
The statement you heard, that five to seven years is as long as a man can do effective work is not true. The ripe years of a man’s life are some of the most powerful.
And why run home just because I might die on the field? Do people not die in the homeland? Is that a guarantee that I will live?
The task before us is tremendous. Then let us be at it, and stay at it, until the Lord calls us home. If we do not, I fear that dreadful sentence may be ours: Depart from me, I never knew you.
Wherever the Lord calls a man, there let him labor for the Master until his laboring days are done.
Please excuse the pen, my typewriter refused to work any longer.
May the Lord bless you abundantly.
In Christ, W.N. Short
May brother Short’s letter encourage others to dedicate their lives to world evangelism!
First sermon in Dutch
At the end of December 1963, three months after arriving, I preached my first sermon in Dutch. It was written out and read, after having been corrected by my language teacher. Within the next couple of months I preached the same sermon at two other congregations.
With much help to perfect the Dutch, I also wrote an eighteen week series of newspaper articles. Several visitors attended after reading the articles.
Gospel meeting in January
In January 1964 Gary Adams from The Hague preached a series of gospel messages in Utrecht. No mass advertising was done, but the members were encouraged to invite family and acquaintances. On the last evening 28 were present, half of whom were visitors.
An English language congregation near Utrecht
While I was at Utrecht there were several families stationed at a nearby NATO air base who could not understand the services in Dutch. In addition to my help with the Dutch congregation I started helping them conduct services in English in a school near the base.
In October of 1964 we rented a church building
near the base for a week and invited Bob Wilkerson from Basel,
Switzerland to conduct a gospel meeting. I put together an audio
system using headphones, and Dan Boyd translated the lessons
simultaniously into Dutch.
In the fall of 1964, one year after arriving, I began preaching in Dutch every other week in addition to working with the English-language congregation.
Preaching in Utrecht was shared by Dan Boyd, Cor Van Ewijk and Roy Davison
Most Sundays I was in Utrecht, Cor and Jetske Van Ewijk would invited me home for dinner. I enjoyed the children and the cosy, home atmosphere.
Cor and Jetske Van Ewijk and their children
A trip to Ostend, Belgium
My original intention had been to be in Utrecht for two years as a period of training, and then establish a new congregation at Rotterdam, a city of one million with no church. I conducted home Bible studies with some people in Rotterdam hoping they might become Christians to form a nucleus there, but they did not accept the Word. Now, fifty years later there is still no congregation in Rotterdam, although some Christians did meet there for a time until they emigrated.
From March 17th through the 24th, 1964 I made a trip to Ostend in the Flemish (Dutch) speaking part of Belgium to meet the Christians there.
In June of 1960 they had studied their way out of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and wanted to simply be Christians. One of the men saw a French magazine ad placed by Christians in Paris that said, The Bible is neither Catholic nor Protestant! You can be a Christian without being either Catholic or Protestant! That was what they were trying to do!
They were given the address of the church in Brussels and one member of the group went to talk with Hilton Terry. He suggested that they contact brethren in Holland since they were Dutch speaking. Arrangements were made for Bill Richardson to visit Ostend at the end of September and study with them for several days. At that time there were no freeways, so it was a whole day’s journey for Bill to go to Ostend.
The Flemish are extremely independent minded. They had fifteen questions for him when he arrived. They had agreed among themselves that they were not going to let him know what they thought about his answers while he was there because they wanted to study his answers first. The questions were actually test questions! They had already concluded from their Bible study how the questions should be answered!
On three evenings, studies were held from 7:30 p.m. to 2 or 3 a.m. with about twenty present.
Brother Schram said it was hard not to let him know what they thought because he answered every question exactly the way they thought it should be answered! They thanked him for coming and said they might contact him again!
For six weeks he heard nothing from them because to be absolutely sure, they had a Bible study on each of the questions and listened to the recording they made of Bill’s reply. Bill Richardson had a tremendous knowledge of the scriptures. I listened to the tapes myself and he answered each question simply by reading appropriate verses from the Bible.
In November Bill Richardson and Hilton Terry were invited back for two more visits. In December two men from the group visited the church in Brussels to see what the services were like.
It was a teenage girl in the group who first suggested to the others that their baptism by the JWs was not valid because they did not believe in the deity of Christ and did not baptize for the remission of sins. Nine were baptized on January 14, 1961 and started meeting the next day as a church of Christ in the Loontien’s home. In July another lady was baptized and in October four more of the origianl group were baptized.
When I visited them, they were the only congregation meeting in Flanders. About five million people in the north of Belgium speak Flemish which is a form of Dutch. About four million in the south speak French. There were five churches of Christ meeting in the French-speaking part of Belgium.
At the invitation of the brethren in Ostend I began making plans to move there to help them in the fall of 1965.
The sound of music
While in Holland I corresponded with Betty Bailey, a former classmate at WCC. She had gone to Zambia (Northern Rhodesia) in July of 1962 to teach for two years at Namwianga Mission. On her return to Canada in 1964, she said she would be in England for a while and would be going on a bus tour.
I arranged to meet her and was able to visit with her for a couple of days. I took her to a musical in London, The sound of music! On the day she left on the tour, I went with her to the bus and then headed home. On the boat and train from London back to Holland, I was extremely lonely.
Campaign in The Hague
In the fall of 1964 a large-scale evangelistic campaign was conducted in The Hague that resulted in eleven baptisms, which almost doubled the size of the congregation. One of those baptized was Henk Rog who, after studying at the Sunset School of preaching in Lubbock, Texas, has dedicated his life to preaching the gospel in Holland.
Bill Richardson came from the States to preach in a two-week meeting with the theme, Christ, the way to unity. In preparation, two-hundred thousand folders were distrubted in the city of six-hundred thousand people. Large posters were placed throughout the city and large banners were placed at the train station and other strategic locations. I wrote a three-week series of ads that were placed in the three newspapers of the city.
During the week before the meeting and during the two weeks of the meeting, all workers in Holland and two from Belgium made about 9000 house calls inviting people to the meetings.
The first evening 44 were present including 26 visitors. Many of the visitors returned night after night. On the last night 60 were present. There were 50 enrolments in a Bible correspondence course.
Dan Boyd was leaving Utrecht
Dan and Mary Ann Boyd with children
After five years, Dan Boyd decided to return to the States because his wife, Mary Ann, was having health problems. Personally I believe her problems were caused by being cooped up with several small children in an apartment on the fifth floor! If a missionary wants to stay on the field he must provide suitable housing for his family!
It was unfortunate that Dan was leaving because his Dutch was very good. He spoke almost without an accent!
I did not agree, but Dan felt that he should arrange for a full-time Dutch worker when he left. Cor Van Ewijk had studied Bible in the States and other men in the congregation helped with services, so I did not see the need for it.
When Dan first started talking with Henk Kelfkens about supporting him to preach full time, he had not even been attending services regularly! After several years Henk was unfaithful to his wife and left the church. He caused me problems when I went to Ostend because he made negative comments about me to the brethren there. One brother discounted what he said and recognized it as improper, but another brother was influenced by it. The problem was worked out but caused some destress until I won the confidence of the congregation.
A summer in Amsterdam
The first of April 1965 I moved from Utrecht to Amsterdam to work with the church there during the summer while Tom and Dottie Schulz were away to the States.
From July the 25th through August the 6th I was at the Aylesbury Bible school in England. Len Channing had invited me to teach a two-week course entitled NT teaching and preaching. When Phil Slate, who was doing the followup for a Herald of Truth broadcast from a ship in the English Channel, learned that I was going to Flanders, he gave me the name of a good contact in Roeselare.
From August the 9th through the 13th I helped Jim Krumrei conduct a Bible school in Haarlem. Twenty-two young people, nine and older, came from various congregations in Holland and Belgium and stayed in the building. We had Bible classes all morning, recreation in the afternoon and a sermon each evening. Lee and Wil Goodheer served as supervisors.
I moved to Ostend in September of 1965.
On the sea dike at Ostend
Ostend is on the coast across the Channel from Dover, England and had a population of about 70,000. The congregation had fifteen members.
The Ostend congregation
The brethren had found and furnished an apartment for me on the top floor of a large house near the sea. It had to be heated by a coal stove and was rather cold in the winter. There was no running warm water so I took a bath in a washtub after heating a bucket of water on a gas burner. But I had a kitchen, office and bedroom. It was quite nice.
One month, shortly after I moved to Ostend, I received only $30 support. A congregation that had been forwarding funds to me decided to stop doing so, and sent all the checks back asking people to send them directly to me. That was better, actually, but meant that there was a time lag. I bought a bag of dried beans and ate beans for a couple of weeks!
Finding a meeting place
The church had met in homes but the brethren asked me to look for a public meeting place. Many owners did not want to rent to a religious group but the first of December we rented a shop that would seat about forty. It was a good location, behind a Catholic church building and two doors down from the Jewish synagogue! After getting it ready, we met there for the first time on Sunday, February 13, 1966. All expenses for the meeting place were paid by the local church and they contributed $14 a month to my support in 1966.
Evangelistic campaign in Amsterdam
In September of 1966 a campaign was held in Amsterdam similar to the one held in The Hague. I helped with door-to-door work the week before the meeting and during the two weeks of the meeting. Bill Richardson preached on the theme, Christ, the way to unity. I wrote a tract with the same title that was distributed in large numbers.
Evangelism in Ostend
A four-page teaching paper was distributed to all homes in Ostend (28,000) in September of 1966 and in March of 1967. In April of 1967 another distribution was made that included advertising for a weekend meeting held on the 4th and 5th of May.
Jim Krumrei, Roy Davison, Tom Schulz, Bobby Bates, Aad Scharroo, Martin Rozestraten, with Stephen Schulz in front.
These brethren from Holland (shown standing in front of the meeting place) helped with door-to-door work the week before the meeting.
Aad Scharroo presented two lessons: Christ, the only head of His church and The oldest church, the church of Christ. Len Channing from Aylesbury, England showed slides of his trip to the holy land after each lesson. There were four visitors the first night and seven the second.
Assembly on the first night of the meeting
The School of the Bible
Don Taylor and I opperated The School of the Bible in Verviers, Belgium for three years, from 1967 to 1970. It was a worthwhile project, but we never had the funding we needed and when the Taylors returned to the States it was impossible to continue.
Don and Virginia Taylor with their children
Robert Limb from England, who studied Bible and French at the school, has since spent his life preaching the gospel in Paris! I pray that all the students and staff were blessed. For the record I will give a brief history of the school.
In the spring of 1965 when I visited Verviers I noticed that within easy driving distance there were preachers who spoke four languages: French, German, Dutch and English. I concluded that Verviers would be a good location for a multi-lingual Bible school. After discussing this with Don Taylor who was preaching in Verviers, we decided to investigate the possibility.
We learned that the preachers in the area would be willing to help and a tentative plan was drawn up. We wanted to learn more about other training programs in Europe and to get feedback from brethren in the various language areas.
The first part of 1966 I made several trips to gather information. In February I visited Glen Boyd to learn about Peperdine’s program at Heidelberg. In April I visited Reiner Kallus in Wiesbaden to learn about a school he had conducted previously. Then I visited the two schools in Italy. I spoke with Harold Paden and Fausto Salvoni about the Bible Chair in Milan and with Earl Edwards about the Florence Bible School. I also visited Joe Gibbs in Torino who had been director of the Florence Bible School for seven years. In May I visited Bob Eubanks, Wayne Harris and Bent Hensen in Denmark. On the way back I went to Berlin to speak with Richard Walker and Betty Roemer about the proposed school.
Taking the suggestions of brethren throughout Europe into account, plans were made in the summer of 1966 to open the school in the fall of 1967. Don Taylor would be director of the school and head of the French Bible department, Jack Nadeau in Cologne would head the German Bible department and I would co-ordinate the Dutch and English Bible departments. Bible and preacher training courses would be offered in German, French and Dutch. John Murphree would head a nine-month mission training course in English for people planning to work in Europe. Language instruction would be offered as needed for students who attended. The meeting place of the Verviers congregation would be used for larger gatherings and a large house with sixteen rooms was rented for the school.
In making plans I failed to consider the consequences of the short-term commitment of many American missionaries. In less than five years, three of the men who agreed to help with the school were no longer in Europe.
During a trip to the US from December 66 to March 67 I spoke to students at Christian Colleges about the School’s mission training program. I spoke at LCC, ACC, Harding, Freed-Hardeman and Lipscomb.
The first academic year I went from Roeselare to Verviers by train to teach two days a week, going on Tuesday morning and returning on Wednesday evening. I used the three and a half-hour train ride each way to study. I taught Bible and Greek in English, and taught English to French-speaking students. After I was married in 1968, I went back and forth on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Don Taylor taught Bible in French and English, and taught French to English-speaking students. Virginia Taylor cooked for the school and was in charge of buying supplies.
Mary and Ron Zavitz and their daughter, Lenora
During the 69-70 school year, Ron and Mary Zavitz from Canada were a great help, serving as supervisors and cooks for the school. Their children, Lenora, Timothy and Sylvia were also with them.
Don Daugherty translating a lecture into French
In February of 1968 a yearly five-day lectureship was launched at the school called Concentration. Each day there were five 45 minute lectures in which teachers from throughout Europe and from the US presented concentrated advanced teaching on their topic. Each evening a different speaker gave a lecture. The lessons were presented in English and simultaneous translation over headphones was available when needed in French, German and Dutch. Among the speakers during the first few years were Leon Crouch, Everett Ferguson, Andrew Gardiner, Otis Gatewood, Jim McGuiggan, Jack McKinney, Gottfried Reichel, Fausto Salvoni, S.F.Timmerman, Ed Wharton and Bob Wilkerson.
Fausto Salvoni speaking at the Concentration Lectureship.
Otis Gatewood speaking at the Concentration Lectureship in February 1972. Notice the red light on the speaker's stand. We had a tight schedule and speakers were not allowed to run overtime. Five minutes before their time was up, I flashed the red light three times. When their time was up I turned the red light on and it stayed on! As one speaker said, "You might as well stop when that light comes on because everyone turns you off anyway!"
The first year 40 brethren attended, coming from ten countries. The second year, 70 attended coming from Belgium, England, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Ireland, Norway, Scotland and Switzerland. After the school closed I turned organization of the Concentration Lectureships over to Richard Wolfe in 1972 and he organized them until 1988.
The Herald of Truth
Broadcast by Radio London
Radio London broadcast from this ship
As a business venture, brother Jack McGlothlin of Abilene, Texas and two partners (Mal McIlwain and Tom Danaher) operated Radio London that broadcast from December 23, 1964 to August 14, 1967. They transmitted from international waters at a time when commercial radio broadcasting was not allowed in most European countries. They had ten million listeners in England, Holland, Belgium and France. The station accepted paid religious broadcasts, including The Herald of Truth. Phil Slate, who was in England at the time, took care of followup for The Herald of Truth.
A new congregation at Roeselare, Belgium
When I taught a class at the Aylesbury Bible School during the summer of 1965, a few months before I moved to Flanders, Phil Slate gave me the address of Josef Denys of Roeselare, an insurance salesman, who had enrolled in a Bible correspondence course after hearing The Herald of Truth broadcast.
In October of 1965 I sent several tracts and offered to make a visit if he had questions. A month later I visited the Denys family for the first time. We had a good Bible study that lasted several hours. I went again on a Sunday afternoon in December and we spent several hours studying the Bible. I was to return after the first of the year, but for first one reason and then another I was not invited again until August of 1966.
Mr. Denys had continued to follow the Bible course from England and to study his Bible, however. On August 7, 1966 we discussed many questions dealing with doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. After this visit, Mr. Denys said in a letter: In principle I am completely in agreement with the church of Christ: Only the Bible gives us all the answers. But you must not think that I will suddenly throw all the old overboard and gratuously accept something new. Everything must be proved by the Bible. I must see everything documented as I wish to build only on THE ROCK. May the Lord help me to do so.
Then the real study began. Through letters and visits we studied hundreds of questions dealing with Roman Catholic doctrine. At this time Mrs. Denys also began taking an active interest in Bible study. They were baptized into Christ on November 24, 1966. A few days later, I left to visit the United States. The first Sunday they attended services in Ostend. After that they began meeting in their home to worship God and to remember the Lord’s death at His table.
Brother and Sister Denys on the day they were baptized
The Denys family
Brother and Sister Denys prayed that their children, four daughters between the ages of 10 and 19, might also obey the gospel. They had not followed the Bible studies as closely and were upset when their parents were baptized. The priest had phoned to warn that the children might have trouble in school if they left the Catholic Church.
Len Channing and Roy Davison 1967
Upon my return in March, I began going to Roeselare each week for a Bible study. On May 6 & 7, 1967 the same gospel meeting was held in Roeselare that was held in Ostend. Brother Len Channing from Aylesbury, England showed slides on the holy land and Aad Scharroo from Holland preached. His subjects were: Christ, the only head of His church and The oldest church, the church of Christ. Although the meetings were held privately in the home of the Denys family, six visiters attended each evening. A week later the four Denys children were baptized into Christ.
At the invitation of the brethren, I moved from Ostend to Roeselare at the first of July, 1967.
Trip to Canada and the US: December 66 to March 67
Originally I had planned to leave in September but postponed my departure so I could help with the campaign in Amsterdam and also - because I did not have enough money for the trip. My sister, Sandy, who was at Harding College requested help for my travel fund among students and commendably $285.50 was given!
On November 30, 1966 I flew from Brussels to Toronto. I spoke at Windsor, Ontario; Michigan Christian College; Port Huron, Michigan (who were giving $40 a month support); Sarnia, Ontario; Beamsville, Ontario and at the Fern Avenue congregation in Toronto. On December the 8th I flew on from Toronto to Columbia, South Carolina.
There was a weirdo on the plane!
As part of my exercise program, I was accustomed to jogging in place while I shaved with my electric razor. On the flight to South Carolina where my parents lived, I decided that I would go ahead and jog very gently while I shaved. While in the restroom I noticed that the engines slowed down and then sped up again. When I came out, the stewardess gave me a quizzical look. But I thought nothing more about it.
I few years later, however, I was reading a magazine article in which pilots were telling about strange things that had happened during their carreers. One pilot said that on a flight to South Carolina a thumping sound suddenly developed in the plane that caused them consternation. They slowed the engines to see if they were the cause, but the thumping did not change. They were examining their instruments to see if anything was abnormal when the stewardess came in the cockpit and said, There is some weirdo back there jogging in the restroom! They were relieved and gave her a hug! I laughed and laughed when I realized who that weirdo was!
But that is not the end of the story. As we landed at Columbia, the plane suddenly made a violent turn to avoid colliding with a small plane that was also landing. If they had not slowed the engines, would they have hit the other plane? Or did they almost hit the other plane because of the weirdo? In any case, by the grace of God we had a safe landing and I was greeted at the airport by my parents whom I had not seen in three years.
The whole family was home for Christmas
Bessie, Charles, Sandy, Dale and Roy Davison
A few days later my father brought my sister, Sandy, home from Harding College and a couple of weeks later my brother, Dale, came home from Illinois where he had been working. It was the first time in six years that we were all together at Christmas. We had an enjoyable time, but how quickly it passed!
People and churches we visited
On January 8, 1967 I left to give reports on my work and to speak at various colleges about a new mission training program we were developing at Verviers, Belgium. My brother, Dale, went with me to help with driving. It was a good opportunity to get reacquainted as adults.
Dale and I before we left
First I spoke with the elders of the church in Corsicana, Texas. In Irving, Texas we visited friends of Dale. In Cisco, Texas we stayed with Dennis and Beth Johnson who had helped with my working fund. (They have now been missionaries in India for many years and we are in regular contact by email.) In Cisco we also saw Gary Adams who formerly preached in Holland. At Abilene, Texas we visited with David Lidbury, a former teacher at WCC, and I made arrangements to return later to talk to students. I spoke at Santa Anna, Texas where Jimmie Roden was preaching.
Bob and Wadene Adams with their children: Jim, Kathy, Judy and Ronnie. Carol was away to school.
We then went to Benson, Arizona to visit the Bob Adams family. They had been in Sarnia when I preached there and were like second parents to me. In that area I spoke to churches in Benson, Bisbee and Wilcox. The Wilcox church decided to start helping with my support. In Tucson I spoke at the Catalina and Palo Verde congregations. In Tucson we also visited with the Edsel Longs and Kenneth Waitts who helped with support.
We started back east and arrived in Lubbock in time for a sand storm. We visited with Manly and Marie Gilpin. Manly had been my roommate at WCC. He was studying at the Sunset School of Preaching. I spoke to a group of students at Lubbock Christian College.
An evening with Rita and Stuart
While in Lubbock, Dale and I enjoyed a meal one evening with Rita Hamm (nee Lewis) a former schoolmate from Radville Christian College who was secretary to the Dean at Lubbock Christian College. She had worked during the day, so was stressed and concerned that supper was going to be late. I told her not to worry about it. The delicious meal was well worth the wait! Stuart, who was six, had a little projecter and showed us some pictures in his darkened bedroom. I went that evening to visit an old friend and left thinking that Rita would be a very good wife! I did not tell her that then, of course. She told me later that she wondered that night what it would be like to have me as a husband. Now, more than fifty years later, she is still finding out!
We returned to Abilene where Hugh Mingle had arranged for me to speak to a group of students. Next I spoke at Montalba, Texas to a congregation that helped with our support for many years.
Then we went to Searcy, Arkansas where we stayed for a week and I was able to spend more time with my sister, Sandy.
Sandy and Carol Adams were good friends. They attended high school together at GLCC and were both at Harding for college.
While in Searcy, I spoke with a group of students and to a Bible class. Dale and I visited with J. Lee Roberts who had preached in Belgium for fifteen years. We then went to Memphis where I spoke with W.B.West, Jr. whom I had met at Aylesbury, England. On Sunday evening, February 20th, I spoke at West Helena, Arkansas. Then I spoke to students at Freed-Hardeman and at Lipscomb. In Nashville I also spoke with the elders of the Hillsboro congregation. They were supporting work in Holland, had given $250 for my travel expenses and had given $50 a month support for six months, when I was urgently in need of help.
As our last stop before heading back to Columbia, we visited with John and Linda Bramblett in Shelbyville, Tennessee. John had been in Ostend for several months in connection with his work and Linda was with him. They were a great encouragement to the brethren. They would cut short their sight-seeing trips, so they could be back in Ostend for Sunday services.
After 5000 miles of driving, we returned to Columbia where I spent another week with my parents before heading back to Belgium via Ontario. I spent a few days in Sarnia, where I had preached before going to Europe, and I enjoyed visiting once again in the homes of many of the members. In Toronto I visited with Audrey and Blenus Wright and with David Olson. I also spoke to the Strathmore congregation. At Beamsville I visited with Ron and Mary Zavitz.
Then on the evening of March 21st, 1967, the first day of spring, I left Toronto and its six inches of snow for Europe. The next night I was back in my apartment in Ostend.
Regular Bible studies in Roeselare
Upon my return I had weekly Bible studies with the new Christians in Roeselare. They asked if I would be willing to move to Roeselare to help them. Since the brethren in Ostend were well grounded in the faith, I agreed to do so, and moved in July of 1967.
During the summer, Josef Denys and I went to the annual Training for Service Series, a two-week Bible school conducted by Len Channing in Aylesbury, England. We visited the British Museum and a few places in London that brother Denys wanted to see.
Josef Denys in London 1967
Josef Denys, Roy Davison, late fall 1967
Although we did extensive advertising in Ostend, I was not able to arrange a single home Bible study in the city during the two years I was there! In Roeselare there were visitors in the assembly almost every Sunday. In October of 1967 we started a series of small weekly ads in a local paper that also invited people to send in questions about the Bible. Through contacts made from those ads I was able to arrange Bible studies with non-Christians and usually had from one to three studies each week.
A special trip to Lubbock, Texas
Rita and Roy engaged to be married
After returning to Belgium I began corresponding with Rita. At the end of 1967 I flew from Luxembourg to New York with Icelandic Airlines (the cheapest way to go) and took a Greyhound bus from New York to Lubbock. Rita and I enjoyed each other’s company and were engaged to be married the following June.
I believe our marriage is 100% providential. The Lord pulled many strings to allow me to marry the one I needed as a companion and fellow worker.
Back in Belgium
After Rita and I were engaged, I returned to Flanders in January of 1968 and resumed weekly Bible studies in the homes of non-Christians. During the spring semester, I continued teaching classes at the School of the Bible in Verviers, Belgium two days each week.
We had visitors in services at Roeselare most Sundays. Paul and José Huyghebaert concluded after study that their previous baptism had been in accordance with the Scriptures. They and their nine children began attending services.
On May 20th I left Belgium to go to Lubbock, Texas to prepare for the wedding on June 8th, and for a three-month visit to the US and Canada.
While I was away, the brethren made good progress. Two men I had been studying with were baptized, one on June 3rd and another on July 7th. Attendance on Sunday was about 25. Since the Denys home was becoming too small, a public meeting place was found above a Cafe.
Starting our new life together
Rita had made plans and preparations for the wedding with much help from Lois Harms. Norman Keener performed the ceremony at the building of the Woodlawn Church of Christ. He was Dean of Lubbock Christian College for whom Rita had worked as secretary.
Bertie Ramsey from Mulvane, Kansas was Rita’s bridesmaid. My brother Dale was my best man and Stuart Jay was the ring bearer.
Family and friends from far and near attended the wedding and reception.
My sister, Sandy, registered guests
Stuart’s grandparents, Donald and Mabel Hamm, and his great grandmother Edith Neidhardt from Kansas attended the wedding
After the wedding
Other than my baptism into Christ on March 4, 1951, the greatest day in my life was June 8, 1968, the day Rita and I were married and became one. On that day I also gained a wonderful seven-year-old son, Stuart Jay, whom I adopted officially on July 26, 1968.
Stuart and his longhorn bicycle
After the wedding Stuart went to Tucson with my parents to get acquainted with his new grandparents. Rita and I spent our honeymoon getting Rita’s things ready to ship to Belgium! During those two weeks we also visited a supporting congregation in Montalba, Texas. We also visited with Dennis Johnson and Gary Adams in Cisco, and with R.S. Bell and Alex Muller in Dallas.
To Tucson, Arizona
Rita and a yucca plant
From Lubbock we began a tour of the western United States and Canada to visit family and supporting congregations. Rita and I first travelled 635 miles (1025 km) to Tucson, Arizona to visit my parents who had moved there from South Carolina. Dad worked for the University of Arizona as an electronics technician. We were glad to see Stuart again who had gone home with my folks after the wedding.
Charles and Bessie Davison in Tucson
We spent two weeks in Tucson visiting my parents. I also spoke for three area congregations and we visited the Bob Adams family.
To Alhambra, California
From Tucson we travelled 480 miles (775 km) farther west to Alhambra, California where Rita’s brother, Bob Lewis, was preaching. We visited one week with Bob and Martha and their family, and I spoke to the Alhambra congregation. They decided to start contributing $200 per month to our support.
Martha and Bob Lewis
To Livingston, Montana
Rita’s parents: Thelma and Marion Lewis
From Alhambra we travelled 1115 miles (1795 km) to Livingston, Montana, Rita’s home town, where we spent two weeks visiting her parents, Marion and Thelma Lewis. I also spoke to the congregation.
Rita’s aunt and uncle, Edna and Wes Haven, visited while we were in Livingston.
With the Havens and the Lewises
View of the mountains from the street where Rita grew up
We then drove 585 miles (945 km) north to visit with the families of Rita’s sisters in Regina, Saskatchewan, Shirley and Walter Straker, and Betty and Wayne Kemp. We enjoyed a visit with Lillian Torkelson in Weyburn, and I spoke to congregations in Regina, Weyburn, Estevan, Bengough and Perryville. I also spoke at Kinosee Lake Camp.
We then started our journey to eastern Ontario (1675 miles, 2690 km). After spending a night with Rita’s aunt and uncle, Doris and George Husband, at Wawota, Saskatchewan, we headed east. On the way I spoke at Manson and Winnipeg, Manitoba and at Port Arthur, Ontario. We had a pleasent visit with brethren in Sarnia, Ontario where I preached before coming to Europe. I also spoke at Windsor, Toronto (Strathmore) and Beamsville.
To New York for our flight to Belgium
After seeing Niagra Falls, we left Ontario to go to New York City (490 miles,789 km). On the way we visited with the Robert Hamms in Norwich, Connecticut and with the Dan Boyds in Wilmington, Delaware.
Home base: Flanders, Belgium, Europe, World
From the cover of Voice of Truth International, Volume 84
From New York we flew with Islandic Airlines to Luxembourg. (Our dog, Frisky, went with Sabena to Brussels.) We arrived at my apartment in Roeselare on August 30th and Stuart started the third grade on September 1st. He made rapid progress learning Dutch and by the end of December was making grades of 75%.
After a few weeks Rita started taking two Dutch lessons each week and within a year was able to understand most of a normal conversation. It was difficult for her in the beginning when her husband knew Dutch and she did not. But the congregation showered love on her and Stuart, and most of them could communicate with her in English. She was proud of herself the first time she was able to bawl someone out in Dutch! One of the teenagers in the congregation was scolded for being unfair to his little brother!
Growth of the church in Roeselare
There were five baptisms during 1968 and the congregation found a public meeting place.
At a men’s meeting on the last Saturday of each month all decisions were made with regard to the activities of the congregation and the schedule for the worship services was drawn up for the following month.
The various parts of the service, including the preaching, were shared by all of the men who were qualified. I considered it part of my task as an evangelist to train and encourage the men of the congregation to develop their abilities.
The church paid for its meeting place and a small weekly classified advertisement for a Bible correspondence course.
In March of 1969 a series of four sermons was presented by Jim Krumrei from Haarlen, Holland. Nine different visitors attended. A few weeks after the meeting there were two baptisms.
On the first Sunday afternoon of each month the church had a fellowship period to which the brethren from Ostend were invited.
In January of 1970 the congregation appointed two elders, Josef Denys and Paul Huyghebaert.
There were two baptisms during September of 1970.
I wish I could say that all those mentioned above who were baptized remained faithful. In the parable of the sower, however, Jesus made it clear that only a portion of those who received the word would remain faithful and bear fruit.
An addition to our family
On May 27, 1970 Tonia Lynette Davison was born! [Now as I write this in 2019, she and her husband Mario Nyeki are faithful servants of the Lord. They live about 15 minutes from our home.]
Tonia Lynette Davison
Stuart Davison - Ten years old
Roy, Rita, Tonia, Bessie, Charles and Stuart Davison
My parents, Bessie and Charles Davison, came for a two-month visit at the end of June. They went to England to help with vacation Bible schools at Loughborough and East Ardsley the last week of July and first week of August.
A visit from a former teacher
Lillian Torkelson and Gertrude Weeks 1970
At the end of July 1970 we were pleased to have Lillian Torkelson and Gertrude Weeks in our home for a week. Both Rita and I studied under Miss Torkelson and we appreciated and loved her very much. The alumni of Western Christian College had given her a summer tour of Europe as a token of appreciation for her many years of selfless service. Another teacher at the school, Gertrude Weeks, had volunteerd to accompany her at her own expense.
The Roeselare church of Christ in 1970
Evangelism throughout Flanders
The northern half of Belgium is called Flanders. Flemish is a form of Dutch. Although pronunciation and vocabulary differ somewhat, it is the same language. The difference is similar to that between American English and British English.
In a men’s meeting of the Roeselare congregation we discussed our responsibility to do what we could to preach the gospel in all of Flanders.
Locally, in addition to placing ads in the newspaper, 10,000 enrolment cards for the Bible correspondence course had been distributed by the young people of the congregation.
At that time, free advertising newspapers were being placed in all mailboxes of Flanders each week. Since local newspaper ads had been effective, in 1969 the congregation (at their own expense) started placing want ads once a month in one and a half million homes throughout Flanders to advertise our Bible correspondence course. It was agreed that the other brethren would follow up local contacts and that I would study with those who were farther away.
We asked for financial help so we could place the want-ads each week. Brother Jimmie Lovell, publisher of Action Magazine, provided funds for five weeks and made the project known in his paper.
By experimenting we discovered that small want-ads resulted in more responses than larger ads, and of course were much less expensive.
The congregation brain-stormed to produce texts for the ads. Everyone, including the children, suggested texts. Then everyone gave each suggestion a grade from 0 to 10. An ad written by Josef Denys received twice as many votes as any other ad. Translated into English, the text was: To be a Christian means to follow Christ and not to be bound to a worldly church. To learn how this is possible, follow 8 free lessons by correspondence. Ask for a trial lesson without obligation.
Several of the ads that received the highest scores were published, and the above ad received twice as many responses as the others! Thus we used that ad repeatedly for a period of time.
I drove throughout Flanders visiting those who had completed the correspondence course and tried to set up regular Bible studies. I usually had three or four studies each week and sometimes drove one or two hours each way for a study. After a while, there were too many studies to schedule in one week, so studies were held biweekly. This was not as effective as weekly studies because if a study had to be skipped for any reason, it was a whole month until the next study. But that was the only solution.
As a result, couples were baptized in Kortrijk and Kessel-Lo, whom I taught to worship in their homes and visited regularly for study. Unfortunately both fell away. In Kessel-Lo they were afraid they would lose Catholic social services. In Kortrijk they decided it was a burden to worship every Lord’s day, and that they could worship God just as well by going for a walk in the woods!
There was good response from the Antwerp area and the first part of 1971 I studied with several families there, but none became Christians.
On April 2nd, 3rd and 4th of 1971 Tom Schulz from Amsterdam presented four lessons at Roeselare on Science and faith. Between 30 and 40 attended each lesson including several visitors. Some visitors came to all four sessions. Members of the congregation had distributed 5000 invitations.
A former neighbor was baptized
In November of 1970 a man in Ostend enrolled in the Bible course. He had lived downstairs in the same building where my apartment was when I was in Ostend. After he finished the course brother Schram and I visited him, and a study on the book of Acts was arranged between him and brother Schram. After attending services in Ostend for some time, he was baptized on July 4, 1971.
Trip to Canada and the US during the summer of 1971
We flew to Toronto on May 25th and stayed one night in a hotel to recover and adjust to the time change. In Ontario I spoke at Toronto (Strathmore), Sarnia and Windsor, and in Michigan at Port Huron.
We then went to York, Nebraska to visit Rita’s brother, Bob Lewis and his family. Bob was working with the East Hill congregation where I preached on Sunday morning and told about the Belgian work.
From there we went to Mulvane, Kansas to visit Bertie and Ray Ramsey and to give a report to the congregation. Bertie and Ray were a big help to Rita after Cliff died and faithfully supported our work through the years. I also spoke at Isabel, Kansas.
This picture of Bertie and Ray with their children was taken in 1968
We then went to Texas where I spoke at Montalba and Waco. From there we went to Arizona to visit my parents and sister in Tucson.
Bessie and Charles Davison in Tucson
In the area I also spoke at Willcox and Ajo where the Bob Adams family lived. We then went to Flagstaff, Arizona to visit my brother, Dale, and I spoke to the congregation there. After that we went west to give a report to the Alhambra, California congregation that was contributing to our support.
From California we went to Livingston, Montana to visit Rita’s parents. My parents had visited us in Belgium the year before, but this was the first opportunity for Rita’s folks to meet Tonia and to see Stuart again after three years.
Rita and her parents with Tonia and Stuart
Stuart and Tonia with their grandparents
While in Montana I also spoke at Billings.
From there we went to Saskatchewan. In Regina we visited Rita’s two sisters, Shirley Straker and Betty Kemp.
Walter and Shirley Straker with their children
Betty and Wayne Kemp with their children
The Lewis sisters in 1971: Betty Kemp, Rita Davison and Shirley Straker
In Saskatchewan I spoke at Weyburn, Regina, Saskatoon, Estevan and Wawota, where we visited Rita’s aunt and uncle, Doris and George Husband before heading east. On the way, I spoke at Winnipeg, Manitoba and in Ontario at Port Arthur, Sarnia and Beamsville. From Toronto we flew home on August 27th.
A new congregation at Antwerp
After returning to Belgium, I was extremely busy catching up on correspondence related to the Bible course, restarting home Bible studies and placing newspaper ads. (We placed no ads during summer months when response was low because many people were on vacation and spent much time outdoors.)
On October 6, 1971 Richard Amssoms, who lived in Merksem (a suburb of Antwerp), wrote a letter requesting the Bible course after seeing the ad, To be a Christian means to follow Christ and not to be bound to a worldly church.
He explained that he and several others had left the Jehovah’s Witnesses and were striving to be Christians only. They were happy to discover others with the same goal and wanted more information. I sent the first lesson of the course and a booklet entitled, Unity in Christ.
Usually I visited people after they completed the course, but the letter Richard wrote on October the 16th after receiving the first lesson was so positive that I told Rita, We’re going to visit this family today!
The first question Richard asked after inviting us in was, Do you baptize for the remission of sins? I opened my Bible, read Acts 2:38 and replied, Yes, we baptize for the remission of sins. Richard said, Then I want to be baptized.
One reason the group left the Jehovah’s Witnesses and also did not join a Protestant church, was that they had discovered through Bible study that baptism must be for the forgiveness of sins.
On November 21, 1971 Richard Amssoms Sr was baptized, and two weeks later his wife, Gilda, was baptized. On March 9th, 1972 Richard’s mother was baptized and on April 29th, 1972 another one of the former Jehovah’s Witnesses was baptized. They conducted their own worship on Sundays and I started going for a Bible study each Thursday evening. This involved a three or four hour trip each way because there was not yet a freeway between Gent and Antwerp. It took an hour just to get through Gent and sometimes we had to wait in line 45 minutes to get through the one small tunnel under the Schelde River to Antwerp.
After being baptized, Richard said, Now this doesn’t mean that I’m going to accept whatever you say! You must prove everything with the Bible! I replied, That is what we do! In the Thursday evening studies, that often lasted till midnight, we dealt with many subjects, including a study of the Kingdom of God that lasted for a whole year.
Teaching and preaching in Machelen
Machelen is a town on the northern edge of Brussels. We helped a couple conduct worship services there from September 1971 until June of 1973. We went each Sunday afternoon, after attending morning services, first at Roeselare and later at Antwerp. From Roeselare it was about a two hour’s drive each way.
Mr. Vandenborre had been an atheist. But when a Pentecostal group rented a large room in his house for their services he started studying the Bible, came to believe in God and was baptized. When I asked what the purpose of his baptism had been, he said: Christ taught that one must be born of water and the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God.
He was very upset, however, by what happened when he requested baptism. The Pentecostals gathered around him and said they would first have to cast an evil spirit out of him before he could be baptized. They started praying for him and suddenly one of the girls started screaming. They said, O no! The evil spirit has gone into her! So they formed a ring around her and started praying for her. Mr. Vandenborre was disgusted by this. He told me, I was a sinner and needed to be baptized, but I did not have an evil spirit! Later his wife was also baptized. They both had understood that their baptism was for the remission of sins
I began regular Bible studies with them about the first of 1971. They eventually decided that they should be Christians only and not be associated with any human religious organization.
The Pentecostals stopped renting from them when they learned that they no longer agreed with them.
They invited me to help them form a church of Christ, so we started going each Sunday afternoon in September of 1971. I taught the adult class and Rita taught a children’s class.
I encouraged brother Vandenborre to take part in the services and after a while he would preach one Sunday and I would preach the next. We usually and several visitors.
There was a problem, however, in that although they had rejected certain outlandish aspects of Pentecostalism, they continued to believe in gifts of healing and present-day tongue-speaking. Even after an in-depth study on the Holy Spirit, they remained firm in these views and it was problematic because of comments made on this subject in the Bible class. When we were not able to come for a few weeks, they invited a Pentecostal preacher to preach for them!
Thus I concluded that I could no longer support their assembly and I notified them that I would stop coming. In the year and a half that I taught there, I did not neglect to declare the whole counsel of God (Acts 22:26, 27), but they did not grow in their knowledge and acceptance of the truth as I had hoped.
When is a prior immersion valid?
In a series of lessons on conducting home Bible studies taught by Mid McKnight in his home, he warned us that people sometimes project new knowledge about baptism back to a former immersion that actually was not scriptural.
He suggested that when we first study with people we ask them if they consider themselves to be saved and if so, how they became Christians. He would then write down the process they described on a piece of paper. Often they would say that they were saved when they believed in Jesus and were baptized later.
After learning that baptism must be for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38), if they claimed that their prior baptism was for that purpose, brother McKnight would take out the paper and show them what they had told him previously.
I have taken this precaution through the years, if not actually writing it down, at least having it stated verbally in a clear enough way that those I was studying with would remember what they had said.
Only recently, however, I have come to question whether it is enough for someone to understand that baptism is for the forgiveness of sins.
In 1 Corinthians 12:13 we read: For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. According to Colossians 1:18 Christ is the head of the body, the church. In a valid baptism, one is therefore baptized into the one body, the church of Christ!
Through the years I have at times accepted someone’s statement that he was baptized for the forgiveness of sins, when at the time of his baptism he thought it was acceptable to be a member of some denomination. In that case, was he actually baptized into the one body of Christ?
In recent studies I have emphasized that in addition to being baptized for the remission of sins, one must understand that he is being baptized into the one body, the church of Christ.
Errors of the Watchtower Society
On Sunday evening, April 30, 1972, Richard Amssoms presented a lesson in Roeselare on the errors of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Forty-five were present including nine visitors. Richard spoke for two and a half hours, and then anwered questions from the audience for an additional half hour. Several new contacts were made and two Bible studies were arranged. The young people of the congregation had distributed 9000 leaflets during the two weeks before the meeting.
Move to the Antwerp area in 1972
We rejoiced when our son, Stuart Davison, was baptized into Christ on Wednesday, July 19, 1972! [As I write this, 48 years later, he is an active Christian in Simi Valley, California.]
After working in Roeselare for five years, we moved to Beveren-Waas near Antwerp the last week in August 1972. The Antwerp brethren had invited us to work with them. Although we were sorry to leave the fellowship of the Christians in Roeselare, the move was useful for the work in many ways.
The Roeselare congregation had 20 members and an attendance on Sunday of 25 to 30. Several men in the congregation were able to teach and preach, and to conduct home Bible studies. Thus we felt that the need was greater in the Antwerp area with its metropolitan population of one million.
The new location was also more centrally located for driving to conduct home Bible studies throughout Flanders and to visit those who responded to the newspaper ads. At the end of 1972 I was conducting eight regular Bible studies scheduled at two-week intervals. These studies involved driving from one-half hour to two hours each way.
In 1971 the elders of the church in Weyburn, Saskatchewan agreed to select a qualified young man each year from among the graduates of Western Christian College to work with me in Flanders for one year.
In keeping careful records of how my time was spent, I had discovered that about 20% of my time was spent on tasks that could be done by someone else who did not know Dutch.
The student evangelists helped with various kinds of office work, printing and door to door distribution, in addition to spending time on language and Bible study. Not only did they relieve me of much routine work, enabling me to spend more time teaching and preaching, but they did much additional work, that I did not have time to do.
The first young man came in January of 1972. Eight came in all: Mark Brazle, Wendell Bailey, Blair Roberts, Kerk Roberts, Lyn Meter, Brian Olson, John Smith and Dave Pennington. They were a tremendous help in many ways!
Rita is to be commended for her contribution because the boys ate their warm meal with us five days a week. While here, they were a part of the family!
After eight years, in the summer of 1978, I turned the program over to a team who had come to work in the Leuven area.
Offset press purchased
At the end of 1972 I rented a separate office where the student evangelist could live. I purchased a small second-hand offset press and a large paper cutter. Each year I taught the student evangelist how to operate the press. (One of the boys who came, made use of this knowledge later in life to set up a printing business doing small jobs for school teachers.) Through the years more than a million enrollment cards for the Bible correspondence course were printed on the press.
During May of 1973 the first of several summer campaigns was conducted. Six young men from Canada and the US distributed 176,000 enrollment cards for the Bible correspondence course, resulting in 220 new enrollments. Cards were distributed to about 12% of all homes in Flanders. Mark Brazle, who had worked with me in 1972, assembled the group after returning to Oklahoma Christian College. Wendell Bailey, the resident helper, was the detail man in charge of physical arrangements. The boys stayed in my office and travelled throughout Flanders with a month-long rail pass. They completely covered six smaller cities and distributed in portions of Antwerp and Gent.
Similar campaigns were held each summer for the following three years. In 1974 seven workers distributed 196,000 cards resulting in 205 enrolments. In 1975 seven workers distributed 250,000 cards resulting in 222 enrolments. In 1976 two groups came. Five workers in June distributed 73,000 cards and seven workers in July distributed about 100,000 cards. It was the hottest summer in Belgium in 200 years, which made the work difficult.
Two of the young men who came on summer campaigns, later returned to Belgium as missionaries.
Another addition to our family
On June 1, 1973 Connie Yvonne Davison was born! [As I write this in 2020, she and her husband Ian McGuiggan have been working with the church in Connecticut for fifteen years.]
Connie Yvonne Davison
A congregation that went astray
In 1972 I began regular studies with a family in Oudenaarde. On November 17th the mother was baptized and on February 16th, 1973 her son and daughter were baptized. They started meeting in their home and a brother who lived in Gent started meeting with them. Before that we had been going to Gent every other Sunday to help him start a congregation there.
In 1977 seven were meeting in Oudenaarde, but after a few years the congregation disbanded and decided to join the local Protestant Church, supposedly to help them learn the truth from the inside. That, of course, never works. How can you encourage people to abandon a bad tree while nesting in it? They were unfaithful to Christ and joined a human denomination. They blew out their candle. There was no longer a church of Christ meeting in Oudenaarde.
Trip to Canada and the US in the fall of 1973
We had intended to go in the summer of 1974, but decided to go sooner because of loss of support and a devaluation of the dollar. The fall is a better time to find support when many congregations prepare their budget.
It was arranged that Stuart would stay with Rita’s folks and attend school in the States for a year. This would mean losing a year in Belgium but he was among the youngest in his class and the study in the States would improve his English. Stuart was all for the idea!
Stuart attended the first month of school in Belgium.
On October 3rd we flew from Antwerp to London and then the great circle route over the far north directly to Winnipeg, Manitoba in western Canada, and then on west to Regina, Saskatchewan. At the airport we were greeted by a group from the congregation and were surprised by being given the keys to a car they had purchased for our travels. We stayed with Wayne and Betty Kemp, Rita’s sister. From the 5th to the 8th we attended the WCC lectureship where I gave a mission report. I also spoke at Weyburn, Regina and Perryville.
On October 16th we went from Regina to Livingston, Montana for a two-week visit with Rita’s parents.
Marion Lewis 1973
Rita’s father, Marion Lewis, was a self-supporting preacher. He worked at a lumber yard. A relative going over his books after his death was amazed by the large number of good works that he supported financially. He used income from wise investments for this purpose. He contributed $400 a month to our support for many years.
Rita’s mother, Thelma Lewis, with Connie and Tonia in 1973
In Montana I spoke at Livingston, Billings, Butte and Bozeman.
We then made a three-day journey south to Mulvane, Kansas to visit Bertie and Ray Ramsey. In Kansas I spoke at Mulvane, Wichita and Isabel.
We then traveled two days on south to Oklahoma City where I spoke to students at OCC and to the Putnam City congregation. From there we went to Montalba, Texas. I spoke twice to this country congregation on Sunday, November 11th. They contributed to our support for many years. In the Dallas area we visited Dan Boyd, John Baily and Alvin Jennings.
After crossing west Texas and New Mexico, we arrived in Tucson, Arizona on November 15th for a three week visit with my parents and sister.
In Tucson we visited the theme park Old Tucson.
Stuart posing with a donkey
Rita with my mother and sister Sandy at Old Tucson 1973
While in the area I spoke for three congregations in Tucson, and at Casa Grande, Marana, Benson and Wilcox. Wilcox decided to increase their support from $50 to $250 per month and gave $2400 for our plane fare.
On December 10 we went to Flagstaff, Arizona to visit my brother, Dale.
My brother Dale Davison with Tonia and a goose
From Flagstaff we traveled west to California where I spoke at Alhambra and at the Central Congegation in LA on December the 16th. Alhambra decided to increase their support from $400 to $500 per month. We then made a four-day journey to Livingston, Montana.
After we stopped at a motel in the small town of Dubois, Idaho, all of us except Connie came down with food poisoning. Connie was the only one who had not eaten hamburgers at noon. It takes food poisoning five hours to develop. Although the town did not have a doctor, a paramedic, who was in radio contact with a doctor in Idaho Falls, checked our temperature, blood pressure, etc. The doctor concluded that we were not in an emergency situation. The next day, December 20th, we were unable to eat anything except a little juice sucked from an orange as we went the last 500 miles to Livingston, Montana.
The families of Rita’s sisters had arranged to spend Christmas at Livingston.
Marion and Thelma Lewis with daughters, Rita, Betty and Shirley
Stuart with his little sisters
Stuart traveled with us until Christmas but then stayed in Livingston to go to school there for several months. At the first of May he flew back to Belgium with the boys who came to distribute advertising, and he attended school in Belgium again during May and June.
From Livingston we went to Regina, Saskacthewan on January the 4th, and I preached at Regina on Sunday morning and evening. On January 9th we flew to Windsor. In Ontario I spoke at Windsor, Sarnia, Beamsville and Toronto (Strathmore). We left Toronto to return to Brussels and arrived home on January the 16th, 1974. On the trip we found the additional support we needed.
Blair Roberts was on his own
One disadvantage of the fall trip was that Blair Roberts, the student evangelist that year, had to fend for himself while we were away. He developed close ties with the brethren in Antwerp, however, and although at that time he concluded that mission work in Belgium was not for him, he later changed his mind and returned as a missionary.
Baby Connie had two operations
Shortly after we returned we discovered that Connie had a hernia on one side that would require an operation. You cannot explain such things to an eight-month-old baby. We knew of a case where a baby developed emotional detachment after a hospital stay.
Wanting to limit the trauma as much as possible, we found a hospital that allowed the mother to stay in a private room with her baby. We were impressed by the surgeon who prided himself on being informed about all the latest developments in his field. He described a special technique he used to close wounds that left virtually no scar.
It was hard on baby and parents on January 23rd when a nurse took Connie screaming to the operating room, but all went well and recovery was as expected.
After Connie was home from the hospital, however, a hernia also developed on the other side, so the ordeal had to be endured again on February 13th.
We are thankful for the excellent medical facilities in Belgium and for the universal hospitalization coverage by which everyone pays for the exceptional medical expenses of the few.
Because of the hospitalizations, I postponed restarting my regular home Bible studies until the end of February.
Is it worth the bother to be a Christian?
On February 10, 1974 Gilda Amssoms’ brother in Tienen was baptized against the wishes of his Catholic wife. He remained faithful for a time, but then fell away. When I visited him after he stopped attending services, he said it had caused him nothing but trouble and it was just too much bother to be a Christian.
Many years later, he bought a house in Spain where he intended to retire and enjoy the Mediterranean weather. He had a heart attack and died, however, before he could retire.
Jesus said, Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? (Mark 8:34-36).
On June 3rd, 1974 the Merksem (Antwerp) congregation hosted a fellowship gathering for Christians in Belgium and Holland. There were 130 present including 21 visitors. Richard Amssoms’ lesson, What does it mean to be a Christian? played a role in two of the visitors being baptized a couple of weeks later.
Connie had pinkeye, so I stayed home so Rita could go. One of the visitors I had invited, who was somewhat macho, was amazed that after organizing the event myself, I would stay home with a sick child so my wife could attend! It had been well-enough organized, however, that I did not really need to be there, and Rita needed the fellowship with brothers and sisters from the various congregations.
Rita’s day off
Rita was caring for two small, hyper-active children while her husband was away most evenings till midnight conducting home Bible studies. She was also preparing supper five days a week for the student evangelist.
To give her a day off, I avoided arranging Bible studies on Monday evening and would take care of the children all day Monday, so she could go shopping, visiting or do whatever she wished!
At first I tried doing this every week, but then I was overloaded myself along with my regular busy schedule. Thus I reduced it to giving her a day off every other Monday, and trying to work slightly less myself on the other Monday!
My garden had produced many large pumpkins, so I usually included pumpkin in my supper in some creative way. Pumpkin mixed with fried hamburger, for example, is nice. The children would complain, What! Pumpkin again! Many years later Stuart admitted, Actually it was pretty good sometimes, but we didn’t want to encourage you!
Family scenes at Beverenwaas
It takes determination to feed a baby, even if it is cake
Dad helped with the children too
Rita telling Connie and Tonia a Bible story
Kirk Roberts and Stuart playing chess
Connie and Tonia (wearing dresses Rita made) shortly before we moved to Wellen
Once when we were sitting at the table, Tonia said to Connie, Daddy’s the boss! You need to do what he says! Connie looked at me out of the corner of her eye and said, But you’re not the boss of the whole world!
A forbidden Bible study
A few months after we moved to Beverenwaas in 1972 the phone rang with a strange request. A man introduced himself as a Jehovah’s Witness and asked if I would come to his house for a Bible study on the deity of Christ. The request was strange because JWs are forbidden to have Bible studies with preachers of other religions. I, of course, gladly accepted the invitation.
I checked my files, and his name was not in my files. When I arrived three men were present, the man who phoned, his brother who was also a JW and a certain Mr. Joan Van Dessel. (Joan sounds like a woman’s name, but in this case it is an abreviation of Johan.)
The two JWs had been studying with Mr. Van Dessel. When they knocked on his door they asked if he had a Bible. As a devout Catholic, he was embarrassed to admit that he did not. So he bought a Bible and began studying with them, intending to defend his Catholic faith. He also began reading the Bible on his own and was disturbed by certain passages that condemned Catholic practices.
His wife saw our ad and shoved the newspaper in front of him: Look! Here’s something for you! He enrolled in our course and showed it to the JWs, saying: These people claim to follow the Bible too. How do I know who is right? They replied, Oh they probably believe in the deity of Christ! So they arranged for me to come so they could prove us wrong!
As we began the study, wanting to prevent the JWs from jumping to a different topic when proven wrong, I suggested that we deal with that one topic only, that we take turns suggesting a passage, and then discuss that passage thoroughly before going to a different text. They agreed and I let them select the first passage. They started with John 1:1!
Every passage they or I selected, when the context was considered, proved the deity of Christ! They were visibly shaken and felt at a disadvantage because they did not know Greek. So they suggested having another study to which they would invite one of their members who knew Greek, a former Jesuit priest!
They selected a different topic for the next study, however: whether man has an immortal soul. It was somewhat in the form of a debate. The Jesuit JW spoke for 20 minutes and I spoke for 20 minutes. I gave everyone a sheet with examples of people who clearly still existed even after they died. They evidently had invited the whole local JW group because about twenty people were present, including my host’s brother’s wife who was not a JW!
My host was distraught because their champion had not done well defending their position, so he challenged me, And I suppose you have a cross hanging on your wall! If someone had used a gun to kill your best friend, would you hang a gun on your wall?
I replied, No, I don’t have a cross on my wall, but I do glory in the cross of Christ.
He responded, What? How can you glory in a cross on which the son of God died? (Actually, JWs claim it was not a cross but a pole, but he was using my terminology for argument’s sake.)
His brother, who was more astute, warned him, Watch out! Watch out! He had noticed that I said nothing unless I could back it up with Scripture.
As he spoke I was turning to Galatians 6:14. But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
As I left I said, You have chosen the topic for the first two studies. May I choose a topic for the next study? They could hardly refuse, so I suggested the question: When was the kingdom of God established?
The next time I went, several leaders of the JWs were seated at the table. I tried to hand out my outline, but Joan Van Dessel was the only one who accepted it. A man with cold eyes asked me who had authorized the publication of the material I wanted to give them. My original host, who was very nervous, popped up and said, Mr. Davison. This is the third time you have come and each time you have taught false doctrine. You are no longer welcome here!
With a smile I replied, Each time I came at your invitation. I am not accustomed to going where I am not welcome, so of course I will not come again. But I am always willing to study the Bible, so if anyone here wants to study with me, I will be glad to do so.
The next day the phone rang and Joan Van Dessel was on the line: What did you think of that meeting last night? I replied, Well, what did you think of it? He said, That was really something! I was invited to begin studies with Joan early in 1973.
He continued studying with the JWs for a time. When they said something about Revelation, Joan replied, I have not gotten that far yet in my Bible study. We can discuss Revelation next week after I have read it. The following week he asked them, Did you not tell me that you do not expect to go to the heavenly city? They said, No, that is only for the 144,000. Joan said, But look what it says here: ‘Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.’ The JWs decided they were wasting their time studying with Joan.
On February 26, 1975 Joan Van Dessel was baptized in his basement that was flooded because of heavy rains. For several months he drove to Antwerp to attend services. When I baptized another man in his area near the end of 1975, they began worshiping together. On June 26, 1976 their wives were also baptized and that was the beginning of the congregation at Boortmeerbeek.
Joan was able to bring his brother, two sisters and his mother to Christ. His mother had one request for her 80th birthday. She wanted the whole family to get together to hear the gospel! They felt unable to deny her request, so on a Saturday I was able to tell them the good news about salvation in Christ.
This is the greatest day of my life!
In November of 1975, Gus Amssoms was baptized into Christ at the age of 72. He said, This is the greatest day of my life! He had been attending services for some time. His son, Richard, was the first one baptized in the Antwerp area and Richard’s mother had been baptized previously.
Gus immediately took active part in the services and was a forceful speaker. He had received public-speaking training in the labor union movement many years earlier at a time when workers were being exploited in Belgium.
When Gus retired, after working for 45 years as a laborer in Antwerp, he had not missed a single day of work because of illness. He was a dedicated and trustworthy man.
After Gus retired, he was given a part-time job as a diamond courier. Antwerp is the diamond-cutting capital of the world. About 2000 gem-related businesses are located in a one-square-mile area near the central train station.
If you had been a tourist in Antwerp, you might have seen an elderly workman with a gentle smile walking through the narrow streets of Antwerp carrying an old, worn-out briefcase. You would have never dreamed that his briefcase contained diamonds worth thousands of dollars. He did not have a gun or a bulletproof vest or an armored vehicle. He had something that the diamond merchants considered much safer and more secure. He had a gentle, innocent appearance and he was a completely dependable man.
As Christians we have been entrusted with the unsearchable riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8). We must be reliable couriers of the gospel.
In 1987 Rita and I visited our beloved brother, Gus Amssoms, in the hospital in Tienen shortly before he went to be with the Lord. There is no other person of whom I am more confident that he heard the words, Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.
Goodbye Antwerp air pollution
We concluded that Rita’s continual sore throat was being caused by air pollution. Oil refineries near our home belched out foul smelling gases in the middle of the night. (An oil executive told me that stricter regulations have decreased this problem in recent decades.)
An air pollution report of the Belgian Royal Meteorological Institute indicated that the province of Limburg had the cleanest air. Thus we made plans to move to Limburg. That was also where many of my Bible studies were being held.
As we drove around looking for a place to live, the children kept an eye out for zoedels, smoke stacks belching out pollution. Zoedels was our nickname for luchtbezoedelaars, Flemish for air pollution sources.
We found a nice house to rent in Wellen and moved there July 1st, 1976. Rita’s health improved. The Lord also blessed us with a very good school for the children.
Stuart wanted to go to Western Christian College at Weyburn, Saskatchewan, Canada, so we arranged for him to go for grade ten in the fall of 1976. Rita and I had both attended the school and we thought he would benefit from it. Although it was difficult to swing financially, we made it possible for him to come home at Christmas by finding an inexpensive student ticket. We were all missing him. The girls would sometimes cry because they were missing Stuart.
We considered leaving Flanders
When Rita and I married she knew that I intended to spend my life preaching the gospel in the Dutch-speaking part of Europe. Her own dedication to the Lord caused her to be in complete agreement with the idea, even before she knew what it entailed!
In time, however, certain comments made me realize that this had placed her under pressure. So I made it clear that other options were possible, and we seriously considered moving to the US, Canada or Scotland. When we weighed key aspects, however (such as where we could contribute most for the Lord, schooling, medical care and hospitalization) we concluded that Flanders was where we wanted to be! Here our language knowledge can be used for the Lord! We were happy with the schools! Medical and social facilities are good! Since then we have never looked back, although we still understand that our lives are in God’s hands and He can send us wherever He wishes!
I stayed closer to home
After moving to eastern Flanders in 1976, I decided to focus my work closer to home for the sake of the family. I forwarded contacts from western Belgium to area congregations (Ostend, Roeselare, Bruges and Antwerp).
For example, around the end of 1978, Willy De Groot responded to an ad I placed with financial help from various congregations in Flanders. I forwarded his name to Boyd Williams in Bruges. After studying with Boyd for six months, He and his wife Christine were baptized on April 1, 1979. Eventually their three daughters were also baptized and just recently Willy baptized one of his granddaughters!
Boyd and Nell Williams came to Ostend on December 6, 1973. They moved to Bruges in 1978, where several had been baptized as a result of Boyd’s teaching. The Williams continued working full time in Flanders until 1984, although they made many periodic visits after that until 2000.
Background of the church in Eindhoven, Holland
Ten days before we moved to Wellen in July of 1976, Hans and Ans Van Erp sent a letter requesting information about the church of Christ. They were both school teachers and lived in a village in Holland, north of Wellen. They had learned about the church from a friend in Hannover, Germany whom Hans had met during his studies. On a visit, Hans learned that she had recently become a Christian. An evangelistic campaign was being held and Hans heard a few lessons. Back home, he shared his experiences with Ans. They visited the church in Amsterdam and were given our address by Tom Schulz.
Because of the move, I did not reply until July 16th, when I arranged to conduct a Bible study in their home every two weeks.
Hans and Ans were baptized the last week of November in 1976. (For baptisms, I had a long plastic tub that I transported on the top of our car!) For a time, we worshiped with them every other Sunday and I taught a Bible class. On the other Sundays, they went to Amsterdam. Later they worshiped in Hasselt, Belgium and after that in Aken, Germany.
In 1985 they decided to worship in their home every Sunday for the benefit of a Christian lady and her daughter from the States who were in Eindhoven, the nearest city. In 1988 a Let’s Start Talking campaign was held and in 1989 the congregation began meeting in Eindhoven.
Troy Albers from the US preached full time in Eindhoven from June 1997 until May of 2000. Remco Dijkstra preached part time from October 2001 until March 2004.
In 2001 the congregation bought a building in the Jan Tooropstraat, where they now meet. At this writing (2020) the congregation has a Sunday attendance of about 50. Several men teach and preach. Two young men are working part time for the church: Ivo Van Erp (a son of Hans and Ans) and Gijs Bardoel (a son of their neighbor who was baptized in December of 1991).
Except for a few years, I have preached in Eindhoven one Sunday each month since 1990. The dedication, love and support of the brethren there have been a great encouragement to us!
A team effort in Leuven, Belgium
Three couples formed a team for evangelism in Flanders: Mark and Jill Brazle, Larry and Gayle Good, and Blair and Susan Roberts. Mark and Blair had worked with me as student evangelists for a year, and Larry had participated in summer distribution campaigns.
In May of 1976 the three couples came for one month on a survey trip and to introduce the wives to Flanders. Although we had not yet moved, we had already rented a house in Wellen, so allowed them to use it. They distributed 30,000 enrolment cards and interviewed 700 people in a door-to-door survey. They decided on Leuven, a university city, as a place for the team effort.
On Friday, November 11, 1977 we went to Luxembourg to pick up Mark and Jill, and Larry and Gayle with baby Thessali. They stayed with us in Wellen for a week until they found temporary housing in Leuven. Blair and Susan Roberts joined them on January 11, 1978.
At first the Leuven team worshiped with the church in Boortmeerbeek. In 1979 they started a new congregation in Leuven.
In 1980 Blair began to focus on Antwerp. He had worked with that congregation as a student evangelist.
Paul and Carol Brazle came to Belgium in 1986 and worked with the Leuven team for three years. In the fall of 1989 Blair Roberts asked them to help in Antwerp. Early in 1991 the Roberts family returned to Canada. Paul and Carol have continued working in Antwerp until the present (2020).
Mark and Jill Brazle, and Larry and Gayle Good left Belgium in June of 1993.
The congregation the team established now meets in Rotselaar, a village near Leuven. Richard Amssoms Sr, who was the first one I baptized in Antwerp (in 1971), now preaches for them (2020).
Getting up to speed in Limburg
Limburg is the most eastern province of Flanders. I first worked at Ostend on the coast in the west, then moved to Roeselare, slightly inland, then to the Antwerp area, and then to eastern Flanders.
After moving to Wellen on July 1, 1976 we sometimes worshiped in English with an American couple, Ernestine and David Tillman, who lived near Tongeren. They invited English-speaking contacts to services and Rita attended a ladies’ Bible class at their home on Tuesdays. The Tillmans also attended the French-language congregation in Liege.
I preached for various congregations in the area. One Sunday I preached for a Christian Church in Genk (they did not use instrumental music when I spoke there). In November we started worshiping in Asten, Holland with Hans and Ans Van Erp every other Sunday. I helped with a Bible study at Boortmeerbeek every other Monday and sometimes preached there on Sundays.
Early in February of 1977 we learned that Rita’s mother had lung cancer. This concerned us greatly, but we were told that it was a type that usually responded well to treatment.
From February 21st - 25th 1977 I taught a daily class on the Deity of Christ at the annual Verviers Concentration Lectureship. I had begun the lectureship twelve years earlier, and it was being continued by Richard Wolfe who was preaching in Liege.
A Flemish man was baptized on February 25, 1977 who lived near Liege. David Tillman had distributed French literature in his area and because he was Flemish, his letter to Richard Wolfe was forwarded to me. After I studied with him for several weeks he was baptized. We began conducting Flemish services for him in our home in Wellen in March of 1977.
Justin and Rosa Mulkers who lived in Hasselt started worshiping with us as well. They had enrolled in our Bible correspondence course in December of 1974. I had regular Bible studies with them starting in January of 1975. Although they were raised as Catholics, they had been immersed previously and were convinced that they had been scripturally baptized.
Trip to Canada and the US in the summer of 1977
We left Belgium on May the 24th and flew to Glasgow. After spending a day in Scotland, we flew on to Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada. We enjoyed getting acquainted with Pat and George Mansfield and worshiping with the congregation on Sunday. On May 27th we celebrated Tonia’s seventh birthday and on June 1st, Connie’s forth birthday, in Halifax.
We bought a car for our summer travels and left Halifax for a three-day drive to Toronto. On Saturday evening, June 4th the Strathmore congregation had a special fellowship gathering for us and I preached there on Sunday. On Monday evening I spoke at Windsor, Ontario and on Wednesday evening, June 8th (which was our 9th wedding anniversary) I spoke at Sarnia, Ontario. From there we went around the north of Lake Superior to Thunder Bay, Ontario where I spoke on Sunday, June 12th. (Lake Superior is about the size of Belgium!) We left on Sunday afternoon to go to Wawota, Saskatchewan, where Rita’s Aunt Doris Husband lived. We arrived there late Monday evening and I spoke to the church on Tuesday evening.
Tonia and Connie at Doris and George Husband’s in 1977
I spoke in Weyburn on Wednesday evening and at Regina on Friday evening. Sunday the 19th I spoke at Perryville and on Tuesday evening at Lloydminster. On Wednesday evening, June 22nd, I spoke with the Weyburn elders. Stuart, who was studying at WCC in Weyburn, got out of school on the 24th and on Saturday evening we arrived at Livingston, Montana where Rita’s parents lived. I spoke at Livingston on the 26th and at Bozeman, Montana on the 29th.
The whole family at Livingston 1977
After visiting with Rita’s folks for two weeks we went to Tucson, Arizona to visit my parents. On Sunday, July 17th, I spoke at Willcox and on July 24th I spoke at the Mountain Avenue congregation in Tucson.
From Tucson, we went to Alhambra, California. I spoke there on Sunday morning, July 31st, and at the Central congregation in L.A. that evening. We returned to Tucson and - concluding an enjoyable visit with my parents - left Tucson on August 5th to go to Montalba, Texas. We forgot how big Texas is, and had to drive all Saturday night to be there in time for me to speak on Sunday morning. Rita said, I’m so tired, I might just go to sleep and topple over during services! Tonia said, Well, I’m not going to sit beside you!
From there we went to Isabel, Kansas to visit Stuart’s grandparents. Then we went to Clearwater and then on to Mulvane, Kansas to visit the Ray Ramseys. Next we went to York, Nebraska where Rita’s brother Bob Lewis preached. I spoke there on Wednesday night, August 17th. We returned to Livingston, Montana to visit Rita’s folks for another week before going to Vernon, British Columbia to visit Rita’s sister, Betty. I spoke there on Sunday, August 28th. We then took Stuart back to Weyburn, Saskatchewan for his next school year at WCC and flew from Regina back home via Halifax, arriving on September 8th.
Rita’s parents came back with us!
We enjoyed their three-week visit very much! Rita’s dad built a kitchen cupboard for us while he was here. We had nice fall weather and took them to see a castle in the south of Belgium. One weekend we visited Volendam, Holland where we saw a diamond cutting factory and a farm where they made cheese.
At different times during our travels, Rita’s dad would ask to look at the map. He finally asked, Where is that city, ‘Centrum’? There are signs pointing to it everywhere! But I can’t find it on the map! We laughed and explained that ‘Centrum’ means ‘city center’!
We were sad to see them leave on Thursday, September the 29th.
We visited the church of Christ at Peterhead, Scotland
Children in Belgium have a week’s holiday in the fall. From October the 28th through November the 3rd 1977 we made a quick trip to the north of Scotland. We slept on an overnight ferry from Rotterdam to Hull, England and then, except for two nights, slept in our Ford van.
On October 30th we worshiped with the brethren at Peterhead, Scotland and I preached for them Sunday evening. The congregation of 60 had been meeting for more than a hundred years. They did not know exactly when the church first started meeting. Many of the men were fishermen who were away on their boats all week. When they came home on Friday, they would select the nicest fish they had caught and take them to the widows of the congregation. We really enjoyed the fellowship!
On our way back to Glasgow and Hull, we visited Inverness and Lach Ness. The boat we were to take had engine trouble so could not sail. Thus, we spent the night at Hull and took a different ferry to Hoek van Holland the next day.
Tony and Erzie Geens baptized
On Saturday, December 3, 1977 Tony and Erzie Geens were baptized in Hasselt. I had been introduced to them by the Mulkers. They had three children, two boys aged 13 and 10, and a baby girl. Tony was a TV technician. He had been studying the Bible for many years but had never found anyone who would baptize them in accordance with the Scriptures. Tony was a dedicated Christian and a mainstay in the Hasselt congregation until his death.
Hasselt congregation starts meeting in the Cultural Center
On Sunday, December 11, 1977 the Hasselt congregation began worshiping in the Cultural Center. It is a complex with a large auditorium and stage for plays, and with many rooms that can be rented for cultural activities.
Roeselare congregation buys building
After meeting in rented facilities for many years, the church in Roeselare bought their own building in 1977 that would seat about 40 people.
They had a Bible exhibition in December showing old Bibles and giving information about the Bible as a way to attract visitors. I loaned them Greek and Hebrew Bibles and my Dutch Keur Bible, printed in 1729, that I had purchased in England for $15!
Old Dutch Bible
When we lived in Roeselare, I had the Bible displayed in the living room. An electrician who did some work in our apartment told me, You know, I’m 40 years old, been a Catholic all my life, but this is the first time I have seen a Bible! He wanted to find an old Bible like that for his living room, but he was not interested in a Bible study.
Lectures about the primitive church
From February 17th to May 12th 1978 evangelistic meetings were held in the Cultural Center of Hasselt each Friday evening for 12 weeks. The theme was The primitive church: The church as it was in the first century.
An advertising flyer listing the dates and topics for the entire series was printed and distributed door-to-door to every home in Hasselt. One hundred wall posters were printed that were hung on public bulletin boards that were often located near village churches. Newspaper ads were placed, and each week the topic, time and place was announced on the radio. Invitations were also sent to all in the area who had taken our Bible correspondence course.
At our first service on February 17th, 65 were present including 17 visitors. On the second Friday, 56 were present with 10 visitors. Brethren from other congregations in Holland and Belgium supported the effort. The average attendance for the entire series was 41 with an average of 11 visitors.
Here are English translations of the titles of my lectures:
There was a question period after each lesson.
Gospel mission at Peterhead, Scotland
From Saturday, July 1st, until Saturday, July 29th, 1978 I conducted a gospel mission for the church of Christ at Peterhead, Scotland. Lessons were given only on Saturday and Sunday evenings. Many of the men in the city are away on fishing boats during the week, so weekend meetings are best for getting visitors to attend. The theme was: The church as it was in the first century. I used English translations of some of the lectures I gave in Hasselt.
Stuart was with us, being home from school in Canada for the summer. During the week we vacationed near Loch Ness, setting up our camping trailer below a vacant farmhouse on a dead-end road in Glen Moriston. It was a tranquil place beside a babbling burn, with a river below and mountains above. Stuart made a beautiful pencil drawing of a stone bridge near our tent.
On weekends we enjoyed the hospitality of various brethren in Peterhead. When I asked one brother where he lived, he replied: Go to the sea and walk into the water until your hat floats, and you are where I live. He meant that he spent more time on a fishing boat than he did at home!
Dutch to English translation work
We were urgently in need of additional resources because of an extreme devaluation of the US and Canadian dollar compared to European currencies. Thus, on September 1, 1978 I obtained the necessary business permits to start doing freelance Dutch to English translation work. I continued preaching full time, and burned midnight oil for the translation work.
During the 42 years since, I have completed more than 2000 translations. I specialize in data processing, but many assignments are simply business correspondence. Along the way, I have translated a comic book, a book for a professor of architecture and books for a major Belgian publishing company.
Translating is a good part-time job along with evangelism. The work is done in my own office at times of my own choosing. Almost all assignments come via translation bureaus, so when I am offered a job I can accept or reject it, depending on my workload. Translating has helped me master Dutch, which has improved my preaching and writing.
The Christian Church in Genk
On Sunday morning September 3, 1978 I preached for the Christian Church in Genk. They had invited me to preach now and then since I moved to Flanders in 1965. This congregation used instrumental music but otherwise was quit close to the New Testament pattern. Because they knew I did not approve of the instrument, they would not use it when they invited me to preach.
On a later occasion, however, (which was the last time I spoke for them) the young woman who played the piano disobeyed the elders and went ahead and played anyway! She even played while the Lord’s supper was being served and hardly missed a note as she popped a piece of bread into her mouth! She did have to pause playing briefly to gulp the cup. Rita and I did not sing. The elder who invited us home after services apologized. It is sad when people love unscriptural worship so much that they are willing to cause division.
The New Testament prescribes singing as the music for the church. Instruments were first introduced by the Roman Church in 600 AD. The Orthodox Church still does not use instrumental music. That is why singing without instrumental accompaniment is called a cappella, which means as in the chapel.
The Anglican church was the only Protestant church that used instrumental music before 1750.
When churches of Christ were established in Canada and the US in the 19th century, they followed the New Testament pattern and did not use instruments of music. In the late 1800s, however, some big-city churches started using instrumental music and the Christian Church (Disciples) denomination was formed when they set up a central organization.
About 80% of the congregations joined the organization, so most of those who continued as churches of Christ lost the buildings and had to meet in homes or rented halls. Within fifty years, however, they grew to twice the size of the apostate denomination.
Around 1900 there were some congregations, however, that introduced instruments but did not join the central organization. The congregation in Genk was established by someone from those churches.
At the end of the twentieth century, some churches of Christ once again left the New Testament pattern and introduced instruments of music. This was usually accompanied by a renunciation of the restoration ideal and of their identity as churches of Christ. Many of them changed their name but some wanted to still be recognized as churches of Christ although they departed from the basic principle required to be a church of Christ, namely by limiting church teaching and practice to what is authorized by the New Testament.
Once again division has been caused by the introduction of instrumental music! Unity is possible when we sing. Singing is prescribed in the New Testament, so no one can object to that! They who introduce instrumental music sometimes accuse those who object of causing division. This is ridiculous because they are just continuing to do what the first Christians did. Those who want to worship in some other way are the ones who cause division.
Continued evangelism in Hasselt
From March 2 to April 6, 1979 we had another series of Friday night meetings in Hasselt. We invited various brethren to present lessons on topics of general interest. The topics and speakers were: The authority crisis Johan Huyghebaert, Roeselare; Divorce Justin Mulkers, Hasselt; The problem of suffering J. Van Dessel, Boortmeerbeek; Violence Tony Geens, Hasselt; Abortion Richard Amssoms, Antwerp; and Homosexuality Roy Davison, Hasselt. The average attendance was 35 with an average of 12 visitors. Brethren from other congregations supported the meetings.
We rejoiced when our daughter, Tonia, was baptized on June 28, 1979!
[To be continued, Lord willing.]
Published in The Old Paths Archive