Grace Triumphant - Chapter 10 - Our First Furlough

Our First Furlough

“And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31)

In faith we made booking to go on furlough in April, 1928, sailing on a Japanese ship from Hong Kong to San Francisco; but it was not until the day we left Manila that we had all the money for our fare.  We had packed and prepared, trusting the Lord to supply this need.  With the money on hand in the morning we booked on a freighter leaving that afternoon for Hong Kong.  We faced two nights layover in Hong Kong with no money to spare for hotel accommodation.  Arriving late one afternoon we were able to stay on board until the next morning.  At that time Leonard was three and Kenneth a year and a half.  We picked up our tickets from the Japanese shipping company.  They were not inclined to let us on board that day as no meals and no service would be provided until noon the following day.  Our combination of prayer to God and pleas to the agent won his consent.  We learned later that other passengers were refused such an arrangement.

Before the days of air travel and jet lag, the three weeks on board ship were the opportunity to rest.  Furlough time is a wonderful change but hardly a rest.  Folks say, “Oh, you must get a rest while you are home—would you be able to speak to our women’s group tomorrow afternoon?”  Considerable traveling, sleeping in strange beds, eating too much, holding meetings, and giving reports make for a very busy time.  Yet it is worthwhile!  Interest is aroused and prayer stimulated and the Lord’s people blessed, we hope.  It is good for the missionary to get away from the immediate contact of the work for it affords an opportunity to look at the work from a distance.  This provides a different perspective and gives new ideas for the future.

Len and Ken were favorites on that trip.  The children had their lunch before the adults so we had to lock them in the cabin while we ate.  One noon Ken was missing.  Two passengers, single ladies, joined us in the search.  He was found on the upper boat deck with a Japanese passenger.  One of the girls scolded him for taking “our” baby without telling us!   It was a wonderfully calm voyage.   Some days the Pacific lived up to its name, hardly a ripple on the water.   Strolling on deck one day, Ken slipped away from us for a moment.   To our consternation he was kneeling on a place for the ropes, looking down at the water.   As I jumped to grab him I realized I needed to get a good hold lest in my rush I should cause him to fall.  Later on we got a harness so Anna could hold both boys on a leash.

Usually on such trips there were other missionaries, so we had opportunities for fellowship and Bible study together.  A Sunday service was arranged for all who cared to attend.  That was when second-class passengers were allowed to mingle with the first-class.  On later trips we traveled by freighters with less than a dozen passengers and less opportunity for fellowship.  On one ship Anna and I were the only passengers, and Anna the only woman apart from some Chinese steerage passengers.

We landed in San Francisco and spent a few days staying with friends in Oakland.  Ken was fascinated with the pull-down blinds, which would, to his delight, roll up when, released.  The summer was spent in Victoria with my sisters, staying in the home I had built.  This afforded time to visit assemblies on Vancouver Island as one of my old friends loaned me his car for most of the time.  After Labor Day Anna crossed the country with the boys going directly to Buffalo, while I stopped to visit various cities on the way across.  Crossing the Canadian prairies the boys saw snow for the first time.  They decided it looked like sugar.  When the train was due to stop for an engine and crew change, Anna took them for a little walk. “May we walk on it?”

It had taken all the money we had to pay our fares home, so there was nothing extra for new outfits.  We didn’t want to look shabby as we traveled around.  We remembered that a missionary from China arrived home and when she was in Victoria she looked so dowdy that the sisters bought her an entirely new outfit.  She arrived at the school in Brooklyn when we were there, wearing the old dowdy dress.  Whether she did this intentionally to call attention to herself, or whether she just liked that old dress, we don’t know.  In our case, we just left this matter with the Lord.  In Portland, a brother took me to a clothing store and bought me a new suit, which was greatly appreciated.  In Los Angeles just as we were leaving to speak at Avenue 54 Gospel Hall, John Murset stepped in from next door with an almost new Stetson hat.  He had picked it up on the highway where it had probably blown out of a passing car.  He said, “This doesn’t fit me, perhaps it will fit you.”  I replied, “If the Lord intended it for me, it will fit me.”  And it did!  But I almost lost it that same evening.  After the service I went to the cloakroom to get my new hat.  Since almost everyone had already left there was only one hat left—and it definitely wasn’t mine!  It evidently had been used for some time.  Explaining my dilemma to one of the brethren, he said, “I can guess who has your hat!”  Going outside some of the men were standing on the sidewalk talking.  Going to one old gentleman, my friend said, “Brother, are you sure you have you own hat?”  “Of course,” was the reply.  “Would you mind looking?”   The old gent removed “my” hat, looked at it incredulously and said, “Well, I never!  This isn’t my hat!”  Right away I put my name in my new hat in case there should be another such incident.

It was Thanksgiving before I reached Buffalo, in time for the conference there.  Much of the winter and spring was given to traveling and having meetings.  Most of the time I was alone as it was too hard to travel with children.  We did go together once to the New Jersey area to stay with the Will McKellin’s who had been at Brooklyn with us.  After a day or two their boy was sick and since it might be measles we moved over to New York City.  Next day we learned the McKellin boy had measles and chicken pox, so Anna hurried back to Buffalo.  There they both had both sicknesses, not very severe but bad enough to keep them in.

That spring I was privileged to spend a weekend in Baltimore with Major and Mrs. Barlow and their son Erle.  It was a thrill to hear from them the story of the early days of the work in the Philippines.  They continued to be faithful prayer partners in the work.  Major Barlow and later his son Erle were a great help in the assemblies in the Baltimore area until the Lord took them home to Himself.  Major Moses Barlow passed away March 14, 1934, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.  On our visit to Baltimore in early 1977, it was a great joy to me that Erle’s son opened the meeting for me in one of the chapels.  (Major Moses Barlow has often been confused with Capt. John Barlow, a marine captain who was vitally interested in missionary work in New York and later in Toronto and whose son, Dr. John Barlow was editor of MISSIONS magazine.  These men were not related, except in the bonds of common faith.)

In May 1929, on our cross-country trip we arranged to stop over in Chicago for the annual meeting of the Chicago Missionary Service Committee.  In the evening meeting another missionary (who shall remain unnamed) and I were to give reports and be followed by a devotional challenge by T.B. Gilbert.  That would allow us 25 minutes each.  The first speaker would have been wise to stop when his time was up but he rambled on like a car that has lost its brakes.  T.B. Gilbert suggested I take what was left after the first speaker had taken 45 minutes.  However, I thought the devotional challenge was important.  Also, I counted on the psychological effect I would gain by taking only five minutes to relate one story.  I felt sorry for the other missionary, as he had only harmed himself.

After a return visit to Victoria, we sailed from San Francisco by Japanese liner to Hong Kong, with stops at Yokohama, Kobe, Nagasaki, and Shanghai.  From Hong Kong we came by a President liner to Manila and one of our fellow passengers was Dr. Frank Laubach who later became well known through his literacy movement.

Getting settled back into our home was a bit of a chore as it required a lot of cleaning and building of cupboards.  We were able to get a Ford sedan for P350.00.  At the same time we were praying about our next sphere of service.  There was no need for us in the Walled City work since the Shepherds were helping the Wightmans there.  Both of them were also involved in the huge task of reprinting Bibles in the Philippine languages for the American Bible Society.  Perhaps I can digress at this point to write something about the work of Bible societies here.

During the Spanish times, no Protestant missionary work was allowed.  Some Filipino revolutionists had been exiled to Spain.  Through them the British and Foreign Bible Society began preliminary work on Philippine translations.  One of those involved in this was a Spanish priest, Padre Lallave, who had been some years in Pangasinan.  There he had acquired a Spanish Bible and had begun preaching some of the truth he learned there.  He was charged with heresy and forced to return to Spain.  Remembering his friends in Pangasinan he translated most to the New Testament into that language, encouraged by the Bible Society.

Meanwhile, God was preparing another man to carry the Word to the Islands.  A young Spaniard named Castells had been brought to knowledge of the truth through Dr. Eric Lund (later a missionary to the Philippines), in Barcelona.  In 1888, Lallave and Castells went together to Manila with a supply of Scriptures.  They were warned of the risk they were running once the reason for their visit should become known.  Leaving their boxes in customs they booked into the Oriente Hotel in Intramuros.  Within a week they both became violently ill.  It was said to be typhoid but poisoning was suspected.  Lallave, because of his age, died and for days his body lay unburied because of the hatred of the friars.  Finally the British consul intervened and gained permission for him to be buried in the small Protestant cemetery in Makati.  Castells recovered and sold a few Bibles he had in his baggage but then was arrested as a spy.  He was banished and told never to return.  The boxes of Scriptures were returned to Singapore where they spent a decade gathering dust.

Three weeks after the U.S. Forces captured Manila from the Spanish, the agent of the British and Foreign Bible Society in Singapore landed in Manila with those Scriptures.  For the first time, free entry of Scriptures was allowed and also the sale of God’s Word.  When the agent went north to Pangasinan the demand was so great that the agent had to take refuge in a house and sell through a barred window.

The American Bible Society established an agency in November 1899, and the two societies divided the task of translation and publishing.  Soon there were seven complete Bibles and smaller portions in various Philippine languages.  By mutual agreement the British Society withdrew in 1919 to avoid overlapping while the American Society withdrew from Korea.  Translation was not only difficult but also sometimes dangerous.  A teacher who was assisting in the Panayan translation was warned to break off relations with the Protestants.  Because he refused he was brutally murdered.  On one of the Islands two colporters set off across the Island by a lonely trail and were never heard from again.

Some languages do not have very precise words for colors.  When translating Matthew’s Gospel, the translators were not sure about the best way to translate “purple robe.”  Taking a piece of purple cloth they went around asking people what color it was.  Most replied, “kulay ng ube.”  Ube is a root crop with a deep purple color.  This was what the translators adopted, though the modern version uses an expression meaning “deep red.”

For several years the Scriptures in Philippine languages were being printed on a Christian press in Yokohama.  In the great earthquake and fire there in 1923 that press was destroyed.  The charred remains of the proprietor were identified only by a bunch of keys beside them.  The vault in which the lead plates were stored contained only a few inches of molten lead on the floor.  This threw a heavy burden upon the Secretary in Manila, Bruce Cameron, a good friend of ours.  Some mats for making plates were available in Manila or New York for temporary needs.  However, it was decided to make some badly needed revisions in most languages.

Early in our second term I was preparing translations of booklets for the Scripture Gift Mission in London.  When we first came to the Philippines, a friend in Victoria wrote asking them to send us a grant of free booklets.  That was the beginning of our fellowship with SGM, which still continues.  In 1927 Mr. Francis Brading of SGM visited us, and in more recent years we have had visits by Mr. Ronald A. Young.  We have had a part in the preparation of most of the Tagalog booklets they have published.  Just before the new translation was ready for printing in 1933, I asked Mr. Cameron if I could have access to the galley proofs so that a new booklet would be up-to-date.  I soon noticed a number of errors, not only typographical, but some that were more serious. I drew the attention of Mr. Cameron to these and it was discovered that one pastor who was supposed to have gone over the proofs had failed to do so, even though he had given his OK.  It is difficult to understand how anyone who claims to be in God’s service could be so negligent in dealing with the Holy Scriptures.

At that time, I was slowly recuperating from a time of sickness.  Mr. Cameron suggested that we go to Baguio for three months.  The Bible Society would pay the rent of a house and I would devote that time to reading over the Tagalog manuscript.  This arrangement had advantages for both of us.  It was not only typographical mistakes that I corrected, but notes were made of anything that seemed to me to be dubious and these were referred to Dr. McGill, a Presbyterian missionary who had a foremost part in the translation.  In later years, Dr. and Mrs. McGill were interned by the Japanese at Los Banos Concentration Camp as we were.  Dr. McGill passed away there on account of malnutrition, and I was one of the pallbearers.

One incident of how God uses His Word is worth repeating.  On the island of Bohol there was a godly doctor, Dr. James Graham.  He built a hospital there and every patient when he or she left for home was given a New Testament.  A man from up in the mountains brought his daughter for treatment and heard the Gospel and received a New Testament.  Nothing more was heard from that family.  Six years later a colporter was visiting a village, but the people were not interested.  They averred that “that book makes men crazy.”  The astonished colporter asked what they meant.  They told him that up the mountain was a barrio where they had such a book.  Now they have no cockpit, they don’t drink “tuba” (a wine made from coconuts), and they even go to town to pay their taxes.  Such “insanity” deserved a closer investigation.  The colporter found a congregation of believers in that barrio with a tattered New Testament.  They were delighted at the opportunity to purchase the entire Bible.

In the 1950’s when the Philippine Bible Society decided to prepare a version of the New Testament in up-to-date Tagalog, I was asked to join the committee.  My knowledge of Greek is very meager, and I am not a linguist.  However, through the years I have devoted much time to the study of the Scriptures, and with the help of many writings endeavored to probe the real meaning of the words used.   Later when work was proceeding on the Old Testament I was asked to read through the new translation.  It was also my privilege to attend a translators’ seminar for a month in Baguio and to get to know such experts as Dr. Eugene Nida and others.

This was at the time when Roman Catholics were cooperating in translating the Bible.  Some brethren in other lands were very fearful about this cooperation.  Personally, it seemed that the priests had a scholastic advantage over their Protestant co-laborers, some of whom had a liberal background.  The new version of the Tagalog Bible is now published, both with and without the Apocrypha.  For the most part it is considerably more readable than the old version.  Old grammatical forms which are seldom used have been eliminated.

My concern has not been so much with the Roman Catholic participation in translation.  It is a welcome change to know that the Bible is no longer a forbidden book to the rank and file, but is being read and studied by Roman Catholics.  My concern has been in regard to the modern theories of translation.  The theory of dynamic equivalence means that we endeavor to ascertain what the Biblical writers meant and then transfer this into acceptable and understandable equivalents in the receptor language.  This is certainly a vast improvement over the older way of an almost literal translation, word for word.  Yet though these theories certainly do have merit, what perturbs me is the tendency to ignore verbal inspiration.  For many, of course, verbal inspiration is “old hat.”  But the precision of Scripture is often a delight to reverent students of God’s Word.  Thus, in new translations many of the repetitions which indicated divine emphasis have been regarded as superfluous.  In the poetical books some rich meaning has been sacrificed, it seems, for the sake of a poetic style in Tagalog.  Well, it is impossible to come up with a translation that will satisfy everybody.  In the multiplicity of modern English versions there are none which are sure to satisfy everyone.

Through all of our missionary service we have been convinced of the value and importance of the Scriptures.  The truth of Psalm 119:130 has been proven again and again, “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.”

In our visits to the Santol Sanitarium, I once talked with a man who said that he believed in Christ.  Yet there was no indication that he had experienced salvation.  I decided to probe a little and asked him, “Are your sins forgiven?”  He was not at all sure about that.  So I showed him Acts 10:43, “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.”  I explained what it means to believe in Christ and pointed out that our part is to believe and God’s part is to forgive.  He was keenly interested, so again I asked him, “Do you believe in Christ, that He died on the Cross to bear the punishment you deserve for your sins?”  He said he believed, so again I asked, “Are your sins forgiven?”  He was not sure.  I had him read the verse several times, each time asking him if his sins were forgiven.  Then I saw his face light up; it was almost as if someone had turned on a light.  “If this is true, then my sins are forgiven.”  He was assured that it was true because it was the Word of God.  When I returned the following week he greeted me with a smile.  “Are your sins still forgiven,” I asked.  “Oh, yes,” he replied, “and please go to that man over in that bed.  He too wants to know about forgiveness of sins.”   So I knew the work of grace was real for he had already been witnessing about his newfound joy.

In that same hospital, Fred Pucknell and I walked into a room of a patient whom we learned had been on the editorial staff of a popular Manila Weekly.  As we handed him some literature, he recognized that we were missionaries.  Picking up a magazine he said, “Perhaps you can answer my questions.  I have many doubts about immortality and the hereafter.”  The magazine articles had not helped him.  It is no wonder he was thinking along those lines because it was evident he had little hope of recovery from tuberculosis.  Fred said, “Before we discuss those questions, you need first to settle your relationship with God through Christ.”  After a few further visits, he accepted Christ as his Savior.  So on another visit we said to him, “Now that you trusted Christ as you Savior we are now in a position to discuss those doubts that you had before.”  His unforgettable reply was, “Since I trusted in Christ I have had no more doubts.”  Not that he knew much more about immortality or the hereafter, but he knew Christ. The entrance of God’s Word had given him light.