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"IN THE WORK" 1898-1899
ABOUT this time Elder Luther Warren held a series of meetings in Omaha that I attended. While he had certain peculiarities for which I never could account, I believed him to be a mighty man of God. I had never heard preaching such as his, nor had I seen the power of God illustrated as in his work. He was a lover of children, and when he invited me to take the oversight of a children's home he had established near Omaha, I readily accepted. There was no salary connected with it—it was all done on his own responsibility—and I doubt that the conference was even consulted. I had a little money saved up, and we promptly moved all our furniture to the new children's home. I wasn't "in the work," yet I felt that in a way I was. I liked to work with children, and it seemed that we had an unusually contented and willing group of youngsters. I was happy.
Our home was situated about four miles from the business part of the city. At the time it was out in the country; now it is a suburb. There were several small buildings, and the place was not unsuited for our purpose. I was the only man on the place, and hence had to do all the heavy work. But I was content.
We had many applications from people who wanted their children under the direct care of Elder Warren, for he had the confidence of all. He had a deep insight into the Word of God, and lived up to all he taught. Standing six feet three inches tall, he
wore a kind of ecclesiastical coat buttoned up in front right up to the collar. With his black beard, he looked like what we had always thought Christ looked like. And the children followed him wherever he went. He was a favorite with the grown-ups as well as with the children. We all loved him.
We had about twenty children to begin with, and in time took in a few more. With that many children we had to arrange for their schooling. After a little search we found a young schoolteacher. Pearl West, who was willing to serve without pay. She was a devout, cheerful young woman who fitted in well with the group.
At the home Elder Warren began a revival of health reform, which had been neglected—and he was the strictest of the strict. Two meals a day was compulsory for old and young—and we had some 3-year-olds. My wife was cook and mother of all, and it fell to her lot to see that all rules were faithfully observed. But she was not always as strict as she was supposed to be. She could not, and did not, resist the temptation to sneak in a bit of dry toast to a youngster who was quietly crying in bed because she was hungry. Officially, I did not know this was going on. According to the rules, such an act was a sin and needed repentance. But we did not repent.
The hardest rule Elder Warren wanted enforced was the daily early-morning shower. We had a living spring flowing out from the side of the hill about the right height. And there it was that the children had to jump every morning. This rule my wife definitely refused to enforce for the little children. She won out.
Several things happened at this children's home that were certainly a help to me. I had not had a Christian upbringing, nor had I become very well grounded in the Adventist faith. My chief source of learning of the teachings of the church was the discussions in College View, which often dealt with the
1888 controversy and the characters of the men who had had part in the events of the Adventist Church in the past. From time to time all the prominent leaders came under the judgment of the participants in the discussions, who did not spare. There was general acceptance of Sister White as a noble and good woman, but some expressed the opinion that her husband at times attempted to influence her. That she was so influenced she stoutly denied. When Elder White at last died, the leading brethren at the time felt that Sister White would be easy to handle. But in this they found they were mistaken. She stood her ground and was not easily moved.
The Bible states that some should be received, "but not to doubtful disputations" (Rom. 14:1). I had been exposed "to doubtful disputations," and when some of the great men were mentioned, I was influenced by what I had heard. I needed a new education, and Elder Warren helped me to it.
During the first year of my new work I was closely associated with Elder Warren in all his activities. I found he lived his religion so much so that I thought he even went to extremes. He suffered no sham, no hypocrisy, no deceit of any kind. He was extremely conscientious. If he had forgotten to close a door, he would go back a block to close it.
Then something happened that made a deep impression upon the children and me alike. Our church school teacher. Pearl West, a devoted, consecrated woman of about 20, cheerful, competent, beloved by all, took sick of typhoid fever and came under a doctor's care. I went in to see her one morning and found her very low. Barely able to turn her head, she asked whether I thought God could heal her. I had no faith that God would do any such thing, but when she asked whether God could do so, I had to say Yes. "Send for Elder Warren," she asked. Like lightning the word spread among the children that Elder
Warren was coming to heal Miss West and that she would be all right. We had several unbelieving families living nearby, and the children wasted no time in informing them that Elder Warren was coming to heal Miss West. It was a situation created in only a few moments of time, and we were not happy. There are times when only the family of God should be involved, and this was one of them. But it was too late to do anything about it now. So we dressed the children in their best and awaited Elder Warren.
In the meantime I went in to see Miss West and informed her of the situation. She asked that two of the older girls come and bring her clothes so she could put them on when she would get up. They were also to do her hair. I was dubious and about to say that we better wait and see whether any healing should take place, but did not.
Elder Warren came, and the room was filled with children and unbelievers. He read a scripture and we all knelt in prayer. Rising from our knees. Elder Warren took the hand of Miss West, and she stood up among us. A moment later Elder Warren leaned toward me and said, "Did I pray, 'Thy will be done'?" I said I did not know. "Well/' he said, "it is all right. It was all so clear." We then sat down to breakfast. But only a few of the smaller children ate. We were so filled with awe that none of us could eat. Miss West ate.
There was a camp meeting going on in Lincoln at the time, and the day before, I had sent a telegram there for one of the doctors to come. We expected him to be on the noon train. In the meantime Miss West had decided that she would go to the camp meeting and, after consultation with Elder Warren, it was decided that I should take her to the station. This meant a four-mile trip in a husker wagon. We started out on a cobblestone road that went most of the way, and got to the station just in time to get her on the train to Lincoln.
I stood on the platform at noon, wet with perspiration from the excitement, when in came the train from Lincoln, with two of our doctors on board. When I told them that I had just sent Miss West to Lincoln on the train, they just about passed out. Did I not know that it was murder I had committed? Miss West would never live to reach Lincoln! At a certain stage in typhoid fever, the internal organs grow very thin and weak and any unusual movement may cause them to burst. And I would certainly be held responsible. I don't know whether they told me the truth, but I was certainly impressed. A few days later I got word that Miss West had arrived safely. They had examined her and reported, "We found no sign of typhoid fever anywhere. If she did have typhoid fever, there was a miracle."
Years later, when I went to Union College I found Pearl West's name on the "Golden Chords." Still more years later, after I told the story at a Southern camp meeting, two young people came up and said I had been talking about their aunt, who then was living not far away from the place.