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THE LIFE OF M. L. ANDREASEN - by Virginia Steinweg


BROOKLYN 1905-1910


AFTER FIVE YEARS in Chicago, M. L. was transferred to Brooklyn, New York, where he continued working among Scandinavians.

The first thing I noticed as I arrived at the church for my first service in this new parish was an under taker's sign on the church. It was neatly painted, and it gave information which would be needed should an emergency arise. I concluded that one of the members was in the business, and that the church had permitted him to put the sign up as a matter of accommodation to him. However, upon inquiry I found that this was not the case; I was informed that churches of all denominations had such signs, and that it was one of the customs of the city. At our first business meeting I asked for further particulars, and suggested that the sign be taken down. This, how ever, the brethren did not think best to do.

Then came my first funeral. A poor sister had lost her husband; the undertaker in question was called, and I was asked to preach the sermon. This I did to the best of my ability. On the way home I rode with the undertaker high up on one of the old-fashioned hearses used in those days. After due preliminaries he handed me a five dollar bill. I asked what that was for, and he informed me that this was for my part in the funeral. When I inquired further how it came about that he was paying me, he explained that it was the custom in that city for the undertaker to include in his fee for services a certain amount for


the minister. He regretted that as this was not an expensive funeral, five dollars was all he could pay me. When I indignantly refused his offer, he stated that he might be able to make it a little more, but not much, for he himself was making but small profit on this funeral. He had not only had to pay the drivers of the carriagesóthis was in the horse-and-buggy daysóbut all of them would also expect extra tips. If these were not paid, untoward events and even accidents might happen, and in a short time his business would be ruined. When I told him that I could not accept the money as a matter of principle, he said little more. I was a newcomer, and I would soon learn.

Then I did some thinking. What should I have done? All I had accomplished was to hand the undertaker five dollars. The widow had paid it. I had lost it. The undertaker had it. Perhaps it would have been better to accept the money. I could have given it back to the widow. It was too late this time; but next time I would know better.

It was the same undertaker next time. This time I received ten dollars, and made no objections to accepting the money, but felt it my duty to explain why I had changed my mind. I told the undertaker that I intended to give the money to the widow. This, evidently, I should not have told him. He looked at me in a queer way and said nothing; but I felt that he did not believe that I was telling the truth. He thought I was a hypocrite and a liar. Other ministers were at least honest and took the money; but I was trying to make him believe that I was going to give it back to the widow. I felt thoroughly miserable. It was not as easy for ministers to be honest as I had thought it was.1


One of the first things the church members did for M. L. was to provide him with a Prince Albert coat, without which no Scandinavian "prest" (priest) was properly attired. Naturally he took the best possible care of it.

Soon after his family was settled in Brooklyn, M. L. began a series of evangelistic meetings in a tent pitched on an empty lot not far from the docks. One day it became necessary to make some repairs on the tent. After the morning sun grew warm, he pulled off the neat sweater Annie had knitted for him. When he was ready to go home at noon, the sweater was nowhere to be found. He was standing in his sleeveless undershirt. Then he remembered his frock coat, hanging for safe keeping in the closet of a church member who lived nearby. He soon had his Prince Albert atop his overalls, and with the solemnity befitting a clergyman, rode home on the street car.

The place where he was holding his meetings was known as a tough area. One of his annoyances was that boys would throw stones onto the tent during the meetings just to see them roll down the slanting sides. M. L. soon learned that he would need police protection:

I was told that I would never get it unless I was willing to "grease" the policeman's palms. Ten dollars would do, I was told. I decided not to pay any graft, and as I was given assurance by the police captain that there would be a policeman there the next night, I thought all was well. But there was no policeman, and we had more disturbance than ever. It was the same the next night, and the meetings were in a fair way to be ruined. Still, I was determined not to pay. But the next night all was well. There was no disturbance. I had won out, I thought. A few weeks later I learned that one of my friends had given the policeman the necessary money. By this time it had become clear to me that the life of a minister is rather


complicated. I decided that ministers are not exempt from troubles.2

Meetings were held every night but Monday. The doctrines were taught straight from the shoulderó the beasts, the Papacy, everything. Most of the Scandinavian hearers were reared as Lutherans. But when they decided to change, they really did. Quite a number who accepted the message at the time became staunch workers in the denomination.

M. L. completed two important secular activities during his five years in Brooklyn. First, he passed the New York Regents Examinations, which qualified him to be accepted in any American university. Two of his exams were scheduled for the same time. He finished one, then went to write the other, finishing both within the allotted time.

Then, on June 17, 1909, Milian Lauritz Andreasen became a citizen of the United States of America:

"Age 33; height 5' 7½"; eyes, gray; hair brown. Previous to his naturalization a subject of Denmark."3

Whether one was naturalized depended considerably on the judge. M. L. tells his story:

When I applied for citizenship, I had to fill out papers telling where I came from, and so on. The paper asked what boat I came on. I had not come on any boat, I had just stepped aboard the train at Gretna, and that was all. That was most illegal, and would complicate matters. I had two witnesses that I had been in the country the necessary length of time to acquire citizenshipótwo Seventh-day Adventist ministers. The opposing lawyer protested my application and made quite a speech against my application. I was given quite a test on my knowledge of the Constitution, which I passed successfully, but my


opposing lawyer was not satisfied. There must be something wrong with a man who just stepped on board a train and came into the States without any entrance permit. Anyway, how did anyone know how long I had been in the United States? The law required that I be here five years.

My two witnesses were called. Did they know that I had been here that length of time? They said that they had known me longer than that; they had seen me at camp meetings and other places. The lawyer fumed. He had not asked how long they had known me. The law required that I present proof that I was here five years ago, that is, on the seventeenth day of June, 1904. Speaking to each of my witnesses, he wanted to know where they had seen me on the seventeenth day of June, 1904. Neither could give the demanded information. They had both known me before and after that date, but the lawyer demanded proof that I had been here that particular date. So most solemnly he protested against my becoming a United States citizen.

The judge was a kind, sensible person. "Well," he said, "these are all ministers, and apparently good men. There doubtless was some irregularity in his entering the way he did, but anyway, I never heard that it was necessary to prove that a man had to be here just five years on the date and produce wit nesses to that effect, so I overrule the objection of learned counsel, and swear in this man as a lawful citizen." When the three of us got out of the courthouse that day we were all sweating, and felt we had had a great deliverance.4

A year after arriving in Brooklyn, Andreasen was made a member of the conference committee. In 1908 he became conference president. The 1909 General Conference Bulletin includes a picture of a


camp meeting he conducted in New York City. There are rows of family tents and the big tent under the shadow of the six-story "skyscrapers" of the time. A horse and buggy is passing in front of the tents, and horses and wagons are laboring along farther down the street.5

In May, 1909, M. L. again attended a General Conference session held in tents under the trees of the campus of Washington Missionary College (now Columbia Union College). He was one of 199 dele gates representing the nearly 60,000 members in North America; 129 others represented the 24,000 overseas members. Delegates gave reports from such places as the German Union, the Russian Conference, the heart of Africa (illustrated with stereoptican slides), the China Union, the East Indian Field under the care of Australia, the Scandinavian Union, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Lake Titicaca, Polynesia, and the West Indies. This was the last General Conference Session that Ellen White attended. M. L. heard her speak eight times. Once was on "A Risen Saviour," the other times, she spoke of various phases of the health message, especially on the College of Medical Evangelists, Loma Linda.6 The autumn of the following year this college was to be authorized to grant medical degrees.7

On the last day of the session M. L. saw Mrs. White go to the platform to speak a farewell word to the delegates who would soon be returning to the four corners of the earth. He wondered what her final message would be. After a few words of good cheer and farewell, she turned to the pulpit on which lay a Bible. Opening it, she held it up with hands that trembled with age.


"Brethren and sisters, I commend unto you this Book."

She closed the Book and walked down from the platform. She had spoken her last word to the assembled delegates of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.8

Of special interest to Andreasen and his corps of workers was the memorial they had prepared. F. C. Gilbert, a convert of Jewish parentage working among the Jewish people, was to read it to the assembly: "A large proportion [more than half of the five million of New York City] . . . is foreign born. . . . It is stated that in Greater New York missions should be established where workers can be trained . . . that a center should here be made, that the work done should be a symbol of the work the Lord wants done in all the world . . . and that a specialty should be made of this field. Your memorialists would respectfully urge that steps be taken at this conference to place Greater New York on the footing spoken of in the foregoing extracts. . . . With [two exceptions] . . . we do not own a single church building in the whole city or conference."9

M. L. and his associates could not know that it would be nearly fifty years until the establishment of the Times Square Evangelistic Center, and that in 1977 five conferences and two unions would cooperate to develop the Metro Ministry.10

1 M. L. Andreasen, A Faith to Live By, pp. 173, 174.

2 Ibid., pp. 174, 175.

3 "Certificate of Naturalization," Clerk of King's County, Brooklyn, New York.

4 Andreasen, from autobiographical manuscript.

5 General Conference Bulletin, May 24, 1909.

6 Ibid.

7 D. E. Robinson, The Story of Our Health Message (Nashville, Tenn: Southern Pub. Assn., 1943).

8 W. A. Spicer, The Spirit of Prophecy in the Advent Movement (Takoma Park, Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1937), p. 30.

9 General Conference Bulletin, May 24, 1909.

10 Review and Herald, July 21, 1977, p. 17.

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