I spoke several times in the little Pentecostal mission in Bremen. They had a Conference there July 17. Pastor Voget from Bunde, Pastor Paul from Berlin, and Pastor Weiss from Hamburg were there. I spoke six times during the three days of Conference. The Lord helped me greatly. I had the spirit of prophecy on me in one of the messages surely. I remember telling them that the Germans were the iron that was left out of the old Roman Empire, but that they would have to be broken and put through the fire before God could use them as He wanted to. They were too strong in themselves. Little did I realize that in two short weeks that very thing would come to pass and that they would be plunged into the terrible World War, with practically the whole world against them. But it so proved. They gave me $10.00 at the Conference. I received a letter from Brother Polhill of London. He sent me five pounds ($25.00).
I spoke four times more at the little mission at Bremen. Was just beginning to preach without an interpreter. The last week in July war began to threaten Europe. Saturday, August 1, it was finally declared. I had an appointment to go to Bunde on that date, near the Holland border, where Pastor Voget was located, to attend a one day Conference. I started early on the morning of August 1, not realizing what the situation really was or what war meant. Everything seemed so orderly in Bremen. I saw no excitement. But before I got to Bunde I began to realize.
It took me seven hours to make the journey that ordinarily should not require more than two or three hours. When we reached Leer Junction we had to change cars. Here we had to wait a long time. All was excitement. The platform was patrolled by police, looking for spies. They were catching them and giving them short shrift. I began to feel a little concerned. Finally a policeman approached me and opened conversation. But the Lord had it all arranged. He had been in Bunde the year before and had seen me there with Pastor Voget. So he recognized me. Finally our train pulled out for Bunde. Troop trains were running every few minutes for the front. All the doors and windows were fastened and guarded on our train to keep bombs from being thrown from within to blow up the bridges and stop the troop trains.
The air was by this time full of excitement. I remember the first words I uttered upon reaching Leer Junction and seeing the people excitedly waiting for their train to the Holland border were: “The whole of Europe has gone crazy.” And so it proved. The people were frantic to get out of Germany, over the Holland border.
We finally reached little Bunde only three miles from Holland. This was as far as the trains were running. Connection had been broken with Holland, although Holland was not in the war. But she must remain neutral. The border was naturally closed. Germany was shut in from all sides. I quickly discovered that I could not hope to return to my family for some time. All trains going the other way were reserved for the troops. I was up against it.
August 4, England declared war. Now they looked for the French and British navy to break in on them from the North Sea. This would have brought the contending armies into conflict right between my family and myself. Bunde lies only a few miles from the North Sea. I would be driven south, my family toward Russia. It was an anxious time for me. Now I began to realize what war meant. All the young men were leaving Bunde, from the neighborhood around Ostfriesland. They were the first troops to be sent to the French border. Those were harrowing times. All work was at a standstill. The harvest was left standing in the fields. No one had any heart to work. For a week or more, until the troops were moved, no work was done. The whole village lived at the railway station, watching the trains pull out that carried their loved ones to death and destruction. Pastor Voget and myself held meetings alone in the little Pentecostal hall as a regular Conference was out of the question. We preached to the men, who came to the meetings for the last time. Many came who would not come before. They were about to face death and their hearts were sober. I am satisfied more than one found Christ just in time. In a few days some of them were in eternity.
Some of the men, away from home when the call to arms came, had only time to report at the military headquarters, and were sent to the front and killed without ever getting home or seeing their loved ones again. How necessary to be prepared to meet God in such cases! In Europe every man knew just what he was expected to do in case of war. He knew just what class he belonged to, where to report and when. They were kept ready for war. How few are really ready for the service of Christ. I lay awake nights the first few days of the war, listening to the horses hoofs over the rough cobble stone paving in the streets as they brought them from the country to the trains to be shipped to the front also. Every horse was registered and accounted for, in readiness for war, in Europe. Every freight car was marked just how many horses and how many men it would hold. The whole creation (every creature) was subjected unto vanity and must suffer for man’s sin. No wonder the whole creation groans to be relieved from this burden. - Rom. 8.
But I had a wonderful experience also at this time. I had to have assurance from God for the safety of my family in Bremen. God spoke to me one night as I lay awake. He laid His hand on my heart and assured me that just as surely as He was the sovereign author of the Pentecostal outpouring in Los Angeles in 1906, as a result of which I was in Europe at this time, just so surely He had sovereign control of this war situation and that nothing could happen without His express permission. I went to sleep then. I knew I could trust Him. I had no more anxiety.
In a few days I was allowed to return to Bremen to my family. I got through without being questioned and reported to the police at once. This was required in order that they might keep track of us. We were required to report frequently. The journey homeward was a slow one. There were many delays and the trains which still carried some soldiers, went carefully over the bridges.
I got a wonderful lesson in “all things in common” on this trip. The whole nation was in distress. They came together as one man. At every station the country people along the way tried to outdo each other in kindness to the soldiers. They brought pails of milk, sandwiches of every description, boiled eggs, in fact everything edible to feed the soldiers, until they could eat no more. And there was not a cent to pay for anything. They would have been insulted if offered pay. It was a wonderful demonstration. I wept as I looked upon it. I could have had all I wanted to eat and drink free, but I had not the heart to partake of it. For what had I done to merit it? I felt unworthy. I was making no sacrifice. But I came to the firm conclusion that a nation like that cannot be destroyed.
The Kaiser had a medal struck during the early days of the war. On one side it read: “Ich kenne keine partein mehr; ich kenne nur Deutsche.” (I know no party more; I know only Germans.) On the other side it read: “Der Kaiser rief, und alle, alle kamen.” (The King called, and they all came.) Would to God that the servants of Christ had as much sense and that they would respond as readily when He calls.
I told my wife after the war began that we naturally need not expect much help now from the saints in the mission. They would have hard enough job to feed themselves. Business was ruined. Heads of house had to go to war. One precious brother was sent to the front, leaving his wife and three small weeping children. But the last thing he did before going was to pay another month’s rent for us, largely out of his own pocket. He was the leader of the mission. We prayed earnestly for this brother all through the war, and although he was at the front practically during the whole war, he came through without being wounded once. I do not think he took part in the active fighting. I felt very sorry to see him in the war at all.
The national conscience in Europe is much stronger than in America. They have not had as much light in these matters. It meant death for them to refuse to go. The poor saints were if any thing more liberal toward us after the war broke out than before. They seemed willing to share the last loaf with us. I could not help contrasting their supreme sacrifice and unselfishness with the greed of some other professors I have known in other countries.
There were strange sights in the sky one night in Bremen during August. Strange curling clouds, more like pillars of smoke, seemed to roll together in grotesque forms. They looked more like ghastly chariots, or aeroplanes. Even the guards on duty mistook them for enemy aeroplanes, and began to shoot at them. In fact they kept up a desultory shooting at these strange objects all over the city, the greater part of the night. There was much excitement. I learned later that the same strange objects had appeared over some parts of Holland, though at a little later date. We had just come out of the little Pentecostal mission and found the people shooting into the sky and a great crowd collected. It began at 10 p.m.
Money had been coming in in an unusual way for some time previous to the beginning of the war. I had remarked at the fact to my wife and thought perhaps the Lord was preparing us for our proposed trip to the Balkans. We had left Finland with $300.00. This was more money than I had ever had at any one time before in my life. Six months before this we had really gotten down to a very few dollars. It became evident soon that He had prepared us instead to return to America. The Balkans were now in flames. None but a madman would have attempted to go there after war began, if indeed he were able to reach there.
The American Ambassador at Bremen had wanted all American citizens to be prepared to leave Europe. We did not want to leave Europe, especially to return to America. A wonderful field of service had been opened up to us. We wished to remain. But God’s will must be done. I spent much time in earnest prayer for the will of God and determined I would not move until I knew He wished us to, even if it shut us up in the war zone. The Ambassador naturally would not tell me what attitude he expected America to take in the matter. But I suspicioned even at that early day, that he expected that the United States would come in ultimately, against Germany. We were treated fine by the Germans. We could not have been treated with greater consideration by the authorities and were perfectly safe among them.
I spoke possibly a dozen times more in the little mission, while waiting for the Lord to make clear His will for us. We were all very loth to leave. But by September 1, we began to feel that our time was short in Germany. My work appeared to be drawing to a close in Bremen. The Lord was preparing to shift us again. This I felt in my spirit. We were not sure about leaving Europe altogether yet.
September 9 was my last time at the little mission in Bremen. The next day we said good-bye and went to Weener, where we had stopped with Pastor Voget’s father when we first moved to Germany. My next plan was to go to Amsterdam and see if we could get a boat to America. If so I would take it that God wanted us to return there. It was a question whether passage could be gotten. Thousands were trying to get out of Europe to America. But if God wanted us there He would open the way. The American Consul had been urging us to get out of Germany. In fact he declared he could not promise us protection if we remained. So I stayed as long as I safely could with my little family. I had no right to unnecessarily risk their safety. We trusted God to keep us in His will.
And now I began to understand fully why all had been a blank to me in the Spirit after September, in God’s previous dealing with me. I had felt there was something He was keeping from me. It was the War, and our return to America. Pastor Voget and I went across the Holland border to Nieuwe Schans. We both carried military passes. We had to pass both the German and Holland guards to get across. I went on from there to Amsterdam to see about a boat. Was not able to make any arrangements as I found the boats from Rotterdam were all crowded for the next six weeks to come. But the Lord did show me clearly that I was to bring my family to Amsterdam. So much was plain. I preached twice Sunday at the Pentecostal Hall at Amsterdam with much blessing.
I returned to Weener, across the Holland border again to my family. But I had a remarkable experience on this trip home. I felt a strong impression Monday morning that I must hurry to Cook’s office to see about my train back to the Holland border. So I hurried Brother Polman off with me enroute for the depot. He stopped in a store near Cook’s office while I went in. I found a train was leaving in just eight minutes, which was the last one I could get home on that night. Brother Polman was not in sight. We were four blocks from the depot.
I prayed and soon saw him coming leisurely down the street. Calling to him I hurried him to the street car and I just reached the railway station platform in time to jump on my train, which was already moving out of the depot. It took quick work. I had not a moment to spare. I did not like the idea of rushing so, but I understood later why I had to take that train. I could not have crossed the border that night from any other one. All trains had stopped running over the border after war was declared, and we had to cross afoot or with carriage, a distance of six miles from Nieuwe Schans to Bunde.
When we reached Nieuwe Schans, Holland, it was dark with a storm blowing, very dark and wild and rainy. I had to cross the border and two sets of guards. It was not a pleasant prospect. I did not know how I would get home. There were no carriages crossing the border except private ones. Public conveyances only went as far as the border. As I came out from the depot I saw a closed carriage standing by the curb. I felt that was the cab for me to take.
But upon asking the driver if he could take me as far as the border, he replied, no. The carriage was a private one. So I went to another, rougher looking, that was going to the border and tried to climb into it. Some unseen power seemed to pull me back. I did not feel right about it. I went back to the first carriage again, though there was plenty of room in the one I had just left.
Again I asked to be admitted to the carriage, but was again refused with the same explanation. It was a private carriage. I returned and tried again to climb into the other carriage, but again I felt a strong influence pulling me backward. Thoroughly convinced that God wanted me in the first carriage I approached it for the third time. I knew nothing of the purpose of the driver, but had supposed it was going to the border only, like the others. When I reached it this time two women were seated in it and a third one, whom I saw was in charge of the carriage, was standing by it holding the door open. She was a perfect stranger to me, but as I approached she politely asked me to get in, just as though I had been expected, and without a word of inquiry. I wondered much at this but climbed in without asking any questions. I felt God was leading. It seemed more like a dream. I had no idea where the carriage was going to. The lady climbed in beside me and closed the door.
Still wondering how I would get home from the border, or if my carriage were indeed going to the border, we rode on. We finally reached the Holland guard and there I discovered that my military pass was no good going the other way. It was good for one way only, from Germany. I had not thought of that. I was obliged to have a pass from the Holland authorities in order to cross into Germany. Here I was up against it. We had not yet reached the border. There was a “no man’s land” between the German and the Holland guards. What should I do? I prayed and the soldier on duty expostulated. Finally he told me that he knew his business and that I would have to get out and see the Commandant. Still I sat tight, hardly knowing why, except that I felt I must stay with the carriage.
The lady finally spoke a few words to him quietly. I did not hear what she said, but to my great relief he closed the door and we drove on. We reached the German guards, passed without difficulty, a conversation was taken up between the inmates of the carriage and then for the first time I learned where the carriage was going to. The lady with the carriage lived in Weener, where my family were, and the two women whom she had met at the station in Holland were refugees, escaped from England. They were a German and an Austrian. She was conveying them into Germany and evidently knew her business well. She doubtless had seen me in Weener and recognized me at the depot. Otherwise she surely would not have trusted me in the carriage. But I did not know her.
In a short while the carriage drew up right in front of our door in Weener and I was at home again with my family. It was wonderful. It had not cost me a cent for the carriage and the whole thing seemed so mysterious I could hardly realize it could be true. Let others explain as they will my feeling of haste to get that particular train from Amsterdam and my inability from the resistance of an unseen power at the station to take the other carriage, but I shall always believe that God had the whole thing ordered just so.
September 16, I removed the family to Amsterdam; saying good-bye to Germany for the last time. We had no trouble getting over the border as I carried a military passport which I had secured in Bremen. Pastor Voget went with us as far as the Holland station at Nieuwe Schans. We reached Amsterdam safely and stopped in the Pentecostal Home with Brother and Sister Polman at 342 Kerk Straat.
I preached here at the mission with much help from God. Brother Polman wanted us to remain in Holland indefinitely. But I had no rest in my spirit there. I had to decide if we were to return to America, and when, and how. The submarine menace was setting worse continually.
I went to the Hague where a committee was located to assist Americans home, or rather lend them the necessary funds until they could pay it back. God had given me the money to get home with so I did not need to borrow any. I found all sailings were full for six weeks to come from Rotterdam. The Liverpool sailings offered a better opportunity. In looking over the list of sailings from the latter place I felt impressed with a certain vessel, the “St. Paul.” It seemed to me God would have us go home on that boat. Arrangements could not be made from the Hague however, so I returned to Amsterdam. I wanted to pray more about it also. While at the Hague I visited the Carnegie Peace Palace. It was very beautiful but it seemed like a huge farce just now.
I spoke at the mission in Amsterdam again. Felt impressed to go to Thos. Cook’s office to see if I could get in touch with Liverpool. But I found to the last that I did not want to leave Europe. I had a great struggle to submit to the will of God in returning to America. At Cook’s office I had the clerk write out a message to send to Liverpool about the sailings twice. But twice I left the office without sending it, standing around the streets for about five minutes. I was trying to get willing to return to America. But I could get no rest in my spirit. I had to go back a third time to the office. The clerk had thrown the message on the floor in disgust the last time. This time I told him to send it.
I preached twice more in the mission at Amsterdam. The Lord wonderfully blessed me. If it had not been for the family I would have remained in Holland. In a day or two I received an answer from Liverpool. “Berths reserved on the St. Paul,” the vessel I had been impressed we should sail on. It was sailing October 3, for New York City. So that was settled. I resigned myself to God’s will. It had been a real death to give up my mission work and return home to America. I bought our tickets straight through from Amsterdam to New York City, though they could not issue tickets from London to Liverpool. But they promised we should have them in London. I had enough money without borrowing a cent or asking a dollar from any one. So wonderfully had the Lord provided for us for this emergency.