Guidance Regarding the Field
“Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.” (Psa. 25:4)
During the year at school we were much in prayer for guidance as to the
sphere of service the Lord planned for us. Anna’s thoughts had
been towards South America while mine were toward either Africa or
Portugal. One morning in December, the student body was in prayer
together as was the daily custom. It seemed as if the Lord said
to me, “Go to the Philippines!” I didn’t even know where the
Philippines were but I guessed they were somewhere off in the Pacific
like Hawaii. To my best recollection I had only once heard of
those Islands. Just previous to that in a letter from John
Thomson, one of the elders at Oaklands Chapel, he had told about the
visit there of Mr. and Mrs. George Wightman. They had formerly
been serving the Lord in Mexico and were then on their way to the
Philippines. When I stopped by a second-hand bookstore in
Brooklyn a few days later I found a book on the Philippines.
Usually I haunted such stores to look for Biblical books but that time
I was looking for something different.
That Christmas I had been invited to visit an old Victorian friend who
was farming in New England. It was a mild winter so I really
enjoyed the opportunity to get away from the city and from
studying. There wasn’t much I could do to help on the farm so I
went for long walks. One afternoon I arrived at a sandy beach and
walked up and down beside the sea. It was my prayer that the Lord
would bring the Philippines before me again if that was the place He
had chosen for us. That evening sitting before the crackling
fire, Joe and I chatted together. He mentioned John Lamb in
Venezuela, remarking that they spoke Spanish there. Then he said
one of his neighbors spoke Spanish, having picked it up in the
Philippines when he was in the army. Joe knew nothing of my
exercise about that country. However, the mention was so casual
that I asked the Lord for further confirmation.
Back in Brooklyn, I was at the watchnight service held at the
school. The next morning, I went to the 13th Avenue Gospel Hall
for the Lord’s Supper. On the table were several copies of a new
issue of “Voices from the Vineyard.” Glancing through this
missionary magazine, I noticed a letter from George Wightman. But
what caught my eye was the editor’s note in bold type right above the
letter. It stated that for almost a quarter of a century the
Philippine Islands had been under United States rule and yet so far
there was no missionary serving the Lord there, commended from a U.S.
assembly (Wightmans were from Scotland). That was the answer to
my prayer for guidance. Further confirmation was that the same
issue told of A. G. Ingleby going to Portugal to help Mr. Swan.
It was as if the Lord was telling me He had someone else picked out for
On my first furlough I related this incident to Richard Maclachlan,
editor of Voices. He remembered that editorial note and said he
could not recall doing such on any other occasion.
There was no doubt in my mind that we were to go to the Philippines but
Anna wanted her own assurance as to the Lord’s will. She was not
satisfied with my argument—if it was the Lord’s will for us to be
married, then He wouldn’t send us to different fields. Basically
she was fearful of the criticism that she changed the choice of field
of service for my sake. There was one student who had signed an
autograph book “Yours for India” but at a later date another entry said
“Yours for China.” Eventually she went to Central America!
One night Miss May Van Dine stayed with Anna and Irene as an overnight
guest. While having her devotions next morning, she turned to
Anna and said, “Anna, have you ever thought how sometimes we allow what
people may say to divert us from what God wants us to do?” She
too was unaware of what Anna had been thinking. That convinced
Anna that she could accept going to the Philippines as the Lord’s will
for her too.
Many times through the years we have been most thankful for the
conviction we had that the Lord sent us to the Philippines. Our
first term was particularly difficult with unforeseen discouragements
and repeated financial trials. Once it was suggested to us by a
fellow missionary that we were in the wrong place and should seek
another field of service. It would have been easy to become a
missionary dropout! But we had this assurance that the Lord sent
us there with clear and definite guidance. Therefore, we would
need equally clear guidance if He should want us to leave.
As our first year at school drew to a close the question arose whether
we should return for another year. We were not altogether happy
with the situation there so questioned the advisability of
returning. Another question was whether we should be married
before going to the field. There were some very strong views
about this. Responsible brethren in Great Britain and America
were insisting that engaged couples should spend a year or two at least
on the field before getting married. This would give time for
cultural adjustment and language study before assuming marital
responsibilities. The one exception would be when the missionary
on the field recommended marriage first.
In our correspondence with Mr. Wightman, he suggested we should go as
soon as feasible and that we should be married first. Since they
were the only missionaries of our group there, it would be difficult to
arrange suitable housing for singles. Naturally we were happy
with his advice and the elders in Buffalo agreed to this. The
next question was what to do in that summer of 1922 in further
preparation for missionary work.
A good friend arranged for Anna to take a course in midwifery in
Buffalo, believing that this would be of service on the mission
field. So her summer was spent with medical studies and assisting
a Christian doctor who lived across the street. Thus, she was
able to get the required number of delivery cases, along with the
lessons. Actually she rarely used this training in the
Philippines. It was not needed since there are medical facilities
available to most of the people.
Leaving the school in Brooklyn we traveled to Buffalo where I was
introduced to her family. I don’t think they were greatly
impressed until I preached one Sunday evening at Assembly Hall.
That was an ordeal for me and I really worked hard on
preparation. The Lord graciously helped. Whether the
hearers reaped spiritual benefits I don’t know, but I do know there
were favorable reactions in the family. During the three weeks
there I also helped in open-air meetings, visits to the City Mission,
and in tract distribution.
Then I headed for northern Ontario. On the way I stopped at a
Dominion Day conference in Hamilton where my old friend Tom Baird was
one of the speakers. He kindly introduced me as an out-going
missionary. After an overnight stop in Peterborough I went on to
Haileybury. There I found my way to the home of Mr. Sam Taylor,
an evangelist working for the Lord in that area, who was heading up a
special campaign there. He was a hard worker who disciplined
himself and expected others to do the same. As he opened the door
I introduced myself and he greeted me, “Welcome, if you have come to do
the work of an evangelist.” The emphasis on work did not escape
me and I found there was indeed work to be done.
Other members of the team arrived a little later: Tom Baird spent part
of the summer there. His messages and Bible studies and private
conversations were a real help; Arthur Smith was a beloved member of
the team with his winsome ways. He was one of the outstanding
violinists in Canada and had played in some top-rate orchestras.
It was always a thrill to listen to his playing though he never played
just to entertain. Going into a small village for an open-air
meeting, a man would look out of the saloon and shout, “Is Smitty there
with his fiddle?” The saloon and pool hall would empty to listen
to Smitty and his fiddle and also his attractive way of presenting the
Gospel. Without “Smitty” we preached to unseen audiences—if there
Then there was a young schoolteacher with his bride, Mr. and Mrs.
Horace Lockett. It may have been there that he got some ideas
which lead in later years to the summer Bible school in Guelph.
Miss Hartshorn came from Peterborough as a pianist and soloist.
To our surprise a romance started between her and Sam Taylor. We
thought he was a confirmed bachelor! Sam was no singer! One
day at lunch he said to Muriel Hartshorn, “When I get to heaven, I’ll
have one more joy than you—for the first time I shall really be able to
sing.” Among our group also were Horace Davey who had been at
Brooklyn with us and Alvin Sauer of Buffalo.
The mornings were devoted to Bible study. In the afternoons we
went out in tract distribution covering the whole town of Haileybury
and also in open-air meetings in isolated villages. Usually these
would consist of a saloon and pool hall, a general store with a post
office, and a dozen houses. It was not easy to preach when we
didn’t know if anyone was listening. Saturday evening we helped
in an open-air meeting in Cobalt, noted then for its cobalt
mines. Sundays we would visit New Liskeard and help with the
Sunday school and assembly meetings there. Haileybury is on the
shore of Lake Temiskaming, a good place for swimming until some of us
got sick from algae on the water.
Early in September I returned to Buffalo, but some of the workers
carried on. Less than a month after the summer campaign ended a
disastrous fire swept through that area. Haileybury was
practically destroyed and there was a great loss of life. That no
doubt included many who had heard the Gospel in that summer effort. The
workers lost their possessions but were able to get out after helping
others to evacuate.
On September 20th there was a quiet wedding in the Carson home with a
reception afterwards in the Gibson apartment up stairs. None of
my relatives were able to attend, and I was really too excited to
remember much of what took place. We were married by Mr. Hugh
Kame from Erie, Pennsylvania. He had formerly been a Baptist
minister but had left the denomination to serve the Lord with the
assemblies. Some of the young folks planned to chase us when we
made our getaway. However, we climbed out a bedroom window and
got in a waiting taxi and so eluded our pursuers. After a night
at the Statler Hotel, we had a one-day honeymoon at Niagara
Falls. We couldn’t afford a longer stay!
The day we left Buffalo, October 4th, was a hectic time, especially for
Anna. She needed one more delivery to make up the required quota
and Dora Murset had her baby early that morning, very
conveniently. Her board examination for midwives was that
afternoon while I was home finishing up the packing. She got home
in time to change and leave for Assembly Hall for our farewell supper
and meeting. From the Hall, we were escorted to the station by
many friends to leave on the night train for Chicago.
Reservations had been booked two weeks before, but to my dismay the
conductor said the berth was already occupied. The ticket agent
had put the date of sale instead of date of departure on the
ticket. While I was discussing this with the agents, one man
noticed my Canadian veteran button. He too was a Canadian veteran
and persuaded the conductor to put us in a better berth that was
vacant. It was the Lord’s provision when Anna was so tired.
On arrival next morning in Chicago our hostess, Mrs. William Trotter,
noticed how tired Anna was and sent her off to bed to sleep until time
for dinner. We had dinner with Mr. and Mrs. Tom Bendelow and
there learned about the fire in Haileybury . I spoke in the Austin
Street Hall that evening and the next two nights we had meetings in
Minneapolis and Duluth through arrangements made by Tom Baird.
After a couple of more stops we arrived in Victoria.
It was not an easy situation for Anna, having just said goodbye to her
family and then to meet my Mother and sisters for the first time.
They gave her a royal welcome and received her as a sister.
However Florrie, I think, had not quite forgiven Anna for taking away
her brother. Florrie had an unhappy experience with a fellow who
claimed to be a Christian. They broke up when it was discovered
that he was only pretending to be a believer in order to woo her.
After that Florrie and I had been very close, often walking to work
together each morning. However, Florrie never let her feelings
interfere with her support of us in her prayers and by her gifts.
We spent six weeks there visiting the assemblies in Victoria (two at
that time) and some up Vancouver Island. Through the years these
assemblies have been loyal in their support through their gifts and
prayers. Naturally there have been many changes. Of
those who signed my letter of commendation, all are now at home with
the Lord, the last of these, Mr. John Thomson, passing away in November
1980. Yet the succeeding generations have been faithful in
maintaining the interest in us and the Lord’s work in which we are
We were booked to sail from Victoria on the “S.S. Empress of Asia” on
November 30th. It was hard on my Mother because the next morning
was the 15th anniversary of Father’s home call. It was a chilly
evening as friends gathered on the pier to see us off. As the
ship began to move away from the pier, I called out, “Cease not to cry
unto our God for us” (1 Sam. 7:8). Our cabin was full of flowers
and boxes of chocolates and candies, some from friends in Vancouver
where the ship began its journey. Dinner was being served but we
preferred to go to bed.
The chief steward was surprised to see us at breakfast; he thought we
had been left behind in Vancouver. An old lady there had been
looking for us. There was a group of Scandinavian Alliance
missionaries on board bound for China, so we enjoyed their fellowship
even though their knowledge of English was limited. One afternoon
another missionary told us she heard an elderly lady of that group
crying in her cabin. Anna went to see if she could offer some
help, but as she listened she realized the dear sister was on her knees
pleading for lost souls in China.
Skirting the Aleutians it was bitterly cold and stormy. Some
times the deck was covered with ice and passengers were not allowed
out. In Yokohama some of us went for a day of sightseeing in
Tokyo. On our return we got off the train at a station marked
Yokohama but soon realized it was not where we had entrained that
morning. We made an effort to find our own way, walking back to
the ship. Soon we were lost, wandering narrow streets and being
eyed curiously by Japanese preparing their evening meal. Even
then there was some anti-American hostility so they didn’t appear too
friendly and we were unable to find one who could speak English.
Finally we came back to the station where we started our walk,
evidently having gone in a circle. In the station were other
passengers with a similar experience. Together we found someone
who could give us directions in English. Less than a year later
most of Tokyo and Yokohama were destroyed by a great earthquake and
Stops were also made in Kobe and Nagasaki; the latter was a coaling
stop. As the ship anchored in the bay, barges loaded with coal
pulled alongside. A bamboo scaffolding was quickly erected on the
barges and on the side of the ship, which was soon swarming with men
and women who passed baskets of coal from one to another to be dumped
down the chute. By afternoon the job was done and the crew was
busy removing the layer of coal dust from the decks and sides of the
The next call was Shanghai where the ship anchored at the mouth of the
Whangpoo River. The passengers were taken up river to the city in
launches—a bitterly cold ride in the middle of December. We had
the address of Dr. Parrott and his wife and were thankful to see her
turn on the heater. No wonder Chinese wear padded garments in
winter! We enjoyed the fellowship with them that Sunday and also
with Mr. Eldridge of the British and Foreign Bible Society who had
formerly been the agent in Manila.
The ship left Shanghai Sunday evening and arrived in Manila on
Wednesday morning. A quick jump from the cold of winter to the
heat of the tropics. We made frequent trips to our cabin to
change to cooler garb. We were up early Wednesday morning to
catch our first glimpse of the Philippine Islands, the land of the
Lord’s choice for us. It was just over a year since the Lord
said, “Go to the Philippines.” We praised Him for the way He had
been leading us forth.