|Autobiography of Herbert W Armstrong - Volume I
Back into the Ministry WE SOON LEARNED there was a reason why Mike Helms had come for us when he did. The former president of the California conference, A. J. Ray, had moved to Oregon, near Jefferson. A very small balance had accumulated in the conference treasury, and small amounts of tithes from members once again were beginning to trickle into it. Mr. Ray learned of the Oregon Conference's plans to bring me back into the ministry as soon as funds permitted. He had moved swiftly to forestall that, by sending for a close friend — I believe he was a former Seventh-Day Adventist minister — Sven (Sam) Oberg, whom he wanted as the Oregon minister.
The Plots Begin Apparently Mike had known of Mr. Oberg's imminent arrival, and drove immediately to Astoria to bring me back. We both arrived about the same time.
Now the newly arrived Mr. Ray raised the question of whether to employ Mr. Oberg, or me. A business meeting was called. I believe it was held at the church building in Harrisburg.
Mr. Oberg was a man of 53. He kept himself in vigorous physical condition by strenuous calisthenic exercises every morning, including about 100 "push-ups." If Robert L. Taylor had swept the members off their feet, impressing them with his "spirituality" and preaching power in 1931, Sam Oberg did much more!
In fact, he appeared to be so perfect, so spiritual, my wife and I thought of Hebrews 13:2, stating that a stranger might be an angel being entertained unawares! He seemed too perfect to be human. He was strict in punctuality, spiritual in language and phraseology, immaculate in appearance, glib of speech, powerful in preaching delivery.
Yet, in spite of his almost awe-inspiring effect on the members, they had all liked and loved me, and still looked to me for the leadership to get the gospel going out. I had been ordained by them and employed by them before. I do not remember the details now, but I was employed instead of Mr. Oberg.
$3 per Week Salary The condition of the conference treasury allowed them to pay me only $3 per week salary. However, most of the members were farmers, and they promised to supply us with vegetables and such foodstuffs as they raised. Also, they paid our house rent — I believe $5 or $7 per month, and purchased for us a certain amount of food. This consisted of 100-pound sacks of whole wheat flour, large sacks of beans, large bags of raw sugar — the kind of food that supplied "the mostest for the leastest."
The $3 cash salary per week, then, was to cover butter, milk, water and light and clothes — if any. We were moved into a small house on Hall Street, not far from the state Fairgrounds. There were two fireplaces and the kitchen stove to supply heat. We burned wood altogether.
But I was to be disillusioned, and to learn that a person who first appears to be TOO good to be true usually isn't! Both Mr. Ray and Mr. Oberg schemed constantly to discredit me and get that $3 per week for Mr. Oberg. More of that as we go along.
Starting the Salem Meetings However, I was still looking on Mr. Oberg with a sort of awe, feeling I had never met a person so perfect and so righteous and so powerful in preaching. True, I had behind me a most unusual wealth of experience, as these Oregon members were aware. But my still comparatively new Christian experience had humbled me to virtual unawareness of that fact and I was trying to efface self. But I did have vision.
I suggested that we try to hold a big city-wide campaign, with Mr. Oberg doing all the preaching — since I felt I was not worthy — as a minister of Christ — to team up with so great a man. My suggestion was that I use my advertising experience to be the public relations man, prepare circulars and newspaper advertising, and draw in the crowds. I had suggested we try to hire the big armory in downtown Salem. I felt that with an evangelist of Mr. Oberg's power, I could really pack in a big crowd.
My suggestions, as became usual with the other ministers, were turned down by Mr. Oberg. I was slightly disillusioned to learn that Mr. Oberg did not think BIG. He wanted to hold a small campaign in a small empty store building out in the "Hollywood" suburb of Salem — just a small local neighborhood campaign. And he wanted to share it with me, speaking on alternate evenings.
There were many vacant store buildings. We were now at the very bottom of the great economic depression. We were able to hire a vacant storeroom for $10 per month.
We worked hard making preparations. Mr. Oberg was not lazy. He was a hard worker. I believe we rented folding chairs. I had handbills printed and distributed over that general part of Salem.
The opening night arrived. Immediately I was greatly alarmed — as also, it appeared, was Mr. Ray. Already I had seen quite a little of that type of religious people who call themselves "pentecostal." I had learned that they had no UNDERSTANDING of the Bible, although they glibly quoted certain verses, or partial sentences, usually misapplied and entirely out of context.
Those I had known had never surrendered their rebellious spirit against obedience to God and His written commands. They were always SEEKING — not to serve, share, or obey, but for those emotional and supposedly "spiritual" things that would glorify the self and its vanity and please the senses.
Mr. R. L. Taylor, with whom I held my first evangelistic campaign in Eugene in 1931, had started a series of meetings in this same north end of Salem, following our Eugene campaign. The "pentecostal" people had come, and he had encouraged them. They would keep reasonably quiet until Mr. Taylor, after two or three weeks of preaching, had a few unconverted and non-"pentecostal" people brought close to repentance and conversion — and then they would begin to "take over" with their loud-shouting "hallelujah's" and ridiculous demonstrations. This immediately discouraged those near conversion, chilled them completely, and they dropped out and quit coming. After this, Mr. Taylor went around that end of town, inviting new people to come, and in a few nights had a new small crowd. The experience was repeated — until he finally had to quit with no results whatever for his efforts.
In Portland, at "pentecostal" camp meetings, I had heard women wail and then shriek like a fire siren, audible for three or four blocks.
Our Problem When we saw about 25 or 30 of these same "pentecostal" people who had ruined Mr. Taylor's meetings coming into our little hall, Mr. Ray and Mr. Oberg and I went into a quick huddle. Mr. Ray purported to be completely opposed to this brand of "pentecostalism."
"What shall we do about this?" he asked. "We've got to get rid of these people, or they will simply take over the meetings and there will be no results."
"Just leave the situation to me," said Mr. Oberg. "I know how to handle these people."
We were reassured.
But by the second or third night, we began to realize that Mr. Oberg, far from discouraging or "handling" these people, was deliberately catering to them. Gradually we began to realize that Mr. Oberg was "pentecostal" himself — a fact he had carefully concealed. Indeed, he had deliberately led us to believe he was opposed to it. Soon I realized these people were definitely "IN" and firmly established. It was too late to change it.
For the first few nights Mr. Oberg and I alternated, each speaking every second night. But it became apparent that the "pentecostal" people, now more than 90% of the attendance, warmed up much more to Mr. Oberg's preaching. He encouraged them. He invited their loud amens just as "pentecostal" preachers do constantly, getting them stirred up to an emotional and excitable pitch. So after about a week, I suggested that Mr. Oberg do all the preaching, and I preached to our own members who came up from the Valley for the Sabbath services.
About the end of the first week word came from the manager of a lumber yard situated very close to our hall, asking if I would stop in and see him. He had attended the first five or six meetings, then dropped out.
"Mr. Armstrong," he said, "I just wanted to explain to you why I stopped attending your meetings. I was really quite interested in hearing your sermons, but this man Oberg's constant succession of stories, and whooping up those 'holy rollers' into shouting and emotional frenzy and foolishness is more than I can take. I think you were wise in just letting this other man take over the meetings. Not many who are seeking the real truth that you preach will be attending from now on, anyway. I would have continued attending, if you had been conducting the services alone — but I can't tolerate that senseless wildfire."
My Father's Death Along about the 20th or 21st of April in that year of 1933 word came that my father was very ill. I asked Mr. Oberg to accompany me, and we hastened to his farm, between Oregon City and Molalla. Apparently we asked Mr. Ray to take the service till we returned.
Dad had suffered an acute attack of indigestion. We anointed and prayed for him. He seemed to recover at once. He also had called for us because he wanted to be baptized.
My father, as I may have stated before, had always been a good man. He had been jolly, friendly with everybody. He never smoked, drank, swore, or indulged in any such vices. He never opposed or harmed a soul, but always was willing to help. He had, as I recounted earlier, a marvelous deep bass voice. Dad had attended church regularly all his life, and had been active — especially in singing.
But my father was actually so good, humanly speaking, and so void of vices and any of the commonly accepted "sins" that he was actually in the same category as Job. Job was so righteous that even Satan could not find anything of which to accuse him. Actually Job's one great sin was his own righteousness. It blinded him to his HUMANITY, the actual NATURE of sin in every human. Job was the most difficult man on record for God to convert. Finally, God brought Job to the place where he did REPENT, and come to completely ABHOR himself!
My father had come to that same place. He came to realize that mere human goodness and uprightness is not, after all, the true RIGHTEOUSNESS of GOD, which is received only from God's Holy Spirit after the painful and suffering experience of repentance. But now he had repented. And now he had come to recognize his real NEED of Jesus Christ as personal Saviour. He had thrown himself on God's mercy, in faith believing.
That afternoon, his acute indigestion healed, but still needing rest and sleep to recover strength, we planned to go down to the river at the edge of his farm and baptize him the next day.
Late that afternoon, we all sang "Praise Him! Praise Him!" with my father's deep melodic bass voice ringing out. It was to be the last time he ever sang.
When we finished, he had tears in his eyes, and his face literally illuminated in a happy smile.
"It's just wonderful!" he exclaimed. "It's absolutely WONDERFUL!"
"What do you mean, Dad?" I asked.
"That God at last has forgiven all my sins!" he exclaimed. "It seems like a load of many tons has been rolled off of my shoulders — and I don't have to carry that weight of guilt around any longer!"
We left him to rest.
A while later we were called back into the room. He had sunken into a coma, not from indigestion, but a heart attack. We anointed and prayed for him again. We put him to bed in an adjoining bedroom. We noticed his feet were swelling. He did not come out of the coma. We kept up an all-night vigil of prayer. The swelling continued up his legs.
Dawn came. We continued praying. I know that I continued believing. By this time we had been granted many miraculous answers to prayer, and I felt I never had more faith in my life.
Yet, at 9:40 that morning, the day after he entered his 70th year, my father died. I was stunned. This I could not believe!
Suddenly I was confused, bewildered. I knew that God had given His written PROMISE to heal. Always before, since learning this truth, God had healed all in our family. I realized that there are two conditions — obedience, and faith. But I had surrendered fully and unconditionally to God's commandments, given my life to Him and His service. And I had believed with positive conviction. There had been no wavering — no doubt — just calm ASSURANCE.
For three days I was in a mental fog. Not that I began to lose faith in God, or the reality of Biblical promises. Not that doubts began to be entertained. I was still quite a "babe in Christ" in the new Christian life, but we had been put through enough experiences — and I had studied and PROVED the Scriptures sufficiently — that I did not allow doubts to begin to arise. When one permits DOUBTS to enter his thoughts and reasonings, he is on dangerous ground. He is thinking negatively. Whoever DOUBTS is damned. I want the reader to learn that lesson.
If one is not certain — if he has not PROVED a doctrine or a fact — then the teaching of God is, with open mind free from prejudice, to seek all the facts — to PROVE it. This is not negative, but positive thinking and procedure. Doubting is not proving. Doubting is not intelligent! It is negative thinking about something one does not know enough about to warrant this form of unfounded disbelief.
Strengthening FAITH I knew that God could not break a promise. I knew God has promised to HEAL — that Jesus took the penalty of physical sickness and infirmities and paid it for us by having His perfect physical body broken by being beaten with stripes!
But WHY, then, did my father die? Through James God instructs us that if any lack wisdom, he shall ask of GOD asking in FAITH, not wavering or doubting — and God promises wisdom shall be given. I prayed earnestly. I asked God for UNDERSTANDING.
And I searched the Scriptures for the explanation. I did not doubt — but I did seek an explanation. Faith must be based on UNDERSTANDING, and I knew there was something I had not yet come to understand. Naturally I soon came, in this search, to the "faith chapter" — the 11th of Hebrews. Then the answer became plain.
God gives us many examples of faith in that wonderful chapter. I noticed the example of Abraham — the father of the faithful. He, with Isaac and Jacob and Sarah "all died, not having received the PROMISES." My father, like them, died, not having received God's promise of healing — AS YET! Did the death of Abraham, before he received what God had unconditionally PROMISED, nullify that promise? Did his death mean that God failed — that God's promise was worthless, not to be kept? NOT AT ALL!
No, it simply meant that, for God's own reason and purpose, the fulfilling of the promise is delayed UNTIL THE RESURRECTION!
In like manner, I could now understand that God has PROMISED to heal — but He has not promised how immediately, or by what manner, He will do it. I knew, now, that my father's healing is still absolutely SURE. He will be resurrected — HEALED! I saw, now, that our days are indeed numbered. God has not promised that we shall live in this mortal existence eternally. It is appointed to men once to DIE — and after this the resurrection. I read how the TRIAL of our faith is allowed to work PATIENCE.
God, then, does give us tests of faith. Faith is the EVIDENCE of that NOT seen, NOT felt. Once we FEEL and SEE that we are healed, we no longer need the invisible spiritual evidence of faith. Faith, then, is our evidence — our PROOF of the healing — which God gives us to be exercised and utilized BETWEEN the time we ask, and the time the physical evidence is granted.
We should not go to God, asking, unless we have FAITH that God will do what He has promised, and what we are ready to ask. Then, after we ask, we should still have faith — just as before — that God WILL do as He has promised.
Now I understood!
Some people, in the clutch of fatal DOUBTS in their faulty reasoning, will try to REASON that unless God heals instantaneously, either God has not kept His promise — or that the one who asked is guilty of such sin that God will not hear him. Such people are wresting the plain teaching of God to their own destruction.
The net result of this shocking experience of my father's death was a great strengthening of FAITH. I hope sincerely that the recording of this experience will strengthen the faith of many readers. God's very purpose in giving us this temporary physical existence is to build righteous spiritual character, through EXPIERIENCE. In the Bible God gives us many EXPERIENCES of those He has dealt with, that we may learn by reading of their experiences. The only reason I am continuing with this autobiography is the hope that many readers may learn lessons God intends them to learn, through these recorded experiences.
Was It GOD's Spirit? As the meetings in Salem continued on, after the first week or so, almost the only people coming were these "pentecostal" people. Their antics drove away most others. Though it is rare among this type of people, many, or most, of them were "Sabbath keepers." But, aside from the fourth commandment, there did not appear to be any desire to obey God, or to "live by every Word of God." Their whole desire was a "good time" during meetings. They came for the temporary thrill and enjoyment of going on an emotional spree of excitement, shouting, and bragging in "testimony meeting" about how glad they were they "had their baptism," and how much better they were than others, for precisely the same purpose that other people attend a football game to shout and yell, and work up sensations of excitement.
They were definitely not SEEKING "the KINGDOM OF GOD AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS, but they were continually SEEKING physical and sensual pleasure and thrills and excitement, under the deceptive illusion that all this was pleasing to God. One of these women, some months later, after the close of the meetings, who had "received her baptism" as they term it, became disgusted with it and told my wife in private that what she and they all got from it was what she termed "sublimated sex thrills." She said frankly it was plain lust of the flesh. Yet the people in it are deceived into sincerely believing that they are seeking, and receiving, the Holy Spirit of God!
One night while Mr. Oberg was preaching, one very fat woman, who must have weighed 250 pounds, arose and with short, jerky, staccato steps, slowly waddled up front to the piano, shaking her fat hips at each jerky step. She sat down on the piano bench and began to hit the keys with the palms of both hands in a discordant jumbled manner about like a one-year-old baby might do. There was no chord, harmony, tune — no regularity of beat or rhythm — just a spasmodic discordant POUNDING in utter CONFUSION.
As she began, the one other big fat woman in the hall, of equal horizontal proportions, arose and began a sort of awkward dancing jig, her arms floundering around, uncontrolled, overhead, her very fat hips waddling and shimmying. For some two to five minutes these two women continued their unrefined duet.
Mr. Oberg stopped his preaching, with expressions of "Praise the Lord! Glory Hallelujah! Praise you, Jesus!" — to which the whole "pentecostal" attendance immediately joined in until the place was a bedlam of din and confusion.
As we were walking home that night after the service, our elder daughter, Beverly, then of junior high school age, asked:
"Daddy, was that the Holy Spirit making those women do those things?"
I was well familiar with Christ's saying that the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit — accusing the work of the Holy Spirit of being the work of the devil — was the unpardonable sin. Although I was by that time quite aware that these practices of "pentecostal" people were not in conformity with either the teaching or example found in God's Word, nevertheless I was afraid to take any slight chance of committing the unpardonable sin.
"I just can't answer that, Beverly," I replied. "I suppose those women were sincere in believing they were being moved by God's Spirit. Most people are deceived, today. But I don't want to try to judge."
A few paragraphs back, I quoted the lumberyard manager as referring to Mr. Oberg's succession of stories. We soon learned that his preaching consisted more of telling various stories than of expounding the Scriptures. He was one who believed Jesus spoke in parables in order to make his meaning more clear. Actually, Jesus Himself said He used parables for precisely the opposite reason — to HIDE the true meaning, so they could not understand. Mr. Oberg had made it a practice to memorize just about every story he ever heard — or could read.
He constantly used stories to illustrate his points. He had stories in his memory by the thousands. As he himself claimed, he had stories to produce laughter, stories of pathos, tearjerkers to make his audience weep — and these especially he told with great acting ability. He continually urged me to acquire a large stock of stories. But, as Will Rogers might have said, I just couldn't see it that way. That is not the way the original apostles preached.
NO Fruit Borne! When the meetings came to the end of the planned duration, and absolutely NO "fruit" had been borne, except for the nightly emotional jamboree, Mr. Oberg was reluctant to stop.
Sam Oberg and his young 25-year-old wife had been living with Mr. and Mrs. O. J. Runcorn. I believe it was Mr. Runcorn who put up the $10 for one more month's hall rent. The total duration of the meetings ran either three or four months.
But even after the extended month, there were no conversions — no members added to the Church — absolutely no visible results. The "pentecostals" had been enjoying a continuous nightly show. There was nothing else to show for it.
I have stated before, that never once, when I was working with any of these other ministers, were any results apparent. Never, in all those years, did I know of a single conversion resulting from the work or preaching of any of those ministers! Yet never did God fail to grant good results, with people converted and baptized, when I was working alone. I do not say this with any joy — for while I do rejoice and am grateful for the harvest God has produced through my efforts, I have sorrowed and not found any pleasure or rejoicing in the lack of fruit borne by the others. That has truly been one of the disappointments we have had to suffer.
However, God has now changed all that. Today, as I write, thirty-nine years later, God is abundantly blessing ALL His ministers whom He now graciously has added to His Church, with conversions, changed lives, healings, and continuous blessings. God's Church TODAY is going forward in constantly accelerating POWER — the true power of GOD!
The Plots Progress All through this campaign in Salem, personal relations between Mr. Oberg and Mr. Ray and me were, on the surface, very friendly and cooperative. At least that was my attitude of heart. But, under cover, their plots began to thicken.
After my father had died, at his farm north of Molalla, in April of 1933, my wife had gone to the farm for a visit with my mother. I do not remember the exact month, but I believe it must have been along in late May or early June.
One night she was disturbed and frightened to be awakened from a startling dream, in which it seemed an angel was telling her! "GO to Salem at once! GO to Salem at once! Enemies are plotting against your husband."
She was so alarmed that she was afraid to chance the dream possibly meaning nothing. She came immediately that day to Salem. At the same time, Mike Helms had come to tell me that Mr. Oberg and Mr. Ray had gone around to a number of the brethren in the valley, and set up an accusation against me, in a secret plot to get me out of the ministry. They wanted the $3 weekly cash salary, and the benefit of the other money being spent for our house rent and beans and flour, etc.
They had brought enough pressure to force Milas Helms, as president of the Conference, to call a business meeting for the following Sunday at the church in Harrisburg.
"They plan to discredit you," explained Mr. Helms, "by charging that your wife is not a neat housekeeper — and then turning to the Biblical qualifications for an Elder, for ruling well his own household. Since they will claim that you are not ruling your wife sternly enough to be a better housekeeper, they will claim that you are not Scripturally fit to be a minister, and must be put out of the ministry."
This came as a shocking surprise! Their accusation was false. My wife was a good housekeeper, and I did rule my own family and household, and have my children in subjection. But these men knew that most members did not know all about our private family life, and would believe their lie.
These men had been so very friendly — to my face! I had not realized they were enemies, speaking lies about me and my wife behind my back! Mike saw that I was deeply hurt.
"The only thing I know that I can possibly do to help you," continued Mr. Helms, "is to give you the opportunity to speak first, if that will be any benefit. I will be chairman of the meeting, and I can give you the chance to speak before they do."
I accepted the offer. You may be sure I prayed a great deal over it. Actually, Mrs. Armstrong has always been a very clean housekeeper, and a very neat one, with the exception that, during the years when we had four growing children in the house — and at this time the youngest was 3, and the eldest 15 — children did leave a few things misplaced, on occasion, of course. But the charge Mr. Oberg planned to make was simply an outrageous LIE!
Defending My Wife! Sam Oberg made a fetish of stern neatness, punctuality, and certain OUTWARD mannerisms designed to lead others to think him righteous. Actually, although he was unreasonably stern with his little 3-year-old daughter, he knew about as little of proper child rearing as anyone I ever knew. He went to the extreme on stern demands for certain mannerisms of decorum, and punished his child with over-severity, while at the same time he completely neglected her in most other ways, failed to properly teach and train her, and allowed her to do other things that should not have been done.
There have been times, since I have been changed by God's Spirit, that righteous indignation arose instantly to white-hot heat. This was one of them.
But I prayed, and God helped me to put down anger. Also it came to mind what to do. You may not think God put it there, but I do.
At Harrisburg on Sunday, Mr. Helms, after opening the meeting with prayer, gave me the floor first. I think this was a surprise to Messrs. Oberg and Ray. I told the Board members and other brethren assembled that I understood this meeting had been called as an inquisition, to crucify me by false charges. I told them I did not wish to defend myself. I told them I knew I was full of faults and weaknesses, the same as each of them. I told them I had been striving, and with God's help, overcoming many of these human frailties and weaknesses and habits since my conversion, some six years before — but I had not yet reached perfection. I felt that each of them — and Messrs. Oberg and Ray — lived in glass houses, also, in case any had a hating spirit of wishing to throw stones.
I stood there and confessed many specific faults and weaknesses, and asked them if they would PRAY for me that I might have help in overcoming them. Their eyes began to fill with tears — all but Oberg and Ray.
Then I quickly ended by saying that Mr. Oberg and Mr. Ray might say anything they wished against me — but that I understood they planned to accuse my wife falsely, and I then told them with all the power I had that God made me my wife's defender, and that if either of them dared to utter one word against my wife, I would — if need be CLOSE their mouths before they could finish the first sentence. I did not specify the means. This was said with blazing eyes, and a sharp voice!
I sat down.
Mr. Helms then called on Oberg and Ray. I do not remember what they said — if anything. I do know that there was NOTHING left for them to say against ME — for I had said it all myself before them. And they somehow must have known that I MEANT IT when I said I would defend my wife's honor. They were silent about her.
I do know the result. Their plot backfired! I was not discharged. Rather, the brethren were still looking to me for leadership. But Mr. Oberg and Mr. Ray were not through gunning for me. There was much more to come later!
Chopping Wood I began to realize that Messrs. Oberg and Ray were secretly carrying on a propaganda campaign against me. In talking privately to church brethren they would drop little suggestions implying, at least indirectly, anything possible against my character.
One day Milas Helms came to me with the offer to give me a very large tree on his farm if I would chop it down, saw it up and split it for our winter's fuel supply. This tree was six feet in diameter at the trunk — a huge fir.
"Some of the brethren," he said, "are getting the idea from Mr. Oberg and Mr. Ray, that they have to do hard physical work on their farms, but that you have it pretty soft merely preaching, visiting members and prospective members, holding Bible studies, getting out the news bulletin. If you will spend the next several days splitting up a year's wood supply, I will see that the word gets around about how energetically you are working. This will counteract this propaganda better than a million words of denial."
Somehow, it never seemed to dawn on the brethren, who listened to these subtle innuendoes suggesting I was lazy, that Mr. Oberg devoted his time, also, to the ministry and had no time for hard manual labor.
Gladly I accepted the offer, happy of the opportunity to provide fuel for my family. I counted the rings on the tree. That tree was growing there when George Washington was a boy! I was glad of the chance for the exercise and the fresh country air, as well as the wood.
Again, the plot was foiled.
Cackling Hens During the course of the Salem meetings Milas Helms brought us a number of eggs one day — perhaps a dozen or so. "We have decided to start tithing our eggs, as well as money income," he said to us.
It was the off-laying season. This incident has been reported before in The Plain Truth, but it properly belongs at this point in the Autobiography. Even though it was out of season for Mike's hens, they immediately went on an egg-laying campaign. Never, it seemed, had they laid so many eggs.
After this incident was reported in The Plain Truth, one reader wrote that she had begun to tithe her eggs and received the same result. Experience repeatedly proves it pays to tithe!
Blessings in Disguise Very shortly after our return from Astoria — possibly even before the meetings began in Salem, or very soon after they started, the Santiam River — on whose banks bordered the farms of Mike Helms and his brother-in-law, Yancy McGill — went on a rampage, overflowing its banks in a complete flood.
It happened on a Friday or Friday night. Mike told me of it when he came for church on the Sabbath. In fact, we attended a meeting with other brethren at some town west of Salem that day. En route, Mike told me of the calamity. His crops had been all planted. They were all under the water.
The reader can understand by this time that I felt a very deep affection for Mike Helms. I felt as badly about this as if it had been my own fields. I continued to express my deep concern and regret and sympathy.
"Mr. Armstrong," said Mike in what seemed like a half gentle rebuke, "you seem to be taking this a lot harder than I am. God says everything works together for GOOD, to them that love the Lord. I love the Lord, and I try to serve Him and obey Him and I BELIEVE Him. I am faithful in paying tithes. Right now I can't see how a thing like this can work together for my good. But I don't need to see how. I know God means what He says, and, in a way I can't see right now, this is going to work for my GOOD. I'm just praising the Lord for it!"
I hope that God used me in teaching Mike many valuable lessons, but this was a time when God used Mike to teach me a lesson I shall never forget. Perhaps, in this way through The Plain Truth, Mike can be used to teach many thousands of our readers a valuable lesson today, more than a quarter of a century later.
After the flood subsided a very strange thing became apparent. On adjoining farmland, without even a fence between, the crops were completely ruined. But the damage stopped at the very line of Mike Helms' and Yancy McGill's farms — all except one small patch of Mike's land, which it was not too late to replant. And because the floodwaters had ruined the crops of so many vegetable gardeners, Mike's and Yancy's crops brought a higher-than-usual price that year! And THAT is how this calamity worked for GOOD!