HISTORY and TIMES of THE KINGDOM
Nathan Miller's Story
Nathan Miller has graciously given permission for us to reproduce a portion of his book. The section we are reproducing represents about the first half of the book and covers approximately a thirty-five year period of time from the 1930's into the 1960's, from Mr. Sandford's retirement years and into Victor Abram's tenure. Mr. Miller was desirous to serve his Master in any way he could, but especially felt called to give "my utmost for His highest". He wanted to live the "hundred-fold" way of life, believing it was the best way to promote and spread Christ's gospel. Throughout his journey of faith, he documents an era of Kingdom history where little has been written. Though not comprehensive in terms of detailing the inner workings or dynamics of Kingdom leadership, it does give us some brief insights into how decisions were made and responsibilities delegated that affected both the individual's and the family's lives. It is with great pleasure we give you a portion from his book ...
Enter - a somewhat oversize bit of common clay for God to shape and mold first by way of parents and eventually by the special request and permission of the clay itself - I gave my heart and life to Jesus when I was eleven years old at a revival meeting in a Baptist church.
This announcement reminds me that I am going to get myself in a bit of trouble with that word "average." A 12 pound, 14 ounce baby is not average. I am sure that my dear mother didn't 'think so, since she was a little lady. Her struggle and mine at birth left me with a life-long handicap, a scrotal hernia - a part of the shaping! Neither were my parents' experiences at Shiloh average or, for that matter, neither is the story of His workings in my life "average" for His handiwork is always uniquely beautiful. So let us remember that the above adjective in question is being used to refer to the social status, intellect, education, worldly accomplishments, etc. My Dad was a mason by trade; I am a mason by trade; my son is a mason by trade - very average people.
But on with my story:
I can honestly and conscientiously claim to being a rascal when I was a kid. I fought with my brother Judd who was four years older than I and he beat me up so regularly. I consistently teased my sisters - of which I had more than my share. I dared to do any naughty thing that came into my head, like smoke pine needles up in the woods and get all the boys in the third grade to skip school at recess one day - with dire consequences, of course. However, there was a somewhat questionable plus: I got the reputation of being a Mama's boy by volunteering to scrub the kitchen for her once in a while. And I loved to go to work with Papa and drive the horse for him, and thus became a Papa's boy. After all, I was the baby boy - with red curls, if you please, until I was five, when I refused in no uncertain terms to wear them to school.
Overall, I remember my childhood as being stormy but happy. We always had enough to eat by virtue of the fact that we kept a cow and chickens and raised our own vegetables. We children learned to work with our hands and the older ones got jobs and helped out financially when they could. With what help we gave, Father managed to build a home piece by piece, it was never completed in his life time. I can remember in Winter snuggling down in my feather tick and looking up at the bare laths on the ceiling and thinking, "Wouldn't it be wonderful to be rich enough to have a plastered bedroom?" Of course, it never occurred to me then that my chances of making heaven with my bare laths might be a bit better than the chances of those rich people with their plastered rooms. The clay was being molded.
I.E. Terrific to me, but exceeding trying to my parents. You see, by the time I was a senior in High School, I was convinced I was the most terrific guy in four counties and had the world by the tail - I am sure that about that time my dear mother was most desperately praying for my soul.
As I have mentioned, I became a Christian when I was eleven years old. I knew I had been a bad boy and I wanted with all my heart to be a good boy in God's sight, my parents' sight and in my own sight. I cannot explain, and I do not think anyone else can, all that took place at that time, but I was naive and childlike enough in my faith to really believe that because Jesus died on the cross for me, my badness was forgiven and His goodness became my goodness. And that's the bottom line of the Gospel and the wonderful part of it was that it worked.
I was a changed boy, visibly so by all three of the above. The beautiful aura of the Holy Spirit's transforming power lit up my life for a long time - it's called the joy of salvation or falling in love with Jesus. It lasted (apparently) just about until the start of those troublesome teens. I say "apparently" because in retrospect as I look back over life's trials that
original childlike faith has taken me through all the way and it has been a fascinating journey - that's what this attempt at literature is all about.
When I was twelve we moved to Brunswick, Maine, ten miles south of Lisbon Falls. It was a town of about 5,000 inhabitants where Bowdoin College is located. There I started High School, and being a new guy on the block, a bit cocky and able to convince people that I was smarter than I really was, they elected me president of the Freshman Class. That, of course, was my undoing and the beginning of my downfall as a humble perpetrator of "His goodness."
The process of losing my grip on Jesus and falling into the sins of youth didn't happen all at one time. The devil sees to that. It came about gradually through lack of real spiritual food - the post World War 20's were pretty spiritually barren, and through the over abundance of worldly attractions and peer pressure. My natural tendency toward self-confidence and conceit grew by leaps and bounds when I made the baseball, basketball, and football teams - although I never became a star in any of them, Then there were debating teams, plays, operettas and declamation contests to contend with - to say nothing of those ever present girls who were so easily charmed! In short, the "love of the world" took over and I became a backslider who was headed down the "broad" way and trying terribly hard to enjoy it. However, I was well aware of the fact that I was off course and knew that there had to be an about face some time. Much water went under the bridge before that took place.
I graduated from Brunswick High School in 1929 while I was still sixteen. Even though I was only 9th in a class of 69, 1 still won a scholarship to Bowdoin College, given each year to a local Brunswick or Topsham boy. But since the scholarship covered only the tuition, and because money in our family was so very scarce, I had to stay out of school a year and work with my father at the mason's trade in order to be able to take advantage of this unusual opportunity for a poor boy to go to college. Since these were the Depression years, it must have been that the college made an exception in their regulations to allow me to postpone my entrance until 1930.
My college career was brief, but quite eventful. One must remember that I was still riding the waves of worldly pleasure and that kind of surfing to one who knows better can be very dangerous.
Since I still wanted to make a name for myself as an athlete I went out for and made the Freshman Football, Track and Baseball teams in their respective seasons, winning my numerals " 1934" in all of them. Also, I joined a fraternity and did all the other things expected of a "local boy makes good" image. I say "all," but I really wasn't into quite all of them like tending to my studies as I should have been doing. My problem was that I was having too much fun. Oh, I didn't fail any subjects, but neither did I do as well as I should have done.
All in all, my venture into academia could hardly be called very successful - just average. It terminated abruptly, which I am sure was a good thing for my spiritual welfare, just at the time when I was about to end my turbulent teens.
Joy Out Of Depression
Just before the midyear exams of my sophomore year at Bowdoin my father became sick, and upon examination, found that he had cancer of the colon. Since we had no money and no insurance and he was no longer able to work full time, I left school and became the breadwinner for the family of five, since there were still two sisters and me at home.
We lost the home we had been buying in Brunswick and moved back to our old homestead in Lisbon Falls, which we still owned. Let me tell you, times were hard. I got a job working in an A & P store in the afternoons and on Saturdays all day until 10:00 at night for $5.00 a week, and that is all the money we had to live on all Winter long until mason work opened up again in the Spring. How we ever made it, God only knows, and believe me, He was back on the agenda with us all, including worldly wise Nathan. Mother no longer had to beg me to go to prayer meeting. In fact, it was at a prayer meeting during that tough winter that I met my future wife and the "Depression" joys began.
As it happened, my Dad was not the only man who left Shiloh Hilltop in Durham and crossed the river into Lisbon Falls
to make a living (for his large family). Clarence Parker did the same thing and set up a small shoe cobbling business there where he became dearly loved and appreciated by the townspeople for his kindness and helpfulness. In fact, it was partly due to his generosity that we made it through that tough winter. Clarence and May Parker had eleven children, seven boys and four girls, for whom they, as conscientious Christian parents, struggled, by dint of many and tear and prayer, to bring up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. I am sure that many were the times they were tempted to be discouraged over their apparent lack of success, as I know my parents were over theirs ... However, they both left a great legacy of keeping the faith.
My point to notice is that the Millers and Parkers had much in common as far as background and lifestyle were concerned. Only the Parkers have the Millers beat "all hollow" when it comes to being good natured, jolly, livable, lovable, and just plain fun. I know from experience. I have lived with one of them for over 51 years and loved it. Her name is Florence Rachel and her brothers and sisters have never forgiven me for coming along and stealing the life of the party from that "old gang of mine. " Which brings me to that prayer meeting in that little Nazarene Church on Maple Street in Lisbon Falls that both the Parkers and the Millers attended. I did ask her father for permission to take Florence (otherwise known as "Flip") home and got it - he really didn't know me that well! From that point on, the Depression became a lot easier to go through, even though there was still a family to feed and a sick Dad to take care of. Dad, by the way, fought a brave battle against cancer for about two years before he finally went home to be with the Lord in January of 1935 - suffering in the flesh evidently plays a large part in teaching us the joy of salvation which joy is going to go on and on and on ad infinitum.
But to get back to that spicy Parker gal called very appropriately "Flip," which is not an abbreviation for Florence, but rather has something to do, I am sure, with the use of the tongue ! Later, I found that she also had another nickname "Tarzan"! That was given to her by some of the guys in her class who found to their chagrin that it didn't pay to tangle with
that Tomboy from across the River. I was taken down a peg or two myself when I tried one time (unsuccessfully) to tie her to a post. God has been using her ever since to "take me down a peg or two" whenever I needed it. But that sort of thing didn't start right off. What did start was the usual - girl attracts boy and boy attracts girl. She was a senior in High School and I was a college guy, at least, I still had that reputation and kept it as long as I could.
Since we both had the same roots and family background and were confined to the same area by dint of circumstances, and also had parental backing on both sides, we began to see a great deal of one another, and our relationship developed into an intimate and loving one, commonly known as "Sweethearts." We still have that relationship, after about 53 and 1/2 years since we first met, including 51 and 1/2 years of happy married life. In looking back, we are totally convinced that it was only God's Goodness and Grace that has enabled us to ride out all that the buffeting storms of life have handed out to us and still be sailing victoriously on. (Please bear with my nautical terms. My Dad shipped out as cabin boy in his youth, and I grew up with hearing those terms.)
However, Florence and I didn't start out as practicing Christians. Remember, I was still a backslider who knew he needed to get back on track and she hadn't ever really signed up to go the Jesus way. That's the way it was when we decided we needed each other and simply had to have each other to face life's joys and sorrows. So I made bold to face Mr. Parker and and ask for his daughter's hand in marriage -that being an old custom that used to be in vogue. The answer was affirmative, with one stipulation that we would be on our own. I am sure he was thinking that he had family enough to support in those hard times without taking on one more. He need not have worried because I had already taken on the responsibility of supporting a household and needed a helpmeet to share the burden.
Florence and I were married in Bangor, Maine on May 12, 1934 at the home of my sister, Sally, whose husband, Bert Hagerthy, had been a fraternity (A.T.O.) brother at Bowdoin, but was then going to the University of Maine. It was an ordinary
wedding of two very ordinary people. There were only five people present and one was the presiding minister whom we had never seen before - nor have we ever seen him since. The cost of that wedding was just $5.00, the minister's fee, but don't forget, that had been a week's wages in those days when gas was seven gallons for a dollar and bread was ten cents a loaf ! But at that price, we surely got our money's worth and we have never once considered going back on the vows we took that day. Our God is a covenant keeping God and, believe me, He wants us to be covenant keeping people. But we are well aware that it is only by His grace we have made it !
Florence moved in with the Millers, and you can be sure, it wasn't too easy for bar, She had left the fun-loving Parkers and. Dad, till sick and suffering, and very little funds to go on. I did get a job in the Board Mill that winter. But as long as we had each other, sickness, deprivation, and Depression itself was quite bearable. God is so good in providing delightful compensations even when we do not deserve them. He gave us "joy out of Depression."
"As For Me And My House
We have now arrived at a very special milestone and turning point in this ordinary man's journey of faith. I am not a Calvinist, per se, for I believe that I still have the right to chart my course as laid out in the Book to Heaven or Hell. But I also believe that I was chosen in Him before the foundation of the World and that the hand of Divine destiny has been upon me all the way. I believe it is possible to sense and feel that loving, caring hand through all the experiences of life. That hand placed me in a Christian home, gave me loving parents, saved me out of many accidents that could very well have taken my life, made the saving grace of Jesus very real to me when I was eleven, then was always there through those teen age years of foolish failures,
ready to grasp my hand again whenever I reached for His in true repentance. And in my heart of hearts, I knew it all the time and longed to be back on track with Him. That happened about one month after Florence and I were married.
The Lord certainly works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform. My dear mother, who was always looking for a chance to expose her children to spiritual things persuaded Florence and me to go with her to an evangelistic meeting over at Shiloh, the place the family had left years before. It seemed that John Sandford, Frank Sandford's son, was having quite a revival and she had heard about it and since such things were rare at that time, she wanted to check it out. For her sake, we went. Howbeit, I for one went cocked and primed to shoot down any and everything that emanated from that source, which I proceeded to do immediately after the meeting when a young man, Chesed Wakeman, attempted to witness to me.
However, there was another young man who was a bit more persistent and zealous for the cause named Frank Murray. He followed us down to the Parker home and spent an hour or so arguing with me and getting nowhere. Finally, he asked me a very personal and probing question.
"Nathan, are you right with God?"
"No, Frank, I am not."
"Would you like to be?"
"Yes, I would."
"Would you like to pray with me?"
"Yes, I certainly would."
No more arguments, no more reasonings, but instead, with a broken and contrite spirit, I confessed my sins and poured out my heart to Jesus and He forgave me and received me back into fellowship with outstretched arms. What a tremendous sense of relief and joy and peace swept over me to be able to say once again as I did back when I was eleven and twelve, "It is well with my soul." I had renewed my "first love" - never, never, never to lose it again.
But what about my dear wife who was watching all this going on and feeling very much left out? Not for long, though, for dear Frank immediately whisked us both back up to Shiloh Hilltop, where Florence was helped by a dear lady, Mary Holland, to
understand what it meant to repent of her sins and invite Jesus into her heart.
"Oh happy day!
As happy as Florence and I were, though, I think my dear mother was happier still. But, don't forget the agent God used to bring about this tremendous turn of affairs was Frank S. Murray, a brilliant rising star in the Kingdom, which I was convinced from childhood was way off track. What an enigma!
I have lived with that enigma now for 52 years and the story of how I managed to is the story of my life.
But on with the story!
Being an honest John who lays his cards on the table, I protested from the start my inability to accept Mr. Sandford's claims, but I was told to never mind about that, leave it with the Lord, and just come along and help us get souls for Christ.
So I did.
We were literally swept off our feet in spiritual activities. Cottage meetings practically every night in the week in one or another of the surrounding towns, plus meetings of one kind or another all day Sunday.
As an evangelist, we found John Sandford to be indefatigable, and he expected everybody else to be, too. It was thrilling, though, to see souls being saved.
A baptism was planned for the 4th of July, and the goal was 200 souls for the baptism. The goal was made and Florence and I were among them. We were baptized by Mr. Frank Sandford himself who, though living in retirement in a secret place, was orchestrating the regathering of his faithful followers and directing all of their activities.
What kind of a man was Mr. Sandford, whom most of us saw for the first time at that 4th of July convention in New Boston, New Hampshire? If anyone ever typified what one would expect a prophet to look like, he did. He had a ruddy complexion with flowing white hair and mustache and piercing blue eyes that could shoot fire on some occasions and be quite benign on others. His presence was dynamic and he always demanded and received from his followers loyalty, obedience, and love. His charisma
was so strong that people reacted to his leadership that way involuntarily in spite of themselves. In a sense, membership in The Kingdom demanded it. That is why I almost didn't get baptized that 4th of July.
Because, with all his striking appearance and personality, I could not help, with my background, but sense the opportunity to do a little checking to see what made him tick. So when I was asked after that first meeting what I thought of Mr. Sandford, I very brashly said that I wished he had talked a little more about Jesus and a little less about himself.
One would have to have been in the Kingdom for a while to appreciate what a bombshell that turned out to be. It reverberated through the camp for awhile, but eventually I was passed anyway, possibly because I was Frank Murray's convert, or simply because I was a needed statistic. I am sure it left me with a question mark over my head for the rest of my fife in the Kingdom as far as Mr. Sandford was concerned, and it left him with many questions over his head as far as I was concerned.
However, in spite of the questions which lurked in the back of my mind, all the time both Florence and I proceeded to get more and more deeply involved in the movement. Her parents and my mother, after my father died, were received back into fellowship, and three of her brothers and two of her sisters were saved and baptized during that campaign. I joined a group of zealous young people called the College Company, led by Frank Murray. It worked closely with Mr. Sandford and was considered to be an elite group in the church, which was very flattering to a newcomer like me. On one occasion, five of us visited all the campuses in Michigan, and spent time in prayer for the souls of the students. That was excellent training for our spiritual growth and I am sure it was one of the big reasons that Mr. Sandford sent us on that mission.
Another way he had of training his followers in the life of faith was to always have some building "drive" or other project that was quite impossible to complete naturally in a given time and then by dint of much prayer and extending ourselves beyond our limits, get the victory! Since I was an experienced mason and plasterer, plus I could do fairly well at other trades, I fitted in
very well and enjoyed the challenges and the fact that I was needed and appreciated.
Perhaps it would help to understand how and why we got so involved in the Kingdom if I gave a short resume of its structure and organization. One of Mr. Sandford's favorite statements which stemmed from a tremendous experience he had at Niagara Falls, was "This World for Christ in my lifetime" and he never deviated from that set of soul through all the dramatic and climactic experiences of his strange life. It took him through the building and organizing of the Bible School, his supposed commission as Elijah, his many trips to the Holy Land, where he went through the process of Restoring the Kingdom, his trip around the World in the Coronet, his trial for manslaughter, his experiences in Atlanta Penitentiary, his return to Shiloh Hilltop and the subsequent disbanding of the Bible School and the scattering of his faithful followers, his retirement and dropping out of sight as far as the public was concerned and the regathering of those faithful few followers and the reorganizing of them into a devoted and zealous band of evangelists who really believed that they could and would evangelize the world in his lifetime.
So what was his organization and strategy in the thirties to accomplish this?
1. To establish Kingdom centers or churches in different parts of the country. The Main Center, of course, was where Mr. Sandford was himself in the mountains in a small town in upper New York State. Then the original Centers in Maine and Boston were revitalized Shiloh Hilltop being led by John Sandford, as I have mentioned. Then there were smaller centers and home churches in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode island, Pennsylvania, Florida, California and at least two in Canada. In fact (in a sense), wherever there was a Kingdom home, there was a Center.
3. Mr. Sandford was only interested in "hundred folders." As far as he was concerned, the "thirties" and the 60's could go elsewhere. "Hundred folders" were those who totally lived a life of faith, spent his or her whole time working for the Lord via the Kingdom, without effecting or depending on paychecks every week. The practical working out of this was the establishing of Christian communities in the larger centers which were partially self-supporting by dint of much hard labor and partially supported from the Kingdom treasury, which was in turn financed by the tithes paid by Church members who did work for pay checks. The advantage to this setup was that "hundred folders" were free to go anywhere at any time to do the Lord's bidding as established and confirmed by Mr. Sandford.
What attracted us to it and kept us in, through thick and thin for approximately 44 years?
First, "This World for Christ" was a high and Holy Cause that I could espouse totally.
Secondly, the Christian standards taught and lived in the Kingdom at that time were much higher than anything we had come in contact with before.
Third, the setup was all there and working to reach souls for Christ, and there is no greater joy than to have even a little part in leading a person to salvation.
Fourth, the sense of fellowship and comradeship and love engendered by both Mr. Sandford's ministry and that of Frank Murray, with whom I worked a great deal, was very marked; it was practically impossible to say no to anything they proposed.
"All For Jesus"
In 1935 my father died in January; our first child, dear little Faye, was born in March, and since both my sisters had left home, I took my Mother and wife and baby and moved to Bath, Maine, where I worked for my brother most of the time except, in the Winter of 1935 and 1936, when work was slack in Bath, I went down to Eastport, Maine, leaving my family, and working on the Quoddy Project, which was a scheme to harness the tides to generate electricity. While there, I learned firsthand how the taxpayers' money is squandered on government projects. But to us, it was God's way of providing the needs of the Miller family in those continued hard times.
When Spring came, I was very happy to get back to working with my brother at mason work in Bath. My brother and I always worked together very well, In fact, he wanted me to join him in the contracting business which later became very successful. He resented my taking off every so often to go and work on some Kingdom project, and that is what took place in the Summer of 1936 when, at the urging and insistence of Frank Murray, I moved my family to Chestnut Hill in New Boston, New Hampshire to work on a way out Landscaping Project that was supposed to produce a heavenly hideaway for the faithful. This project never developed into very much, but it did succeed in introducing us into the advantages of community Christian living. Everyone instinctively craves security and significance, and it is possible to find both in such a community.
were attracted and served our apprenticeship, as it were, first in the New Hampshire
Center until November, 1936, and
first in the New Hampshire Center until November, 1936, and
then in the Maine Center in Durham, Maine. In the Winter of 1936-1937 we stayed with the Phillip Holland family at Olivet and worked under John Sandford in a very intensive, statewide evangelistic campaign.
Our firstborn son, Daniel, by the way, was born on November 3, that Fall at the Parker home, just before we moved in with the Hollands. The Hollands were such dear, unselfish people! In fact, I know of no better way to learn unselfishness than in raising a family in a Christian community.
However, that nine months or so of "hundred fold" living proved to be only a trial run. My dear mother, who had been taken in by Mrs. Brown, Mr. Sandford's sister, had become gradually weaker and unable to take care of herself. Therefore, since I felt responsible for her care, we as a family moved back to the old homestead in Lisbon Falls, where she could be with us.
It was a very difficult and trying time because the house had been rented to a relative, and they refused to move out when we had to move in, so we, for a while, lived in the upstairs bedrooms with no running water, no kitchen, no sink - only an oil stove. And we had two babies and a sick mother to care for. If ever I appreciated the precious wife the Lord had given me, it was during that period. Neither she nor my dear mother did any complaining. Someone has defined an "overcomer" as being one who takes things as they find them and makes the best of them. Florence has been doing that for over half a century, and Mother was an overcomer to her last breath. She died just a few weeks after we moved back, of a totally worn out heart - worn out in service for others. I am thankful and proud to have had such a mother. It was a privilege to care for her and be a comfort to her until she went on to be with the Lord.
Eventually, the folks moved out downstairs and since Mother had left me the place, and I had gone back to work for my brother in Bath, we entered into a period of comparative affluence, i.e. a home, a car, a job, flush toilet, running water in the sink, a wife and two dear children and a good church to go to on Sunday - who could ask for more?
I could and did "bug" the Lord about it.
The problem was that all of the above when totaled up added to only "thirty fold" or at best, maybe "sixty fold" and we had had a taste of the "hundred fold."
The test of "plenty" can be more difficult and crucial than the test of "want" as the young man who asked Jesus, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" found out. It just isn't that difficult to "forsake all" if your possessions are few. So God was trying us by giving us "things."
And what did we do with our "things"?
We enjoyed them briefly. We stayed in Lisbon Falls about a year, then at the advice of those over us in the church, we got out of the anti-Shiloh town of Lisbon Falls and moved to Durham to the "Newcombe" place, a couple of houses up the road from the Parker home, having rented our place at the Falls. It was a small country place with few conveniences, where we had more great tests of faith by way of sicknesses and just keeping warmed and fed. While there for about a year, I kept in close touch with the hundred folders by driving Mr. Holland's car for him most of that Winter. Mr. Holland was second in command in the Kingdom hierarchy. But the following Spring, back I went to work for my brother, and you must realize by now how gracious he was to keep taking me back - of course, the fact that good masons were hard to find might have had something to do with it.
Our next move was to the Wakeman place up the road again, about three houses, into a very nice upstairs apartment over where the Hastings lived who ran a little country store. We enjoyed the apartment, we enjoyed the Hastings, we enjoyed the handy store, and we enjoyed the fact that the landlord was Mr. Wakeman, who was always glad to help out struggling young families. We stayed there about two years and that is where our second son, Norman, was born on November 24,1940. Also while there, we sold our old home in Lisbon Falls for the equivalent of $2,200, having taken a very nice 1936 Chevrolet as part payment. That car was to take us over many thousands of miles in our precious "journey of faith" and do so very faithfully - mark up one for General Motors!
And what did we do with that windfall? We bought another
It had a large two story brick main house with a long wooden ell attached to it, plus a huge barn that used to house the horses used at Shiloh Hilltop. All this, plus eleven acres of cleared land for the big sum of $900. Such was the state of Real Estate in 1941. What a challenge for one not averse to hard work, for the place was in great disrepair in all categories ! In one year I reroofed part of it, painted the main house, piped water in from the well and fixed an upstairs apartment and rented it. And all the while, I worked every day in Bath. Don't ask me how I did it, because I don't know myself except that there was a bit of faith as well as works involved - $900 plus $400 for materials plus one year hard labor. We called it Miller Manor and it was an impressive looking place with a nicely terraced lawn and a huge elm tree shading it and a driveway lined with maples. The future at that point looked quite promising for the Nathan Miller family.
Then came the Feast of Tabernacles Convention of 1942. The World was in the throes of total War and the coming of the Lord seemed very near. God's call to my heart came loud and clear:
"Only one life, 'Twill soon be past Only what's done For Christ will last!"
The time and place to lay our all on the altar of sacrifice had come. No more off and on, part time working for the Lord, and most of the time for ourselves. We were ready to sell all that we had and "come follow Jesus." The obvious way at that time and place to "follow" Him fully was the already tried "hundred fold" Christian Community life in the Kingdom. But, believe me, any and all action taken was the result of my loving heart response to His loving call.
So I proceeded to go home from that Gathering, leave my job for good, put our big house up for sale, pack all the worldly goods we could into an old farm trailer and head for Christian Community Number One in New York State.
Of course, we didn't do such a thing without the encouragment of Frank Murray and the College Company and the sanction
of Mr. Sandford. However, having done it, you win never know the joy and peace it brought to us unless you have had a similar experience.
will never be blessed
The "Whithersoever" Life
"These are they who follow the Lamb whithersoever" (Revelation 14:4)
I couldn't be in the Kingdom long without hearing about the 144,000. To learn about them one has only to turn to the 14th chapter of Revelation. One of Mr.Sandford's obsessions was to bring about the manifestation of that very elite group by teaching people how to qualify for it and the central qualification was following Jesus fully. I can honestly say that all of our subsequent adventures and journeys of faith from that day in the Fall of 1942 when we left Durham, Maine, and headed for the Catskills in New York until this very day, were motivated by a deep, heartfelt desire to "follow the Lamb whithersoever."
Our trailer was a homemade rack affair big enough to haul a ton of hay and our little 1936 Chevy did mighty well to haul it loaded as heavily as it was over hill and dale to Obadiah Aldrich's place in Hobart, New York, which acted as a sort of Ellis Island, or screening out place, for the immigrants who hoped to make it to the heavenly places up the Hill where Mr. Sandford was.
Obadiah was a very hard working dairy farmer who had opened his heart and his home many years ago to Mr. Sandford and all of his followers because he was convinced that was his way of following Jesus fully. He was a saint after my own heart, and we loved him dearly and he loved us, so it was a happy place to land at the end of a long, weary journey.
There we were - a man and wife and three little children: Faye, six, Danny, four, and Norman, one - having burned our
bridges behind us, totally dependent on God's provision for us by way of His people right then, and thrilled at the prospect of being all out for Him. Perhaps I should qualify that statement - at least, I was thrilled. Florence was a willing cooperator always, but seldom a promoter of such incomprehensible (to most people) doings.
In the past my ventures into God's harvest fields via the Kingdom had generally meant separation from her. Now she and the children were with me, so she was quite content to face the future "whithersoever" and whatsoever.
"Whithersoever" - Michigan
Our stay with Obadiah in the Catskills was brief. Apparently, plans had already been made by Mr. Sandford for the College Company to go to Michigan and cooperate with Mr. Holland and his Company who were already in the process of carrying an evangelistic campaign there. We, the Miller family, would go with the College Company and establish a home which would serve as a base for their activities.
The College Company, by the way, consisted of Frank Murray (the leader), Lois his wife, Victor Murray (Frank's brother), Dr. Charles Reeder (an osteopath), John Adams (a track star from Bowdoin College), Harry Gates (an all American blocking back from Dartmouth), Roy Stamps (a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy) and me - a dropout from Bowdoin, class of 1934. Frank and Victor were Bates College men. It was a very dear and precious group of young people to have the privilege to work with. All loved the Lord dearly and all were totally devoted to Mr. Sandford and his ministry. There again, I should in honesty qualify the "all" as to loyalty to Mr. Sandford. I was the most dubious character in the bunch, although at that stage my doubts were very much submerged in thrilling activities.
carloads of us left for Michigan some time the last of November of 1941. The Millers in
our little Chevy loaded down with as many of our worldly goods as we could cram into and
onto it - including an ever-needed washing machine strapped to the rear bumper. Within a
week we were all located in a very nice rental in East Lansing, Michigan, praising the
nice rental in East Lansing, Michigan, praising the Lord for
answering prayer and providing our needs so bountifully. All of us were raring to go to evangelize the state of Michigan, and especially, the college campuses in no time flat.
However, there was a brief hiatus before some of us could get going at that job. I got word that somebody wanted to buy our home back in Durham, Maine. So Roy Stamps and I started out for Durham on December 7th to put that deal through. That December 7th was Pearl Harbor Day, and none of us will forget the impact that had on us when first we heard about it. Our country nor any of us have ever been the same since. It was a time when people's faith was tested to the limit, but those of us who had learned to trust Him really knew that everything, yes everything was in His hands, and under His control, and the safest condition to be in was totally committed to Him and that we intended to be.
Since the King's business required haste, Roy and I drove straight through to Maine within 24 hours, put the business through in short order and landed back in Lansing $1,300 richer. In a few days the College Company were riding in a brand new 1941 Chevorolet four door sedan, one of the last ones made before the total manufacturing capacity in the country was turned over to making munitions. God got the glory for that victory - and He still does!
However, the above doings did lead to the first big test of faith for the Millers as authentic hundred folders. The College Company, sans the Millers, hopped into their new car and returned East for the Christmas Convention - and never came back. That left us with an expensive house in East Lansing on our hands and the bottom having dropped out of the glorious campaign to evangelize all the college campuses in Michigan. It took us many years to come to the conclusion that this would be very typical of all of Mr. Sandford's big projects. Then, though, faith rose to the occasion. We just moved South to the church in Ypsilanti and got under Mr. Holland's wing.
Holland was a very patient, understanding and long suffering leader under Mr. Sandford,
who was very easy to work with. There were perhaps thirty to forty members in the
Ypsilanti Church and they opened up their hearts and their homes to us,
homes to us,
and we sort of took turns staying with different families, which meant crowded quarters. It was a time when we and they were learning what the verse "love covereth a multitude of sins" (and inconveniences) really means. Not the least of our problems was to have to send our dear little Faye to about four or five different schools that Winter.
We ended up in Saginaw, Michigan where I was in charge of a small church built around the Steve Wargo family in whose home we stayed. It was a humbling, yet thrilling experience to have a chance to minister the Gospel and "feed my sheep."
Mrs. Hazel Wargo was a big-hearted, generous lady who loved souls and was every day doing all she could to help them both practically and spiritually. She was more than willing to share her home with us, but others in the fellowship could not understand why an able-bodied man like myself was content to live off Steve Wargo instead of getting a job - but if the Wargos were ever tempted to have those kinds of thoughts, they certainly never let us know it.
Our stay in Saginaw lasted about four months and was memorable to me for a special lesson. I began to learn there of the cost of unconditional love for souls. One day I walked across lots to make a pastoral call on a newly baptized convert, and as I neared her house, I overheard her telling some friends about what a successful "con" game she was playing on her new Christian friends to get her needs supplied. She was not as easy to love after that, but - His grace was sufficient! A practical lesson Florence learned while there was how to deal with bed bugs. She had to face the embarrassing situation of telling Faye's teacher that those red spots on her daughter were not measles, but bed bug bites. But there were, however, plenty of positive experiences of loving and sharing to be remembered about Saginaw. We learned to appreciate the generous and friendly culture of Czechoslovakian people as typified by the Wargo family who made up most of that little fellowship.
"Whithersoever - Connecticut
By May of that year 1942, I had concluded by observation and practical experience that the "hundred fold" life as taught by Mr. Sandford was only being lived successfully by those living in Christian Community Centers.
God just must have a place for us in one.
Where would there be an opening for me, a mason?
Yes, there was one. Mr. F.W. Wakeman, a man totally loyal to Mr. Sandford, but uniquely his own man in so many ways, owned property in Sherman, Connecticut where he had established a very small, self-run business. That made him not strictly hundred fold, but sort of "semi" because I am sure he was always ready to serve Kingdom interests with all he owned. Anyway, he was in the process of building a house, and it was an elaborate and a unique one. In fact, everything Mr. Wakeman did was unique, and there was nothing much he could not do, from building an oval shaped chimney top out of fieldstone to putting the Psalms to music and leading the orchestra to play them!
The house when finished was two and one-half stories high - the basement, mostly above ground, was beautifully done in field stone. The first floor was homemade cement blocks faced with white marble chips. The second floor was wide wooden clapboards and was plastered throughout without any square corners or angles - all curved, believe it or not! He made the tools for the plastering job and I did it. Also, I built a beautiful fireplace out of broken white marble laid in black mortar. And, of course, I helped to make and lay the cement blocks. We really had a great crew, consisting of Mr. Wakeman and his wife, their son Chesed and his wife and three little children, John Abram and his wife and children, and Florence and me and our three children. It was a real miniature Christian community with all its potential for rubs and pressures, but since Mr. Wakeman was a strict disciplinarian, nothing got out of hand. We enjoyed our stay in Connecticut and learned many good lessons about Christian unselfishness while we were there.
Florence had it made because she hit it off just great with Mrs. Wakeman, the mater domo, who was a most fastidious
housekeeper and tireless worker. She thought Florence could do no wrong, and I thought it best not to tell her the difference. All in all, it was a Summer of hard work, but very satisfactory accomplishment, for even though we were not getting paid money, our needs were supplied and we were convinced our labor was furthering God's interests. And, of course, we knew that all these big doings at the Wakemans was under Mr. Sandford's watchful eye and with his blessing.
So the house was built - mission accomplished? What next, Lord?
"Whithersoever - Massachusetts
In the 31st chapter of Exodus it tells about certain men to whom God gave skills in "all manner of workmanship" because they were needed to carry out His programs. I am humbly grateful that he gave me some, mainly in masonry and plastering, that He could use in His up to date programs, one of which happened to be going on at that time at the Kingdom Center in New Hampshire.
The original farm house at Chestnut Hill had burned down, and it was in the process of being rebuilt when we were ready to move from Connecticut. I was needed to build the chimneys and plaster them, but there was no place to put up the family on the hill, so an arrangement was made for us to move to Massachusetts temporarily and for me to commute weekly to the job in New Hampshire.
When I say, "an arrangement was being made," it simply means that all of us concerned knew that Mr. Sandford approved these moves and therefore, everyone was more than glad to cooperate, no matter how much inconvenience it involved. Knowing God's will for your plans is so much simpler, under a Divine authority system!
Inconvenience, yes, but any lack of welcome and loving care, no! We slept in one house and ate in another, and Florence car-
ried the baby, Norman, back and forth across lots piggyback. We ate at the Gleasons. Willard Gleason was a multi-talented preacher and teacher, and his wife, Rose, was an equally talented woman of God who did her own cooking and housekeeping very efficiently, even though she was totally blind - an utterly amazing lady who always radiated the love and joy of the Lord. It was a privilege indeed to live in the Gleason home for a time and absorb their kind of faith.
And, of course, the Marstallars where we slept were just as hearty and generous to us as the Gleasons. August was a man of God in his own right, a capable and tireless worker at anything he put his hand to, but he specialized in agriculture.
Florence was the one, as usual suffering the most inconvenience, because I was working up at Chestnut Hill during the week and riding back and forth weekends with Mr. Gleason, who was the Bible School teacher up there, as well as the Pastor of the Boston Church on Sundays. But it didn't take Florence long to adjust to another new situation, and to be loved and appreciated by those around her - as one casual acquaintance of hers once said, "To know Florence is to love her." Amen! Truer words were never spoken. It was also tough on the children, who had started the school year in Sherman, Connecticut, and after a few weeks, had to start again in Reading, Massachusetts, and then, after a few more weeks, start again in Amherst, New Hampshire.
Was all this discouraging to us? Not at all, as we were gradually making our way to "the front of the battle" Kingdom-wise, and loving it!
"Whithersoever" - New Hampshire
There is a spot on what people in the Area knew as Chestnut Hill, where the comers of three townships meet. They are Amherst, New Boston, and Bedford, New Hampshire, and that is where, in the late twenties or early thirties, David Sandford, Frank Sandford's youngest son, bought an old farm and started raising turkeys. That turkey business turned out to be
not much more than a front for the establishing of the most active Kingdom Center in the movement for many years. That is, it was very active evangelistically because David Sandford was a born evangelist.
And it was there that a new Bible School was set up, and since it maintained a low profile religiously in the community, Mr. Sandford, Senior, felt free to visit the place occasionally. It was there that Florence and I were baptized by him in 1934 and spent several months as "trial hundred folders" back in 1935. That is where we wanted to land on a permanent basis and in November, 1942, we did just that. Another state, another town, another community, another kitchen, another dining room, and another school for the children. Within one year since leaving our home in Durham, Maine, we had adjusted to seven such moves. How is that for an initiation into home missions?
Don't try to tell me that my dear wife is not a "ringer"! But please do not feel bad for us - we were "happy in the service of the King" I
When we landed on Chestnut Hill from Massachusetts, we were housed temporarily in a one-room pine slab camp in the woods about 100 yards equidistant from the "newly built" Farm House and the Bible School building. It was lighted with lamps and heated with a small wood stove with the stovepipe stuck out the window. That is where we "roughed it" through the Winter of 1942 - 1943 - because the temporary arrangement lasted until an apartment was built for us in the ell of the Farm House that next year. Our cooking and dining, of course, was done at the Farm House with Joseph Holland's family.
Joseph was one of the younger ministers in the Kingdom, and his wife, Mildred, who was Frank Murray's younger sister, was one of the easiest persons to get along with in all our acquaintances. She was always gracious and kind and unselfish. She never complained about the extra work and inconveniences that we, a family of five, caused her. In fact, she and Florence worked so nicely together with so little friction that our five years of raising two families in one house has to set a few records of harmonious Christian community living.
must confess that the record on the male side of the house was not quite so harmonious. If
you knew either Joseph
was not quite so harmonious. If you knew either Joseph
or me, you would easily doubly understand. However, when we ended our stay with the Hollands, I am sure there was a relationship of the greatest love and respect and appreciation among us all, including the children - and there were four of ours and four of theirs, by that time. And that was quite a lot - where the rubber meets the road in Christian living. His Grace was sufficient.
A lot of water went under the bridge in five years - too much to recycle, but let me touch a few currents, under and upper.
It was a time of crisis. The world was at war. Mind and hearts were geared to apocalyptic happenings and emphasizing the need for a prophetic voice and Spiritual warfare, and those were the things "The Kingdom" had been trained in for years, so we just figured our time had come and Jesus would soon be back to take His throne and reign in righteousness. But in the meantime, someone would have to continue doing the mundane work of tending gardens and stock, cutting the wood, milking the cows, etc. And, since Mr. Sandford was patriotic as well as pious, most of the young men were sent off to the War, which left me and a few older men like dear Mr. Fuller to do the work necessary to maintain the Center.
I was classified 3A - deferred because I was working on a farm. And that was a form of self denial, too, because part of me would have liked to join the boys at the front, but I really was quite content to be where I was, to work with my hands, and to do my part in fighting the Spiritual battles.
Mr. Fuller was an experienced potato farmer from Aroostook County, Maine, who had been a loyal member of The Kingdom for many years. He was in charged of the farming at the Center and I could not have asked for a nicer, more agreeable man to work with. He was a real lover of Jesus and no greater accolade could be given to anyone. He taught me how to drive a team of horses, which I dearly loved to do, as well as shoe horses, hay, garden, milk, and tend cows, and generally, do the thousand and one things a farmer has to do. There are just so many precious memories of working with dear Mr. Fuller. How many times when we would be milking cows together, each knowing that the other was going through some particular trial
at the time, but instead of sighing or grumbling or complaining, one would say "Praise the Lord !" " and the other would respond, "He is worthy!" - and that is the kind of fellowship that makes life worth living. How rich I consider myself to be to have had such friends and fellow workers as Mr. Fuller - a prince of overcomers.
Of course, there was spiritual as well as manual work to be done. There were church members scattered throughout the State of New Hampshire who came to the Hill as their Church Center, and always there was more or less evangelistic work going on, with a chance to participate in cottage meetings and to work with souls once in a while, and if anyone has ever had the joy of leading a soul to Christ, you will understand that all other occupations are incidental, compared to helping people heavenward.
It might be of interest to give a rundown of the daily routine in our community. Rising time was optional, whatever was needed to get personal devotions and the necessary morning chores before breakfast at 8:00 a.m. Then at 9:00 to 10:00 a.m., everyone met for the hour of the morning sacrifice, which consisted of a brief Bible lesson and a time of prayer over the day's needs or spiritual battles all the way from personal to those of the entire world. The Bible class students were in session until 12:00 o'clock while we maintenance staffers continued our duties until noon when lunch was served. In the afternoon, the students joined the work force until 5:00 p.m. when dinner was served. Then more work after dinner (or supper) until 8:00 o'clock when we all met for the concluding meeting of the day.
The exceptions to that daily routine were on Thursdays, because Mr. Sandford believed Jesus was crucified on Thursday (which I did not believe). We stayed in meeting from 9:00 o'clock in the morning until 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon. Then on Friday evening at sundown, we always met together to usher in the Sabbath which was kept as a day of rest until Saturday evening at sundown - no work except the necessary chores. The Sabbaths were indeed very enjoyable times, especially since the other days were so filled with work hours. Sunday was a day spent mostly in spiritual labors - meetings at home and abroad.
Such was our life for about five years at the Chestnut Hill (later called Oak Hill), New Hampshire Kingdom Center. It was a rather cloistered, self-centered existence that gave us the opportunity to be models in many ways when it came to Christian virtues and the devotional life, but it was so separated from the real world, even the Christian world (intentionally so) that it bred a spirit of "Us and Them" with the "Us" being several cuts above the "them" in our eyes, and we were very sure, in God's eyes.
In retrospect, I recognize it as a disease called spiritual smugness. I am sure that none of us at that time would ever admit to such an attitude, or even recognize it, but I am also sure that that is what (unconsciously) motivated many of us to be willing to pay the price of self-denial it takes to live in a Christian Community.
There came a time when I felt we, the Miller family, had compassed this mountain (Oak Hill) long enough and it was a case of "What next, Lord?"
"Whithersoever" - Tacoma, Washington
David Sandford, Frank Sandford's younger son, the young man who had bought the original Turkey Farm at Chestnut Hill and who started the Center there, had moved out to Tacoma, Washington and begun a little church there. He was in the process of building a church building.
He operated sort of semi-independently of his father, but in May of 1947, he came to the Spring Kingdom Convention to report his doings to his Dad and to recruit helpers for his Tacoma Mission. I was cutting his hair one day and listening to his glowing reports of how God was working in the Northwest when it struck me - this was the chance I had been waiting for.
So I offered my services as builder and fellow Evangelist. He jumped at the offer. But he knew and I knew that there was one big hurdle to get over to bring such a thing about - a "thus saith the Lord" from his father. That, however, didn't
daunt David; in fact, nothing daunted him when he set his mind to accomplish something he felt the Lord wanted done. He was a "chip off the old block" when it came to that.
The hair cutting took place in New Hampshire, but after my offer, it wasn't long before Mr. David was off to New York State to plead my cause with O.S. (Our Shepherd), as Mr. Sandford was called, and then it wasn't much longer when he was back in New Hampshire with a message from God via Mr. Sandford that sent us bag and baggage to the far North West which is a saga that will take a little telling.
It must be understood that when a family in a Kingdom community in New Hampshire wishes to move across the country, the head of the family does not call up North American Van Lines and turn the job over to them. No indeed! Instead, said family head goes out and buys a small rack bodied, home-made trailer built on an old model T Ford axle, brings it home and starts packing it with the absolute essentials for maintaining a family of six.
Who made the decisions as to what to take. Mother, of course, and since she is a lover of blueberries, there were many jars of canned blueberries in that trailer about which we shall hear later.
Our new sponsor and benefactor, the indefatigable, irrrepressible and eternally optimistic, David S., was traveling in a pre-war Chevrolet sedan equipped with a trailer hitch. So, on April 3, 1947 we "hitched our wagon (trailer) to that star" and started West at about 1:00 in the afternoon. I remember the time specifically because of its repercussions on the rest of the day.
were all pretty weary from all the preparations and excitement of such an unprecedented
adventure. The sensible thing would have been
to wait until the next morning to start, but the Kingdom and especially, the Sandford
segment of it was not noted for doing things sensibly, and besides, David could not wait
to get headed back to his beloved wife, Rebecca, who was holding the fort in Tacoma.
The above "We" consisted of David S., his daughter, Mary (a teenager),
Florence and me, and our four children - Faye, 12, Danny, 10, Norman, 6, and Gwendolyn, 1
- eight of us in that small Chevy. It was quite a test
6, and Gwendolyn, 1 - eight of us in that small Chevy. It was quite a test
of Christian togetherness, but it worked, and even enjoyably so because where there is love (disciplined), there is always room.
But back to that first leg of our journey West. By 10:00 that night (David was a late night guy) we were about halfway across New York State on Route 20 in the Finger Lakes area. I was driving, it was raining and everyone else in the car was asleep and I was understandably dozing. We were just starting down a long, straight hill of which there are many in that area when I woke up with a start and realized that I, in my semiconscious desire to keep out of the right ditch, which was quite deep, was heading into the left ditch. In quickly pulling the car back in the road, I jackknifed the trailer which hit a concrete culvert, snapped the wooden trailer tongue and scattered most of our worldly possessions for forty yards down the ditch, covering many a precious garment with - yes, you guessed it - blueberry juice. I managed to straighten out the swerving car on the wet pavement and get it stopped. If ever there was a rude awakening, that was it, and it didn't take us long to realize how thin is the thread and close we had come to a major disaster. The trailer was a shambles but the car was intact and nobody was hurt - an occasion for great thanksgiving to the Giver and Preserver of life.
But after the thanksgiving, there is always the inevitable "Where do we go from here, Lord?" It was an excellent opportunity for David's and our dauntlessness to come into play. "Dauntlessness" from a Christian's point of view meaning practical persevering faith in God - "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me!"
A dark rainy night, a lonely road with no traffic, few houses and towns far and apart, but what should we find at the foot of the hill, but a Road House or Beer Joint, going full swing. It was an unlikely place for cloistered Christians to go and ask for help, but the proprietor turned out to be very kind and helpful, opening our eyes a bit wider to the fact that not all good people were confined to Kingdom Centers. He volunteered to take his pickup and go back up the hill and salvage what we could of our scattered possessions and store them in is garage. Also, he steered us to a nearby Motel which did not want
to take us in because, I surmised, it catered to less conventional characters from the Road House. David's persuasiveness got us in and we finally bedded down for the night (or morning) humbly grateful to be alive, even though we might be consorting with the kind of people Jesus was criticized for consorting with.
The next day enterprising David went to the next town to procure packing boxes in which to pack the stuff that was worth saving from the trailer load, and that afternoon we shipped them by freight to Tacoma - they arrived months later. The next morning, off we were again "Westward Ho" in our tightly packed car with two very personal items we could not part with on the roof - a new mattress that we had jealously guarded since leaving Maine, and Danny's bike. We looked a bit like the Hillbillies headed for California, but we didn't much care. We were in business for our King (Jesus) and we loved every minute of it.
As I recall, there were no more close calls or dangerous experiences on that trip. We visited the Church in Michigan and stayed over a couple of nights at Kenneth Aldrich's very nice home, renewing our fellowship with the dear people there. Then we proceeded west on U.S. Route 10 practically all the way, finding out that it is a long way across this country of ours, especially in a little Chevy with eight souls in it. My only complaint, and I refused to mention it at the time, was that the driving schedule always seemed to be arranged so that I was driving into the sun every evening at sundown. The result was that my eyes bothered me for months afterward. I insert this minor item simply to emphasize that in the life of faith, one has to learn to overcome the little trials, as well as the big ones. We still went singing on much of our way, knowing that singing is one of the best ways of keeping out of the dumps. We also memorized many Bible verses, thanks to David. I don't remember just how many days it took us, but after traversing prairies, mountains and deserts, we did arrive safe and sound at David's staked out claim on the outskirts of Tacoma, which was a four acre plot with an outstanding view of beautiful Mt. Rainier.
What a glorious reunion for David and Mary and a most hearty welcome for us newcomers, the Millers. Rebecca Aldrich
Sandford, the daughter of "Obadiah," we were to find, was a "jewel" of the first magnitude if one could classify the handmaidens of the Lord. It just seemed that wherever we landed as "hundred folders," the Lord provided just the dearest, most gracious ladies for Florence to live and work with. As our old friend Mr. Kimball used to say about so many things - "It was just the pure blessing of the Lord." Of course, Florence isn't the hardest person to get along with either!
As a builder David apparently specialized in foundations, for on his plot he had put together enough money, labor and material to build three foundations and cover them all with the first floor boarding and then roofing paper to make the basement quarters watertight and liveable. One was a house basement in which he had finished off very adequate living quarters for him and his wife and four children. And, believe it or not, they took our family of six in to live with them in that basement which did have one open wall with regular windows in it, since it was on a side hill. That took some figuring, some cramping, and an extra supply of loving graciousness on everybody's part. But His grace was sufficient and we can truly say we enjoyed living with the Sandfords until we moved into the new living quarters of the church building months later.
Then the second foundation was for a future barn, but was already housing a cow and its fodder and whatever farming tools were needed. The third foundation was that of the future Church building that I had come out to help build, and it, too, had been made watertight, and a fairly large auditorium finished off in it that would accommodate about sixty people. On many occasions it was filled with worshippers. Such was the physical setup of the mission to Tacoma to which the Lord had sent us. We were literally getting in on the ground floor of a church founding, Christian Community project and right inspired over the prospect.
The sheer work challenge to the project was tremendous, but I was not fazed by it, because work and I always got along very well together. Since we were always limited for funds we were left to do things the hard, long way, like getting building material by tearing down old houses and cleaning and reusing the lumber. David had already partly constructed the church
that way. By Fall of that year we had finished off an an upstairs apartment over the unfinished auditorium enough for us to move into. By that time the Kingdom had sent out to us a very interesting young man named Martin Stone from the Bible Class at Oak Hill. We had gotten to know and love and appreciate Martin while at the Hill, mostly for his sense of humor, he being an incorrigible joker. When he and Florence got together, most of the time was spent in laughter. So, dear Martin was a welcome addition to our company.
Then in due time Aubray Priest joined us from the East. Aubray, with his unique dry British humor, was also quite capable of "keeping us in stitches" on occasion. So, between Florence, a lover and maker of jokes, and Martin and Aubray, we had some memorable side-splitting times, when we would get home from a street meeting in Tacoma and review our public witnessing experiences, while we munched our peanut butter sandwiches. David was really addicted to these. It really was a great life -like I have said, there is no feeling greater than that of helping souls God-ward and we were seeing fruit, and our company of workers was growing.
There was Burt Wiley, who had apparently heard when he got home from the Army that there was something going on for the Lord in the Northwest, so he came out and joined us. Then Mrs. Pass and her son, Ralph, came up from California to be with us for a while. Also dear Mr. Kelliot showed up from somewhere. He was another what I call a "Kingdom casualty" from way back in my parents' time who had left the movement and wandered as a spiritual maverick for many long years. David had found him as a lost sheep and brought him back into the fold and finished off a room for him in the barn basement with the cow! A dear and remarkable man, Mr. Kelliot. In his day he had been a concert pianist and his rendition of the Twelfth Mass for us charmed and soothed our weary spirits on many a Sabbath evening. Another thing I will always remember about Mr. Kelliot was the ecstatic joy he experienced after giving his testimony in a street meeting in front of a theatre one night -since he had vowed to God that that's one thing he never could or would do. "He" came to set the captives free!
Such was our life of faith in Washington. We were for sure a going concern - for awhile. There was just one BIG problem. It wasn't strictly Kingdom, as per Frank Sandford's version. David had broken with his father on the hundred fold issue. He believed that Christian workers had not only a right, but an obligation, to go out and get jobs in order to be self sufficient and also to be able to minister to the Lord's work. It was a practical and sensible approach to the life of faith but it was decidedly different from that of his father's, whose cause I had so totally espoused. Which Sandford would I follow?
Never have I suffered so deeply as I did the last few months in Tacoma over that dilemma. To a shallow observer, my answer would probably have been obvious - "when in Rome do as the Romans do." Not I. Our roots had grown too deep and the price we had paid for our supposed hundred fold standing was too great for us to turn our backs on it yet. So, in spite of our enjoyable working together evangelically, there was always this basic difference that we were both aware of. It eventually led to the parting of our ways, but not before I had been tested to the limit, when it came to getting my own light and leading as to whether to stay with David or not.
As you will have surmised, no major moves were ever made in the Kingdom without the knowledge and consent of those over us in the Lord, Mr. Sandford's being the final word. Therefore, I had written many letters back East to Headquarters, explaining our situation and asking for advice and counseling. Nothing came back and time went on and nothing came back, and I suffered on. I even wondered if letters to me were being intercepted before they got to me. After all, hadn't I been sent out here by Mr. Sandford himself?! The only thing that God, I am sure, used to keep me balanced and functional during that period was my reading of " Sanborn's Lincoln" as a pressure breaker. Eventually I did become convinced on my own that God wanted us to leave and go back East where "Kingdom" orthodoxy was more the norm. Of course, that entailed a few matters like money and transportation -"according to your faith be it done unto you"!
I had compromised my stand to some degree, at David's urging, and worked at my trade enough to get a little money of our
own ahead - perhaps a couple of hundred dollars. With $95.00 of it, I bought an old 1928 Dodge Sedan, which had running boards on the sides and a square trunk strapped on the back. When I told the old gentleman from whom I bought it that I hoped to drive it across the country, he just told me flat out, "It will never make it!"
Nevertheless, the die was cast, so a week or two before Christmas, 1947, we packed as many of our worldly goods into this truly Hillbilly Hack (Danny's bike didn't make it this time, much to his sorrow), and started South for Haywood, California, where there was a well established strictly Kingdom small Christian community. Martin elected to come with us because in his way, he, too, was of the "old school." His presence was cheering and helping. The parting was sad to the point of heartbreaking because David had done his best to persuade us to stay, and we had gotten to know and love each other as families, but when God indicates "go," there is nothing left to do but to go.
"Whithersoever - California
It took us two days to drive down the Coast road from Tacoma to Haywood, which is just East of San Francisco. It was a precarious journey. The roads were crooked and slippery at times, but the old car made it okay as far as the Golden Gate Bridge, where the brakes gave out completely. Believe it or not, I drove it the rest of the way through San Francisco and perhaps twenty miles beyond without any brakes, using gears only. OF course, all the hills were up through the City!
If I hear some reader saying about now, "0 the foolhardiness of some people's faith," he could be very close to the truth. But wait. There is much more of the same ahead!
Dear Mr. Dunning and all the folks at Haywood welcomed us with open arms. They had been warned ahead of time, of course, what was about to descend upon them. We were, in a sense, heading back into the fold. And to confirm our leadings a letter from Frank Murray came while there, telling me that he had a place for us to serve back East,
and enclosed was a check for $100 to help us get there. "Praise God from whom all blessings flow." The relief was immeasurable, even though there were many mountains and rivers to cross before we landed the next February at the Wolfe Place in Maine.
Our stay in California was a brief but happy one. Everyone there put themselves out to give us a delightful Christmas. By this time, the children had learned to adjust to just about any situation and even enjoy it. We were fortunate to find living there a Mr. Brown who was a retired locomotive engineer, but also a very good car mechanic. He volunteered to replace the rings and brake linings of the old Dodge, which he did for us during the two weeks we were there. So, with new rings, new brake linings, and a new battery and a warning from sensible Mr. Brown that the old crate would never make it, we headed East by way of Southern California. Martin Stone elected to stay in Haywood, so our journey turned out to be a strictly Miller miracle.
West to East By Faith
told God if He ever got us across the country in safety I would never doubt Him again - He
did and I haven't .
The first day we covered 500 miles down through the Imperial Valley to Barstow, where we struck Route 66 which would take us most of the way, across the country. There in Bartow, we stopped at a Texaco station and had the oil changed, as per instructions by Mr. Brown. The man put high detergent oil in it, which cleaned out all the tolerances in the motor, after which the oil went through it about as fast as you put it in. I had to buy a five gallon can of oil, which I carried on the running board and all the way East, I would go until the motor started rapping for lack of oil and then I'd stop and put more in. Consequently, I didn't dare drive more than thirtyfive miles per hour all the way.
That wasn't the only car problem either. The second day out the generator stopped working, so we had to travel in daylight only for several days, stopping at many junk yards along the way, looking for a used generator until one kind junk dealer in
formed me that it might be only a fuse, which - Praise God, it was! So, no longer were we limited to short daylight hour traveling, but instead we chugged along at our 35 to 40 pace for ten to twelve hours a day, eating bread and peanut butter and milk and fresh raw vegetables, as we went.
Of course, the children, Faye, Danny, Norman and Gwendolyn would get noisy and silly, and Florence would have to reprimand them sharply and tell them they needed to stop their foolishness and start praying we would make it over the next mountain.
There were too many unforgettable experiences on that trek to record them all here, but I must let you in on a few more that stand out in my memory. There was the time that Florence looked across a great expanse of prairie and saw one of those fast transcontinental trains streaking Eastward and wondered aloud if we would ever get a chance to travel in that kind of luxury. Then there was the Saturday night we spent in Flagstaff, Arizona, looking for a motel when the place was full of carousing Indians with their gaudy blankets and dogs and Cadillacs! My good wife couldn't get out of there fast enough. Also, going by within fifty miles of the Grand Canyon and not being able to afford any side journeys was not easy either. Then there was the stop at the Post Office in Oklahoma where we had been promised we would receive a communication from the East with some remuneration in it - and found nothing!
So it was a case of tightening our belts and stretching our faith a little more and heading Northeast into the snow and ice of January. No flat tires, thank the Good Lord, and our $95 chariot just kept chugging along over hill and dale until we got within ten miles of our temporary destination, at "Goshen," the Kingdom farm at Drumore, Pennsylvania, which is about twenty miles Southeast of Lancaster. There we literally got lost in the fog which was so thick that you could not distinguish one side of the road from the other. So I stopped in at a house and called dear Mr. Anderson at the farm and he sent Joseph Wakeman out as an angel from heaven to find us and guide us into a "heavenly" welcome at Goshen.
Against all the odds, God had done the impossible, and since then, through many and grievous trials, I can truly say I have never doubted Him!
The Wolfe Place
Our stay at Goshen, the Kingdom Farm in Pennsylvania, was brief, even though the folks there wanted us to throw our lot in with them. It seemed that we had been picked to take over the Old Folks Home back in Durham, Maine, called the Wolfe Place. So, after a couple of weeks of rest and recuperation, we headed North through the cold and snows of January in our miracle 1928 Dodge and landed at said Wolfe place where we could let our wings down once again in a Kingdomsponsored and supported home.
It was a home I was quite familiar with since I had had the privilege of helping to take care of dear Mr. Wolfe before he died, while we were living at the Hilltop previously. He had been a loyal follower of Mr. Sandford for most of his life and was a successful farmer who had acquired this large farm in Durham - large not only in acreage but in buildings. He left the place to the Kingdom to be used as an Old Folks home where the aged saints could be cared for and die in peace. The care and oversight of the place and people was not easy, as many who tried it found out. However, by that time, any place that was warm and comfortable and provisioned looked good to us, so we tackled it with courage and enthusiasm. We lasted about nine months there, but it was a very profitable station on our journey of faith.
And what were some of the specific tests of faith while there? There were minors and majors.
1. Learning that aged saints are not always saintly, and loving them just the same.
2. Helping people sustain their faith through pain and suffering, to their last breath.
3. Trying to help the old people stand the children, and the children to put up with the old people - in one kitchen and one dining room!
1. It was shortly after we arrived at the Wolfe Place that we learned that Frank Sandford had died - not in the streets of Jersusalem as per the l1th chapter of Revelation, which he had prophesied, but in his home in New York State. What a shocker! I can remember now while cutting wood by myself alone in the woods wrestling with God, as it were, over the enormity of the problems this event thrusts on the Movement as a whole and each member personally.
Where were we to go from here? My conviction at that time was: Our roots are too deep and the price we've paid to come this far is too great for us to turn our backs on it all now. And I had faith that things could be different now - more open and cooperative with other Christians and less hamstrung with the stigma of doctrines so difficult to prove. That turned out to be wishful thinking on my part, but it took a long time for me to become convinced that such a change was not going to take place. In the meantime, I joined the ranks of those who covenanted with Victor Abram, Mr. Sandford's successor, to pick up the pieces and carry on.
2. Then Florence came down with appendicitis and it looked like a burst appendix. No money, no insurance, no medicare, and therefore, no hospital - the doctor couldn't believe us or know how to deal with our kind of people, but our trust in God alone paid off and my dear wife came through the experience as well as ever.
3. Florence's traumatic experience of having a miscarriage.
So our eight months stay at the Wolfe Place was brief but very profitable. We learned a little more about not only living by faith, but dying by faith. There were some very precious saints who spent their last days there.
notable lady was Miss Grace Smith, who, even though she was bedridden most of the time,
was the soul of love and
she was bedridden most of the time, was the soul of love and
kindness and good cheer - never complaining once that we knew about. Such Christianity was beautiful to behold especially by our children whom she loved. Our dear children, by the way, were fast becoming regular troopers ready to take on anything their wandering parents got them into. And the next place those "whithersoever" parents got them into was "Olivet." Or perhaps I should have said back into, for that's where we spent a Winter with the Philip Hollands just after Danny was born.
Five Years at Olivet
In the heyday of Mr. Sandford's Bible school just after the turn of the century, Olivet was the children's building used for a school and meeting place for young people. When new, it must have been a beautiful building well-constructed of granite stone three stories high with wide wooden porches all the way around the first story. The top story was Mansard architecture, which means that it was recessed back from the wall line of the first two stories and looked like a continuous dormer window construction all the way around the building. The roof was of a flat tar and gravel construction. It was a unique and different architecture, but Mr. S. must have liked it because all of the buildings on Shiloh Hilltop were constructed that way. As you may have surmised by now, all of what Mr. S. did tended to be unique and different. That probably was part of his magnetism.
temporary departure into architecture is simply to bring you to the up to date fact that
Olivet in 1948 was not what it used to be in 1910. The roof leaked with subsequent
internal damage, the wooden porches were falling down, windows broken, no central heat, no
electricity, and it had been empty for years. In short, it was a challenge of no small
magnitude not only to make it livable, but to revive the place as a Center for Youth Work.
I took it and relished the prospect under the new, fresh leadership of Victor Abram
because he and I had a very agreeable working relationship. I was asked to be
of the Sunday Schools and to head up the Youth Ministry. Since at that time, the Kingdom Church at the Hilltop in Maine was the largest and most diversified in the Movement, even if it wasn't always deemed the most important, it was a responsible and fulfilling ministry and I really enjoyed the opportunity.
So it was with good courage and happy hearts that we moved into tumbledown Olivet in September of 1948 - into the apartment where we had stayed one Winter with Philip and Mary Holland in 1936. It didn't take too long to tighten roofs, fix chimneys, hang curtains, set up stoves with long stove pipes strung through rooms and hallways, and best of all, string some wires from the nearby barn and electrify some of the rooms, which was a great change from Aladdin lamps and ice boxes. After living so long with other families, it was delightful to again be in our own kitchen and bedrooms, even though we rattled around in such a huge building with two fairly good-sized auditoriums and many smaller rooms. The kids, Faye, Dan, Norm and Gwen loved it - plenty of room to roam and play indoors and acres of sandhills to build castles on outdoors. Also the Lord blessed us with the birth of our fifth child and third daughter, Sylvia, while at Olivet. That was an unforgettable experience, since she was born at home before the doctor got there - it was for him also!
The senior minister of the Maine Hilltop Church at that time was dear Mr. Tupper, a veteran of the early Nineteen hundreds when the Bible School was originally started. His humor and originality always kept the meetings, of which there were plenty, interesting and palatable. We, the men of the church, built Mr. and Mrs. Tupper a new house during that period.
Then the ones who were responsible for the practical running of the Center were Philip and Mary Holland, who had taken over the very nice home of his father, Reverend Charles Holland, who had been co-leader of the Movment with Mr. Sandford. Philip was easy-going by nature and therefore, very easy to work with. I am afraid he could not always have said that about me, since I have the reputation of giving the impression that I think I have all the answers - many trips to the throne of Grace on that one!
But I am sure that our Olivet experiences of working with Mr. Tupper and Philip, and, of course, all of us adjusting to Mr. Abram's new leadership, was a growing thing, i.e., growing in Grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ as we took those experiences in the right spirit. However, it was also a great testing time - a time to find out to what degree our faith in and loyalty to Christ depended on our faith in and loyalty to Mr. Sandford as Elijah the prophet. That was the great question or problem shall we say, that everyone in the movement, consciously or unconsciously, was struggling with.
I cannot tell you how many Sabbath mornings when we were not busy working and had time to stop and think about our situation, did Florence and I get into heated arguments over that question. Her security and safety in God depended a great deal on her loyalty to the Kingdom and Mr. Sandford's teaching. Mine did not since I was convinced his teachings did not. always line up with scripture. It would take many years and many suffering experiences before both our faiths in Christ would become totally unadulterated. In the meantime, we continued to suppress our doctrinal dilemmas and even to enjoy the place, the good people, and the work we were doing, which in some areas was prospering.
Florence's brother, Frank, his wife, Esther, and their four children, moved into an improvised apartment on the first floor of Olivet. And then a little later, Eva Reeder and her two young boys moved into a little apartment on the third floor. She was the recent widow of my former College Company associate, Dr. Charles Reeder, who had been killed by a mentally unbalanced intruder at the Hilltop a year or so before. So our empty building was filling up with homey sights and sounds. The children had plenty of playmates and Florence had the kind of fellowship she dearly loves, being a people person.
It was during our five years at Olivet that our three oldest, Faye, Danny and Norman, went through the painful experience of becoming teenagers and trying to handle it. Being Shilohites and having a father responsible for the youth work in the Church didn't make it any easier for them, especially when there was a recognized double standard in the Kingdom between the
"hundred folders" and the 30's and 60's, when it came to keeping the Sabbath and many other things, like what they could wear for clothing and hair styles, etc.
Our kids didn't do too well when it came to so-called "holding the standard." For instance, my boys loved to go hunting and both Dan and Norm were very good shots with a .22 rifle. One Saturday (Sabbath) Norman snuck out with the rifle and didn't make it sneaking back in again. When I confronted him, he admitted killing four squirrels and claimed he hit them all in the head. Of course, I didn't believe him because he had a reputation of telling mighty tall tales (and still does), but he claimed he could prove it. So he took me to where he had buried them in the sand, and sure enough, they were all hit in the head. As you have guessed, I was too secretly proud of him to inflict much of a punishment for Sabbath breaking.
Dear Faye made it through her High School trials very well. She played a clarinet in the orchestra, tended to her studies and graduated, having given no trouble except to keep her well dressed and get back and forth to the Brunswick School bus two miles from Olivet. After graduating from High School, she enrolled in the Kingdom Bible School at Oak Hill, as all good Kingdom young people were expected to do. While there she met her future husband, Gerry Hobart.
Danny's High School career was not quite as model, Kingdom-wise. It followed more after that of his father - football, hot rods and sweet gals, drawing him a bit off course from the straight and narrow. There is a law that says "like begets like" but that is pretty hard to take by parents, and especially, Christian parents who are conscientiously trying with God's help to bring up model children. About that time Florence and I began to appreciate how our parents must have suffered over us. What we really were beginning to learn also was the wonderfulness of the Grace of God toward all of His children. But I am afraid we were not very gracious to start with, at least toward our wayward children, as they, I am sure, will testify.
And Danny's problems were not the only ones that cropped up at Olivet. Norman was rascality personified from the word "go" and the "rod of correction" never seemed to have much effect on him, as far as rectifying the situation
was concerned. His major teenage escapades, however, did not show up until we had left Olivet and moved to the Hobart Place in Brunswick - but that is a chapter in itself.
Back to "Thirty"
The Olivet challenge was wearing pretty thin. Because of our teenagers' problems, a few misunderstandings with Mr. Abram and others over us in the Lord, and my ever present enigma over the "Elijah" question, I became convinced after much prayer and soul searching that a move from Olivet was in order. Where to, Lord? When God shuts one door He always has another one about to open. We found that the Hobart family, Gerry's parents, were about to move to Wells, Maine, and their farm just over the Durham line in Brunswick would be available to rent. We took it and rejoiced over God's provision and, yes, my dear brother Judd of J.H. Miller, Inc., took me back to work. There we were, starting from scratch again, as far as this world's goods are concerned (I bought a junker car for $25 to get started), but we were free to fight our own battles for our own children on our own territory. It seemed for awhile as though it were a losing battle for some of them, but it really wasn't and isn't and won't be.
Lord blessed our stay at Hobarts' in many ways, even though there were tests of faith. He
supplied our material needs enough for us to get ahead. Our daughter Faye was married
there and our fourth daughter, Natalie, was born during that period, and of course,
marriages and births are times of special celebration. It was a pleasant place with
pleasant circumstances in which to readjust and reevaluate our family situation and our
church situation. On the face of it, it looked as though we were spiritually stepping down
from the hundred folders to the thirties again. Actually, I am sure we were making
progress in our life of faith and finding that "His grace was sufficient", to
take us through some very humbling experiences - experiences like barely succeeding in
keeping one of our dear ones out of jail, which was a far cry from seeing our children
playing on the streets of millennial Jerusalem that we had ex pected to take place back in
the thirties, or at most,
pected to take place back in the thirties, or at most,
in the forties! The molding was going on.
There was a dear man in the Kingdom at that time named Clyde Daggett, whom the Lord had prospered in the chicken business, and he was always looking for chances to help his brothers in the church who were struggling financially. Since I qualified on that score, he offered to finance me in buying the Old Tupper Place from Van Carpenter, and to set me up in the hatching egg business as a side job. It really was a great opportunity, so we took it and rejoiced over God's provision. And it was back to Durham again to Florence's native haunts - the Tupper place was almost across the road from where she was born.
The Tupper Place
Here we were back into real estate again. It was a 39 acre farm with about eight acres of cleared field with four hundred feet frontage on Route 125. The house was very old and fairly liveable, but the connecting barn was ramshackle indeed. Mr. Daggett paid to recondition it (the barn) to house chickens on two decks and it was there that Florence learned the art of fighting off warlike roosters to gather hatching eggs by the hundreds, and then, of course, those eggs had to be cleaned and packed before shipping - what people won't do to get ahead in this world!
Our family status was changing. Faye was married and on her own, and we hadn't been long on our new farm before Danny married a pretty little blond farmer's daughter from Lisbon, named Allison Bard. I, of course, was back in the mason business, working for my brother some (bless his generous heart), but also taking jobs on my own. It was at that time that I was given the opportunity to be mason foreman on a new Grammar School in Lisbon Falls. For a crew I had three apprentices, two of whom were my son, Daniel, and my son-in-law, Gerald Hobart. It was one of those Clover Leaf buildings with hexagon walls and all splay angles which was quite a challenge, but we built it to the satisfaction of contractor and architect, which was no little triumph of faith as far as I was concerned. Also, it was on that job that Danny began to be one of the best masons in the
State of Maine. Gerry did not follow the trade as did Dan, who became a successful contractor.
So, two of our chickens (not Mr. Daggett's) had left the nest but had not, of course, been crossed off our prayer list. We carry them from the cradle to the grave - either ours or theirs. In fact, when they leave home and get married the prayer list just gets longer, but the grocery list does get a bit shorter.
Even though Faye and Danny were now on their own, we were not without major problems and trials. Norman was still with us and going to Lisbon Falls High School, which did not turn out to be a very good combination for either the school or Norman or us. That situation was alleviated, however, when our good friend, Frank Murray, offered to take Norman in to live with him and Lois, his wife, on the yacht Coronet in Gloucester Harbor. Surprisingly enough, Norman agreed to go and did live with them for about a year and took a P.G. in Gloucester High School. We will be eternally grateful to dear Lois and Frank for all they did out of love and kindness for our son. He loves them both and so we we. After graduation, Norman applied to get into the Air Force and made it, to our surprise, because his application to the basics - reading, writing, and arithmetic - had been negligent, to say the least. He has been surprising us and everyone else ever since in the Service and in business, since he has done so remarkably well.
But to get back to the Tupper Place - three gone and three left and no major family problems hanging over our heads! Shall we settle down at last to a normal workaday existence of buying a home and raising the rest of our family as Kingdom church members (thirty fold style)? The obvious answer, especially after all we had been through, was "yes", of course. There was just one big problem that kept surfacing - I was not happy just existing for me and mine! I had tasted of the inner joy of forsaking all and following Jesus fully and there was something in me that was itching to get back into the harvest field and work with souls. I guess Mr. Abram knew me well enough to guess where I was at, for about that time Vincent and Jean Godfrey, who had been going ahead at the Hilltop for years were moved to Michigan and he offered me and Florence the chance to take their place.
If you have struggled through this "Journey of Faith" with me so far, I know what you will be saying, Nathan, you couldn't! Nathan, you didn't!
But I did! Much to my good wife's chagrin and suffering to start with, I took him up on his offer and we headed back into Community living.
Shiloh Hilltop Five Years Of It!
The big question is why did I do it, i.e., move back to the Hilltop?
In retrospect, it is not easy to understand why I would accept a responsible position that required the promotion of doctrines which in my heart I did not believe. What a strange dichotomy! But in reality, it was no change from the way I had been living ever since we were propelled into the swirl of Kingdom activities from the start back in 1934. Present action in the name of the Lord overshadowed and dimmed doctrinal questions. But perhaps it will help you (and me) to understand the "why" of it if we take time to enumerate some of the outstanding incentives at the time, and I will try to be as honest as I can.
First, as I have already mentioned, was my discontent with a self-centered existence and my desire to get back into fun-time service for the Lord. With all its dubious doctrines, Kingdom Center living did carry a built-in aura of "working for the Lord."
Second, I was asked to do it because I was needed and judged capable - flattering to be sure, especially when I knew that Victor Abram knew my battles with my reasoning mind.
perhaps the biggest incentive was that I saw it as an opportunity to be "in
charge," to be the boss - the one who could call the plays in one small segment of
the Lord's vineyard. Let's just call it what it was - pride or taking ad vantage of a
vantage of a chance
to enhance my image with my peers and build my ego.
Now having confessed my baser motivations, let me hasten to add that we prayed earnestly and long over this move until we were convinced that the Lord was leading us, and I am sure He was and did, and I don't find that incongruous or inconsistent with the above paragraph, because in His wisdom He saw that we needed the kind of experiences and processing that we would get in the next five years -to get rid of some of that conceit, for one thing!
Mr. Abram did all he could to keep us happy in our new position - like giving Florence plenty of help with the work, since she was pregnant with Joanna, our last child, and not her usual cheerful self at all. She had such super helpers as Pauline Marstallers, Jeanette Fifield, Joy Street and Caroline Craig the cream of the crop when it came to devoted and efficient handmaidens of the Lord.
The Hilltop was also the home of several Elderly Saints, such as Mrs. Jewell, Mrs. Knight, Miss Smith (a super saint if there ever was one), Mr. Godfrey, and others who came and went. They all contributed both spiritually and physically, but they would require care and attention at times - especially dear Miss Smith. Florence rose to the occasion, as she always had, and filled the role of "mater domo" very acceptably especially after Joanna, a healthy, pretty little redhead, was born. I am sure both her helpers and the elderly folks win testify to the above statement. As I have stated previously (and it surely bears repeating), to know Florence is to love her. How much my "Journey of Faith" has depended on my precious wife!
As for myself I gladly assumed the responsibility of the physical maintenance of the buildings, as well as to cooperate with Mr. Tupper and Philip Holland in fighting the ever present spiritual battles of the Center and Church people. This meant holding many household meetings and occasionally, preaching from the pulpit, which I must confess I enjoyed, even though enthusiasm was my forte, rather than formal expertise as a speaker. I loved and still do to "Lift Him up for the World to see!"
But I will not weary you with further details of our last stint in a Kingdom Center. It had its rewards and its sufferings and frustrations. I am sure the Lord helped us to fulfill our obligations and do the work expected of us to the satisfaction of those over us and there was no reason why we could not have stayed on there indefinitely.
That is, no reason except that I finally concluded that preaching the gospel of Elijah and the Restoration, even by inference or implication was no longer for me. The Gospel of Jesus' salvation, yes! The Gospel of Elijah, no!
So, to me, to stay on as a leader at Shiloh Hilltop was not being honest or fair, either to the Kingdom or to myself. Apparently, it needed some experiences behind a pulpit to bring this so evident fact home to my mind and heart enough to act on it. I was ready at that time not only to leave the Hilltop, but also the Church Fellowship, but my dear faithful wife was not.
That would have been a premature move that could have broken up our marriage. That I was not about to precipitate, so we arranged to leave the place, having Mr. Abram's blessing, as we had had it coming. I am sure he still wanted to keep a handle on us, even though he was well aware of my problems with unsound doctrines.
he doeth shall prosper" - Psalm 1:3
shall prosper" - Psalm 1:3
It was 1963 and I was 51 years of age when we left the Hilltop and really started out to live a life of faith on our own without Kingdom sponsorship or guidance as never before - a one on one relationship with God that (if real) is bound to result in both spiritual and temporal prosperity. And so it has. I can recommend it to anyone who has the courage of his convictions and will step out and walk alone with God when it comes to major decisions. Romans 14:12, 22 - "So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God ... Hast thou faith? have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth."
If you'd like to see the rest of the story, let us know.