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Stirring Experiences: 1. My Struggle For An Education


      It was the writer's good fortune to be born and reared on a farm in the beautiful, level country of eastern central Michigan. I was not reared in a home of luxury and ease, but in a home where, as children, we were taught that idleness and laziness are a disgrace, and that industry and economy are practically as essential as religion. From the time I was old enough to help, my father assigned me work to do, and then saw to it that I carried out his plans. My parents never permitted me to answer them back when they corrected me; and their word was final on every question. Oh, how thankful I am now that I was never permitted to loaf around like many boys I have seen! This kind of parental care and training in youth saved me from the demoralizing influence of the ungodly, foul-mouthed loafer, and has given me an inexpressibly deep appreciation and admiration for my father and mother.

      My mother, being of Scotch descent, furnished the love, sympathy, and tenderness of the home. My ancestry on my father's side are all of Swiss-German extraction; and my father supplied the indomitable courage, fortitude and stern bravery of a general.

      My education and training started when I was very young, and has never ceased. I attended a country school until I passed the eighth grade, and then entered the city high school. It was my privilege either to walk to and from high school, a distance of about four miles, or to ride a bicycle. I generally rode the bicycle when the weather was fair and the roads passable. It was in this high school that I got into athletic work, playing football, baseball, hammer-throwing, putting the shot, boxing, etc. Here I played as left half back on a strong football team. In our athletic work we were trained to be "good sportsmen." Anyone who fouled, took advantage, acted rude, or did anything that looked mean, was frowned upon, penalized, and often disqualified. In contrast, how disappointed I have been in associating with some who professed so much religion but failed to possess what the world calls "good sportsmanship!"

      Sometimes our football team would go clear across the county to play another high school; and, when the game was over, if we won, the other team would come up to us, all smiles, shake hands and laugh, saying, "Well, boys, you got the best of us today!" They would then take us to a popular restaurant and give us a "good feed." I have also seen the same spirit and attitude shown in baseball, tennis, boxing, wrestling, etc. I have watched these players when the game was over, and they would always smile and shake hands, and it seemed sometimes that the defeated individual or team smiled the happier and always showed a good spirit. Very few, if any of them, professed the least degree of religion. They just called it "good sportsmanship."

      I have often wondered why so little of this same spirit is found in religious circles. Why is it that those who profess so much cannot show more of the same magnanimity and friendliness when some one wins over them, instead of showing a sour, peeved, revengeful spirit? Either the world has more than we have, and we do not have what we profess, or else sportsmanship does more for one than many people manifest who profess religion.

      While I was a student in the above mentioned high school, the Holy Spirit awakened my slumbering soul and I was blessedly converted. I then began talking to the students about their souls, during the noon hour. I had a fair-sized audience of fellow students to whom I read the Bible and talked about the way of salvation. They showed me great respect and proved to he very attentive listeners. The Lord held me steady and helped me to take my stand against many things in which I had previously been engaged, such as baseball, football, and other games of contest that make lean the soul, and pull one's attention away from God.

      While I was a student here, God very definitely called me to preach. At once I began leading prayer meetings, giving talks, and trying to preach. Not many months later the Lord called me to go to Bible School. This meant a financial struggle, for I had no money, and my father, still an unconverted Adventist, not only refused to help me, but rigidly opposed me. Had I gone to an Adventist school, Father would have helped me; but God definitely called me to a Holiness seminary. That meant I had to make my own way. If I had taken my unconverted father's counsel, I would no doubt have lost my soul, and he would never have been reached.

      At once I secured a good job, saved my money, and that fall went away to attend a Bible seminary. In stead of waiting until my money was all gone, I enrolled at the beginning of the year as a work student, and started digging sewer for fifteen cuts an hour. I planned at first to remain in this institution only about three years; but, as I kept my heart open and listened to God rather than to good people who would have pulled me out of Divine order, I remained there nine years. Here I learned how to scrub floors, wheel garbage, shovel coal, and fire a furnace; in fact, I did almost every kind of work that could be mentioned, for fifteen cents an hour, and was glad for the chance to do it to get an education.

      After a few months my money was all gone, and I had no one to depend upon but God. I want to testify right here that He is faithful and that it is always safe to depend upon Him. My shortage of finances gave me the privilege of praying in money for my needs. I might enumerate many definite answers to prayer along this line, but let me just mention my experience in praying in a new suit of clothes.

      The best suit I had was worn out around the cuffs and down the front of the coat. I came to my room one Saturday afternoon about four o'clock, and as I thought of Sunday I remembered that I did not have a decent suit to wear to church. For a moment my heart sank within me. Then the Holy Spirit impressed me to pray. I kneeled by my bed, and said, "Dear Lord, Thou knowest I need a new suit of clothes, and I am not able to buy it." Then Satan whispered over my shoulder, "There is no use of your praying, for you never will get it." This stirred my soul, and I said, "Dear Lord, I preach to others that God answers prayer" (for I had already started to preach, and here was an opportunity to prove my own preaching). While I was praying and telling the Lord of my definite, positive need, the Holy Spirit inspired faith in my soul. I arose as confident that I would get a suit as I was two days later when I bought it. I did not solicit a soul, nor borrow any money, neither did I tell anyone that I had prayed for a suit. About 11:30 on the following Monday, while I was dirty and covered with cement (for we were building a cement curb around a spring), the telephone rang, and Brother _____ called for me to come to his home. He lived about two blocks from the seminary. At first I did not see how I could go for I needed the time, and that thirty minutes was worth seven and a half cents to me. I had no idea what he wanted, but after a moment's consideration I decided to go. I quickly changed my clothes and ran up the street to Brother _____'s home.

      Upon entering I noticed the family sitting around, and the husband had a piece of white paper in his hand, but said nothing at first. After we had visited two or three minutes he handed me the piece of paper, stating that God had laid it on their hearts to give it to me to buy a suit of clothes, I looked at it, and saw it was a check for $40.00. I must confess my emotions got the best of me for a few minutes, and I had a camp meeting in my soul. God had definitely answered prayer within forty-eight hours from the time I prayed! That afternoon I took an hour off from my cement work, went to the city, and purchased a new suit. Many of the boys who knew I had no money looked very much surprised when I came out wearing a beautiful, new suit; and as they admired it and questioned me, I had a chance to testify that God had given it to me. Bless His name!

      My experiences in the seminary were varied and exceedingly profitable in training for the ministry. I believe that every minister ought to spend at least from one to three years in a good, strong Holiness seminary, for two reasons. First, to become properly indoctrinated; and, second, for the personal benefit derived from such contact and training. Permit me to humbly say, if some of our young ministers would take more time to sharpen their tools, they would do better work in the harvest field. Don't forget it, a call to preach is a call to prepare first! God said, in Eccl. 10 :10, "If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct." Go to grinding! Many a man is handicapped and limited because he has never taken time to sharpen his tools. Time taken for preparation is never wasted, for the door of opportunity will generally open as wide as your preparation. Why be satisfied to bless a dozen when the same energy will bless a thousand?

      The greatest need in the world today is for men who have really died out to carnality and been filled with the Holy Spirit. But second to this is the need of men whose sword has not only been keenly sharpened by spending ample time in preparation, but also dipped in plenty of oil and bathed with tears.

      After leaving the seminary t went away to college here I had the privilege of doing some teaching as well as manual labor, to help defray expenses. Many times I found myself so tired at night that it was almost impossible to stay awake and study for the next day. Few people realize the desperate struggle that poor students have in working their way through school. I venture to say that there are thousands of dollars on interest, and lying in banks, that would be used to help some worthy work students, if God could get hold of it.

      During my vacation periods, God always kept doors open for me, either in evangelistic work or manual labor; for if one door did not open the other always did. It was my privilege to hold several meetings that did not pay my expenses, but I have never set a price on my labors, and have never complained over my offerings.

      After completing my college work I spent a year in teaching and preaching. The Lord then sent me West to finish my university work. I was enabled to get through by teaching part time, holding revivals, and preaching every opportunity the Lord gave. While attending the great university ____, in L____, I encountered the rankest type of Atheism and Modernism. This struggle is quite fully related in another chapter of this book. God kept me blessed, and held me steady in this hotbed of Atheism, and brought me through with a greater faith and a firmer grip on the Bible than I had when I entered.

      After having worked my way through seminary, college, and university, as a poor boy, I am compelled to pity young men who have plenty of their fathers' money to spend. There is a polishing, grinding, and economizing discipline that is needed by every minister who expects to labor with "the common people" who hear the Gospel "gladly." If I could, I would not take thousands of dollars for my years of grinding as a poor boy going through school.

Back to Walter L. Surbrook index.

See Also:
    Stirring Experiences: 1. My Struggle For An Education
    Stirring Experiences: 2. How I Escaped Adventism
    Stirring Experiences: 3. How I Escaped Modernism
    Stirring Experiences: 4. How I Escaped Marrying the Wrong Girl
    Stirring Experiences: 5. A Rare Jewel
    Stirring Experiences: 6 . Called Higher
    Stirring Experiences: 7. Mysteries
    Stirring Experiences: 8. Obituary
    Stirring Experiences: 9. Funeral Messages
    Stirring Experiences: 10. A Vision of Heaven -- By A Student
    Stirring Experiences: 11. Evangeline's Bible and Diary -- By Her Mother
    Stirring Experiences: 12. Notes From Her Diary
    Stirring Experiences: 13. Her Brother's Poem
    Stirring Experiences: 14. Tributes From Prominent People

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