Preaching on the Plains, Chapter Two – Family Roots

In Preaching on the Plains on June 20, 2010 at 7:13 pm

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by the Rev. David K. Myers, D.D. (1983)

“Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (II Corinthians 5:17).

A new life born into the world is common to all and exciting. I was born in Aurora, Illinois, June 10, 1903, and the youngest of four boys. My father, J. Andrew Myers, was the youngest of his family also. No wonder that his father, who I never saw, was born in Bavaria as long ago as 1822. he and his bride came over in sailing days in 1848. Grandmother insisted on coming to America as a condition of her marriage. She did not want him to be liable to military service. The German areas in those days were divided into separate sovereign states. One could be at the bidding of any princeling. There was, as today, fear of involvement in war. His father had been a corporal in the army under Napoleon. It was the “Grand Armee” which invaded Russia and which suffered terrible hardships and decimation in the retreat from Moscow. He was one of the two percent which still lived and made it home. Bavarians thought that Napoleon would save them (like some who so viewed Hitler later). But my great–grandfather did not live long after that war. His son, my grandfather, had to be the man of the house after he died. When I was an army chaplain after World War II in Germany I saw the very villages, both near each other, where my grandfather, as a boy we’d been told, brought the sheep home from the woods to their home in the evenings.

In America grandfather settled in Goshen, Indiana. For a time he was a police officer. Our home had his headquarters’ chair as an heirloom. Later, he was in a crew of workers which built the Elkhart River Dam near Goshen. Still later, he was paymaster and clerk at the end of rails in the Colorado and New Mexico areas working for the Santa Fe Railroad as it was building on its way to the west coast. My mother and father were natives of Goshen, and moved to Chicago at the time of their marriage (circa 1890). Father had been raised a Methodist, and Mother was a Baptist. They settled in the “Austin” area on Chicago’s west side and were near a newly organized “Faith Presbyterian Church”. Father in time became an Elder and remained one the rest of his life, though his views and practical devotions continued old-time Methodist ideals. His occupation was that of a proof-reader in printing offices. An intense and very hard worker, he would yet tell prospective employers he could not work on Sundays because of his religious convictions. At the same time, he would tell them he was willing to work days and nights on end during the week if they asked him to do so. I recall that he did that and quite often during “rush times”. At best, he would take only cat naps during the long week days and nights of labor. I recall how he would look when he would return Saturday night after an entire week. His face would be white with fatigue. But when next morning came, a Sunday, he would be up early and shouting to us in our bedrooms: “Get up, it’s time to get ready for Sunday School and Church!” he was seeing to it that the entire family, including himself, would be in Sunday School “on time” and also be present for the second Church Service hour. I can remember as a child the long (uninteresting then to me) sermon times.

It was a family pew. Mother was on the inside. Father was on the outside (next to the aisle). We boys were between them and “I couldn’t get out” as I was well aware. The effect of this faithfulness on four boys in later life can be well imagined. Mother said years later that only one of the boys, and then but once, attempted any revision of this program. He got the idea one day that he was going to too many meetings. So he came to Mother with this idea he had cooked up: he offered a compromise. “Mother,” he said, “I believe I go to too many meetings in church.” He enumerated them: Sunday School and Worship Service in the morning followed with Evening Service and Young People’s Meeting at night. And he offered to go to any two of them she would indicate. Mother said she was surprised. It was the first time any of the boys had demurred. The others just went as a matter of course. She said she looked at him and he at her, while he showed no further resentment. He evidently felt he was being reasonable. The she said, “Well _____,” naming him, as long as you are in this house, you belong to us and we belong to you. And you’ll go where we go and do as we do.” She said that was that. He just wen t along to church without any question afterward.

My father regarded his religion as not just a light matter, or carelessly to be observed. They (his duties in his church) were most serious matters. They were not to be lightly attended. Many a man or woman, if they were to work as steadily as he did for a week, would have stayed away from church the following Sunday morning and for less.

Yet father and mother made home life a delight for us. They played games with us. What ‘high times’ we had. We had Carom and Crokinol. Fingers snapping at disks. Father taught us chess from our early years. I won two college tournaments at Wheaton when a young man. We went everywhere our parents went and life was not dull.

Mother did her part. She has first a family begun with my eldest brother, then at my birth a family of six to feed and clothe. She was really able to ‘manage’. Mother and father were tithers. Each week when father brought home his pay, he first put away ten percent of it in a little special drawer. Next day, Sunday, he would take the ten percent out and take it to the church as his offering. This he did in the 1890’s from his first pay after marriage when his weekly income was but $15.00. Then when his pay increased through the years, and with union membership days, his tithe with each payment increased greatly also. Then came the depression days and in older years his eyes gave out so he could not work. But somehow he seemed to be protected even then. With no social security in those days, yet his stocks, investments and real estate property found him just seeming to do the right thing at the right time.

I have heard him give his testimony to young men who were neighbors, that he believed God took care of him because he was a Christian and a tither (Malachi Chapter 3 and I Corinthians 16:2).

Mother’s partnership was to think out house investments and conserve. The first house was on Augusta Street (now a boulevard), east of Pine just where the land dropped as if it were an old shore line. The house had an upstairs (“flat”) where the rent from another family helped pay for the house. Then there was another house purchased and another, and in her old age Mother had four houses. She could point to the fact that all four boys had received college educations. One, a grad of Missouri U., was an agricultural student. He had differing employments later in life, but always could make things just spring out of the ground. His farm near Bangor, Michigan provided a home for his parents to live in their old age. The second son, who sent west seeking help in lung illness at 20 became a banker-lawyer in Las Vegas, New Mexico. The third became a chemistry teacher in Chicago’s Carl Shurz High School.

Mother was never for spending unnecessarily, but insisted on living very frugally. Yet besides her care for us even into our twenties, she left each of the four boys a sizable sum at her death in her will. I have often heard my mother speak of those who clad themselves in silk (rich attire in the early 1900’s), but would have little left. She did not depend on her clothes or new clothes or hats for her pleasing, vivacious appearance or manners.

The secret of it all concerning Mother was that she was truly a converted woman in her faith. Early in her teens she had sought salvation. A gospel tract, “God’s Plan of Salvation”, by Dr. B. B. Warfield of old Princeton Seminary in its original Fundamentalist days, came to her attention. As a high school girl, my mother felt it was used to encourage her and lead her to Christ. Finally, the word in John 7:17 was hers which reads, “If any man will to do His will he shall know of the doctrine”. She was willing to do His will. John 6:37 was her experience. She had come to her Saviour!

Because I had such a father and mother, I am sure the way for me to come to Christ was well prepared. I was brought to the saving grace of God at the age of 15. Things happened this way. In my steady attendance with parents who always brought me to church, I was there one Sunday morning when the pastor, Rev. Clyde L. Lucas, preached a sermon on Hell. He believed it was in the Bible and that to be balanced in preaching he should preach a sermon on Hell that Sunday. From that day I took serious note of what the preacher would be saying. I did not want to go to Hell. I wanted to go to Heaven instead! Then too, many people were joining the church in those days. The church was full of people. One day I thought, noting people from time to time joined the church, “Well, I will join the church, then I will go to heaven”. I did join the church. I told my father, “Father, I want to join the church”. I remember the look of joy on my father’s face. But he was faithful for he said, “You want to become a Christian, do you, David?” He took me to the Pastor, and then to meet also the Elders in the “Session”. I remember their questions, and how it was feeling fearful my answers would not be rightly given. But somehow I got by. The baptism was a following Sunday at age 14, and the being received into the church. I can still remember the embarrassment before the very full church. But, I am sure as I write this that I was not saved, nor had truly come to Christ. The Word of God says in Titus 3: 5,6:

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;”

And here I was, trying to do something, i.e., joining the church to be saved.

It was not until the following summer, inn 1918, when fifteen years of age, Mother took me to the Moody Church Bible Conference grounds at Cedar Lake, Indiana, when saving grace came to me. One Sunday morning I heard Dr. Paul Rader preach on the Love of God the Father, to give His Son to die on the Cross for our sins. The boy beside me, my own age, at the invitation to come to Christ, looked up at me and said, “Let’s go up”. I said at once, “No!” He just looked terribly disappointed. At that I was terribly concerned. I could have perhaps stood it to take the risk of going to Hell myself, but the thought that I was influencing him by my refusal so that two of us would go to Hell, I could not stand. I said to him, “All right.” He eagerly led the way into the sawdust trail aisle, and we went forward to kneel. I am sure it was not doing anything just then that made the difference, but a receiving of Christ. I recall the settled peace that was mine. That night in the sleeping tent, I heard a Christian pleading with another, an older man, and I recall how anxious I was that the man would yield but he would not, and how sorry I was that he rejected Christ and ridiculed and jeered.

I knew what side I was on from that time forth from it. “. . . if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.”  They were passed away from that time, and new things were ahead.


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