Preaching on the Plains, Chapter Four – Through High School

In Rev. David K. Myers, D.D. on June 28, 2010 at 8:25 am

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We continue with the posting of chapters from the Rev. David K. Myers’ autobiography, Preaching on the Plains.  His son, the Rev. David T. Myers was good to preserve the only surviving copy of this manuscript by donating it to the PCA Historical Center.  It is our great pleasure to post selected chapters from this testimony.  Some of the more interesting chapters will post in coming weeks.

Preaching on the Plains
Chapter IV
by the Rev. David K. Myers, D.D.

“. . . it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, . . .” (Galatians 1:15)

Training for a life work for any Christian involves a multitude of life’s experiences. We are all a good deal the products of our past. As a lad, in addition to my usual education in the public schools, there came to me an opportunity for employment. It was that of a delivery boy using my bicycle bringing meats to home purchasers from a butcher shop on Chicago Avenue. This experience and the later like deliveries by auto when in college had the same value. Early in life when seeing women at work in their homes and all their situation to the extent of times of coming into houses to deliver products, I early made up an assessment of the worth of a wife and mother. It was worded when I said to myself, “Theirs is the biggest, biggest job”.

Later on in High School, mine was the same place of employment where my brothers worked when they were in High School. It was with the Hope Publishing Company on Lake Street. What excellent Christian people! The elderly Mr. Shorney was from England. His younger partner, Mr. Kingsbury, was likewise a wonderful employer, always kind and considerate to us all. It was an echo, I believe, of the great Moody-Sankey revivals in England. Of Mr. Shorney I meant to add, ‘It was a treat to meet him’. His son Gordon was often in the packaging room with us learning more of the business. We school workers were there ‘after school’ and Saturdays. Years later when a young pastor in drought country, I wrote for hymn books to Gordon Shorney, then President, for one of my churches in the west. I asked for “seconds” but he replied they no longer had them, but would send first line books at a discount, and it was considerable. He stated that they did not want to make any money from a former Hope employee. What a kind letter it was!

I graduated from Austin High School in 1921 but not before mine was the experience of attending the meetings at the huge ‘Lake-front’ tabernacle of “Billy” or Dr. William A. Sunday, “ex big league ball player” and evangelist. How mighty those meetings were. They were well prepared in advance. All over the city of Chicago, preceding the meetings themselves for perhaps several months, prayer meetings were held weekly in neighborhood homes, often one home to each city block of homes. It was a revelation to watch Dr. Sunday in his meetings. With the zest of a famous ball player, he threw it all into his preaching. He’d tear at his tie and collar when he’d begin to get warm, cast them behind him. He would dash from one end of the long platform to the other. I think I heard he has divested himself of coat and shirt, though I doubt the latter. He would lean way out over the high platform to emphasize a point. I suppose he would not be above teetering on a pulpit if necessary, but this I also doubt. He had good taste, I thought, in spite of it all. He had been a baseball player of note as a champion sprinter. He did win a staged race around the bases against a college champion sprinter according to Connie Mack. But however he did it, Billy Sunday was a ball player turned evangelist and he was himself, as he got his points across in language all could understand. When he gave the ‘invitation’ the sawdust aisles were filled with people surging forward to accept the Saviour. There were those who looked the most derelict type of “winos” to respectable people of society. Sunday himself had been converted at the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago, a partly drunk ball player. In one of his meetings I saw one who looked the part of a man we call a “wino”, but he stood in the aisle in tears, his head thoughtfully on one side, considering what he had heard. Billy Sunday was able to preach in the man’s language. He had been where he was.

So heightened was the revival in Chicago that one traveling on the street cars would find Christian people walking up and down the aisles who would earnestly ask occupants at every seat if they were saved. My own brother, the banker, in Chicago visiting from Las Vegas, New Mexico, was so accosted, and also was a man who was seated beside him. His companion answered in the affirmative, but somehow the way the man replied made my brother ask him after the inquirer passed, “But are you saved?” The man replied, “Well, no I am not, son”.

On the big green street car on which I once came from the meetings, I recall people of the nearby Swedish Baptist church were singing gospel songs. I remember one: “Whosoever Meaneth Me” — “Surely Meaneth Me”. How good it was. The gospel appeared for the time to have taken over a great deal of Chicago those old days. Its spirit invaded the High Schools. Homer Rodeheaver, the great son leader and trombonist, was speaker and player of his instrument in my High School at a special assembly. How impressive it was.

By the way, I recall one good effect of that Swedish Baptist church at the corner of Central Avenue and Iowa Street. An old derelict we always called “drunken Fritz” would get drunk at a “blind pig”, a house where liquor was sold in a dry area near us. Regular as each Saturday night he would totter north on Parkside Avenue, as a rule attended by a retinue of taunting jeering youngsters. Frothing, he would turn back on his tormentors in helpless rage. If anyone I would have thought was a person who was “beyond redemption point” when I was a boy, it was this man. But after I grew up I learned that Fritz became saved! And also that it was the Swedish Baptist Church’s evangelistic ministry which was used to bring Fritz at last to the Lord and free from jesting taunters and his alcohol after all.

In my High School “Freshman” class study room, I was also put in with others, indeed others who were all girls! All but me, girls! And me who had no sisters. I was terrified. They were amused at my hapless situation and confusion. Somehow there may have been a reason. Later, say nine years, I would have been a poor pastor in the west if I had wanted to run away from all presence of the women of my parish. Sometimes I have been tempted to think my mother was behind it all, and knowing we were all boys, asked school authorities to arrange it so. However, this seems far fetched. And somehow in the four years this situation remained. I gradually lost the fear of the forty and was thinking of but one of them. I worshiped her from afar the four years and at the near close of the last year, asked her for a date, having put my courage to the test to go and see the Cubs play the Cincinnati “Reds”, the great Grover Cleveland Alexander being the Chicago pitcher. She turned me down and that was that! Puppy love is ineffective, nonplussed and but temporary.

My generation in High School days was not yet an auto traveled or auto-bussed company of school goers. I walked about a mile and a half, just one way from our home, then on North Mason Avenue, north of Division, to the High School on Central Avenue, south of Lake Street. It may have been a 3-4 miles each day and was taken in stride by school children of my time. I must hasten to add that I take note, too, of jogging habits of many present day energetic young people. While I admit this, I still wonder if they’d be willing to walk prosaically with the expenditure of time and on such a regular basis throughout the years of school. School buses abound today with consequent costs, and consequent burden on the economy.

Before finishing with my mother’s ministry or training, I should list one other thing she did for me. She prayed for me, and that, before I was born. Some years later when in my second summer of student ministry and at Fairview, Montana, on my 25th birthday I received a letter from her. I was then beginning to wonder if after all I was truly called to be ultimately a pastor. It was slow getting under way on the field which recently had had no pastor. Indeed, was it even right for me to be in the work as a student there? Arrangments were slow in being made to have my pay come, and what little money I had left after train fare to pay weekly board and room was running out. But mother’s letter came on that 25th birthday, June 10, and told me something she had told no one else. It was that before I was born she had prayed for a fourth son (she had no daughters), and that that son would be prepared for the gospel ministry. She went on to say that she had prayed for the older boys that they would be good boys. But that in my case, she had prayed for a son to enter the gospel ministry; and that she had told no one, even my father, for she had feared she might be deemed presumptuous to wish for a particular calling rather than another for a child. She wrote that it had been ‘the prayer of her life’.

What ‘got’ to me in this was that Mother had never strong-armed me in the slightest in this, or tried to influence me. She said she just made it her prayer and left it with God. She did let me read the books of early famous missionaries, such as Mackay of Formosa (Taiwan). I had become a ‘bookworm’ as a child. I read of Dr. Mackay, how he went to Formosa where mountain people were cannibals. He was used when God converted a native woman and then Dr. Mackay made her his wife. I thought, ‘Ah, that is wonderful. When I grow up I am going to become a foreign missionary and convert a native cannibal island lady and marry’. Little did I know that I would turn out to be in time a home missionary in the northern Plains in America, and instead of marrying someone like a native Formosan, would one day travel to Edinburgh and marry a daughter descended from the fierce clansmen of the Scottish Highlands. It is one of my stale jokes to say this and add that the fierceness of the Scottish clansmen was seen in one of their battles with the English. To it they carried scythes, hacamores or whatever, gained the victory in the battle by cutting off the feet of the English soldiery, and then did return from their sanguinary carnage to the native homes ‘with great glee’ after it. We would well insert here that the great Christian Faith and Courage of John Knox years later, who prayed, ‘Give me Scotland or I die!’ was used of God in his life work to see in the 16th century the Great Protestant Revival and Reformation in that same land. Anthropologists have said too, I believe, that the ancestors of the Scots were cannibals. (However, I am afraid, too, the same anthropologists have said darkly that the ancestry of the rest of us have been cannibals also).

However, returning to the truly solid and biblical truths of Mother and her prayers, when I received her letter and since that time in all my life and ministry, I have never doubted my calling, except for part of my first year after ordination. At this time I faced a long and desperate period of darkness and need of surrender and getting right with God, of which I expect to write more later in this narrative.


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