During the winter of the year in which we first felt impressed to go to California, mother got erysipelas in the face. At that time my brother and I were out in the work, and my unsaved brother put her in the hands of physicians. While we were holding meetings in Oklahoma, we received a telegram that she was very low, and started for home. At Wichita, Kansas, we telegraphed asking if she was still alive. We got the answer, "Yes, but the doctors say she can't live twelve hours." Up to this time I had the assurance that God would heal her, but when I got the doctor's word, I, like Peter, began looking at the waves and concluded that Mother would die. When I got home, however, and had to trust God, I felt ashamed of myself and decided that I would never again put a doctor's word ahead of God's promises. God spared her life, but the medicine had so reduced her strength that George and I had to stay at home and nurse her for two months.
About two weeks before we were ready to start for California, I saw in a dream a brother coming to give me twenty dollars to help pay my way to California. He said that he had wanted to use the money in some other way, but that God had shown him to use it for pushing his work in southern California. The dream came true in all its details.
Finally our preparations were completed and in November, more than a year after we first felt impressed to go to California, we took train at Newton, Kans. There were seven in our company, Brother and Sister Dansberger, Brother and Sister Gates, Sister Lodema Kaser, and my brother George and I. As we had been brought up in a comparatively level country and had never seen any mountains, the trip was to me a source of wonder and delight. After three days' travel, we reached San Diego and stepped off our train into a land of flowers. Roses were in bloom, geraniums formed a fence around some of the buildings, all nature was in the height of its beauty. We arrived on November 15, just fifteen years to a day from the time I was healed, and exactly five years from the time J. W. Byers reached the Pacific Coast. The contrast between California and the place from which we had come was very marked at this time of the year.
A house in San Diego was given us free of rent and an abundant supply of provisions was brought in by the brethren. Figs were very plentiful in that part of California, and our company enjoyed them very much. If I remember correctly, they bore three crops a year. I learned quite a lesson from the nature of this fruit. Fig-trees do not bloom like most other fruit-trees, but the fig itself pushes out at the end of the twig, just as the leaves begin on a hickory-tree. The tree has no flowers, or bloom. I was told that as the fig grew and ripened it had all the appearance of a bloom. A careful examination proved this statement to be true. The inside of the fig looks like the petals of a beautiful flower. To my mind, this beautifully illustrates the Christian who wears all the blossoms on the inside, and it is not only blossom, but genuine fruit, after all.
I learned another lesson by the ocean-tide. Certainly God's handiwork is displayed in large bodies of water. I could sit and behold his beauty and grandeur hour after hour and never grow tired. In fact, it seemed that I could see the hand of God, traces of his wonderful works and creation, until I was awed into silence and felt like saying as Job did of old, "When the Almighty speaks, I will put my hand on my mouth." The lesson I learned was this:
When the tide is out, the rocks along the shore, covered with seaweed and moss, present an unsightly appearance; but when the tide comes in, these unsightly things are all covered with water, which present the appearance of a sea of glass. When the grace of God is low in our soul, the unseemly parts of human nature are on exhibition; but when the grace of God floods the soul, then Christ is on exhibition and the unseemly parts are hidden away.
Another lesson that might be drawn is this: The coming in of the tide might be compared to the trials and the tests that flood our souls, and the going out of the tide to the subsiding of the trials, which, like the going out of the tide, leaves behind pearls and shells and other beautiful things. The beauties of the Christian life are brought to view by the waves of trial that sweep over the souls.
We went out into the country, visited the saints, and enjoyed the orange-groves for about two weeks. In the ocean we saw God's hand exhibited in might and power. Here we saw God's hand none the less, although exhibited in gentleness and beneficence. The orange-trees were a beautiful sight. They were loaded with fruit in various stages of development. On the very same tree there would be blossoms and oranges ranging in size from the small green ones to the large ripe ones.
Once while we were near the ocean, we thought it a good opportunity to visit the man-of-war that was stationed about half a mile out from the shore.
We went out to it in a little sail-boat. As we were passing under a pier, the oarsman dropped one of his oars in the water and regained possession of it only with a great deal of difficulty. One of our party, a sister, becoming greatly frightened because of our danger, took hold of one of the pier-posts and held to it with all her might. In the meantime the brother had gotten hold of his oar and was trying to make the boat move. He soon saw that there was some hindrance, and, looking around, found the sister holding to the pier-post. When asked why she was doing that, she answered, "I am afraid we shall drown." "Woman," he said, "if you will not let go of that post, you will drown every one of us." I have often thought how much like this sister some Christians act. They are afraid they will be overwhelmed, but they hold to something on the shore, to the pier-post of the world or of their own ideas, which makes it impossible for them to get out where it is smooth sailing. Some of these, however, are sincere and honest in heart, finally wake up to what they are doing, say that they have Christ as their pilot, take their hands off, and get out on the open sea of life where the waters are calmed by the Spirit of the Lord.
While we were in San Diego there came to us a woman in destitute circumstances. She and her husband had recently come from another part of the country and had not yet succeeded in finding work. They were almost at the point of starvation, and so she came to us to borrow some money. The woman herself professed salvation, but I think knew but little of the truth. Her husband was a sinner. She told us that her husband was out of work and that although he was unsaved he would not eat anything for breakfast that morning for fear there would not be enough left to keep his children from starving until he could get work. We were much moved by the compassion he had shown for his little ones, and thought how much more compassion our Heavenly Father has for his children. The Word says, "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him." We felt led to divide the flour, meat, fruit, and butter we had on hands. Before the day was over, there was brought to us from the country ten miles away more provisions than we had given away. The destitute family had enough to live on until the husband got work, which was only a few days later. "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure pressed down, and shaken together, and running over."
It has been said that every false doctrine that starts from the eastern part of the United States has a through ticket to the Pacific Coast. We could readily believe this statement. California seemed to be a hot-bed of false doctrine. It was difficult to get any truth to the people or to get them free from the false doctrines of which they had partaken.
From San Diego we went to Los Angeles, where we lived in a tent and held meetings in a large tabernacle, with fairly good crowds. The gospel message was not without effect, but we found the people so filled with false doctrine that it was almost impossible to get the truth to them. Even the brother who was so anxious for us to come to California was scattering false doctrine wherever he went. Among other things, he opposed women's preaching. God put us on his trail and kept us after him until the enemy was thoroughly rebuked, and he humbled himself and asked forgiveness.
While in this place, most of our little company was under arrest for about three hours for preaching on the street. Some one had reported us to the police and had misrepresented what we were doing. Some of our company enjoyed being under arrest very much, feeling that they had a foretaste of a martyr's experience. When they were released, they came back to the tent rejoicing and praising God that they were counted worthy to suffer for Jesus' sake. This did not end our street-meetings; many more were held during our stay in California.
During our stay at Los Angeles, a blacksmith, a brother in the church, while shoeing a horse, got a severe kick in the head. His condition seemed very serious. He came to the tent before meeting began and requested prayer, saying that after prayer he would return to his tent, as he was feeling pretty bad. God wonderfully answered prayer and healed him so that he was able to sit up during the meeting. About three days later one of our company was in his shop and asked him how he was getting along. The reply was that his head was all right, but that a little wound on his hand unnoticed before was giving him some trouble. "But," he added, "I thank the Lord that it is no worse." The brother replied, "Can't you thank the Lord that it is as it is?" The blacksmith stood thoughtful for a moment and then said, "Yes; why shouldn't I thank the Lord that it is just as it is?" The words had scarcely left his mouth before the healing power of God came and made his hand perfectly well.
Many other incidents occurred while we were there that space will not permit me to mention here. We remained a little over three months, doing some work in the country, although we were out of town only a few days. At the close of the meeting we moved to Alameda, one of the suburbs of San Francisco. The town at that time covered considerable ground, but had very few large buildings in it. At this place also we lived in a tent as before and held meetings in a large tabernacle. Services were held almost every night, and much precious seed was sown.
One day a sister called on us: She said: "Your brother said in his sermon a few nights since that we should bear one another's burdens. How can we do this if we do not open our hearts to others and tell what our burdens are? Do you think it would be all right for me to open my heart to you and tell you my burden?" "Certainly," I answered, "if your soul is burdened." "I have," said she, "a heavy burden to carry. Now, my husband no longer loves me, but he has given all his affections to my sister. They are likely to elope at any time, and my heart is broken. In fact, the grief and trouble I have endured have brought on heart-trouble." As she finished her story, we asked, "Is there anything we can do? We should be glad to do anything to help you bear your burden. Do you think it would be a good idea to have a day of fasting and prayer?" "Yes," said she, "I think it would do good." We told her to set the day, and she chose the next Friday. On that day we all fasted and prayed, especially for this man. It was not over two weeks before God got hold of his heart and gloriously saved him. A happier person than this sister I do not think you could have found. It seemed that she could not cease praising God and thanking us.
In order to defray the expenses at home, she raised poultry for the market. To show her gratitude to us, she brought chickens, eggs, and other things for our use until we were afraid she was really robbing herself. She fairly loaded us with good things, and when we called her attention to how generously she was supplying our needs and told her we were afraid she was doing too much, she would say, "Oh, no; I never can repay you for what you have done for my family." We would say, "Do not try too hard to repay us, as it was God who did the work for you." I heard of the man not many years ago, and was still sweetly saved.
In our company were Brother and Sister Gates and their three children, who had come with us from Kansas. Not only had Brother and Sister Gates helped us financially, but they had been as a father and mother to us all. They were now about to leave us, and they seemed somewhat burdened lest we should suffer need, as the people had not yet been supplying our needs very much. Of course, the reason why God had not been supplying us otherwise up to this time was not hard to find. The Lord knew that they were supplying our need and that we required no additional help from others.
Before leaving us, the sister said, "What are you going to do after we are gone?" I answered: "The Lord has always been a present help in time of need. You and Brother Gates have been very helpful to us, for which we are thankful; but, sister, you must remember that is was God working through you. If God had not been blessing your souls, doubtless we should not have received special help from you. So, after all, the help you gave us came from God. I am sure when you are gone the Lord will not forsake us."
It seemed, however, that the Lord wanted to encourage them before their departure by beginning to manifest his care for us. A baker, a stranger to us, came one morning before we were up and left half a dozen loaves of nice bread on the table in one of our tents that we used as a kitchen. The next day Sister Gates said, "Well, you have some nice bread." The following day the same number of loaves were left and the sister remarked, "I think I shall accept some of that bread to take on our journey, and I won't have to bake as I expected." Again, the third morning the usual number of loaves were left in our tent, and Sister Gates remarked: "I wish we knew who that man is, so that we could tell him to stop bringing bread. You will soon have more bread on hands than you will know what to do with." I answered, "God wants to show you how he will take care of us after you are gone." When we found out who the baker was, we asked him to leave a smaller amount of bread for us, as our company was not so large as it had been. He continued, however, to bring us bread, also buns, cookies, and cake, all of which were very much appreciated. His donations continued during most of the time we were at this place.
One of our company dropped a tract at a house near the outskirts of the city. This tract was the means of the salvation of the woman who found it. Her husband, who was a dairyman and sold milk in a certain part of the city, told my brother if he would come to a certain place which he passed daily, he could have three pints of milk every day. Two or three days before Brother and Sister Gates left us, provisions of all kinds -- fruit, meat, and even baked goods -- came pouring in. We had already decided that, as Brother and Sister Gates were soon going to leave us, our company would all take their dinner together on Sunday. Our table was loaded down. The meal looked more like a wedding-dinner than the meal of a few humble traveling preachers. When Brother and Sister Gates saw how bountifully God had provided for us, they were delighted and satisfied.
A sister who had come to us shortly after our arrival at Alameda told us that we had to be very careful and economical with the provisions, because we should not be so bountifully supplied here as we had been at San Diego and Los Angeles, because at those other places the church had been taught to give. "There are but few saints here," she said, "and they do not know their duty, so we need not expect large contributions." We replied, "Even if they do not know their duty, God is just the same, and they that trust him shall not be confounded." I do not know that we were better supplied at any other place in the State.
During our stay at Alameda, we went over to San Francisco and sat on the porch of the Cliff House overlooking the sea and watched the herds of seals that were playing on a little island out in the ocean about a quarter of a mile. They acted like a party of mischievous children. One of the animals would throw another into the ocean, and the one in the water would come up dripping. As we watched them, we could imagine that they entered into the fun of the sport and really felt mischievous.
At Fresno, the next place in our itinerary, a widow provided us with a furnished house, rent free, with fruit in the cellar and everything needed to make us comfortable. We remembered at this time that Elijah was provided for by a widow.
In one part of the house was a woman tenant who soon proved to be our enemy and tried to persecute us. While we were having worship, she would make fun of us and disturb us in every way she could. We made up our minds we would obey the Lord in "putting coals of fire on her head." We sought every opportunity to show little kindnesses. At first our efforts were all in vain; she spurned every advance we made. Finally, she took sick, and we went in and asked the privilege of helping her. At first she rejected, but finally consented, and we went to work to prepare her food and to do whatever else was necessary to make her comfortable. Our kindness reached her heart. After she recovered, she showed some signs of gratitude, and we improved every opportunity to accomplish our design of overcoming evil with good. At last she was won to the truth, sought the Lord, found him precious to her soul, and was ever after our firm friend. It was only about three years ago, I think, that she sent me one dollar in a letter.
The people in Fresno had heard but little of the present truth. There was one brother living in the town, however, who had done a little house-to-house work, lending books, visiting the sick, etc. Among others, he had made the acquaintance of two aged sisters, one of whom was a habitual user of morphine. She was a doctor's widow and had acquired the habit by taking morphine as a remedy shortly after their marriage. As these old ladies talked with the brother (Martin) and as they learned of what the Lord had done for the souls and bodies of different people, there was awakened in their hearts a desire to trust the Lord for deliverance.
One day a sister of our company and I had planned to do some calling. At this time we were in need of such provisions as butter, milk, eggs, etc. The sister thought, therefore, that we had better go to a sister who we felt sure would help us in our time of need. I felt more inclined to go and see the woman who was addicted to the morphine-habit, and accordingly we turned our steps in that direction. The two old ladies were much pleased to have us come, and the one who was bound by the morphine-habit desired very much to be delivered. Before we left, they wanted to know if we had a cow. We told them no, and without our asking they supplied us with all the milk, butter, eggs, and buttermilk we needed.
As we left, they requested that we should come back and pray for the sister's deliverance. Their brother also came after me the following Monday morning to go and have prayer for her. For nearly forty years she had been addicted to the morphine habit and had been given up by the doctors who had treated her. Four or five years before this, spots such as usually come on the skin of those who have long been users of morphine, appeared on her skin, showing that she was beyond the reach of medical skill. I went there, prayed for her, but felt that her case was so serious that there would be a prolonged fight, so I returned and sent Sister Kaser. She remained at the house for twelve days. For three or four days it was a life and death fight. Then the old lady began to come out from under the influence of the drug, to throw off the effects, and in twelve days she was like another person. Things that she ate began to taste natural, and her health improved. God had wrought a perfect deliverance.
It was during our stay at this place that we had the privilege of visiting the park in which are the giant redwoods of California. For thirty miles on the trip we went in a carriage, and then we took a large mountain-wagon drawn by two pair of horses. As we ascended the mountain to the park, we passed through vegetation in various conditions. At Fresno, where we began our journey, no rain falls and vegetation grows only by means of irrigation. As we ascended, we came first to where there was a small amount of moisture, and the grass was just beginning to make its appearance. As we got further up the mountain, the vegetation was more abundant and flowers were growing here and there. The further we went the greener was the foliage, the stronger the growth, and when we reached the height we were in a grove of giant trees.
Just before reaching the park we were threatened with a danger that we least expected. During the summer, government troops camped in the park, and as we came up the narrow road, we met the army-wagons coming toward us. The road was so narrow, with the sheer side of the mountain rising on one side and a precipice on the other, that to pass these wagons was impossible. We had to wait until the government-wagons passed before resuming our trip.
When we approached the grove of redwoods, the stumps looked so large that I supposed the trees would be larger than they really were and hence I was quite disappointed in their size. My disappointment, of course, was due to the effect on my senses, for the trees were really immense. I walked through a hollow log through which a lady had ridden on horseback some time before. Later, I stood on top of this log and it seemed as if I were standing on top of a house. The largest tree we measured was 103 feet in circumference at its base. The name of this monster was General Washington. People had climbed far up its sides and carved their names. In order to get a good idea of the height of these great trees, one has to lie on the ground near the base and look up. Through the roots of one tree that was visited, a beautiful spring of ice-cold water bubbled up. The spring came up through a decayed opening in the root of the tree.
California is much different from the Eastern States. In the low lands of California there is no lightning nor thunder. The rain comes so gently that sometimes one has to look out-of-doors to see whether or not it is raining. But in the mountains the thunder and lightning are very sharp. Then, too, the difference in temperature between the lowlands and the highlands seems remarkable. At Fresno the thermometer registered 109 after sundown, while on the mountain the temperature was only 60. In California the vegetable growth differs greatly from that in the East. In the East our common elders die every other year; in California they grow to be as large around as a man's body. In the East the castor-bean is an annual; in California it is a tree, many of them larger than a man's body. We had tomatoes in mid-winter from vines that had been bearing for many months, and we saw beets that had grown year after year until they were of great size, in comparison with those of eastern section.
While at Fresno we took a trip in carriages across the country to Farmersville, a small town in the interior, about forty miles away. We also attended a camp-meeting at Tulare, where we met Brother and Sister Brundage and other saints.
In the month of March, after being in California a year and four months, we took the southern route and returned East by way of Arizona. We stopped at Phoenix and held a two weeks' meeting with good success. One evening I visited a sick sister, who seemed to be suffering considerably. She did not ask for prayer, and I did not volunteer to pray for her. As I left, her little three-year-old child heard her say that she wished Sister Cole had prayed for her while there, as she wanted to be healed and go to meeting that night. "Mama," said the little one, "I will pray for you," and she stepped up and put her little hands on her mama's head. After prayer she said, "Mama, are you better now?" "No." "All right, I will pray for you again." Again she asked the Lord to make her mama well. "Mama, aren't you better now?" "No, I feel as bad as ever." "Well, I will pray for you again." By this time the mother saw that the child had more faith than she. She decided to exercise every bit of faith she had. After the little girl had prayed the third time, she said, "Mama, aren't you better now?" The mother answered, "Yes, I believe the Lord heals me." She got up and dressed herself, and sure enough she was well.
At the street-meetings we held in Phoenix, there were present Indians and a number of foreigners of different nationalities. While in this town we had the privilege of visiting our old friends, Brother and Sister Pine, who were then living a few miles out of the city. Both we and they were much delighted to meet again. A day or two more of traveling on the railway, and we were again among familiar scenes, which seemed very dear to us after so long an absence.