They Passed Throughout Wisconsin
"And when they were come . . . they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles."
4:30 a.m .... a thousand miles to go ... appointments to keep. . . pictures to be taken ... people to see. It was certainly time to get up. I called Brother Billy Boyd. After a hurried cup of coffee, we pulled out of Kenosha in the Southeastern corner of Wisconsin and headed for Sheboygan, our first stop. We were beginning a trip through the state that aroused mingled joy and sorrow. It gave us pleasure to meet dedicated soldiers in God's Army in the eleven cities where we stopped. And we were pleased to see the growth of the churches in these cities. But we could not be glad to see the way God's force was outnumbered and handicapped in this state whose population was three and a half million in 1950.
This trip was the result of a strong desire to compile a color-slide story of the congregations in the state. We had slides of some of the meeting places and evangelists. But we wanted to get a more complete story.
There were in any encouraging thoughts to dwell on as we travelled from one city to the next. Almost all the congregations are growing steadily. The number of congregations is increasing. Around five years ago when. Brother Boyd moved to the state there were ten or less, now there are twenty. Members and evanglists we talked with seemed to be truly in love with the Lord's Work. A fair number of congregations in other states are interested in spreading the gospel in Wisconsin to the extent they are helping to support evangelists in many of the places we visited.
This was all encouraging. We thanked God for it. But there were disturbing facts too. We drove through city after city with populations in excess of ten thousand where there was no church. We could not help thinking, "People in these cities die too. And at that, without ever hearing the pure gospel." If these f olks would live on and on until we, very, very slowly got around to preaching the gospel to them, there would be no hurry. We could take our time. Maybe by the year two thousand some of them could die. At our present rate it will at least be then before we have fully preached the gospel to Wisconsin.
Twenty churches in the whole state! And even that sounds better than it really is. Let me tell you about Amberg. We visited Sister Ruth Wartick, one of the members there. She said, "It would be so wonderful if we could enjoy fellowship with other Christians. There is just our family and one other." In the entire state the combined membership of the twenty congregations would be no more than 700. There are only two congregations that are strong enough to be self-supporting-Madison and Milwaukee.
But someone will say, "Why has the harvest been so meagre in Wisconsin?,' I think our trip provided the answer to this. Sister Wartick said it had been a good while since the church in Amberg had had any preaching. Brother Harry Lowry preaches at Marshfield in the morning and at Merrillan later in the day. La Crosse has been trying unsuccessfully to get a preacher. Brother Andy Anderson, a member in LaCrosse has been, doing a good job of carrying on, but the church would like to get a full time worker. Milwaukee has been sending Brother Karl Diestelkamp and others to Sheboygan on Sundays. The harvest has been meagre simply because the sowing has been meagre.
"Why has there not been more sowing?" Our trip provided the answer to this also. Brother Jim Wilburn in Appleton was not able to meet us at the building. He was working at a part time job. Brother Bob Scott in Green Bay had to make an adjustment in his schedule of driving a delivery truck so that he could be at home when we got to Green Bay. We learned (but not from Bob) that there were many months when he and his family had to squeeze by on $150.00. Billy and I tried to figure how much they had for food if you deduct, say, $70.00 or $80.00 for rent and fuel, $40.00 or $50.00 for a car payment. And then there's car expense, etc.
Brother Harry Lowry in Marshfield was trying to sell a food supplement to make ends meet. He had gotten a job at a chain grocery store in Marshfield, but when the main office found that he was a preacher, he was notified that the company had a rule against employing religious workers. These are not the only evangelists in the state who are having a difficult (or well-nigh impossible) financial time. But these are cases in point. As a matter of fact, the best time for us to have made our trip would have been Monday and Tuesday, but we could not, because Brother Boyd works on those days as an electrician. This illustrates well that the question, "Why has there not been more sowing?" can be answered with a counter-question: "How shall they preach except they be sent?"
The Lord's work is growing in Wisconsin. Congregations in other states are interested and are helping. But this trip proved to Brother Boyd and me that we have not begun to meet our full responsibility to God in Wisconsin yet. The trip proved that the time is ripe for an all-out attack against the forces of Satan. Above all, it proved that there are millions here who have not heard the good news about the Christ who shed His blood for the church. It is our hope and prayer that this account has helped prove these things to you.
Truth Magazine I:11, pp. 4-5