When I was but a little boy, I can well recollect, a nice little pond in the hollow of two hills beautifully situated, near the school house where the pupils would enjoy the intervals of their school time. How I would wonder at the experiment of throwing a stone in the pond and watching anxiously the circles of water growing larger and larger till reaching the banks of the pond and there they would break, as though in despair for the limitations of their enlarging tendencies. It seems to me, now, a parallel despair threatens my heart, for being obliged to compact this story of my conversion. Yet, in view of the fact that the American reader is a greater admirer of quality rather than quantity, I must content myself by giving a brief account on the practical side of my personal experience as a Christian worker, among the rich and the poor, the high and the low classes and masses, in cities and towns, sunshine or clouds, rain or snow, by day or by night; I made myself servant unto all men, that I might by all means save some, and this I do for the Gospel's sake. And, it is only proper, to confess, publicly, that I am prepared to suffer all things, for the love which I feel in my heart to be of some service to my own people, an historical race of people they are, drifting away from God, blindly allowing blind priests to lead them into the ditch. There is a cheering prospect about this people, for whose salvation I have devoted my life, that when Christ enters into the heart of a Greek, there is very little hope left for the devil to induce him to be a backslider. A truly converted Greek soul is worthy of all the joy that the angels in heaven rejoice over one sinner that repenteth. How much more rejoicing shall be there, if we get converted all the Greeks that are living in the United States and use them as a kindling matter to start the fire of salvation in the hearts of the millions of people under the Greek and Russian church slavery, all round the Mediterranean countries?
With this and many other social and industrial problems laying upon my heart, I find the atmosphere, in New York, too close for any opening and very little encouragement for a beginning. And the atmosphere grew more asphyxiating every day with the arguments of my friend George N. He never had any sympathy with the subject so dear to my own heart, his highest ambition being money-making, for which end he relinquished the Presbyterian pulpit, after being duly graduated from a Presbyterian Seminary for ministerial ordination. It was only natural that our thoughts and our ambitions should face each other suspiciously from the diametrical opposite ends. And with all due respect to my old teacher and gratefully acknowledging his hospitality for entertaining me many a day, I find out that at the best I had to be in his mercy, as long as I was not able to explain myself, to the American people, speaking in their own language. And, as difficulties have always had a peculiar effect upon my personal character; to face them, and fight them out with one object in view to die or to win, I left New York right after Christmas of 1903, in the midst of an unusually severe winter, rather a wanderer; but determined to ramble among the American people and learn the language by ear, which proved in my case, and I believe, it is in every case, to be the best school for learning the correct pronunciation of any language you might desire to speak, and be not laughable when you address the natives of that language.
Where should I direct my wandering steps, it was the all important question, under my consideration in the first place. Boston: I had been scouring the ground before, and from a thorough-going I was convinced that to begin in a place where the most superstitious, if not fanatic, Greeks are situated, at all appearances it should be a wonderful failure without any dose of wisdom in it; while I was not able to take my stand before the people, whose sympathies I needed in judging my purposes and my efforts. In the great wild West, way out there, where some of the best easterners by leaving their homes and their comforts therein, and enduring all the hardships of pioneering life they succeeded at last to put a solid foundation of a new and permanent civilization astonishingly wonderful not only in the development of this great land of liberty but revolutionizing the whole commercial and social system of the world.
Who hath known the mind of the Lord? We have been taught, that His purpose is to glorify Himself through human agency, and we know that all the great movements in history were originated in an insignificant way by insignificant persons at the beginning. Who could say, at the time, when the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river, and there she drew out of the water an ark with a child in it, that that child would be the chosen one of God to deliver his people from the Egyptian bondage? Or, when, a poor carpenter with his wife went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea in a small village of Bethlehem, and Mary brought forth her first-born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn; that that baby was the King of Kings, Christ the Lord and Saviour of all mankind?
That, humble fishermen would be the heralds of glad tidings, to those who accept Christ as their Saviour? That an altruist monk should leave his monastery, thus violating his vows to Pope and the church, to be the mouthpiece of the Truths of Christ's Gospel, and become the father of a Reformation that brought down the Romish pride, for all time and raised the banner of personal liberty in Him who is the Only One to save every soul that cometh unto Him without the necessity of a priest? That such men as John Wesley, Moody, and a number of others, to accomplish great things for the advancement of God's kingdom? And the greatest religious living man, General William Booth, who, with his ingenious and prototype system, is doing more for God and humanity, than all religious bodies put together? Their beginning was insignificant.
These names, a few of the many, I thought to mention for the encouragement of those who always try to find some excuse, for not doing all they can, to realize that for which they every day pray, |Thy Kingdom come.| As for me, I know, that there is nothing impossible with Jesus, and it is only according to our faith, and the work which we put in it, that we reap the results of our efforts.
When I left New York, I made a short stop-over at New Jersey, and one snowy morning I went to the R. R. station and purchased my ticket for Athens, Ohio, because, in studying geography, I noticed that there are quite a number of towns in the United States by the name of Athens, and I was very desirous to visit the Athens, Ohio, and see if there was any Acropolis or monuments to compare with the Athens, Greece. The train arrived at Athens, Ohio, R. R. station just on time, not to miss my dinner at a nearby restaurant, where I inquired if there were any Greek people in the town. A very gentle young lady, waiting on the table gave me instructions to find a candy store kept by a Greek, where she took her ice cream. I found the place and the Greek who was a real good natured middle-aged man and his family living on the floor above the store. He received me kindly and after a short conversation he said he thought I could make a suitable help for him and he offered me the job without asking any questions as to my identification. I had no thought of staying at that place and declined the offer. By the same Greek I was glad to learn that Athens, Ohio, though there is no Acropolis and no Socrates there; yet, she is a nice little college town and the Greek was doing a rushing business with the students. The next train was for St. Louis, Missouri, and I was very anxious to see the Mississippi river, so I went on that train. The great bridge on the Mississippi river and the Union station at St. Louis are two buildings that could make honor to any city in the world. I left my luggage at the parcel-room and started out to find a hotel, where I could have the best accommodations for the smallest amount of money. When I located myself the best that I could, the next thing I thought to look around for a job, as I liked to stay in St. Louis till the opening of the World's Fair in the year 1904. I bought a newspaper: I could then read some English, but speak very little yet. The advertisement which attracted my attention was a short one |Wanted young man willing to work, apply, at given number and street.| It was Saturday yet I was anxious and willing to work, so, I went to answer the ad. By asking in every corner some man in uniform, not knowing at the time if they were policemen or conductors in the electric cars, I find the street and presently I saw the number above the door of a great big livery stable. I looked over the newspaper, and the number was correct. I was not prepared for the surprise and for a moment I hesitated to enter. The thoughts came to me by bunches: for the first time in my life I was looking for an honest work to make an honest living, and the first place, God's Providence, brought me, was a stable; and what a big stable that was. I never knew anything about stables and horses: what could I do there? Instantly my feet began to move backwards when a thought came as a lightning: what do you care if it is a stable, or a dowager's palace? It is work that you want, and it is much more honorable to work in a stable and be right with God, than to live in the luxuries as a High Priest and be an hypocrite. Labor, it has always been an object of my admiration, though, labor is set forth as a part of the primeval curse, |in the sweat of thy face thou shalt eat bread| and doubtless there is a view of labor which exhibits in it reality as a heavy, sometimes a crueling burden. But labor is by no means exclusively an evil, nor is its prosecution a dishonor.
These impressions, false though they are, have wrought a vast and complicated amount of harm to men, especially to the industrious classes, causing these classes, that is, the great majority of our fellow-creatures, to be regarded, and consequently to be treated even in Christian lands, as a parish caste, as hereditary |hewers of wood and drawers of water| doomed by Providence, if not primarily by the Creator himself, to a low and degrading yoke, and utterly incapable of entertaining lofty sentiments, or rising to a higher position; to be restrained therefore in every manifestation of impatience lest they should temporarily gain the upper hand, and lay waste the fair fields of civilization; and to be kept under for the safety of society, if not for their own safety, by social burdens and the depressing influences of disregard and contempt.
A better feeling, however, regarding labor and laborers, is beginning to prevail: these motions, which breathe the very spirit of slavery whence they are borrowed, are in a word dishonored, while they are gradually losing their hold on the heart, and their influence on the life. Individuals arising from time to time from the lowest levels of social life to take, occupy, and adorn its loftiest posts, have irresistibly shown that there is no depression in society which the favors of God may not reach. Especially has a wider and more humane spirit begun to prevail since man has learned more accurately to know, and more powerfully to feel, the genius and the spirit of the Gospel, whose originator was a carpenter's son, and whose heralds were Galilean fishermen. Reason and experience too, in this as in all cases, have come to revealed truth, tending forcibly to show that labor, if under certain circumstances it has a curse to inflict, has also many priceless blessings to bestow. Yet, when it fell to my lot, to submit myself in that class and be a laborer and earn my bread by the sweat of my brow, it was a critical moment to decide upon. And just at this moment a man of small stature came out of the stable, and as I looked suspiciously, he asked me if I wanted anything. I want this job said I, showing to him the ad in the paper. With a few sharp glances at me standing now like a marble; all right, he said; you just put on your working clothes and come here on Monday morning at 5 a. m., and we will have something for you to do. I left him and on my way back home I entered the first clothing store and purchased an outfit of working-man's clothes. The next day was Sunday and I spent the day in my room, praying that God would sustain me in my new career. At night I had very little sleep, making my plans for the future, or building my castles in the air, and early Monday morning I was at the stable before 5 a. m. Soon the little man appeared and after the customary ceremony in taking my name and address, he led the way into the inner part of the stable in front of a huge heap of horse manure. There, he says, you just shovel that out of the window, and handing to me a big fork, for the operation, he disappeared.
There are certain happenings in our lives indelibly written in our memory, which cannot be effaced by the stream of time, and one week's experience in this stable was sufficient to engrave the deepest lines in my heart of sympathy and mercy for sinful, suffering humanity. It has been said in the old Greek mythology that the greatest achievement of Hercules was when he undertook to clean the stable of the king Augeus at Argos. But should Hercules lived in this stable for one week, I doubt that his name would ever appear in the list of demigods.
[Illustration: REV. M. GOLDEN
Captain of the Salvation Army]
It is beyond the limits of self respect to even attempt a brief account of all that took place in that stable, but sufficient to say that I went in there one individual and by Saturday I came out ten thousand strong. And I had to put up in St. Louis one more week in a bath house, with much work and expense to get back into my one individual, and hasten my wandering steps towards Chicago, with a stop-over at Springfield, Illinois, where I had references to meet a gentleman, professor of the Greek language in one of the colleges there. When I arrived at the house of the dear professor, he, began to speak to me from a book, in an exameter homerean tone, and I understood about as much as the faithful who goes to church and the priest reads the mass in Latin. At Springfield I lost my satchel and with it my Greek documents, which might have been very interesting to the reader, yet, I hope in my next publication to have reproductions of those documents from the original, which I can easily obtain from Athens.
Chicago is my next stop. The Babylon of the West. Last week of January, 1904, the weather 12 degrees below zero. All the idles of Chicago hired by the city hall could not keep control of the snow on the streets. I located myself in a furnished room on Wabash Avenue, and bought a paper to find a job, but my experience in the stable at St. Louis, took away from me all the courage to select any kind of work from the paper, yet I was very anxious to settle for a while in Chicago, in that third cosmopolitan city of the world, London and New York being respectively first and second.
Chicago offers great opportunity to a student of religious, industrial and social conditions, and when, by chance, I secured employment in a leading warehouse, a very good paying position, under the circumstances, I devoted all my spare time visiting the Greek quarters, incognito, and studying everything that came within my observation, and attending all kinds of public meetings of various denominations and societies, which proved a great help to me in learning the proper pronunciation of the English words, in fact for five years I did not speak five times in the Greek language.
One morning I read in the paper the following announcement: |The Knights Templar of the United States have made their plans to celebrate the 29th triennial conclave of Knights Templar to be held in San Francisco, Cal., September 4 to 9. The occasion will be of universal character, representatives from all the world; and Great Britain will send to this imposing ceremony the highest officials that control the affairs of the chivalric order of Freemasonry in the British Isles. The Earl of Euston, most eminent and supreme grand master of great priory of England and Wales and the dependencies of the British crown, were coming with credentials to represent Edward VII, the king of England.| I was looking forward to my visit to California, since I left New York, but I never expected the time for me to go there would come so soon as it did. I was longing to see a great gathering of Freemasons, of this class of men, that, in every country represents the highest ideals of good citizenship.
With a few days preliminary preparations, I bade good-bye to my employer, and well supplied with recommendations from some influential friends and acquaintances which I had made in Chicago, I saw myself off to California, on the forenoon train, the 25th of June, 1904.
The trip was uneventful, excepting the unbearable heat and dust, especially going through the States of Oklahoma, Arizona and New Mexico, and the number of Indians, which, for the first time in my life I beheld in their own skin living and moving contented as though they still were the dominating race on the continent, with their square faces painted in various colors, wrapped in their blankets, and bare-footed, their feet being very much like those of a mud turtle, they were the real thing.