|Chapter 12||FROM THE FARM FIELD TO THE MISSION FIELD|
I have a wonderful surprise for you. Elmer has been chosen to be the chairman of the Thailand Mission (the highest honor that a missionary can receive). It came as a surprise because there were other experienced missionaries. But Elmer was chosen. One of the things he will be responsible for is the safety of our Thailand missionaries - a heavy burden in itself because conditions in the area are not good. He will also be responsible for all mission money and will represent the Thailand field on the Dalat school board. That means he will get to see the children often. We will be moving to Korat and will have the same address we had when we first came to Thailand. There will be some adjustments for me to make including doing alot of enter taining (something I never really enjoyed). I also know that people in positions of leadership are subject to criticism, so I will have to learn to cope with that. But at least Elmer will not be off in the jungles!"
As a young farmer in Minnesota, Elmer had expected to farm for the rest of his life. He and his brother, George, had operated a dairy farm until 1941 when Elmer was drafted into the United States Army. "I was drafted into the army just before Pearl Harbor," Elmer wrote in a 1951 article: "The shock of the bombing there aroused a great fear in my heart - a fear of the future. I even bought a Bible and decided one night to attend a Bible study and prayer meeting at the army chapel. After the meeting, an army master sergeant, Tom Shakespeare, asked, 'Elmer, are you a Christian?' I answered, 'I'm trying to be one.' He knew then that I was not! He explained the plan of salvation to me using John 3:16 and that night I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior."
A few weeks later I was on my way to combat in the Pacific Islands but now I had real peace in my heart. During my 31 months there, I had the opportunity of seeing missions in action. I did not know it then, but I later realized that God was speaking to me about becoming a missionary." During three months in the hospital with a neck and spinal infection, the chaplain told me about an organization called "The Christian and Missionary alliance" and the work they were doing around the world. He suggested that I contact them and check into getting some training for missionary service. It was there in New Zealand that I finally decided that if God wanted me, I would be a missionary. When I told my family, they asked, 'Why do you want to be a missionary?' They were surprised to learn that I did not intend to go back to the farm, especially since plans had already been made to do so. I told them that I had personally witnessed the transformation in the lives of many of the island people. I could not forget the man who said, "Won't you come back and help give out the story of Jesus?"
Elmer finished his four years of service and rather than going to the nearby St. Paul Bible College, he entered Nyack Bible College in the spring of 1946. The CMA Mission rule at the time was that missionaries had to attend Nyack College for their final year. Elmer did not wish to begin at one school and transfer later to another so he had chosen Nyack over St. Paul. I always said that God sent him to Nyack because I was there! I was a third year student preparing for foreign ministry. I never would have met Elmer if he had attended college in Minnesota. By taking summer courses, Elmer was able to graduate just two years later. After graduation, he headed to Prattville, Alabama, at the request of Rev. T.G. Mangham, Sr., the district superintendent who had recommended Nyack College. Elmer pastored there alone for six months until I completed a nursing course in New York City. We were married in Oceanside, Long Island, on November 13, 1948.
Mission policy required all missionary candidates to have two years experience in a church at home before going overseas. We spent a happy two years together in Prattville and eventually the telegram with our appointment to Siam arrived. In September 1950, Elmer, little David and I left the U.S. aboard the S.S. Steel Navigator, a cargo ship. Fifty-seven days later we arrived in Bangkok, Thailand, with its "cobras in the kitchen, bandits in the jungle and communists across the river."
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