Historical Society of the Bible Fellowship Church
Annual Conference has been over for two weeks now. For those of you who just got used to hearing of Conference in October, you will be shocked to find that we now meet in the spring. From my perspective, when we meet makes no difference. It is still a rush to get your work done and be ready. I don't think the rush is any less in the spring than it was in the fall.
I have a couple of informational things to share before I get on with the good stuff. First, we have purchased a complete set of the Gospel Banner from its inception in 1878 until 1952, the point of our division from the General Conference. These records are on 44 reels of microfilm which are now stored in our archives. We have the only set on the east coast I believe. We were able to get them through the help of Joel Alderfer at the Mennonite Historians of Eastern Pennsylvania in Harleysville. They cost us about $1300.00 but in getting them as we did we saved as much as $2000.00. That will make even a dutchman smile.
Second, I am proceeding with work to computerize and index the minutes of General Conference from 1878 until 1916. This is a tedious task but one I enjoy. I am in the process of completing the text. I do not have to retype it all due to the marvels of the computer and scanner technology. However, it is still quite a job. I know there isn't a large demand for such material but when you do these sorts of things, you do them because you are interested and enjoy the task. That's why history is fun and not stressful.
This newsletter's contribution brings together several things I have in my files. My first contribution is a report from Eusebius Hershey about a trip to Canada. If you have read the diary of Levi Jung which we have now made available, you read of one of Hershey's early trips. You will enjoy Hershey's color and spunk. We don't share Hershey's theology but I hope we retain his fire. The article first appeared in the Gospel Banner, July 15, 1886.
Thanks be to God! He has brought me safe this thirteenth time upon British soil. The brethren and sisters of Berlin (now Kitchener) will be rewarded for their kindness towards me, as also the brethren and sisters elsewhere.
We had a good meeting in Berlin on Sabbath evening. The brethren, J. B. Detwiler and J. H. Steckley, allowed me the liberty to fill the appointment. Brother Steckley followed with a few remarks and Brother Detwiler closed with prayer.
The Port Elgin camp meeting was owned and blessed of God. I had the pleasure of seeing the beginning and the end, amidst the mighty display of God's mercy and power. The most remarkable was the answer to "faith prayer" offered to God, to restore to health our dear brother, Solomon Eby, the former presiding elder of the Canada Conference. He had been unable for some weeks to preach so he requested the prayers of God's children for his restoration, which were offered and he was instantly restored to his former ability. His own lips testified and our ears heard him preach in his former earnest manner, proving to us all the wonderful power of Jesus our great physician.
Since camp meeting I have preached to the Indians and visited the graves of two of my former interpreters: Henry Jones aged 39 years, and William Walker, aged 37.
To God I did renew my vow,
While I beside their graves did bow;
That I to Him would faithful be,
Till I in heaven dear ones would see.
We had a good time at both points, where I preached to many Indians.
As I was preaching on the street one of the policemen came to me and asked who had authorized me to preach on the street. I answered that the Lord Jesus had said, "Preach the Gospel to "every creature." I further said, "Brother, you are one of those creatures."
He asked me a few more questions which I readily answered, after which he said, "Well, speak on; we will hear what you have to say."
Dear brethren and sisters, at the camp meeting we were many, and close together; but traveling as an evangelist I often have none to assist me but Jesus.
In preaching on the steam boat between Owen Sound and Collingwood I had an ungodly set of deck hands and others before me. I used as a text the first verse of the first Psalm; and I had to tell them that they had near as many manners as the Indians.
(I fear our brother Editor will say am too lengthy, so I must omit very interesting points.)
I feel more than ever the need of deeper walk of the Holy Spirit's power, and the thorough cleansing of the inward corruptions; but I read the conditions from Paul and John. Hear them, ye who with me believe in Holiness. Paul says, "I keep under my body and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway."
To other we might preach quite well,
Ourselves at last be cast to hell.
John says, "If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another and (on these conditions) the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us (the Christians) from all sin."
I was introduced to a brother who professed sanctification, and it was said he was such a happy man. He had just finished a hearty smoke before he left the house; and as he stood by me, my nose discovered the disagreeable smell of the poisonous weed. I stood right before him and said, "Your mouth is not sanctified yet."
He said, "I have prayed the Lord three or four times to take this tobacco from me, but God did not do it.
I told him God would not reach from heaven into his pocket and throw the tobacco away; for He had given him hands, and he must do that for himself.
Read Jer. 17:14 for Jeremiah's prayer for a thorough healing and cleansing. "Ask and it shall be given you."
But there is danger of consuming it (the grace received) upon our own lusts: the lust of the eye, the lust of he flesh, or the pride of life.
This evening I have promised to preach in the Bethesda church.
Pray for me, I pray for you,
To God and man let us be true.
My second contribution comes from Roy Bellesfield. Roy is from Allentown and remembers some of the wonderful customs that are part of our past. The changing of pastors and the care for them is illustrated by Roy.
As a young boy I recall the welcoming service for new pastors, or if the pastor stayed at his place of service for another year, there was a service which was called a "Donation Service" to let the pastor know that he was welcomed by the congregation. I asked Alton Cassel what they called this practice as he is a son of Pastor E. N. Cassel.
My father took some pictures of this service, but I cannot find them. However, I can give a word picture of this. Perhaps some churches made displays something like our church used to do, I recall a display up in front of the church on a table that was adorned with colored crepe paper and some garlands to make it attractive, The gifts which were placed on it consisted mostly of foodstuffs such as sugar, flour, potatoes, apples, jello, canned goods of many fruits and vegetables. I may have missed naming some of the items. But to me it was a special time for me as a boy to treat our pastor in a loving way. There were words of welcome from different people of the congregation and it made me joyful to see my parents do their part to help make it a time of joy and good feeling for everyone. Our churches no longer practice this kind of service because in those days of long ago, our pastors never had a set salary as we now do, and I am certain in those days every little bit helped. Just thought it would bring to mind to some of the members of the historical [society] those "Donation Services" when we welcomed our pastor for another year. To me it was a love service for everyone as we expressed our love to the man God sent to us as the leader of the flock.
My third contribution is a history of the Women's Missionary Society. I have had it in my files for a while and cannot remember for sure who gave it to me. I believe Dave and Polly Thomann passed it on. If I am wrong, forgive.
In 1951 when Pastor Wolf was pastoring at the Bethlehem church, it was brought to the attention of Mrs. Wolf that Olive Rawn needed some dresses to complete her wardrobe for the field. Mrs. Wolf, with her own money bought material and Mrs. Steward Seifert opened her home for the work of sewing the dresses. They also made a few quilts and some other needed articles. After this Mrs. Seifert was continually asked to begin a society but she felt she did not want the responsibility of it. She felt someone else should do it.
February 19, 1952 a Dr. Bernett, a missionary serving in a leper colony in Africa spoke at the Bethlehem church. He mentioned that after a hard day's work at the dispensary he and his wife had to go home and wash out the dirty bandages so there would be clean ones for the next day. The faithfulness of this servant of the Lord impressed Mrs. Seifert so much that she was not able to sleep that night, At 7:00 o'clock the next morning she called Pastor Wolf and said that she was willing to take the responsibility of forming a ladie's missionary organization. That evening in prayer meeting the announcement was made that all women willing to work were to meet the next morning.
It was a real winter morning with snow promised before noon, yet 23 ladies came out to form the first Womens Missionary Society of the Bible Fellowship Church. Of those 23 ladies, seven are still active in the group. [Editor's note - date of writing unknown]
Their first projects were bandages and hospital gowns, which were sent away by the barrel, Then they made quilts for Berean and all kinds of necessary things for the Home for the Aging (then located in Center Valley). One year they canned over 1,000 jars of fruits and vegetables which were given to the flooded areas of Stroudsburg.[1955?] They mended, washed, and ironed over a ton of clothing for that same area. They canned fruit for Berean and began getting things together for missionaries going to the field. They also made things for Church Extension along with baptism gowns. At the time Beaula Mann was in Kentucky and the women mended and washed used clothing by the barrel, which she gave out to the children and their parents in the Appalachian Mountains.
The news spread of the efforts of the Bethlehem ladies and soon other churches were asking for help to start a Women's Missionary Society. Pastor Golla contacted Mrs. Seifert, who along with the Foreign Missions Board and the two D[istrict] S[uperintendent]'s and Mrs. Paul Schaffer, who helped form the Allentown group, Mrs. Koch and Mrs. Roy Williams, a general committee was formed. A constitution was drafted and the first general rally was held during camp meeting There the constitution was explained and the committee offered themselves to help organize other groups.
Mrs. Seifert has served as president for five years and two years as vice president. She served the Bethlehem group as their president for eleven years.
Might the faithfulness of this servant be of great inspiration to those who carry on the work of the women's Missionary Society. She has given of her time, talent, money, and many time has tired herself physically and has driven many miles so the work of the Lord might be enlarged. That's enough for now. Don't forget your assignment to mail me articles and stories you have found to be shared with others in our society. What you send me comes out of storage into the air where everyone can enjoy it with you. Thanks to all who contribute. I really enjoy hearing from you.
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Wallingford PA 19086