Historical Society of the Bible Fellowship Church
The Greatest Generation. Last summer’s reading for me included a book by this title written by Tom Brokaw. I suspect some of you have read it and enjoyed it as much as I did. Having been born in 1947, I did not experience much of the experiences and influences described in the book. World War II was a powerful time and had a powerful impact on those who were called to defend the principles of freedom in the world.
The Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church was in principle committed to non-resistance. It was there at the beginning for the Evangelical Mennonites of Pennsylvania. They said, “...We believe that war and blood shedding are not conformable to the teaching of the Gospel of Christ.” I have said to some that we were never really good Mennonites. What fueled us was concern for revival and winning the lost. While we were non-resistant on paper, it simply was not the priority among us that it was among proper Mennonites. Early in the 20th Century, few men took up arms. In 1936, the Disciplines and Doctrines of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ contained article 23, Self-Defense. “Jesus has forbidden His disciples and followers all revenge and resistance, with the divine injunction, ‘Resist not evil,’ and, ‘My kingdom is not of this world; if My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, but now is My kingdom not from hence.’” When World War II began, more men of the Mennonite Brethren in Christ were ready to take up arms in defense of their country.
Several men from Mennonite Brethren in Christ churches in the Lehigh Valley responded or were called to military service. Their pastor was F. B. Hertzog. He was serving the Emmaus, Macungie and Zionsville circuit. He was careful to shepherd these men during this very difficult time of their lives.
F. B. Hertzog served the Lord as pastor in the Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church. He was a bit unusual in the sense that he did not serve as a Gospel Herald prior to being called as a pastor. He went directly into the “big time.” Later in his ministry, he served as District Superintendent and later as the head of our home for the aged.
I suspect that F. B. Hertzog would be characterized as a man with a gift for encouragement. I had the privilege of knowing him and have the very distinct memory of the sweetness and easy going way of his personality. For a man as he to take such concern for his flock while scattered in the war is no surprise.
It is easy for me to picture a lonely serviceman at some seemingly God-forsaken place receiving his letter and taking great gobs of encouragement from it. Some of you who read these letters will remember when you received them.
Enjoy some of the excerpts from the letters of F. B. Hertzog. Today, even I am encouraged as I read them. I am impressed with his understanding of the dangers they were facing. He knew the enemy did not always carry a gun. His warnings and concerns were frankly stated. The shepherd was watching over his flock. But before you start -
Take a moment to check your calendar. Have you checked October 27? On that date, we will meet in beautiful Lebanon for our next meeting of the Society. We will learn of the history of the Lebanon Church and hear the story of preacher George A. Campbell who survived a prison in the Civil War. You will find it to be a pleasant drive from the Lehigh Valley to Lebanon. Find someone to share the ride and enjoy the great company. This would be a great time for you to invite someone who has never attended one of our meetings. I will be sending you the details and your reservation form.
Don’t forget how much I enjoy hearing from you. If what you read here stirs a memory or a story, please share it with me so I can share it with others.
One more reminder. Check our website for some interesting reading. We have been able to put past minutes up into our internet library for you to read and use.
You can contact me in any number of ways -
by mail - 723 South Providence Road, Wallingford PA 19086
by email - 75613.1017@Compuserve.com
by telephone - 610-876-8725
by fax - 610-876-8725.
Now, enjoy and be blessed by the letters of F. B. Hertzog to the boys in uniform.
■September 1, 1944
To my Member and Friends in the Service:
Once again it is my privilege and pleasure to take up my pen and write to you boys who we miss so much, and of whom we think so often. I want to thank you for all the kind letters I received from you during the past month. They have been very good, informative, and I assure you, greatly appreciated. I know that you are all busy boys and we do not charge it against you if you can’t write, but we pray for you daily and are always eager to hear from you.
Whenever God puts us in any place He does so intelligently, with some purpose of good for us. There are some lessons He wants us to learn which we can learn in no other place quite so well as where He sets us. Or there are duties to do in that particular place and we are the best person to do them. At least, we should be satisfied that we are never in our place by accident, but that God has placed us where we are for some good reason.
Then we have some special difficulties or hindrances or obstacles or handicaps we have the same comfort, that these are parts of God’s plan for healing us. He is always setting lessons for us to learn. The lessons are not always easy, sometimes they are hard. But if we accept the divine teaching and take up the duties which He gives us in our hard place, we shall always find the best blessing and the sweetest comfort.
While we cannot, therefore, change the life conditions and circumstance of our friends, we can sometimes help them to do the work a little more bravely, to live a little more sweetly in the hard conditions, and to make a little more of their own life where they are. That is all I hope to do in these letters of mine. Our best friend is not always one who lifts the burden and makes life easy for us. Emerson says, “Our best friend is he who makes us do our best.” I want to be a friend like that. Don’t you?
Boys, remember that Christ is not merely a Saviour who died two thousand years ago, not one who lives away up in heaven and thinks of you - He is a friend right by your side, coming into your everyday life, into all your experiences, into your joys and sorrows, into your pleasures and pains. You have no affairs in which He is not deeply interested and in which He will not help you. There are no troubles which you cannot take to Him, assured that He will help you to bear them. Make Christ more and more your close personal friend.
■October 2, 1944
To My Members and Friends in the Service:
“TIME MARCHES ON!” Just a few weeks ago, it seems, we were so glad that good summer time had come, now summer is ended and autumn is here again. These few months have passed by to very rapidly, however, it is astounding to think of all that has occurred during those summer months. Let us praise the Lord for His rich blessing upon us, in spite of the drought, we have had wonderful crops.
Victory! Victory! People are talking more and more about Victory, and many of God’s children are earnestly praying for the day of Victory and the restoration of peace. I am sure that our feeling is mutual when I say, the day of Victory can’t come too soon for me. The Churches - Protestant, Jewish and Catholic, have agreed to have services in their church on “V-ONE-DAY.” I think is commendable that they want these services to be services of consecration rather than celebration. Our service is announced for Emmaus at 8.00 p.m. on the day of Germany’s capitulation. My, what an inspiration it would be to have all you boys with us for that service, to praise the Lord, and to re-consecrate yourselves to God. This, we know, is impossible for that occasion, but we are expectantly looking forward to the time when we shall have the privilege of meeting all you boys regularly in God’s house. I feel that the multiplies experiences of these war days will tend to make you more devout and sincere in following the Lord when you return home. Until that day comes may God bless you and keep you all true to Him.
December 1, 1944
To our Members and Friends in the Service:
Again there comes to us the blessed season when we are reminded of the birth of a little child. It was centuries ago that God blessed our earth with a vison of His love in the form of the Christ-child. Men’s hearts are still stirred with the gladness of His coming.
Christmas comes to us this year in the midst of difficult days, and for some of you in strange lands and peculiar places. Many of you boys, contrary to our highest expectations, will be denied the pleasure of observing Christmas at home with your loved ones, but I hope that our knowledge of, and our fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ - God’s “UNSPEAKABLE GIFT,” will cause our hearts to burst forth in singing, “Glory to God in the highest.”
As we keep Christmas this year, may we find new faith being born in our hearts by the steadfastness of friends, the blessedness of home, the love and faithfulness of God, the unchangeableness of His word, and the glorious hope of the soon return of Him who is the “PRINCE OF PEACE.”
Though you are many miles away from your home and your church, I can assure you that you are not forgotten here at home. It would, I am sure, greatly encourage your hearts if sometime you could step into our weekly prayers meetings and hear the many earnest prayers offered up in your behalf. These praying fathers and mother, brothers and sisters, sweet-hearts and friends of you boys, have in the spirit of their Master given a generous offering to make possible a Christ gift for each on of our boys whose name appears on our Service Honor Roll. Enclosed please find your gift in the form of a money order worth five dollars. With this gift come our prayers that God shall continue to bless and keep you, and our sincere wish that you may enjoy a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, wherever Christmas and the New Year may find you.
■January 1, 1945
To My Members and Friends in the Service:
We are at the end of another year and at the end of a journey that has been on of both joys and sorrows. In the last twelve months we have, sometimes with troubles hearts, watched a world treading the path of war. We approach the new year well aware of the uncertainties that it holds for all of us, as a world, a nations and as individuals. We know not where the course of our world and nation will lead. We know not what is in store fro each of us in our individual lives. The words of Joshua call out to us today, “Ye have not passed this way heretofore.” Joshua 3:4. No, we have come to the end of one road, and are now ready to embark upon a new one and upon a new journey.
This is the way of life. It is always full of beginnings. We never travel the same road twice but are always going on to the future...
Though the road is new and uncertain I am exceedingly happy that in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ we have a tender, sympathetic and trustworthy Guide to lead us. But it is not enough for us to have a guide, we must follow Him and keep up with Him wherever He leads us. It is of supreme importance that we allow nothing to obscure His guidance or keep us from obediently following Him. He will give us the strength to follow regardless how it may clash with our desires. Mary’s words have particular significance to for us. She said to the servants, “Whatsoever He saith unto you do it.” John 2:5.
A new road lies before us. We have not passed this way heretofore. The road may be uncertain but there is one certainty that can never fail. A safe and sure journey is ours if we secure a trustworthy guide, stay with him and do as he says. Our coming journey may be perilous and hard going at times but if we have Christ as our Guide, if we stay with Him and if we obey Him, then our destination is assured and our journey is safe and sure. For we know that the Lord will shepherd us and guide us in the ways of righteousness for His Name’s sake, and in the end, we, too, shall come to the House of the Lord where we shall dwell forever and ever.
A PRAYER FOR MY BOY IN THE SERVICE
Dear Father, one day not so long ago my own son, young, slim, quiet, and loving, turned eighteen and became eligible for the draft. The sad day of his departure came and only Thou knowest how I left things go that day because he said, “Mother, I can’t bear to have you cry.” I tried to keep a smile on my face that really hurt, while within, my heart was weeping. I stood there beholding his beautiful and shining youth which somewhere along the way I was sure he would lose in the war. I knew that I would never again see him as he was then and that only Thou, my God, knewest how he could come back home. I know that when he left he hated no one. I pray Thee Father, let him return home without bitterness and hate in his heart toward anyone, but with a greater love for the souls of men and women who are lost. Help my dear boy to keep faith in Thee forever. Forbid that this war should black out his vision of Thee, and Thy Son, The Lord Jesus Christ. Give him courage to stand for Thee now, and to love his fellowmen and his country who he is serving so eagerly. Protect him from all harm and danger and keep him from sin so that he may dwell in Thy House forever. Amen.
Written by Mrs. Elsie Miller, Emmaus, Pa.
■February 1, 1945
To My Members and Friends in the Service:
“I couldn’t begin to count the number of times God saved my life, and the many impossible situations He brought me through.” “I can truly say that prayer pays and that prayers are answered.” “I thank the good Lord that I am alive.” “It’s marvelous how the Lord works.” “God has been very good to me and has brought me safely through until this day.” “I’ve seen times when I thought I would never see home again but God has always brought me through without a scratch.” “I have seen my share of combat and I thank God for helping me and keeping me - He has been more than wonderful to me.” “As each day passes we find out how dependent we actually are upon Him.” “It is unbelievable how God performed the many miracles He has since I went into combat.” “Please pray for me and all the boys we need it more now than ever before.” These expressions are found in the many letter I received from the boys during the past month, and every one bespeaks the FAITHFULNESS OF OUR GOD.
It is apparent that our boys realized that the world is vast and full of perils, and that life is very small and frail. It has no ability to face the difficulties, the obstacles, and the hardships it must face. But praise God, we can entrust our life to the protections of the Divine Keeper. We can’t guide ourselves, we can’t master the storm, we can’t shelter ourselves, but He can do all this for us.
But does God care for little individual lives? Does God give thought and care to one little child among the millions of the world? Yes! This is the very thing that He wants to do for us as we pass through the world with its storms and dangers... We can commit our lives into His hands with absolute confidence. He will take us with all our faults and our sins and restore us. He will bring out all the possibilities of our lives. He will keep us from every hurt in all the perils of the way. He will lead us in the right path amid all the confusion and tangle. He will eventually bring us to glory and eternal blessedness. My dear friends, I plead with you, always give God the first place in your life.
■May 1, 1945
To My Members and Friends in the Service:
Greetings to you in the name of our blessed Lord and Savior on this cold and rainy first day of May. I hope that the weather is more beautiful where you are than it is here today. I want to write you today on “The Service Man and His Home.”
The mere mention of home arrests attention, awakens interest, and conjures up visions of mirth and innocence, of dear ones dead and alive, of faces that cannot be forgotten, and hopes that cannot be buried. Not all the cares of life, not all its miseries and joys, not any distance or circumstance can efface the tender recollections of the places hallowed and endeared to us by ties so sacred.
I know that at your work, in your travels, in your leisure time, and during the hours of the night, yes, in every conceivable circumstance, and amid the worst and most unfavorable environments you have thought of, and dreamed of home.
What is it that makes our home such a precious place to us? It’s certainly not the bricks and mortar, nor the carpets and furniture, nor its particular location, is it? It requires hearts that are dear and true and loyal to make a home. Yes, it is the folks in the home that make it what it is. Father, mother, and the family circle, and all the boyhood memories. How they come back to one in these times.
Perhaps you have met some girl that means mor to you than anyone else in all the world and you’ve gotten married and have set up a home for yourself. It may be that your home has been blessed with a little one that calls you father. Ah, that’s a home worth loving, worth remembering and living for, and worth returning to.
We are all praying for God to constantly protect you and spare your life, and soon return you to your home. Very recently I have been doing some serious thinking regarding this return home. I am convinced that for those who have been true to their God and loved ones it will be a time of real rejoicing, but for such who have a guilty conscience it will undoubtedly be a meeting mingled with joy and fear. Lionel R. Scott writes in “The Link,” “A question for every husband in the service is, What will my thoughts be in the precious moment when I come home to the one I love - can I press my lips to hers with a clear conscience, without hiding something?” To the young man who has a sweetheart waiting for him, who has been true to him in his absence, he says, “She is anxious about you at all times, she prays that your life may be spared, she longs for a speedy victory and she craves your loving kisses unsoiled by the flashy loveless lips of another.” Many of you are young men, unmarried, and not in love with any particular individual of the opposite sex, but you are surrounded with all manner of sin, and confronted with strong temptations to do that which you know to be contrary to the Word of God, to you let me say, keep yourself clean and pure for God and the girl that God may some day give you for your wife. Who would not rather return to the home circle minus an arm or a leg than minus his good name? Yet how many do it? YOU CAN, by God’s power, retain your good name. Do it!
“Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” Jude 24-25.
■September 3, 1945
JAPANESE ACCEPT TERMS
THE WAR IS OVER
To My Members and Friends in the Service:
The above are some of the headlines which appeared in the newspapers on August 14, 1945. The news of these headlines set off the fire works of man’s celebration of this event. Everywhere there was the spirit of exuberant joy and overflowing gladness because, at last, the long prayed for and awaited day had arrived. We all knew that the day of Victory would come sooner or later, but now that it has come, it is hard to make ourselves believe it is true.
We certainly rejoice with you boys in the fact that Victory has come. We had a special service of thanks in our Emmaus Church on Wednesday evening August 15. Our people joined with the other peoples of the world in returning thanks to Almighty God for bringing this terrible war to an end.
It appears now, that for most of you stationed in the various theatres of operations, the War is over. And there are others assigned to duties in the country, or in remote out-posts, who have experienced no direct contact with the foe.
All of you men and women in areas where arms have been stacked - and those of you who have been spared the ravages and brutality of active warfare - face tests of character that are less spectacular but in a sense more dangerous than enemy fire.
It is simple enough to sit at home, snug and smug, and belittle the hardships of warfare. Certainly none of us in your Home Church circle have any such inclinations. But there is an all conflict a degree of exhilaration, a thrill of conquest that helps one to move on toward the goal of Victory. When this stimulous is no longer present, the regimented military life becomes irksome. Then there’s grave danger that the monster Monotony may put in an appearance and tempt you to pursuits you will later regret. The C. P. S. Boys have had to deal with this monster since their induction. But we thank God that many of them have done valiantly with their God.
It is our hope and prayer that you will view the weeks ahead in the proper perspective. They represent a small but tremendously important fraction of your life. Look upon this as a preparation period, a time in which you can plan your course for the future. Be especially vigilant lest some temptation of the moment mar the years of usefulness and opportunity that lie ahead.
There is need for a new kind of courage - a quiet, determined resolution to make your life, from this moment forward, count for God. Whether you are presently transferred to another theatre of service, or returned to civilian status, be firmly resolved now that you will not fall as a casualty in the “Bulletless Battle.” We are continuing to pray for all you boys and girls where ever you may be located.
The following is a list of those men included under “Addresses of Our Boys in the Service.”
Cpl. Ernest Bieber
T/5 John G. Brensinger
T/5 Maynard L. Brensinger
Pvt. Harry Buchin
Pvt. Luke J. Christman
Stanford Dries S.1/c
Pfc. John H. Ettinger
S. Sgt. Raymond Ettinger
Sgt. Bernard Gardner
Pvt. Albert Gehman
Pvt. Homer D. Gehman
Cpl. Orville J. Gehman
S. Sgt. Warren D. Gehman
Cpl. Arden G. Gehris
Pfc. Leon K. Gehris
S. Sgt. Sidney H. Gehris
Sgt. Duane Heist
Pfc. Ernest R. Hertzog
T/5 Jules W. Hoffman
Pfc. Paul H. Howerter
Pfc. Robert F. Kauffman
J. Geraint Koch
Cpl. Charles Miller
Charles A Moore F.1/c
Cpl. George Reed
Pvt. Clarence A Roth
T/5 Eugene Shollenberger
Cpl. George R. Stortz
Pvt. Roy C. Stortz
Albert Weaver S.2/c(RM)
Paul I. Wentz Jr. S.1/c
Lt. Roy C. Wentz
Sgt. Cleave O. Yeahl