Chapter 38

Work Grows—Despite Hardships and Persecution

From the book Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong
By Herbert W. Armstrong

Now we come to the year 1937. I’ve explained how, in about mid-November 1936, we started on kxl, smallest-powered 100-watt station, in Portland. With it, using Postal Telegraph wires for a hookup, we included station kslm, in Salem. This was our first network!

Truth About Networks

I think it will be interesting here to give our readers a few facts they probably do not know about radio networks. The telephone companies have a very efficient system of network broadcast lines feeding the various major network stations—cbs, nbc and abc—coast to coast.

These are very special lines, specially engineered, and of far greater efficiency than ordinary telephone lines. They are specially boosted at intervals of about every 50 miles. This is necessarily a very costly service—but the quality is as near perfection as human technology can make it. Sound is carried instantaneously from originating stations in Hollywood, New York or Chicago to all parts of the United States with no detectable loss in tonal quality. The voice is transmitted as naturally as if the speaker were in your living room or your car. Music, at both highest and lowest frequencies, is transmitted just as naturally.

The installation and maintenance of these special lines is a costly operation. In 1936 and 1937, we were not able to afford such perfection in network lines.

But at that time the Postal Telegraph Co. offered far less costly lines. These were just the ordinary telegraph wires—far, far from the quality of telephone special network lines. There were no boosters along the way, and even the lines themselves were inferior, for our purpose. Often they would fade down or out. Frequently they didn’t work at all. The reception at the other end was far from perfect. But we were on our first network, nevertheless! We called it the Oregon Network.

Everything God starts through humans must, it seems, start the very smallest—and sometimes the crudest. But it was a start! And, once started, the Work of God never stops! Not only that, it never stops growing!

We were to use Postal wires in immediate future years to Seattle and Spokane. Later, the Postal Telegraph Co. was absorbed by Western Union. But it helped us get a start while it lasted!

Even at that time, I had my sights on extending the broadcast into Seattle and Spokane, though I was forced to learn patience and wait until God opened those doors. I knew we could not call it the Oregon Network when it extended into Washington, so, in my mind, I had it named already the Liberty Network, ready for the future!

Gospel to the Holy Land

Meanwhile, I was continuing to hold regular Sunday night evangelistic services in our little church building at the end of West Eighth Street, in Eugene. Interest and attendance gradually were increasing.

It was either the last Sunday in December 1936, or the first Sunday night in January 1937, that a former leader of that Church of God we find described in Revelation 3:1 as the Sardis Church—with which I was trying, in those days, to cooperate—appeared with a professed converted Jewish evangelist.

This particular church leader, whom I will not name since I can say nothing good about him as an individual, had a scheme to get the gospel to the Jews in the Holy Land. They had arrived a day or two before and explained their plan to me. It sounded really good. In fact, the idea, itself, was good.

The reason evangelists generally were failing to convert the Jewish people to Christ, he explained, was their wrong approach. This may not be the whole reason—but the approach of most evangelists assuredly had been wrong! They customarily started by trying immediately to preach the name of Christ to the Jews. But, explained this Jewish evangelist, all Jews have been taught from babyhood to virtually hate, despise and reject the name of Christ. To mention this name was to set up immediate prejudice. It raised an immediate impenetrable barrier.

This evangelist, being Jewish, said Jewish people would not be prejudiced against him, but would listen. Instead of preaching Christ directly, he proposed to approach them with the Jewish Scriptures—Old Testament only. After arousing their interest with prophecies being actually fulfilled today, he would then turn to a few passages such as Isaiah 53, Micah 5:2, Isaiah 7:14, describing how the Messiah was to be born as a baby, of a virgin, in Bethlehem, to grow up as a child, to be despised and rejected and crucified.

He said that when he approached Christ from the Old Testament Scriptures—from the Jewish point of view—they would listen.

Whether or not many would listen very far, this was the only possible approach I knew, that had a chance.

The plan was to raise enough money to send this man to Jerusalem, from where he would work throughout the Holy Land in getting the message of the Savior to the Jewish people there. I agreed to help.

The Deception

On that Sunday morning, I interviewed both this church leader and the Jewish evangelist on my radio program, and announced public meetings where the converted Jew would speak at our little church on Sunday night.

That night our church building was filled. I sponsored the idea of the tour of the Holy Land, and asked for liberal donations. Never, except for something very special like this, did we take up offerings in any service. The response was liberal.

The next night we had a packed house at Harrisburg. Again, the donations were liberal, and the evangelist was on his way.

But a year later, after other unpleasant experiences with this church leader during 1937, the Jewish evangelist again visited our home in Eugene.

He had a sad report to make. His effort had not been altogether honest and sincere. It had weighed on his conscience. He knew he ought to return the money I had helped raise, but he didn’t have it to repay.

He had gone to Jerusalem, all right. But he had found that the church and church members supposed to exist there were nonexistent, he said. The man whose name was used as a representative of the church also proved, he reported, to be a representative for other churches, drawing financial compensation from all of them.

The “converts” being made in the Holy Land, he reported, were not Jews at all, but Arabs—who were not really converted.

The procedure used in the Holy Land, he reported, was this: These supposed missionaries, evangelists or “representatives” who drew money from several Protestant denominations, and reported “large harvests” of “converts,” each had a small tent, in which they served tea and cookies. Like a barker at a circus sideshow, they shouted, beat tin pans, made noises to attract a crowd, announcing free cookies and tea. When the crowd gathered, the “missionary” went through a short two- or three-minute “spiel,” after which he offered the free cookies and tea to all who would raise their hands and say they accepted Christ.

The natives all raised their hands, partook of the tea and cookies, and then proceeded to the next tent where they got “converted” all over again!

Well, as the saying goes, “Live and learn!”

I have learned many lessons in more than half a century in Christ’s ministry—and I have been completely disillusioned in regard to the sincerity of a lot of professed religion in this world!

Radio Audience Grows

In a letter to co-workers who were regularly supporting God’s Work with tithes and offerings, dated February 12, 1937, it was estimated that the listening audience had grown to some 40,000 or 50,000, every Sunday. It was steadily growing “toward our goal of 100,000” the letter reported!

What a goal!

That looked mighty big, then! Yet today our listening audience is immensely larger.

But the point is, as I mentioned once before, I did not, in those days, have any remote idea that this Work ever would reach even a fraction of its power of today!

I think I have stated, before, that I did have vision. I did, at that time, look forward to going on small stations in Seattle and Spokane. My horizon had expanded to include the entire Pacific Northwest—and at times I even envisioned the entire coast. But the vision of a God-empowered Work on the vast worldwide scale of today was that of our living Head and Chief Director, Jesus Christ—not mine! This is His Work. I, and our co-workers with me, have been merely instruments in His hands! But the present size and scope and power of this great Work is testimony to the power of God to build, and increase His Work, and keep it growing until, like the grain of mustard seed, it fills the whole Earth!

Whatever plant my heavenly Father has not planted shall be rooted up! But God says He will never stop the Work He has begun! Whatever is of man is destined to come to naught! But whatever is of God cannot be stopped! Through the years we have met hardship, persecution, disillusionment—every obstacle! But none could stop us, or prevent this Work growing and multiplying in scope and power!

Compare the mail response of the broadcast today with 1937. A general letter sent to co-workers on March 19, 1937, reported the following “big” mail response: In the past 2½ weeks, 26 letters from listeners of kxl, Portland; 20 from kslm, Salem; and 12 from kore, Eugene. Total 58. The letter then asked: “Brethren, is this worthwhile?” That seemed big then. Today, we receive tens of thousands of letters per week. And that is from the United States, only. Besides this there is a receipt of mail at our offices, worldwide, much larger per day at each office than we then had in 2½ weeks back in 1937.

This letter of March 19, 1937, started out: “I am more than gratified at the evidence of rapidly increasing audience, growing power, and mounting influence.” This mail count inspired us to increased activity then. And, by comparison with what God now grants us, that same report gives all of us, whose hearts are in God’s Work, great inspiration to further increased activity, today!

I wonder if the reader can realize, as I read over these letters and reports from dusty files of long ago, how much deep-down satisfaction and inspiring gratitude to our God it gives me, today! It was a real struggle, then. It always has been! But the results with which we have been blessed—the assurance of continued multiplying growth from here on—are mighty gratifying and worth all it has cost many thousands of times over!

There is a reason for this rapid and consistent growth over the years. That reason is partly stated in a letter dated April 8, 1937: “This is not just another religious broadcast. It is utterly different, as I’m sure you realize by this time. It dares to proclaim the Bible truth straight from the shoulder! It dares to warn people of the fast-approaching dread Day of the Lord, and to preach the only true gospel—the good news of the Kingdom of God! It dares to correct modern fables!”

The same remains true today!

More Persecution

On Sunday, May 2, 1937, the program on the three network stations was dedicated to high school students. By arrangements with the principal of Eugene High School, the combined boys’ and girls’ glee clubs of that school furnished the musical portion of the program. The message was directed to high school students, in their own language, captioned “Getting a Real Kick Out of Life.” A special notice was sent on the Monday preceding to principals of the high schools of Oregon and southwestern Washington, asking them to announce the program to students in assembly.

About the first week in July, another six weeks’ campaign was started in Eugene. The attendance was good—averaging 150 to 200 per night. As usual, there were a number of converts.

August 20 to 29, inclusive, a camp meeting was held in Cabin City, on the highway just north of Eugene.

This particular camp meeting was the last of our cooperation with the Salem, West Virginia, branch of the church. The son of one of the so-called “12 apostles” of that church informed me of a plot, hatched at a meeting he attended with his father, in which the so-called “leading ministers” of that group intended to use this camp meeting, of which we at Eugene were hosts, to attempt to discredit and ruin the radio broadcast.

I had announced the camp meeting over the air, weeks ahead, and invited all listeners to attend. Immediately, on learning of the plot, I appointed a committee to be in charge of the camp meeting, and had them go to the “leading ministers” who already were in Oregon, demanding that all antagonisms and derogatory insinuations against me personally and the radio program be withdrawn from their plans. They refused, saying other ministers from the East Coast were coming, whom they could not muzzle, and they were determined to ruin the broadcast if possible.

Thereupon, I announced there would be no camp meeting. In two days, the “apostle” customarily in charge of these annual camp meetings arrived in Eugene from Southern California. He came straight to our home.

What was this, he asked, about my threatening to call off the camp meeting?

“That’s right,” I said, explaining to him the conspiracy to defame the broadcast and ruin it.

“But you can’t stop the meeting from being held,” he exclaimed.

“But I can, and will,” I replied. “You see, I have rented this camp grounds in my own name, and I alone control it. I will not allow the grounds to be used. I have the entire member mailing list. I shall send out notices informing all of the facts, telling them it is canceled, and not to come. About 85 percent of all expected to attend are members of the two churches at Eugene and up at Jefferson, of which I am pastor—and they will do exactly as I say. There is no other possible place where such a meeting could be held. On next Sunday, I shall announce to the radio audience that the camp meeting, to start that night, has been canceled. Nobody will come! Now tell me, please—how are you going to stop me from stopping the camp meeting, and saving the broadcast?”

His wife intervened, and advised him to realize that I “had him over a barrel.”

He then begged me not to stop it, promising there would be no attacks against me or the broadcast from the pulpit or otherwise during the meetings. But I remained adamant.

“Do you question my word?” he asked, a little indignant.

“It isn’t your veracity but your ability to stop this vicious and evil attack that I question,” I replied.

He reminded me that he was a cousin of the leader in the church, who held all these ministers under his thumb. He said he would guarantee that nothing hostile would occur. Finally, on this, I relented and agreed to let the meeting go on.

But there was an undercurrent of bitterness and hate. Whenever I preached, the next minister to preach devoted his sermon to an attempt to refute, disagree with, and tear down everything I had said. I tried hard to preach on subjects that could not be disputed or disagreed with—yet they found a way to twist what I had said and attempt to cast reflection against me.

Then, at a ministers’ meeting, this very “apostle” who had always appeared so friendly to me, proved himself willing to give a “Judas kiss.” Having the floor, he said, in pretended sympathy, that dear Brother Armstrong had worked so hard, and was so overworked, that they decided to “help” me by relieving me of some of my “burdens.” Therefore, they had decided to appoint another of their ministers (one totally hostile to me), as pastor of the church up at Jefferson. He almost wept crocodile tears of pretended sympathy.

One elder and one deacon of the Jefferson church, shocked and thoroughly aroused at this so evident subterfuge and bit of deceitful hypocrisy, as a plot to “take over” that church and thus rob the broadcast of its tithes and offerings, resigned immediately.

All of us at Eugene church, and half the members at Jefferson, severed all connection and effort at cooperation with those who had proved themselves willing to serve Satan and their own personal greed and to injure the very Work of God! I am going to end all comment about that group here, with the epitaph that—like a dead tree—they have since split and re-split into so many little tiny groups, all hating one another, that no one seems to know where all of them are.

These harassing events were unpleasant. It really did hurt Mrs. Armstrong and me, and all loyal to God’s true Work, very deeply to see some we loved very much willing to be misled by greedy and self-willed little powerless preachers. But such is life, and such is this world!

Jesus Christ said the gate is narrow, and the road hard, difficult, that leads to life, and only the few find it. We certainly have found His words true! It has not been an easy road. I know why Jesus was a man of sorrows. It was not because of persecution against Him, or personal suffering, but the anguish of seeing those He loved reject the truth and be willing to turn the wrong way to their own perdition! It hurts, deeply, to see people drop by the wayside!

But in the Work of God, the great blessings outweigh the sorrows 100 to 1.

Continue Reading: Chapter 39: The Plain Truth Revived!