Chapter 40: First Vision of Worldwide Work


The “lean years” continued through 1938 and the succeeding decade. It was a constant struggle and hardship. Growth seemed so very slow. Yet, viewed today in retrospect, expansion has been consistently rapid. Occasional setbacks were discouraging. But the forgings-ahead were far greater than the slips backward.

By June 1938—4½ years after the Plain Truth started as a mimeographed “magazine”—the first two printed editions finally had been produced. Old files, more recently examined, have shown that the May-June 1938 number was not actually the first, but the second edition to come off a real printing press. And they were only eight-page editions. Until then all issues had been ground out on a hand-fed, hand-cranked, antiquated Neostyle, ancestor of the mimeograph.

But the expense of producing those two printed issues threw us into a financial hole again. So back to the frail old Neostyle we went, hand-producing a combined July-August 1938 issue, which finally was mailed July 28 that year.

New Facilities Needed

As the Work expanded, through 1938 and into 1939, a few items of new equipment became an imperative need. I do not mean convenient wants—but absolutely necessary needs.

According to usual office standards, we might have thought we needed a better office, with sunlight and ventilation. We might have thought modern steel filing cabinets were a need. I was still using cardboard cartons, obtained free at the grocery store, as receptacles for keeping correspondence files. We might have thought that office desks to work on, if only secondhand, were needed. But we were able to work, these years, on a few old tables we found in our little, stuffy, $5-per-month office room.

But when the old antiquated Neostyle finally was wearing out—about to lie down and cease functioning because of old age—and we were still obliged to crank out the Plain Truth by hand on this piece of primitive mechanism, then a new mimeograph became an absolute need—or else the Plain Truth had to cease publication and die a natural death along with the Neostyle.

So it was that on February 4, 1939—five years after the first issue of the Plain Truth—a letter to our few co-workers said: “I will have to tell you that we are very seriously in need of a new mimeograph machine. The present one is about worn out, and we are producing this issue of the Plain Truth under difficulties. I can get a very good used mimeograph, almost new, one capable of turning out the large amount of work that is necessary in this office, and [that] will last for several years, for $65. There is not one cent available for the mimeograph, unless some of our friends can send in a special and additional offering just for this purpose.”

By April 5, 1939, a letter to co-workers found in an old file says: “At last, after many unavoidable delays, we are sending you the Plain Truth. This issue goes to about 1,000 new readers. It is still mimeographed, because we have not enough funds to print it, as we did two issues last year. It is a tremendous task, and nearly all the work is done by Mrs. Armstrong, our daughter Beverly, who is office secretary, and myself.”

In spite of inside office, lack of light or ventilation, lack of desks, filing cabinets and office equipment, the Work was growing! The Plain Truth circulation was growing. We were not able to get it out every month. There were seven issues in 1938. The June number was only the third during 1939. It was issued as often as there was enough money for paper, ink and postage. Yet already this little mimeographed “magazine” was being read by a few thousand people—and 100,000 were hearing on radio every week the very gospel Christ Himself preached—besides there were almost continuous evangelistic campaigns reaching hundreds.

The few dimes, quarters and dollars were producing fruits that were to last for eternity!

But now our old secondhand car was about to lie down and die of old age and much use.

Near the bottom of this letter of April 5, 1939, I find this: “Another serious need is a new car. The present one, five years old, is in the Albany garage for lack of a $50 repair bill. We are totally dependent on our car to transport the six of us (self and singers) to Portland and back for the Sunday broadcasts. We have to drive 600 miles every week—2,500 miles a month in God’s Work. The present car won’t hold out longer. We are doing the very best we can with what we have to do with.”

This referred to the 1934-model used Graham car we had purchased as a result of Mrs. Starkey’s letter sent out December 21, 1937. But we were not to be able to get another car until 1941. That old Graham blew connecting rods every few thousand miles. But it was destined to suffer some real punishment, with weekly trips to Seattle, before we could replace it!

God has promised to supply all our needs. But during these years it was surely bare need, not wants—and the needs were not always as great as they appeared to us.

How many of our readers, today, realize how much more than bare needs you are enjoying? Not many have had to struggle along with real bare needs, as we did through those lean years!

European Union and War Predicted

The February-March 1939 issue of the Plain Truth contained another article on the resurrection of the Roman Empire to come. We have warned our radio listeners of this prophesied event since the first year we were on the air—1934. We have shouted this prophecy ever since 1934 in the Plain Truth. This issue carried a full-page map, which I sketched and traced on the mimeograph stencil, showing the territory of the original Roman Empire.

This map included four of the sea gates that control sea access to this entire territory. The article stressed the fulfillment of the prophecy of Genesis 22:17 and 24:60, showing how the U.S.A. and Britain were to possess the sea gates of enemy nations. This was part of the national dominance promised Abraham for his descendants. But the article also pointed out that our peoples, since receiving this birthright inheritance, have turned from our God—our national sins have increased—and God is going to have to punish our nations at the hand of this coming resurrected Roman Empire, with invasion, captivity and slavery. These four vital sea gates, the article explained, must be taken from Britain before the “beast” power—revived Roman Empire—can rise. Britain, since, has lost Suez and exercises no real control over the other three.

This tremendous prophecy was fulfilled, in the form of the insignificant “sixth head of the beast,” by Mussolini very shortly after this article appeared. But the all-important seventh and last “head” is being formed, today, before our very eyes! It is rising out of the Common Market in Europe—out of which 10 nations or groupings of nations will ultimately combine to form a new European Union!

During March and April 1939, about 1,000 new requests were received for annual subscriptions to the Plain Truth! The Work was growing!

The August issue of the Plain Truth 1939, contained an article captioned “World War May Come Within Six Weeks.” The war started September 1.

In an article in the November 1939 Plain Truth on “The European War,” a paragraph or two may be of interest:

“Finally, remember this war is merely a resumption of the world war. It is not, so far as present events are concerned, directly and specifically mentioned in the Bible prophecies at all. But undoubtedly it is paving the way for prophesied events.

“One of two things may happen: 1) The Allies may go on to smash Hitler, possibly with the help of either or both of the United States or Italy; 2) Italy might yet come in on the side of Germany—the battle sector shifting at once to the Mediterranean, especially Egypt (the Suez Canal gate), and Palestine (as described with maps in the February-March Plain Truth).”

The uphill struggle—climbing constantly in growth of the Work in spite of inadequate facilities and financial backing—continued into the year 1940 and throughout the decade of the ’40s.

The March 1940 Plain Truth was the first since November 1939. It was still mimeographed. The circulation was 2,000 copies. More than 100,000 people were listening to the message weekly. Expenses were being held to $300 per month—including our family living of less than $85 per month.

Boys Growing Up

Meanwhile, our four children were growing up. The two girls now were 20 and 22. The boys 10 and 11—Dick almost 12. For the boys, this, I believe, is the happiest age ever enjoyed by any person. Surely nothing to compare is experienced by girls.

I remember so well when I was 11. My only sister, Mabel, died that year in an attack of spinal meningitis, at age 9. However, a year later my brother Dwight Leslie and his twin sister Mary Lucile were born. During those years, with other boys of the same age, I took up wrestling—these were the days of our “heroes” Frank Gotch and “Farmer” Burns; we went swimming, skating in the winter, sledding. We dug caves. We had white mice and ferrets, and probably we stuck frogs in our pockets. I rode a bicycle everywhere.

At 11 and 12 a boy has few responsibilities—devotes himself primarily to “fun”—and yet, he does not altogether take a vacation from disappointments, humiliation and painful suffering. His problems are far more serious to him than they are to Dad or Mom or other grown-ups.

I have recounted how our younger son had given me a big kiss—and when I asked what he was after now, he replied that was for picking out for him the best mother in the world. Only I didn’t “pick her out”—we both have always known, somehow, that God chose us for each other. But if our boys had “the best mom in the world” she was best, except for just one or two things.

For one thing, our sons had a mother who wanted them to swim—only she did not want them to go near the water until after they had learned how to swim. This problem was far more serious to young growing boys than Mother ever knew.

During the summer of 1940 we were returning to Eugene on the McKenzie Highway along the swift-flowing McKenzie River. The boys wanted to do some fishing. Finally, after much pleading, we stopped at a country store, bought a small roll of fishing line, a few hooks and a bottle of salmon eggs.

Our elder daughter, Beverly, and her fiancé, Jimmy Gott, were with us, and Jim cut two big “fishing poles” from a willow tree and tied the line to each of them.

From here on, I will let my younger son recount for you in his own words the humiliating experience he and his brother Dick suffered—all because of the “best mom in the world.”

“We were on the way returning to Eugene from a trip, I believe to Blemis’ home, or else up to Belknap Springs—but at any rate, up the McKenzie Highway.

“Dick and I (I mostly, I believe) pleaded and pleaded, and finally, we stopped at a country store, and bought a small roll of fishing line, a few hooks and a bottle of salmon eggs.

(“Bev and Jim were along, I remember definitely—because Jim cut us two big club-like ‘fishing poles’ and tied the line to each of them.)

“So—we were carefully herded over the rocks, with deep pools swirling around through undercut areas, to the brink of the mighty rushing McKenzie at one of its fastest, deepest points.

“Having known only a little about fishing—I did know you had to get the bait down to where the fish were. We had no split shot or weights, no leaders on our lines, no reels, so casting was impossible.

“Mom picked out the spot where it was safest—instead of letting us go where we thought we might find a fish. There we sat, with sour expressions on our faces, with the short line, a tiny gold single-egg hook and a bright red salmon egg-skipping frantically along the top of the gigantic rush of tons of blue-white water, on the edge of one of the fastest and deepest rapids along the McKenzie!

“There wasn’t the faintest, remotest chance of ever catching a trout under those conditions—and we both knew it—but at least, we were safe!”

No Hallucinations

On April 2, 1940, I had to write co-workers: “The only way I have managed to keep the Work going has been my personal sacrifice—taking money intended for our family living, letting my family suffer. One of my daughters has had to stop school. We are about to lose our home. We have gone without badly needed clothing. I could tell you more, but do not want to talk about ourselves—our heavenly Father knows. We are willing and glad to make any sacrifice. But the point is, we have now come to the end, unless substantial help comes at once. The Work cannot be held up by this method of personal sacrifice any longer. As long as it was only us who suffered, I said nothing. But now the Lord’s Work will stop unless substantial help comes quickly. For the Work’s sake I must appeal to our helpers. I would starve, before I would ask one cent as charity for myself. But I’m willing to humiliate myself in any way for the gospel’s sake.”

During the early years of this ministry, as I have noted before, no illusions of grandeur flooded my mind. I had no grandiose visions of conducting a great Earth-girdling Work reaching many millions on all continents. If anyone had then suggested that this Work would grow to even a 10th its present scope and power, I would have regarded it as an empty pipe dream.

This Work has not grown to its present proportions because I planned it that way—but because God planned it, expanded it, empowered it.

I was not without vision. When the broadcast first started, in January 1934, I did envision a Work reaching the entire Willamette Valley and probably Portland. After we reached Portland, I did envision going on to cover Seattle and the entire Pacific Northwest. As the Work grew, the vision for the future expanded with it. But this ministry was not started with any hallucinations, spawned in self-pride, vanity and egotism, as did a few ne’er-do-wells who have come to me, announcing: “Mr. Armstrong, I have come to announce to you that I am Elijah that was prophesied to come;” or “Mr. Armstrong, God has shown me in a dream that I am to be your right-hand man and soon to take your place.”

All self-important vanity had been knocked out of me by the successive business reverses, being knocked down repeatedly, and made for years to bite the dust of poverty and humiliation. But I had come to receive a new confidence. It was based on faith in Christ—not in self. It was the faith of Christ, which God had given as one of the gifts of His Spirit.

First Vision of Worldwide Scope

But in May 1940, God had begun to bring into my mind a glimpse of the future worldwide destiny of this Work, for the first time. We could not know, then, whether World War ii, already under way in Europe, would continue on into Armageddon and the end of the world. We could not know, then, that God would grant another recess in the world war—and for the very purpose of allowing this Work of God to fulfill Matthew 24:14 in preaching and publishing Christ’s gospel of God’s Kingdom to all the world as a witness, just before the end of this world and the coming of Christ!

But the sense of imminence of the end—combined with the knowledge that this very message must first be proclaimed—inspired a letter to co-workers dated May 23, 1940, which asked, in part:

“Dear co-workers: We enter, now, the most crucial period of our co-labors together in the powerful proclaiming of the gospel. The zero hour has struck! Whatever is to be done, we must do quickly. Soon we shall not be permitted to carry on this great Work …. But now, as never before, people will hear! People are stunned by the war events in Europe! Everywhere, people … are now beginning to realize the Bible prophecies are being fulfilled—that we are in the very last days! … Now is the time when Jesus said ‘this gospel of the kingdom’—the good news of the coming government by Jesus Christ, the Kingdom of God—‘shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come’!”

For the first time, I saw the real meaning of that prophecy. I knew of no other preaching of this very gospel. Nowhere else was this prophecy being fulfilled. I saw, now, that this message was to go worldwide—to all nations. I did not yet envision that this very Work would be used of God in its accomplishment. But I did now see clearly that we should step up our energies and as far as it was God’s will to use us in this fulfillment, expand the Work.

I began, much more intensely than before, to focus attention on expanding the broadcast into Seattle. Almost a year before I had taken a trip to Seattle to explore the possibilities of obtaining a good time on a radio station. But no door opened then. And, in 1939 it was financially impossible.

A Heart-Touching Sacrifice

The Seattle broadcasting was started by an unusual sacrifice made by a man and wife in Clarke County, Washington, listeners over kwjj. This family had lost all they had in the great drought of 1934 and 1935. They then migrated from South Dakota and had made a down payment on a small farm a few miles outside Vancouver, Washington. The man and a son had managed to build the outside shell of a house. The siding was not yet on. A second floor had been partially laid—just the subflooring. There was no stairway as yet—and no partitions either upstairs or down—just one large room on each floor. The children slept upstairs, gaining access by climbing up a ladder.

This man had, over two or three years’ time, saved up $40 over and above bare family expenses and getting this much of a home built. The $40 was saved to buy lumber for the partitions for separate rooms in their house.

When these people heard we were trying to get started on the air in Seattle, they sent me that $40, explaining how they had saved it, and for what purpose. Since we were driving to Portland every week for the broadcast, I drove out to their little farm to return the money.

“I just couldn’t take this money,” I said, “when you have struggled so long to save it so you could have a home to live in.”

Tears filled the woman’s eyes. She shook her head, refused to accept the money back. “Mr. Armstrong,” she said, “of course it would be nice for us to get up partitions and have separate rooms—but that is not an absolute need. We just could not use this money for a temporary material home, when it will help get Christ’s message of a home for all eternity in God’s Kingdom to many thousands of people!”

I realized, then, that it was really God’s will that this money be used for His gospel—and that these people were actually receiving a spiritual blessing in giving it that far outweighed the material benefit of using it for themselves. Incidentally, these people were blessed materially after that, and it was not too long until their house was completed, after all. Jesus Christ said, seek first the Kingdom of God—the spiritual values—and the material things shall be added. God always does add them!

On the Air in SEATTLE!

When I sent out a letter to co-workers telling of this sacrifice, and the need to get on the air in Seattle, there was a surprising response. We received one day in the mail the largest sum we had ever received—$100, for broadcasting in Seattle. It took our breath!

But, a few days later, two more $100 sums came, three contributed $50 each, and several sent in single dollars.

And so, finally, three long years after the broadcast expanded from Eugene into Portland, it now leaped into Seattle!

From Seattle, I mimeographed a new co-workers’ Bulletin, the second such Bulletin in new form and dress, dated September 17, 1940. The leading caption stated the news: “Now on the Air in Seattle!”

The program started there Sunday, September 15, over 1,000-watt station krsc—twice the power of our Portland station, kwjj—and serving a larger population.

The exciting story of how we finally were enabled to add the Seattle area to those of Portland and Eugene in the broadcasting work was told in this Bulletin, and can best be told here in a condensation of that Bulletin:

There was a subhead, “How God Has Answered Prayer.”

Then: “I want to tell our family of co-workers some of the inside story of our finally getting on the air here in Seattle. I want you to know something of the problem we had to solve, the difficulties in our path, and how God went before us, answered prayer, and worked out everything so perfectly.

Answered Prayer

“Radio stations, especially in Seattle, do not want religious programs on their stations. I learned that a year ago when I was up here. I knew nothing but prayer could open the way for us, but I had faith God wanted us to speak His Word faithfully in this Seattle district, and I know He would not fail us.

“Mrs. Armstrong and I arrived in Seattle late Wednesday afternoon. I did not feel we could afford the high cost of one of the five larger 5,000-watt stations here. This reduced our possibilities to two stations. One, krsc, has never taken religious programs, and its owner gave me no encouragement when I saw him a year ago. The other station, same power, was throwing all religious programs off its station, didn’t want any more, and the price was just double what we pay in Portland.

“It looked discouraging. But I decided to see the owner of krsc again. He auditioned one of our programs. He became interested, said we had a splendid program that would attract a large listening audience. However, he would not take any outside religious program unless approved by the Seattle Council of Churches. He then called their secretary by telephone to his office to hear one of our programs auditioned. This man was well impressed with our program and also with the Plain Truth, which he carefully examined. It happened that he was familiar with the truth of our national identity in the house of Israel, and he was glad to see this truth published in the Plain Truth magazine.

“So the owner sidetracked a 4 o’clock Sunday afternoon news broadcast so we could have the same time we have over kwjj in Portland, and then made me a rate just $1.40 more per broadcast than we pay kwjj! Since this station has double the power of kwjj, and is the highest class independent station in Seattle, I’m sure you’ll realize how fortunate we were.

“There is but one explanation. God Himself worked it all out. It is surely an answer to prayer. Mrs. Armstrong and I will remain here until after next Sunday’s broadcast, which I want to conduct in person; then we shall return home. While here, we are broadcasting by transcription from kwjj. When we return home we will send transcribed broadcasts to Seattle.”

The next subhead in this Bulletin was captioned “Los Angeles Next!”

The vision of the mission to which God had called us, and in which the living Christ was using us, now expanded. World events made it clear.

The Bulletin continued:

“The Lord willing, we hope now to add a radio station in Los Angeles next. Such a station would add a quarter of a million people to those now hearing the true gospel of the Kingdom.

“As I wrote in the last Bulletin, God’s time has come for this last warning message to go—and to go to the millions, with great power! The whole world is in arms! God now calls us, His children, to arms! The warning must go!”