Congress on World Evangelism - Lausanne

Early in February 1974 my husband and I received information about the Congress on World Evangelism to be held in Lausanne, Switzerland in July. They needed money for third world participants to be able to come. Also they needed prayer partners for the different countries. After some discussion, we responded. Of course the prayer commitment kept it somewhat fresh in my mind. But by June it was in my consciousness so much I wanted to shake it off. By two weeks before the Congress was to convene I felt like I had the itch or a case of hives. I was being needled. Finally in desperation I asked, “Lord, you couldn’t possibly want me to go to this, could you?” I had never had the experience of such profound silence. I knew, I knew that was just what He wanted, and I had not been listening.

Somehow I had never seen myself personally connected to the Congress in any other way than the way we had already responded and I had somehow closed the door there. I had been learning that I might be uncertain of the next step, but I’m always certain of God, so I’m to do the thing at hand.

Someway I had saved the receipt we had received after sending the money in February. It had the name and address of one of the men on the planning committee. I knew at this late date he would already be gone, but it was all I had to go on. I wrote a letter asking if he could give me information about whether I could get into any of the sessions or be able to find a place to stay. I added that I believed the Lord wanted me to go. I didn’t dare talk to anyone about it. It sounded so unreal even to me. This was a momentous occasion in the Christian world. It was exciting but it was for invited participants. I was forgetting that it looked like I was getting invited for some purpose that I could not imagine. But I knew the Holy Spirit was speaking and waiting for my response.

I received an answer back from my letter on Wednesday before the Congress was to convene the next Tuesday. The man to whom I had written was already gone, but his secretary answered my letter. She couldn’t give me much information, particularly about a place to stay, but she thought I would be able to buy a ticket that would enable me to go to the morning and evening general sessions. The afternoon study and discussion sessions were closed to all but the specially invited participants. But she included in her letter the call slip that was sent to those participants. She didn’t have to do that, so I decided I should accept that as a confirmation to go.

That night my husband was at another meeting and there was no time to talk. The next morning, Thursday, as I was leaving to deliver Mobile Meals, the telephone rang. It was a close friend I had known since childhood. (Note: This was Thirza Brandenburg.) She lived in Stillwater now and was a recovering alcoholic. She had been drinking, she was crying and begging me to come and get her. Her husband was abusing her. I told her I would come as soon as I finished delivering the meals, which I did. Maybe some of you know that one has to stay very close to an alcoholic if you are going to keep them from finding liquor. So there was no time to talk to my husband alone. I was getting very nervous about it, yet I also had a strong sense of being called to obey the Lord. Saturday morning came and I was just waiting to catch Dorr alone at a quiet moment to tell him about what seemed to be developing. A friend dropped by, so she and my other friend and Dorr and I were sitting around the table in our kitchen drinking coffee.

I was surprised to hear this little voice come across my mind that I only hear occasionally when I need to respond quickly. The voice said, “Now is the time to tell him.” I silently protested “No, Lord, I need to have him by himself.” Again I heard very firmly, “No, this is the time.” I was beginning to feel terrible. But as soon as there was a lull in the conversation, I looked across the table at my husband and blurted out, “Honey, I think I need to go to Lausanne, Switzerland on Monday.” Even I knew how ridiculous it sounded. He looked at me, turned red in the face, got up and said, “You are absolutely crazy,” and stomped out the back door.

I felt like I wanted to die. My “drop-in” friend soon excused herself and left. I tried to explain to my other friend what it was all about, but I knew she couldn’t understand either. Then I began to realize I was being tested. The sword of the spirit was coming down between everything I held dear and the Lord’s command.

Finally I went to the phone and made reservations to fly to Geneva on Monday, putting it on our credit card. My husband wouldn’t speak to me the rest of the weekend. I was confused; he had not acted this way before. We had a young daughter-in-law and our little grandson (Note: Denise and Chris) staying with us at that time. Her husband, our son, was out of the country on a trip. Now she was the only one I had been able to discuss the trip with. She was trying to be helpful but I knew she was thinking, “Why is she going away and leaving us?”

Late Sunday afternoon I drove my friend, who was quite sober by then, back to Stillwater. I arrived back home about 7:00 PM. Until then I had not done anything toward getting myself ready to leave on the trip. So I hurriedly washed out a few things, ironed, shampooed and had just finished packing at 2:00 AM. Just then the telephone rang. It was our son saying he was on the way home, arriving at noon on Monday. My plan was leaving at ten minutes after noon. I heard in my spirit, “Now stop worrying. He will be here to help take care of things.” That reminded me that the Lord doesn’t give you something to do without providing the needs. This strengthened me.

The next morning, (the big day), my husband left for the office without saying a word. My daughter-in-law planned to drive me to a nearby bank where we usually had a small account because there was no time to go downtown. Then she would take me to the airport. I told the Lord if He wanted me to have any money at all it would have to be in this bank. Sure enough, there was $300, which I drew out in traveler’s checks. I prayed it would be enough to last the ten days since I had no idea, really, of what I would face in Lausanne.

I called the office from the bank to tell my husband goodbye and to tell him what I had just done. I was told he was not there, that he had gone home. I called home and asked what he was doing there. He said, “I came to take you to the airport.” I told him I would meet him there.

I got to hug my son as he arrived and I was getting on my plane. My husband acted very kindly, wanted to know if I had any money and kissed me goodbye. That really helped, but I knew the sword had split asunder what had been and what would be. There was a knowing that I had to turn loose of everything that I held close and was precious to me. I had to give it to Him. I wondered if I would ever receive any of it back. At last I knew where I stood spiritually in a way I had not known before.

As I got on the plane in New York, I noticed an elderly man had been seated beside a young woman and her two small children. He looked miserable. I offered to change seats with him and he quickly accepted my offer. The young family got off at Zurich. I decided I had better move back to my assigned seat and start thinking about what I should do since Geneva was the next stop. I was wondering how I would get to Lausanne, which was about 35 or so miles on around the lake.

I had been in my original seat only about five minutes when I realized from what I was hearing that three people seated behind me surely were going to the congress. I turned around and asked them if that was where they were going. They said, “Yes, are you going there?” I answered yes but laughingly added that I wasn’t sure why and also that the only person that invited me was Jesus Christ. I shared that I was coming on rather short notice and didn’t have much information. The three people were a Dr. Baker from Wheaton, Illinois and two white women missionaries from the Ivory Coast and of course they were invited participants. They were so pleasant and told me, “Don’t worry about a thing. Just stay right with us. There will be a bus meeting all participants at the airport and will take us to Lausanne.”

After we were seated on the bus and on our way to the Congress, Dr. baker did a most beautiful and humbling thing. He took his briefcase, put it on my lap opened, and told me I could look through it. That way I could have an idea of what would be going on and the topics to be discussed. I wanted to cry because it was such a special thing for him to do. They wouldn’t let me out of their sight until we were all safely inside the large Palais that was buzzing with activity in preparation for the opening of the Congress the next day at 4:00 PM. I never saw them again. There were so many people!

I was able to buy a ticket for the full ten-day general sessions. The housing committee said they could have a room for me if I didn’t mind rooming with two German women. I was so tired I would have slept in a corner on the floor with anyone. One of the German women was with the German Salvation Army and was there only the first two nights. My other roommate was an attractive young woman in her early thirties. She was the editor of Billy Graham’s Decision Magazine in Germany. She was on the press corps at the Congress. Each night after the program was over, there was a press meeting concerning what had happened and what was to take place the next day. I would stay awake or wake up when she came in and she would tell me all the “behind the scenes” information. It was fun and very interesting. I soon understood she was a very busy person who had lost her father, a theologian, and was trying to help her mother and brother. She was so busy she was lonely. So I just asked the Lord if He would shower her with love through me during those ten days. She received it like a hungry person.

Our room was only $10 a day (a special Congress price), but it had a large closet and bath. It was a very old hotel but was supposed to be the place where Lord Byron lived when he wrote “The Prisoner of Chillon.” It was on the lakeside in the Duchy area, the favorite tourist place. When I awakened that first day and opened the shutters at the windows, I looked out on the lake and the beautiful mountains in the background. I started crying and said, “Lord, you didn’t have to do it so good.” Also each person with a room reservation had been issued a card good for free, unlimited transportation all over the city for ten days. Bus service was only a block away. By eating two scant meals a day my $300 made it. I was even able to share part of it.

On Saturday, the free day, many others and I went up in the mountains to Frances and Edith Schaeffer’s L’Brie. Part of the way there was by bus and part by train. While we were waiting at one of the stops, a Chinese reformed church pastor from Jamaica, New York and another minister from Grand Rapids asked if they could read the paperback book I had with me. I was amazed. The Chinese pastor was a speed-reader. He kept turning the pages and zowie - he was through!

Coming back they invited me to sit with them on the train. They asked me all about my family, why I was there, etc. We shared quite openly. They told me they would be praying for my family and me. When we got off the train my new Chinese friend turned to me and without asking if I would like to, simply told me with much authority that he wanted me to meet him on Monday at one o’clock in the lobby of the Palais. He wanted me in a certain workshop. Besides being surprised, I also knew there was no way anyone who was not an invited participant with the proper credentials could get in those workshops. I thought he would be busy and probably forget anyway. But he was right there at 1:00 PM. He grabbed my arm and ushered me down several corridors, opened a door, pushed me in, caught the leader’s eye and said, “Take good care of her.” So I was with this group the rest of the week. The topic of study and discussion was on suffering. I’m still learning much of what I heard there.

I usually stopped in the chapel that had been created in the Palais for the Congress at least twice a day to rest and be quiet. One day during the last week when I went in there was only one other person there. I soon realized she was sobbing uncontrollably. I couldn’t help but go to her and put my arm around her, patting her gently. It was obvious that we did not speak the same word language. She threw herself into my arms and sobbed and sobbed. As I held her and felt so much compassion, I began to get a feeling of that to which the Lord was calling me.

You see, there were so many people from all over the world. We each had to wear a tag denoting the language we spoke. There was every kind of costume and dress. I felt like I had been picked up and dropped down in the center of the world – and I knew it would not be the last time. When we all sang “Alleluia” each morning together (one word we all knew in praise to God), we knew we were family. I felt the Lord had just stamped “available” all over me.

When I came home, I had learned who I was. My family who had been so aghast when I left had a new respect for Who and what I believed. The Lord gave me back to my precious family to love them. He is putting us back together in His own way. Our young rebellious son has belonged to the Lord for quite awhile. He is one of the kindest, most helpful persons I know and he is my friend. Our other sons have their own worth and their special place in our love and life. We are all in the process of learning unconditional love. It’s true that the Lord will use everything we’ve been through in both success and failure for identification with each other. I just have to quote I Corinthians 2:9-10!

“But as it is written, eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love Him. But god has revealed them unto us by His spirit, for the Spirit searches all things, yea, the deep things of God.”

After fourteen more years, I have lost count of the “field trips.” Do you suppose one day when I was reading Isaiah my spirit was on fire and I raised my hand and said along with him, “Here I am, Lord, send me?” In the last seventeen years, I have gone with Him almost around the world. But He reminds me that the day I go with four-year-old Karly or Jessica to the zoo is just as important a trip. I agree. Or when Dorr and I are at home with one another is just as important. I agree. Also our Lord reminds me that He is my only sufficiency. I agree. Then I knew He smiles when He whispers “Now go and be who you are.”

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