War does terrible things to families. It takes Dads and Mothers away from home. The children miss them and pray that they will be safe.
Soldiers, sailors, airmen and women, and nurses all had to leave their homes during the war. Some who were not in the armed services also had to leave their families and I was one of them. Our Mission Board told me that I was needed at Leonard Theological College in India or the college could not stay open. In October 1943 we were expecting Barbara to be born any day so the Board let me wait until she arrived. Then I had a phone call from New York, "Leave home New Year's Eve and get to India as fast as you can." In war time that wasn't very fast. It took me three and a half months.
You may already have read about my trip out to India. When I got to the College I found that Stanley Thoburn had also left his family behind, so both of us were married bachelors. We decided to live in the same house to share expenses. We had a good cook and the gardener kept us in fresh vegetables.
We not only taught at the college but we had many other duties. Stanley preached at the English Methodist church. I played the organ and directed the choir. Then on Sunday nights after the service we had our evening meal. At the close of the meal the cook would always bring in a small lemon meringue pie. "Have some pie," Stanley would say, and he cut the pie in four pieces and gave me one fourth of the pie. We sat talking. We usually planned for the next week. Then I said, "Stanley, let's finish that pie." That was what we did. We got accustomed to eating the whole pie each Sunday night at the close of our dinner.
Then one night when the cook brought the pie I said to Stanley, "You know, before the evening is over we will each eat half of that pie." "Yes, I guess we will," he replied. Then I suggested, "Why don't you cut that pie into two pieces. You take half and I will take half." That didn't seem a bad idea so he did it. While we talked we each ate half a pie.
Two weeks later, when the pie came, Stanley looked at it and said, "Jimmy, I don't like to eat half a pie. It just doesn't [++Page 41] taste like a pie unless it has a point." So after that he cut the pie in four pieces, but the pie was so good it was all gone before we got up from the table
Both of us were eager for news from our families. Mail didn't come very regularly in war time. Then one day I got a telegram. "The Kings will arrive in Jabalpur in a few days." Both Mr. and Mrs. King taught in the college.. They were able to come to India together because they didn't have any children. Boat people didn't like to have children on boats in wartime. When the Kings arrived they not only brought letters from Ruth and the children but best of all some lovely pictures. My how Barbara had grown. She was only two months old when I left and now she was beginning to be a little girl. Both Philip and Betty Ann also had changed. Of course it was so good to be able to see a new picture of Ruth. That made all of them seem closer and took away something of the loneliness I had been feeling.
Things were going along smoothly when Stanley got a telegram from Bishop Pickett. "I will be coming to Jabalpur and if you want me to I will preach for you on Sunday. I will be coming from Nagpur over the mountains on the small train." Sunday arrived and when the train was due I jumped on my cycle and went to the station to meet him. There stood the station agent. He said, "The train has broken down up in the mountains. I expect it around noon." So I went back at noon. The agent was still there. "Now the telegraph wires are down and we do not know when the train will come," he said. I went to the station every two hours that afternoon and then it came time for the church service. "You will have to preach, Stanley," I said. He quickly gathered up some notes and his sermon was really a good one.
Still no bishop when we sat down to eat. Then I said, "Stanley, that was a wonderful sermon. The theme was so appropriate." "What do you mean?" he asked. "Your sermon was God's Wondrous Alternative. You said that when one way in life seems to be blocked God opens us another excellent way. I liked that very much." Then I thought I would tease him a little. "But," I said, "some of the people will think that you put yourself up as the Bishop's glorious alternative." I had hardly said that when he reached over and grabbed my arm and said, "Jimmy do you think that anyone else will think of that?" Stanley is a very humble person and he would be the last person to claim he was a glorious alternative to the bishop. I was rather sorry I had put the idea into his head.
About that time we heard the noise of a horse-drawn taxi (tonga) stop outside. The bishop had come. He had not had food all day and he was tired. The cook soon brought a plate of food for him. While he and Stanley sat at the table talking I carried his suitcase and other things u to his room. As I was coming down the stairs I heard the bishop burst out laughing. He had a loud [++Page 42] but wonderful laugh. As I came into the room, Stanley burst forth saying, "Jimmy, I knew you would tell the Bishop about God's Wondrous Alternative, so I told him first." Then all of us had a good laugh.
Stanley and I lived together for a year and a half. Then our families came to India. Even though he and I had been busy, at times we were lonely. Right away when they arrived we moved into another house. I have always been thankful for the good times Stanley and I had when we lived in the same house. [by James E. McEldowney, Spring 1997]
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