Decision for Ministry

My Nissen hut barracks was the scene of my decision to enter the ministry. I became acquainted with a Chaplain, who tried on one occasion to have me transferred so that I could work as an assistant to him; that attempt failed. With time to read and reflect, I came to a major life decision; I wanted to prepare for ministry. I communicated the decision by letter to my parents. My boss, a Jewish Captain, censored all letters, and he expressed his enthusiasm for that decision, and from that day on we got on much better. Mother and Father were supportive, and my Minister, Mr. Cary, wrote that he was pleased, but not really surprised. He had sensed that which others in the church congregation had also seen in my future.

With the end of war, my discharge from the army came. During that process there was an instance of illness which was a disquieting but strong contribution to my sense of being “no longer at ease here”. My return to the United States brought me on the first boat of men to return to Boston after the German surrender.

I was sent to Atlantic City for what was called “rest and rehabilitation”, eventually then to San Antonio for discharge. In Atlantic City I was assigned to part-time office work, lived barrack-like in a hotel, and had little to do. In later years I was to identify Atlantic City as a “wasteland” of hedonism. People paced the beaches during the day, the Boardwalk at night, all seeking one form or another of pleasure. I watched the “Miss America” beauties ride their carriages in line on the Boardwalk, and it all seemed pointless.

I wondered long moments if the war had been to save the way of life I saw; “was this all worth saving?” I became ill, and was confined to a hospital bed. At one point during my hospitalization, I became almost completely deaf. Nurses had to put their mouths to my ear and speak loudly for me to hear. One violent night, seized with simultaneous vomiting and diarrhea, I was quieted with a hypodermic, and was suddenly better. Later I learned that my father had been summoned to be ready to come to Atlantic City upon notice, since there was fear for my life. Years after I read Biblical accounts of evil spirits driven from bodies, or heard missionaries tell of similar healings among Micronesian people. Combining those accounts with modern psychological interpretations, I saw clearly that Atlantic City had been for me a brief episode of severe psychological illness.

Like Eliot’s Magi, returning from Bethlehem, I was finding it harder to be “at ease” here in the old dispensation. Unaware of a pattern in these life-determining events, I was at the time concentrated on the next steps in my education for ministry.

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