COMPANIONSHIP OF THE ROAD
Buchman sailed for England on the SS Paris in June 1924. In the weeks before leaving, he had seen a good deal of his mother, and included her in his activities when he felt that they would be congenial to her. He also maintained his interest in her daily life. Inviting her to a tea in New York, he adds, 'I suggest you wear your low shoes as it is a tea. If you wear the dress which you wore to New York the last time, which would be a good one, don't wear the white sleeves or under-vest. You can wear your coat till you get there so you won't catch cold.’1 She attended the last house-party before his departure, and then preferred to return to Allentown rather than staying with him in New York until he sailed.2'The parting is not pleasant, you know, but it looks that it has to be,' she wrote from there. 'God will take care of us. Everybody tells me that you are helping them so much. Think of me and the Lord will bless you.' The letter ended, 'Goodbye, hope to meet again sometime, some- where.'3
On the same ship was Mrs Tjader. She was going to Sweden for her daughter's wedding and had provided substantial funds towards Buchman's present project, partly because he was going to visit some of the missionaries in India for whom she was responsible. Expecting to be away from America for at least two years, Buchman took no fewer than fourteen suitcases and valises, containing clothes suitable for every sort of occasion and the accumulated correspondence and memorabilia of a quarter of a century. Even the young EustaceWade, who joined him in London - and whom Buchman had christened 'Nick' because he thought he looked like the Devil - had eight pieces of luggage, containing among other things a top hat, morning coat, dinner jacket and full evening dress as well as a topee for use in India. In those formal days every garment would be needed.
There was no doubt about the purpose of the journey. 'I am taking a group of younger people with me to train them,' Buchman wrote to Mrs Shepard before he left New York;4 and he was equally explicit with Wade and Loudon Hamilton on the platform of Liverpool Street Station in London. 'Mind you,' he told them, 'there'll be discipline on this trip.'
'We didn't know what he meant at the time,' remarked Hamilton, 'but we soon found out. He expected us to have the single-mindedness of St Paul, "this one thing I do", with no hold-back - and he wasn't going to have any tomfoolery.' In the breakfast-car of the train carrying them across Holland, Hamilton remarked jocularly that it was interesting to be behind enemy lines again. At this, Buchman, thinking of the neutral Dutch he was taking them to see, exploded. If he was going to talk in that way, he told Hamilton, he could leave the party and go home. 'Loudon went red,' recalled Wade, 'and I went white. It was a first-class raspberry, the size of a grapefruit!'
Their first stop was Baron van Heeckeren's home at Rhederoord, where they were joined by Sam Shoemaker. Buchman had met the Baroness's mother, Countess Bentinck, in England the previous year. After a tea-party in her London home* she said that her son-in-law had left a pair of pyjamas on his last visit and asked if Buchman would take them to him on his forthcoming visit to Holland. News thereupon reached the van Heeckeren family that a German student was arriving with the Baron's laundry. Clarification must have followed, as on arrival at Rhederoord, Buchman and his companions were among the guests at a ball followed by a house-party. The Baron held a senior position at Court where one of his daughters, Albertina, was a lady-in-waiting and, according to Wade, 'half the Dutch aristocracy came in'.
(* The hostess on this occasion followed her usual practice of getting all her guests on their knees for prayers after the second cup of tea. 'Oh God,' she began, 'bless Mr Bunkum.' Her subsequent letters were addressed to 'Dr Bookman'.)
The Baron and Baroness were devout Christians, holding family prayers every morning. Their daughters, however, were not at all attracted to their parents' religion. 'We went to church because we were supposed to,' says Albertina, 'it wasn't something real.' 'Our aim in life was enjoyment,' says another daughter, Lily. 'Going to balls, being presented at Court, those were the things we liked.'
The van Heeckerens' friends were of much the same ilk. They thoroughly enjoyed the dance but went with mixed feelings to the house-party - to which they were invited by a card which announced, somewhat forbiddingly, that 'Mr Buchman will give an address'.
Actually, Buchman gave no formal address. Sitting down in the drawing room, 'among many question marks, some exclamation marks, many curious, others prepared to be bored,' records Albertina, 'he said, "I think I'll tell you a story . . .",' which he proceeded to do. Other stories of changed lives followed, and as the evening wore on he remarked cheerfully, 'I can see the walls coming down.' Next morning there was a bigger crowd. Sitting on the stairs in full evening dress was an agnostic student, Eric van Lennep, who asked Buchman afterwards why he had been looking at him during the whole morning. As a result of the ensuing conversation, van Lennep started on the road to faith, and worked with Buchman for many years to come.
The lives of the entire van Heeckeren family and household were permanently affected. As a result, a series of house-parties was held at Rhederoord during the next few years. After one, the Baroness felt that she had not been treating her servants properly and publicly apologised to them. She also apologised to an aunt with whom she had had a bitter quarrel, and faced up to and lost the hatred she felt towards the Germans because one of her brothers had been killed on the Somme. That, in turn, led to a reconciliation with the German branch of the Bentinck family.
The van Heeckeren children, then in their late 'teens and early twenties, were just as deeply influenced. Buchman played tennis with them, and they liked his relaxed manner - 'he had a real sense of humour and there was such a twinkle in his eye'. But what captivated them was his vision of what they might do for their country and the world. It was quite clear to them that Buchman was challenging them to live a revolutionary life. 'He talked about risking all our relationships,' adds Lily. 'He told us we needed an experience of the Cross, and I used to wonder what he meant. When we asked him what we should do, he said, "All that God tells you." '
So far as the van Heeckerens were concerned Buchman seems to have followed his own advice: he often spoke to them with great freedom and candour. 'You haven't enough Christianity to change a flea,' he once told Lily.*
(* Several of the van Heeckeren children travelled with Buchman at various times; more than fifty years later, four daughters are still committed to his work.)
From that first house-party onwards Buchman also spent a good deal of time with the family servants, particularly the nanny and chauffeur. 'How he cared for our nanny!' recalls Lily. 'He had long talks with her - she'd had a disagreement with the nanny at the German Bentincks, and she put that right - and he always wanted to know how she and the chauffeur were.'
After Rhederoord, Buchman and his friends went on to Germany. They visited Kurt Hahn's school at Salem, and Buchman's old friends at the von Bodelschwingh colony of Bethel, near Bielefeld. Like the rest of Germany, it was still suffering from the horrors of the post-war hyper-inflation, some of the patients 'lying on sawdust without blankets or sheets', according to Hamilton. It left an indelible mark on his mind, as it did on Buchman's. 'Everything was ersatz,' recalled Hamilton. 'People were dying as they walked, shuffling about without shoes. Families sold their daughters.' Buchman had arranged four years earlier for three cows to be sent to Bethel, and now renewed his attempts to get American friends to help needy Germans.
In Southern Germany they met Frau Hanfstaengl, an American from a New England family, the Sedgwicks, whose ancestors included the general who 'marched through Georgia' in the Civil War. The young Adolf Hitler had become a regular visitor to the Hanfstaengl home after her son Ernst ('Putzi') had got to know him. Frau Hanfstaengl showed Buchman and his friends the room where Hitler had hidden after the Munich Putsch in the previous year. She had, she said, told Hitler that unless he changed his attitude to the Jews she would never support him. ‘That I will never do,' he had replied.
In Florence Buchman, Hamilton and Wade had dinner with King George of Greece and his family. Buchman had seen a good deal of him in London, before he returned to Greece to take up the throne in 1922. The King had said to Hamilton, 'When are you men coming to Greece? Buchman is the only person we can trust not to be out for himself.' Now they met again in Italy, with the Queen Mother, Sophie, and King George's grandmother, Queen Olga. In 1923, King George had been forced to leave Greece once more, and the misery of exile often made him and his family turn to Buchman.
From Italy Buchman's party travelled on the Simplon-Orient Express to Constantinople. At Queen Sophie's request, he himself flew from there to Bucharest to visit her daughter Helen, who was married to Crown Prince Carol. Queen Marie of Romania, an able high-spirited English princess, granddaughter of both Queen Victoria and Tsar Alexander II, invited him to join King Ferdinand and herself at Peles Castle at Sinaia and asked that one of his party should also come.
Hamilton immediately set out to join Buchman. His cabled announcement did not arrive, but at the station he was - as he later discovered - mistaken for visiting royalty and picked up in a large car. This mistaken identity got him through three road blocks en route for Peles Castle. On arrival at the heavily guarded castle, confusion was worse confounded when he asked for Mr Buchman, which also happened to be the name of the butler who opened the front door. Luckily, at this point, Frank Buchman looked out of the sitting-room window and called down, 'Oh, that's one of mine!' Finally ushered into Queen Marie's presence, Hamilton found Buchman recounting the story of the Beef and Beer Club.
Both Queen Marie and Crown Princess Helen wanted Hamilton to become tutor to Helen's young son Michael (later King Michael), but neither Hamilton nor Buchman felt he should take the job. After a week in which they formed friendships which were to last a lifetime, they left to rejoin the others in Constantinople.
There Buchman was asked to address the student body of Robert College. One of the audience later described the occasion: 'Before him were seated, besides most of the faculty, about seven hundred hard-boiled, cynical students of many ages and nationalities. There were no oratorical tricks, no attempt to make an impression. On the contrary, one could feel his intense earnestness. He told us what happened to a real boy, with real problems, when God came into his life. At the end he asked us all to repeat that boy's prayer: 'Oh God, manage me because I cannot manage myself.' It went straight to the heart of the matter.'5
The vitality of the group left behind in Constantinople was typical of those left at other places on the journey. The same student, George Moissides - then a minister in Canterbury, Connecticut - described later how he and his friends, Gregory Vlastos, Homer Kalcas, Dashem Hussein Shams-Davari and Rashid Alajaji, were affected. 'What a total change that one weekend fifty years ago brought to my personal life and to that of so many of my friends!' commented Moissides.6 Most kept in touch with Buchman for many years, some till his death. Vlastos became Professor of Philosophy at Princeton, Kalcas taught in Turkey, and Shams-Davari managed the Persian Oil Company at Ahwaz, where he translated films and books about Buchman's work into Farsi.
The party sailed for Alexandria soon after the anniversary of the end of the 1914-18 war. Wade recalls that, as they passed through the Dardanelles, Buchman walked towards the stern of the ship, took off his hat, threw his Armistice Day poppy over the side and quietly spoke some lines of Rupert Brooke, who had died near there.
In Cairo they were joined by Sherwood Day and Van Dusen Rickert, an Oriental languages graduate from Princeton. Buchman was delighted to have Day with him again. Buchman said to the younger men, 'Sherry is dependable twenty-four hours in the day. It will be great when the rest of you get to that point. Sherry never maladapts.' In Cairo too, Shoemaker received a long-expected invitation to become the Rector of Calvary Church in Gramercy Park, New York, to which he replied, 'Judgement unfavourable now ... writing.'7
By the time the party reached Palestine, the atmosphere had become distinctly strained. Individually, they were devout enough. There were, Wade recalled, no regulated observances but all the group normally kept a time of private prayer and meditation and shared such thoughts as they then had with their room-mates. They were also able to help many of the people they met. Nevertheless, as the journey proceeded, strains and irritations developed to the point where Buchman noted, 'You can be in the Holy Land and Hell at the same time.'
To begin with, there were natural jealousies and rivalries. There was also the fact that each had joined the trip for different motives: one or two were more interested in the delights of travel than in creating the kind of disciplined team which Buchman had in mind. Buchman also conducted affairs in a style which the younger men sometimes found baffling. According to Hamilton, for example, they were always delighted when a hostess asked Buchman, 'And where are you going next?' as this enabled them to discover what their itinerary was to be. Then, too, there were the natural preoccupations of able, ambitious young men. Shoemaker was much attracted to the offer from Calvary Church. This was a constant pull. Once he came back from a shopping expedition in Constantinople laden with Bokhara rugs and other ornaments, and his cabin-mate, Hamilton, asked what he had bought them for. 'They'll look good in my rectory,' replied Shoemaker.
Such preoccupations aside, there was another irritant: a dislike of the discipline which Buchman, the initiator of the venture and older than all his companions but Day by twenty years, sought to impose. For example, one of the party arranged to speak at a school. At the last moment, Buchman suggested that two others should go with him. It meant the sacrifice of a carefully-prepared solo speech, and the willingness to become one of a group. Buchman felt that they needed training to work as a team: self-will, pride, the prima donna element would have to be cured if their future work was to have any lasting effect. But young men of high calibre and considerable self-esteem did not see it that way. 'We were far from being a united team,' Hamilton commented. 'Sherry Day was the most loyal. The rest of us were raw, self-willed, undisciplined and egotistical. Our selfishness grated on each other....' At the time, however, they were more apt to blame Buchman than themselves.
'The climax came later on board the ship between Suez and Colombo,' writes Hamilton. 'Frank was resting in his cabin for two or three days, and one day he said to Sam, "Sam, just list my laundry, will you, and give it to the steward?" Sam came up on deck very angry. He met me and told me of this request of Frank's, and said that he had absolutely refused to do it. He said, "I would rather preach five sermons than do what he asked me. I have surrendered my life to Jesus Christ, not to Frank Buchman."’
Shoemaker's reactions to the disciplines of the journey were not unexpected. He was a handsome, confident and charismatic young man. Shortly before this trip he had been invited to take part in a major evangelical campaign alongside Sherwood Eddy. Buchman had replied to Shoemaker's request for advice on this proposition: 'The warning no's have come in my quiet time with alarming constancy and I would not be faithful if I kept silent.. . You have been riding roughshod over experiences which have forged Sherry and I into an intelligent, workable team...You need a year's discipline in a team, such as a year's trip around the world would give you. You need the drab, not the dramatic.... I can only say this, - that if you are led to go and your convictions differ with mine after you have checked with everyone ... go, and God abundantly bless you. With assurances of the finest spirit of affection and mutual confidence, whatever may be your choice.'8
They reached India on 10 December and spent Christmas in Madras. Buchman disappeared on Christmas Eve, and reappeared with a Christmas tree, decorations and presents, and a signed photograph of Gandhi for each of them - 'a priceless present', Wade observed.
It was plain, however, that the air needed to be cleared, and after Christmas they kept a day free for that purpose. In many ways it was like the conversations in the Tientsin Hotel room all over again. This, however, was an even more painful confrontation: Wade and Rickert, as relatively new boys, kept well clear of it, but as Hamilton recalled, Shoemaker, Day and he all spoke their minds forcibly:* 'We all tried to say what we felt and, from our side, we said fairly bluntly the things we felt Frank had been - secretive, authoritarian, inconsiderate.'
(* Godfrey Webb-Peploe, the last to join the party in Port Said, had by now carried out his previous plan to visit Amy Carmichael's mission centre in Dohnavur.)
Wade saw Buchman coming out, tears rolling down his cheeks. 'They're all against me, Nick,' he said. 'What have I done?'
Wade replied that he thought Buchman had been a bit outspoken.
'Do you really think so?' asked Buchman, in great distress.
'Yes,'said Wade,'I do.'
'It isn't easy to get a profound unity of six people,' wrote Shoemaker to Mrs Tjader, a few days later. 'All of us have our characteristic sins and weaknesses...(Frank) is so in the habit of holding others in line that he isn't always ready to be held himself.'9
Despite these private upheavals, the months in India were rewarding. On 23 December Buchman had met Gandhi again at the Congress Party conference at Belgaum, and photographs show them laughing vigorously with Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, later the Governor-General of independent India, and the Ali brothers, the Muslim leaders in whose home Gandhi had recently completed a 21-day fast. There, too, he first met the young Jawaharlal Nehru, who afterwards sent Buchman his photograph and asked for the book, Life Changers, which Buchman had promised to send him. Unitedly the party took on the Student Christian meetings with friends like Gandhi's confidant, C. F. Andrews* and Bishop Pakenham-Walsh.
(* The Revd Charles F. Andrews, who died in 1940, was a missionary and author who devoted himself to the rights of the Indian people both in India and in Africa.)
Then some visited Amy Carmichael at the Dohnavur Fellowship. From there Buchman wrote a letter to Mrs Tjader, in which he described a growing dream: 'She is easily the greatest missionary I have yet met, and her place has the atmosphere we desire for The School of Life ... We need a demonstration centre with living miracles all about us with reality as the keynote. ... It will be a quiet, slow but expanding and multiplying work, just as people here flock from all the corners of the world and people are praying for it in fifteen countries. I am so happy today....'10 The regard seems to have been mutual. After this visit Amy Carmichael wrote in the Dohnavur Letter, 'Let no one judge this man by anything written about him. Frank Buchman is out for one thing only, to win men for Jesus Christ.'11* .
(* In 1929 Buchman's colleagues in America converted Amy Carmichael's brother, which she described in writing Buchman on 4 August 1930 as 'my greatest joy of the last year on the human side'. She wrote her brother, 'In England, and Scotland too, all sorts of lies are being circulated about Mr Buchman and his friends. I have known him for years and always found him a true man...Well, the devil hates and, if he can, discredits such a man....’ In 1932 pressure from supporters of Dohnavur induced her to write that the Dohnavur fellowship had no connection with the Oxford Group, a step she had long resisted. She sent the statement to Buchman, saying, 'I hope you won't disown your friend and comrade in prayer', (6 January 1932), and warm letters continued between them until at least October 1938. Buchman, of course, had never suggested there was a connection, and used her prayers at meetings until the end of his life.)
They stayed with the Anglican Metropolitan of India, Foss Westcott, in Calcutta, and in February, while in Darjeeling, met Jan Masaryk, the future Czech Foreign Minister. In March they were the guests of Lord Reading at Viceregal Lodge. When Buchman lunched with the Viceroy, the Ali brothers came up in conversation. 'Those rascals,' said Reading, 'I have to keep putting them in gaol. What would you do with them?'
'If I were in your place, 'Buchman replied, 'I would do to them what you have done for me - put them in the seats of honour at your table and get to know them.'
The Viceroy's senior ADC, Ralph Burton, introduced Buchman to the Maharajah of Gwalior. This eccentric character enjoyed setting fire to his courtiers' turbans for the pleasure of seeing them duck their heads into the nearest fountain to extinguish the flames. He also had an electric train which carried choice liqueurs around his dining table, with a secret switch beside him, which enabled him to speed up the train so that it passed any guest he wished to tease.
He was evidently much taken by Buchman and his friends. After dinner on the evening of a Hindu festival, Buchman and Wade were strolling under the moon when they encountered him. 'He said to Frank, "Come and talk to me," ' recalled Wade, 'and we all sat down on a marble bench. First there was a long silence, which Buchman did not attempt to break.
Then the Maharajah said, "Do I understand that you believe Jesus Christ can change human nature?" Frank replied, "That's exactly what we do believe, that's why we're here."'
Buchman wrote to the Maharajah a few days later, 'Further answering your question about God's guidance, I find that the appetites of the flesh are the most damaging factor in keeping us from knowing God... .'12
In a brief lull in the journeying, Van Dusen Rickert attempted 'to bring some order into Frank's chaotic correspondence. And it is an amazing correspondence, from people all over the world; religious workers and loafers, nobility, and celebrities and common people... and is a hopeless morass of letters, postcards, photos, cablegrams, bills, receipts, notes, wedding announcements, pamphlets, duplicates, guidance jottings, guide books, tracts, steamship booklets, reports, etc., all floundering stubbornly through 14 valises and trunks. A two-weeks' job to straighten it all up; and I have had a day and a half. And nothing must be thrown away, however useless – old barren envelopes, toothpicks, battered Romanian hotel stationery – all are priceless … Well, I got two-thirds of it roughly classified, and stowed away the residue into the absurd black patent leather drum bag without a handle which completes his impedimenta.’13
A good many doors opened to Buchman and his friends because of their effect on the lives of those they met. In Madras, for example, they came across a prominent Scottish business man called George Kenneth, whose alcohol bill was reputed to be the largest in the city. Buchman called on him at his office, but was received with marked curtness. 'I am busy,' Kenneth told him flatly.
'So am I,' retorted Buchman with matching crispness; he left Kenneth with a copy of Life Changers and his name and address, and departed. Next day, Kenneth called, saying that he had read the book and had all the time in the world.
As a result of their talks, Kenneth became a practising Christian, gave up alcohol and dramatically altered the running of his business life. He began by calling together the dozen foremen of his printing company - most of whom were Hindus - and telling them about his change. 'This business', he said, 'has been a failure. From now on, Christ is to be the head of it, and we shall work together along entirely new lines. I have treated you like dogs and you have worked only because you feared me. Now, I would like you to help me put this business on a wholly new basis.' He then shook hands with each in turn. It was the change in Kenneth which first interested Lord Lytton, then Governor of Bengal, in Buchman and his work.
By March the whole travelling group had begun to disperse. In January Shoemaker had received another cable from Calvary Church, and this time accepted the job. Buchman was still convinced that he should not leave. 'I have an uneasy feeling that this decision of yours will lead to trouble,' he said. 'I'm leaving by train this very night,' Shoemaker replied.
Wade, who had always intended to be ordained, and Van Dusen Rickert went back to their respective countries, where they worked closely with Buchman in various ways. Hamilton left for home after a serious illness caused by drinking contaminated water, and when he had recovered, went back to Oxford, was given rooms free in Wycliffe Hall and continued the day-in, day-out work of training a group in the university. It was to be three years before he and Buchman met again, although they maintained intermittent contact.
It had been a journey which probably fell well below Buchman's hopes. Yet his vision of an explosive and revolutionary upheaval within the Christian world, led by the sort of young men with whom he had been travelling, remained undimmed. 'A new approach is needed to overcome the deadness,' he noted. 'Respectable Christianity will not do it ... A band of young people who represent God in His attractiveness, in His excellence, and radiate His love by caring.... The Living Christ not every hour, but every minute of the day.'
Buchman and Sherwood Day remained in India. In the next few weeks, they again met an astonishing range of people, both British and Indian. They saw Gandhi twice more at the Sabarmati Ashram and in Foss Westcott's home in Calcutta. They met Nehru again at Allahabad. They were at Viceregal Lodge for the departure of Lord Reading and the inauguration of Lord Lytton as Acting Viceroy. Buchman particularly prized long talks with Lord Lytton, who, after one of them, visited two men awaiting sentence after a bomb attempt on his life. 'I would never have done that if I had not met you,' he told Buchman. 'You have taught me to talk to the ordinary man.'
By now, indeed, Buchman seemed to have won the confidence of many of the British Raj. Visiting Ralph Burton in hospital unexpectedly one day, he was approached by a senior nurse. 'Oh, Mr Buchman,' she said, 'the Commander-in-Chief is dying and Lady Rawlinson is in great distress. Can you come to her? We didn't know where to find you.'
More and more, however, he became convinced that the old regime was on the way out. 'The old gang - no good,' he noted. 'The East is going to correct the West. Gandhi is on the right track.' Of one of his meetings with Gandhi at this time he used to say in later life, 'Walking with him was like walking with Aristotle.'
In the midst of all this Buchman heard in April that his mother had fallen and broken her hip. He had kept up the flow of letters to her, some starting in Pennsylvania Dutch. His mother had been invited to spend Christmas of 1924 with Mrs Tjader and had greatly enjoyed it. Now Mrs Tjader went to Allentown to be with her as she lay in hospital, and cabled Buchman, 'This week she will either go from us or recover.' Buchman cabled from Madras on 6 May, 'Many loving messages. God assures me all is well. In Jesus' keeping we are safe. No separation. Call in best consultant.' He travelled by night train to a house-party in Kodaikanal. There next day he received the news that his mother had died. Buchman sometimes related that he had been forewarned while travelling. 'At the moment of death, the carriage suddenly seemed lit up, as bright as day.'
In those days it would have been impossible to return for the funeral - which was attended by a thousand people and at which Buchman asked Shoemaker to speak; but on the same day, 12 May, at Kodaikanal, a memorial service was conducted by a clergyman from Calcutta Cathedral.
Buchman wrote, 'The memorial service was attended by Indians and Europeans. A triumphant note pervaded the service. The young Indian who shared my pew had spent two Christmases with our family in America.'14 To Mrs Tjader he wrote, 'As you left home with mother, Sherry and I went down by the lakeside - and such a moon with the Southern Cross. It was wonderful beyond words. There was the lake and the fine lane of spruce and then the mist and the stars. It seemed as if God had planned it all... There has been a nearness and a peace that has been beyond description.''15
Mrs Buchman's influence on Frank Buchman had been profound. Her strong sense of right and wrong, her home-making qualities and down- to-earth common-sense remained with him. He wrote to her once, 'The liberty which I have always enjoyed is one of your strongest traits. It has taught me to think and act for myself.'16 She had tried at first to form his future and, when he was in China, was often clamant that he should return home. He was loving in his letters, but clear that he must not waver from doing what he felt God asked of him, however painful he found it. Then, at a certain point, his mother yielded her attempts at control. This appears to have taken place during his time in China. At any rate, a change there was, and Buchman wrote later in his life, 'Her one wish for me was that I do God's will, and having decided that she backed me, even at difficult times when it meant I could not be near her.'17 In later years, she always rejected the view of those who said her son should stay with her. During her last Christmas, she had said to a friend, 'Christ's work must go on. Yes, I miss Frank, but I would not interfere. He is under a higher authority.' Her last letter to her son, written on the day of her accident, ended, 'Some day we shall meet.'18 It reached him in Australia, two months later.
Buchman's own account of his three months in Australia was characteristically enthusiastic. 'We arrived almost unknown. We began with a student at Melbourne University. Some twenty men came the first weekend with beliefs ranging from Hellenism to agnosticism, and one Rugger Blue told us he was an orthodox, nominal Anglican who did not believe in God. The Hellenist told us that the three weekends brought him back to a faith in Jesus Christ. . . The changed lives set Melbourne agog . . . We had interviews at all hours.'19
Thirty years later, one of those present, S. Randal Heymanson, by then the representative of the Australian Newspaper Service in Washington, described the scene: 'There must have been about a dozen of us. I remember Bob Fraser, now Director-General of the Independent Television Authority in Britain; "Mac" Ball, now Professor Macmahon Ball, who represented Australia on the Allied Council that governed Japan immediately after the war, and George Paton, now Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne . .. Frank sat in a big arm-chair and the rest of us, preferring the floor, gathered in a semi-circle around him. We were a difficult group, and I blush for our youthful arrogance ... All our criticisms and objections he must have heard and answered a thousand times, but he listened attentively to each of us as we paraded our store of learning and made our clever little points . . . For those who heard and those who would not hear, Frank Buchman had the same infinite kindness and understanding. . . From dawn till past midnight he was at the service of even the least promising, always cheerful, seemingly never discouraged.'20 In introducing a radio talk by Buchman on 10 July, Frank Russell spoke of 'a number of our brightest young university men who have been captured, or at any rate captivated', and described him as 'a buccaneer of souls, making them walk a moral plank'.21
Among others he met was Prime Minister Stanley Bruce. 'I know you are changing lives,' Bruce remarked. 'What baffles me is how!' They also spent two hours with his immediate predecessor, the legendary Labour pioneer 'Billy' Hughes.
In September Day left for America - a business man had cabled, 'Need you for a hundred house-parties' - while Buchman decided to return via Asia and Europe. He went through Siam and Burma back to India, where he stayed for a weekend with Rabindranath Tagore and talked again with Lord Lytton. He wrote to a friend in January, with mixed accuracy of foresight, 'I was with Ghandi (sic) yesterday for two hours. He is no longer a political leader but the sphere of his usefulness will be sainthood, and a compelling one at that.'22 He was unable to accept a subsequent cabled invitation from Gandhi to revisit the Sabarmati Ashram.
In Burma he had received an SOS from Queen Sophie in Rome. 'The atmosphere in the family here is rather troubled and all wrong and in my distress I thought I would turn to you first of all to ask for your prayers and then advice and help.'23 In Rome he spent much time with her and the younger members of her family, as well as several days with Queen Olga, 'a marvellous Christian who has seen much sorrow'. He was extremely tired, but on receiving a rather desperate invitation from Queen Marie of Romania,24 he left for Bucharest where she asked him if he would stay a month. 'Don't leave me,' she begged. 'I can't speak to anyone else.' But Buchman could only manage two weeks. The Queen wrote of him 'spreading his kind, uniting atmosphere over us all'.25 Back in London he found the head-waiter, housekeeper and manager of Brown's Hotel waiting up for him, and sat talking to them until almost one in the morning.
The rest of the summer was no less hectic. There were two house-parties at Rhederoord, several visits to Germany, a brief visit to Allentown for his mother's memorial service during which his old college, Muhlenberg, conferred on him an honorary Doctorate of Divinity, and lunch with Archbishop Söderblom of Sweden at Brown's Hotel in London. Queen Olga died in July and he went to her funeral.
Back in London he ran into concerted opposition. 'Damnable undermining on the part of a well-known group of homosexuals has begun on one of our younger converts who has been going along splendidly,' he wrote to Day in September. 'They called for him in a luxurious motor at eleven o'clock at night. They took him to fly in an aeroplane. When they saw they could not seduce him, they asked him to sleep with one of the well-known political mistresses in London. When this was refused, he was accused of having slept with another fellow. Can you beat it?'26
In the years since he had left China, he had encountered many people whose lives were governed by their homosexual tendencies. Two men who had attended one of his house-parties in Surrey, for example, had been 'flagrantly troubled with it'. 'They are hard and difficult but unconvincing,' Buchman noted. 'I intend to follow a fearless programme, combined with charity, which considers one's self lest one also be tempted, and thus forge a message for myself and others that will transform lives.'
Through the years many lives were indeed transformed, and Buchman's whole-time colleagues included people who had had homosexual tendencies but who had found a freedom which enabled them to use their lives for constructive ends. His approach to sex, in whatever form, was always the same. He believed it to be a natural gift of God to be used under His direction, not indulged in promiscuously. He understood the progression from indulgence to addiction, and regarded such addiction as a spiritual captivity, or, in plainer words, sin. 'Sin is the disease, Christ is the cure, the result is a miracle,' was his response to every level of such captivity. He was neither shocked nor prurient. He never condemned, still less exposed people. He felt that his task was to offer a cure which would set free people's creative qualities for the good of others and the world at large.
He did believe that active homosexuality was in danger of producing other problems of greater seriousness than itself: an exclusive attitude which kept out all other people and took precedence over every other loyalty, a vicious attitude to those outside the circle, and the squandering of often gifted lives. He also came to notice that some homosexuals had a crusading zeal for their way of life which, as in the case mentioned above, often brought them into collision with his work. But he never doubted that every person who wished could be liberated.
In the September of 1926 Buchman was in Geneva. He had lunch there one day with Nehru. By this time Nehru had read Life Changers, but had confessed in a letter that, despite Gandhi's influence, 'the way of faith does not fit with my present mentality'.27
While in Rome that February the talk was all of Mussolini, who had come to power four years before, and the social improvements which he was initiating in those early days. Buchman wrote to him asking for an interview. 'My mission is the development of constructive leadership in different countries,' he wrote.28
He also sent Mussolini a copy of Life Changers. 'Do not consign this book to a museum,' he said in a covering note to Mussolini's secretary. 'Suggest to His Excellency that he keep it for his son, Vittorio, for reading when he is a suitable age.29
Later Buchman heard Mussolini speak in Perugia and apparently was impressed - 'He said some excellent things,' he wrote to Mrs Tjader30 - but appends no comment on a subsequent interview which, from someone as ebullient as Buchman, appears to indicate that it was a failure or at least a disappointment. Years later, when Stanley Baldwin, as Prime Minister, asked him his impressions of Mussolini, he paused as if searching for the right word and then said, 'He seemed to me a poseur.'
Now it was time to return to America. At Geneva Buchman had received a cable from Queen Marie suggesting he travel on the same boat as she and her party did. He agreed, and they sailed on the Leviathan on 12 October. He spent a good deal of time with the royal family on the ship, and one night they gave a formal dinner for him. Afterwards they discussed the days in New York. The Queen said she wished to express publicly her debt to Buchman of which she had so often spoken privately. Prince Nicolas suggested that there should be a house-party for this purpose, in place of the one in Romania which had been postponed because of the trip. In the end, however, it was agreed to make it a reception at the rooms which Mrs Tjader provided for Buchman at 11 West 53rd Street. Buchman cabled New York, 'Queen accepts tea twenty-fourth Ileana Nicolas accompany.'31
In New York, however, a major row about Buchman and his work was already brewing.
1 Buchman to mother, 19 March 1924.
2 ibid., 28 May 1924.
3 Mrs Buchman to Buchman, 9 June 1924.
4 Buchman to Mrs J. Finlay Shepard, 9 May 1924.
5 Revd George Moissides, March 1958; then of the American Academy, Larnaca, Cyprus.
6 Moissides, 21 March 1974.
7 Harris, p. 8.
8 Buchman to Shoemaker, 26 January 1924.
9 Shoemaker to Mrs Tjader, 28 December 1924.
10 Buchman to Mrs Tjader, 11 January 1925.
11 Makower, p. 129.
12 Buchman to Maharajah of Gwalior, 26 March 1925.
13 Martin MSS.
14 Circular letter from Buchman, Singapore, 12 October 1925.
15 Buchman to Mrs Tjader, 20 May 1925.
16 Buchman to mother, 22 April 1903.
17 Buchman to Bishop of Beirut, 15 August 1960.
18 Mrs Buchman to Buchman, 18 April 1925.
19 An account of the months in Australia is given in Buchman's circular letter from Singapore, 12 October 1925, and, in more detail, in regular letters to Mrs Tjader.
20 Frank Buchman - Eighty (Blandford, 1958), pp. 162-4.
21 Frank Russell introducing Buchman on radio in Melbourne, l0 July 1926.
22 Buchman to Eleanor Forde, 14 January 1926.
23 Martin MSS.
24 Buchman to Mrs Tjader, 18 February 1926: ‘Queen Marie has just wired “The sooner you come the more happy we shall be,” and so I am off tonight.’
25 Hannah Pakula: The Last Romantic (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1985), p.337
26 Buchman to Sherwood Day, 2 September 1926.
27 Jawaharlal Nehru to Buchman, 1 May 1926.
28 Buchman to Benito Mussolini, 6 February 1926.
29 Acknowledged by Mussolini’s secretary, 24 February 1926.
30 Buchman to Mrs Tjader, 6 October 1926
31 Buchman to ‘WRYDRUDGE NEW YORK’, October 1926 (undated draft in files).