In April 1915 Buchman left Pennsylvania State College, permanently as it turned out.* America still being neutral, Mott had asked if he would join a small 'flying squadron' of experienced workers for service among the prisoners-of-war in Europe;1 then, a few days later, the evangelist, Sherwood Eddy, with Mott's agreement, pressed him to go instead to India to help to prepare a large-scale religious campaign. Buchman, as he well knew, had built up a reputation for lasting personal work at Penn State - Mott thought it 'the most thorough he had ever seen'2 - and was therefore the man to help lay the groundwork for the new campaign. Buchman had longed since 1902 to visit India and, in spite of his mother's protests at his leaving America, fanned by her fears of German torpedoes, he went. He sailed on 28 June for Marseilles in the Italian ship Patria, and thence to Colombo on 16 July.
(* Sparks renewed his invitation to Buchman to return to Penn State in a letter of 9 October 1916.)
He found an India where the British Raj reigned supreme, if not secure. Gandhi, whom Buchman met briefly at the home of Bishop Whitehead in Madras, had only just come back from South Africa and was still a little-known figure on the fringe of political life. At that stage he seems to have made no particular impact on Buchman, nor Buchman on Gandhi. Buchman also stayed at the Viceregal Lodge while Lord Hardinge was Viceroy, and toured three of the princely states, in company with Sam Higginbotham, founder of the agricultural mission in Allahabad. Others from this period who became friends were Rabindranath Tagore and Amy Carmichael, creator of the Dohnavur Fellowship near Tinnevelly, which he described as 'the place nearer heaven than any spot on earth'.
During the next six months Buchman travelled throughout India, from Travancore in the south to Rawalpindi in the north, from Bombay to Calcutta, criss-crossing the continent many times, paying three visits to Madras. In Travancore, where his campaign began, Eddy claimed a total in audiences of 400,000, and there were 60,000 at a single meeting which Buchman addressed. Buchman's main function, however, was to help to train the Christian workers whose job it was to follow up these vast meetings; in Travancore, he had a workers' group of 1,300, 'with the Metropolitan and clergy of the Mar Thoma Church in attendance'.*
(* The South Indian church traditionally founded by St Thomas.)
The huge set-piece meetings, with platform speeches tediously relayed to the back of the throng by a chain of interpreters, struck Buchman as largely ineffective. It was 'like hunting rabbits with a brass band', he said. What was needed, he insisted, was 'personalised work', detailed dealing with the moral and spiritual needs of individual people, and definite decisions. 'We must simply rivet, rivet, rivet from the very first moment,' he wrote to E. C. Carter, the Joint General Secretary of the YMCA's National Council for India and Ceylon. 'Every leader must be permeated with this idea, and be incisive in his addresses and personal dealings. We need to study each man.'3
His ardour was fuelled by what he considered the ineffectiveness of the YMCA Secretaries he came across in city after city. As it seemed to him, many were religious bureaucrats whose energies were absorbed by administration. 'The Christian workers in India need to be taught the "how" of Christian service,' he wrote to Mott in November. 'There are agencies abundant and many Christian workers, but they do not seem to get into close, vital touch with the people ….. There is an utter lack of consciousness everywhere of the need of individually dealing with men.'4
'The danger', he wrote to Eddy in a later letter, 'is, we do not know our Secretaries. The International Committee think they know, but to be absolutely frank, they do not.… We depend on hostels, organisation. We must go deeper. Otherwise, we will develop a constituency of parasites.
'Some do not even know how to deal with a man who has the simplest needs. Three Indian Secretaries worked side by side with one American. The problem of one of these men was dishonesty. The Indians knew about it. The community knew about it, and, most of all, the man himself knew about it. But no one seemed to know how to cure the dishonesty and make it the stepping-stone to a life of power. A simple twenty minutes changed the whole tenor of his life.' Buchman enclosed a letter from the man to illustrate the story.5 His own eighteen-page letter gave many other instances of how he had found himself dealing with the same elementary moral problems as in Penn State and other American colleges. He also found in many the same need which Meyer had revealed to him in himself at Penn State - fruitless activism operating an unproductive organisation.
Some of Buchman's colleagues no doubt found this sort of criticism irritating, implying as it did that they had been missing the point.
Nonetheless, his direct dealing with the moral weaknesses of individuals seems to have been both effective and welcomed at headquarters. 'This Buchman', wrote K. T. Paul to the other YMCA joint General Secretary for India, his colleague E. C. Carter, 'is a very great soul. On S., his effect has been marvellous. He has confessed how utterly wrong he was in regard to the Serampore money affair and how he has decided to return even pie of it. How I crave we could have Buchman in India for all time.’6
Among those affected by their contact with Buchman were the young American YMCA Secretary in Lahore, Howard Walter, and his wife Marguerite. Walter was, according to a friend, 'a rare combination of scholarly brain and child-like spirit, a born poet...with a marvellous sense of humour'. People had spoken of him to Buchman as the most Christlike person they knew. When they met in Lahore, he and Buchman immediately took to each other. Observing Buchman's persistence, Walter asked, 'What does the N.D. in your name stand for, is it "Never Despair"?'7
Buchman also, evidently, won the confidence of more senior members of the religious hierarchy. 'My overwhelming difficulty in dealing with English people is to know how to begin,' wrote Hubert Pakenham-Walsh, the Bishop of Assam, to Buchman with engaging humility. 'I am more and more learning to pray, I can preach, and of course if I get ice broken in preaching I can go ahead with individuals …. but where I fail... is that I can't grasp the splendid opportunities which mixing with the Planters gives me, to open out on soul questions. I suppose it is really cowardice …. if you think you can help me and have the time to do so, be as frank and brutal as ever you like.'8
The Bishop had first been interested in Buchman by meeting a once notoriously difficult schoolboy called Victor. 'You are Victor's friend,' he had said on meeting him. Buchman had met Victor at a boys' camp at Roorkee in the foothills of the Himalayas. The masters complained that he was in rebellion. He kept pulling out the tent pegs while people were inside the tents. He would have to be sent home.
'Have you talked to the boy?' asked Buchman.
'No, we've talked about him.'
Buchman agreed to talk to him, but Victor cut three appointments, preferring to row on the canal. 'Who could blame him?' said Buchman.
Next day Victor was discovered on a knoll playing with bamboo canes, which he twirled like a band-major's baton on parade. Buchman went up to him and said, 'You do that so well. I wish I could do it.'
'Well, try it,' said Victor, forgetting to run away.
Buchman tried and failed, much to Victor's delight. 'I once went to camp,' Buchman said casually. 'I hated it.'
'Were you like that? I am too,' said Victor, and began to tell Buchman about the nuisance he was making of himself. 'There's something wrong inside me,' he concluded. 'I'm sorry.'
'How much sorry?' asked Buchman. 'Do you know what remorse is?'
'That's being sorry and then doing it again,' said Victor.
'Then what do you think you need?' asked Buchman.
'Oh, that's when a fellow's sorry enough to quit!'
Buchman began to tell the boy about a companion who always understood, so interesting that people never wanted to run away from him. 'I know who that is,' said Victor, 'that's Christ. I'd like to be his friend, but I don't know how.'
Buchman talked about how to get rid of sin which always had a big 'I' in the middle. 'Where should we go to do that?'
'On our knees,' said Victor, and when, later, they knelt together, he prayed, 'Lord, manage me, for I can't manage myself.'
Walking back to the camp, he said to Buchman, 'It's as if a lot of old luggage has rolled away. I must go and tell my friends.'9
From St Stephen's College, Delhi, a year later, Victor wrote to Buchman, 'With the help of God I will do the duty assigned to me since that memorable day at Roorkee.' As for Buchman, he used Victor's definitions of remorse and repentance for the rest of his life.
Buchman revelled in the novelty of India's sights and sounds. He wrote to his mother of the women 'washing their pots of bright brass in the stream, dressed in scarlet, picturesque in the mellow saffron twilight' and reassured her that the food was 'excellent; I never once suffered on account of it', and train travel 'more comfortable than at home'.10 To Dan he described the Taj Mahal, the festival of Diwali and a visit to a monkey temple. By now he was eager to return home, but he was planning first to visit the main focus of American missionary effort, China.
Eddy, who was himself to be in China the following year, was at first opposed to Buchman's visiting there,11 feeling perhaps that his direct methods might make enemies for himself. He left him with only a loan of $100 and a return ticket to Seattle. But Buchman was determined to go, and an invitation arrived from the committee in China which was sponsoring Eddy's visit. Eddy, on his way back to the United States, seems to have changed his mind. 'The more I think of it, the more I think what a unique work you have done,' he wrote from Aden. 'Talk over the whole question of permeating our China campaign with personal work. It is the forgotten secret of the Church.'12
In February 1916 Buchman sailed for Canton. His effect there proved to be such that Eddy cancelled the $100 loan and declared himself ready to meet another $400 of Buchman's expenses.
The YMCA Secretary for South China, George Lerrigo, spoke of Buchman's 'wonderful directness' and how 'he came to us just as an old friend … Every man he touched was a key man, and you can realise what this will mean for our work;13 while his visit to Shanghai 'promised large and permanent results'.14 At Canton the US Asiatic Fleet was in. He met many of the men and the result was the creation in several ships and ports of what the seamen called 'Buchman Clubs'.*
(* Buchman found such a club still functioning in the Philippines two years later.)
All was not well at home, however. Buchman's father, now 76, was growing increasingly deaf and cantankerous, and there were signs of a mental deterioration which was to increase with age. Buchman's mother evidently needed trained help as early as the summer of 1915: he wrote from India asking her to tell him 'about the nurse and everything that goes on'.15 Dan also was a cause of anxiety. He had been unable to keep up academically at the excellent Taft School in Connecticut to which Buchman had sent him, and had since been expelled from the technical school where he had gone to learn to be an electrician. Dan seems to have been, from his childhood, weak and unreliable. But Buchman wrote to him regularly, and always with encouragement. 'Yesterday I sat on the beach to listen to the waves as they go dashing in and my thoughts turned to you with love and affection,' he had written from Hohangabad,16 and later, 'There is not a mean bone in your body and we are all proud of you.’17
In August 1916 he sailed for home on the Empress of Russia. Back in America, Buchman needed time to absorb all that he had experienced. 'For two months I didn't want to see anybody,' he said later. 'I wanted to think this thing through for myself, just take the letters that had come to me, and study the needs of the human heart as in a laboratory. I came to this conclusion, that the fundamental need is ourselves.'18
He was offered a part-time job at the Hartford Theological Seminary, a small non-sectarian college in New England with an evangelical tradition. The President, Douglas Mackenzie, was looking for someone who could give his students a thorough training in personal work and several people recommended Buchman, among them Howard Walter, temporarily back at Hartford, his old college, from India. From Buchman's own point of view the job was ideal. It gave him liberty, and an expense account, with which to travel, and the freedom to arrange his lectures when it suited him. He became Extension Lecturer in Personal Evangelism, initially for a year.
His arrival at Hartford was far from popular. His highly evangelistic approach upset students and staff alike. One student recalled later, with a continuing sense of shock, that Buchman had wanted to convert the entire class.19 Buchman also made it clear that he regarded a good many of the existing courses as more theoretical than 'vital'. So far as he was concerned, an ability to deal with the moral and spiritual needs of individuals was a great deal more important than a mastery of theological minutiae. Many of the middle-year students, he remarked, lost their faith, and the faculty did not seem to know what to do about it.
He was apparently surprised and hurt by the reactions to him. At Christmas Howard Walter wrote to reassure him. 'Frank,' he said, 'just don't worry about all the things people say … your real friends who've seen your work - its fundamental, sacrificial reality - will never get these unpleasant reactions. You ought to go serenely forward.'20
Meanwhile a small group of men was gathering around him in what he called 'a companionship of fellowship and silence'. Among them were Motts son John, Howard Walter, and Sherwood Day, whom Walter had known in India. They supported Buchman's conviction that intensive work with individuals was the key to 'sustained evangelism', and that the first target should be China.
Their first objective, Buchman wrote to President Mackenzie in February 1917, was to transmit this passion for work with individuals to 'the leaders of China'. In Peking, for example, they hoped to bring together fifteen of the most influential Chinese Christians in the city and train them in the 'how' of Christian work. The fifteen were to include a general whom Mott had converted, an admiral, the Minister of the Interior, the Vice-Minister of Justice who had become a Christian the previous year, and the President of the Chinese Assembly, as well as a number of leading missionaries. The Hartford men, said Buchman, would then try to repeat these tactics in other Chinese cities. It was, he added, a superhuman task and they were attempting it only because they felt God had called them to it.21
It was, indeed, a bold programme. Buchman and his colleagues were planning to reform a vast country. Their principal target was its political leadership; and their principal co-workers were to be not other missionaries but influential Chinese. It was the first of Buchman's efforts to implement his conviction that a country, no less than a person, could become God-directed.
The plan seemed all the more ambitious in view of the anarchic state into which China had fallen. After a century in which the country had increasingly become the prey of European powers, the reigning Manchu dynasty had been overthrown by a revolution in 1912 and replaced by a republic under Sun Yat-sen. Within weeks, however. Sun's flimsy regime had also been swept away; and Yuan Shih-k'ai, the most powerful military figure of the old order, had seized power. Yuan himself died in 1916, leaving behind a pathetically weak and unstable central government in Peking, while Sun and his allies tried to keep alive the ideals of the Young Revolutionaries from a southern base in Canton.
The country was massively in debt (its entire customs revenue was in foreign hands), demoralised, disunited and leaderless. Russia, Britain, Japan, France and Germany all claimed large areas as their particular 'spheres of influence', and the central government was a ready-made puppet for whichever group of generals happened to be in the ascendant.
China already contained the seeds of a revolution more fundamental than that of Sun Yat-sen. In the same year as Buchman set out on his second visit there, a student called Mao Tse-tung decided to adopt the ideal of 'the serene and dedicated philosopher-athlete', to talk 'only of large matters' and to rouse his fellow-students to dedicate their lives to the selfless service of the people.22 Mao was not yet a Marxist - his philosophy was still based on a belief in absolute moral principles and the power of the mind - but his disillusionment with the way in which China was being governed was already complete.
To believe, as Buchman did, that the changing of individual lives could transform this highly volatile situation clearly leaves him open to charges of over-simplifying. This, after all, was not Penn State but a nation of countless millions. Buchman, however, saw no essential difference. He had become convinced that, if a few key people gave their lives wholly to Christ, whether at Penn State or in China, anything was possible. 'Who can tell the power of a man won for Jesus Christ?' he asked. 'If the selfish Yuan Shih-k'ai had been won, it might have changed the history of China.' It was the kind of personalisation of a vast problem for which he was often to be criticised: but in view of the influence later exerted by individuals like Mao Tse-tung and Chou En-lai, was he entirely wrong?
A number of prominent Chinese took the same view. Several of the Peking fifteen named in Buchman's plan - the Vice-Minister of Justice and later acting Prime Minister, Hsu Ch'ien, was one of them - passionately believed that Christianity alone could bring the unification of the country and 'national salvation'. So, too, did Mott and Eddy; at least they hoped it might be a fruit of their work. A good many of the missionaries who lived in China, however, felt that it was scarcely their business. To become involved in China's political turmoil, they thought, was both risky and not particularly Christian; and in any event, as in India, a fair proportion were more absorbed by administration than by the conversion of souls. In 1916 Buchman noted unhappily that the net gain in the communicant membership of the Christian churches (26,173) was actually less than the number of salaried missionaries (27,562).
Buchman's emphasis on the importance of a close partnership with educated and sometimes high-ranking Chinese was also untypical of the missionary community. After his own visit to China in 1890, Henry Drummond had complained that the Chinese educated classes were not being reached at all. That was perhaps less true by 1917, but many missionaries were still apt to think of the Chinese as a people to be worked on from a superior level rather than as partners in a common task. Buchman's belief was exactly the opposite. These differing attitudes were to become an increasing cause of disagreement between him and an influential part of the missionary community.
In June 1917 Buchman sailed for China on the Empress of Russia with three Hartford friends and two Yale men. He had his father's blessing for the trip. 'Father was very eager to have me go,' he wrote later to Dan, 'and when I for a moment spoke of not being able to go, he said very decidedly, "Go, it is your duty, I do not want you to stay for me."'23
In these early months, Buchman himself learnt a basic lesson. During their ten-day voyage across the Pacific members of the party became critical of each other and of Buchman in particular. The reason is not entirely clear, but the undercurrents persisted when, the others having proceeded to their mission stations, only three of the party - Howard Walter, Sherwood Day* and Buchman - were left to work and travel together. They realised that they could hardly tackle division in China until the divisions within their own ranks had been healed. The three of them therefore sat at a round table in a sparsely furnished hotel room in Tientsin - 'a setting rather like a poker game, the light a little too high for comfort', according to Walter - and said honestly what they felt about each other.
(* Sherwood Day, a graduate of Yale and at one time YMCA Secretary there, worked and travelled with Buchman for twenty-two years, between 1916 and 1938.)
Out of these talks, Sherwood Day wrote later, evolved the principle that no member of a team should say anything about someone to anyone else which he had not already told the person concerned.24
Howard Walter amplified the principle in a letter to Sherwood Eddy: 'I have come to a new realisation this summer of the importance of the utmost frankness within the circle of any group of people working together, combined with entire absence of criticism of others outside the group, or indeed anywhere in the absence of the person immediately concerned. In China I have seen how criticism of Frank, or of you, started perhaps in some careless joke and growing as it spread, has played havoc with our work and met us at every turn taking much time and trouble and prayer to overcome. Even within our little group of three we found the same danger … We finally got together for several long talks in which every critical thought ever cherished was brought to light, and we went forth with a new unity and mutual confidence, determined henceforth to keep on that firm basis with each other and with our fellow workers, just in so far as they would unite with us in this mutual understanding.'25Buchman, after the Tientsin meeting, always regarded complete openness as a prerequisite for effective teamwork.
Soon after the party arrived in China, they had lunch with the Foreign Minister and the Vice-Speaker of the Parliament (a former interpreter of Eddy's), but political titles meant little in a situation where the central government was so impotent. At about this time, too, Buchman met Chang Ling-nan, a leading corporation lawyer and diplomat.* Chang had a house in the beautiful mountainous country near Kuling, where Buchman and his friends had gone to attend one of the missionary community's yearly summer conferences. One day, in breach of the normal social divide between Chinese and non-Chinese, Chang asked Buchman over for a game of tennis and a sumptuous Chinese dinner of thirty-six courses. 'We paused for an hour and a half between the eighteenth and nineteenth,' related Buchman. The lawyer drank a different wine with each course, and his nicotine-stained hands shook even when drinking cocktails before dinner. At a late hour Buchman departed in a chair ordered by the lawyer and carried by six coolies. 'I didn't need the chair to carry me home, though he certainly needed someone to carry him to bed,' commented Buchman later. 'But I gratefully agreed as I didn't want to upset him that night.'
(* Chang's daughter married T. V. Soong, Madame Chiang Kai-shek's brother.)
Next evening the lawyer came to dinner with Buchman in Kuling, where he was staying with Mrs Adams, the widow of a Baptist missionary. Buchman told a story of how God had once guided him.
'Do you think God can speak to people like me?' Chang asked.
'Of course I do,' answered Buchman.
A great storm arose and Chang had to stay the night. He admitted that he did not want to stay because he had to take pills to go to sleep and other pills to wake up properly in the morning. But, after a long talk with Buchman and reading the Bible together, he slept soundly. The next morning he decided to make a new start in life. Shortly afterwards, at his own lunch table with Buchman present, and in front of the children and their nurse, he said to his wife, 'You married me thinking I was a real Christian. But I have not been.' His change, which was permanent and growing, led to a series of house-parties in his home, at which some eighty of his friends and relatives took part, many travelling long distances to do so. One by-product was the creation of a Chinese missionary society manned by Chinese and backed by Chinese money.26
The missionary community's two annual summer conferences, one amid the mountain grandeurs around Kuling and the other in the dry, bracing climate of Peitaiho on the Gulf of Chihli, to which Buchman went during August, must have seemed like another and almost wholly unrelated world. The delegates were virtually all missionaries, and the over-whelming majority non-Chinese. No committed Christians from the country's political leadership had been invited, nor had any of the 'interesting sinners' whom Buchman thought necessary to enliven any conference. They were simply private gatherings of Christian workers. Nor, as Buchman complained later, were they 'personalised'; in other words, too little effort was made to meet the moral and spiritual needs of those who did attend. 'There were walls that could not be penetrated,' he remarked.27
The conferences instead followed what was known as the 'old meeting plan': a series of gatherings culminated in a major 'inspirational' address which was intended to send the missionaries away with a sense of uplift. They were occasions which provided a welcome and no doubt necessary breathing-space in the busy missionary calendar, but seemed to Buchman to have little or no relevance to the state of China.
So far as he personally was concerned, the best thing which came out of them was a friendship with Cheng Ching-yi, the Secretary of the curiously-named China Continuation Committee,* an organisation whose aim was to foster co-operation among the missionaries. Cheng was keen to win over some of the politicians who had gone with Sun Yat-sen to Canton, and wanted to find a way of introducing Buchman to Sun.
(* The leading personalities of almost all the Protestant Christian groups in China, both Chinese and foreign, were on this Committee. Its chairman was Bishop Logan Roots.)
By early autumn Buchman was hard at work preparing for Eddy's arrival. He was by now travelling round China with a team of fourteen including Dr E. G. Tewksbury, National Secretary of the China Sunday School Union, Miss Ruth Paxson of the National YMCA, and Dr H. W. Luce,* former Vice-President of Shantung University. The Chinese Recorder gave enthusiastic reports of this tour throughout the autumn of 1917 and winter of 1918.28 That by Cheng Ching-yi was simply headlined 'Miracles'.29 Buchman had found fresh financial backing, in the shape of the Stewart Evangelistic Fund, which had resources of $3 million. Characteristically, he wrote to Eddy, who had been tardy in supplying promised funds, that Bishop Lewis - the senior Methodist Bishop in China - had described the work he and his team were doing as 'the greatest movement that has yet come out of China',30 and had 'allocated' the Trustee of the Stewart Fund, the Rev Harry Blackstone, to travel with him.
(* The father of the creator of Time magazine.)
Such letters were apt to have the reverse effect of that which Buchman intended. Eddy had already received Walter's letter telling of the unity he, Day and Buchman had found in Tientsin, to which his reply had been equivocal. The fact is that he wavered between pride and perturbation at Buchman's impact, rather like a mother hen who sees one of her brood take to the water. Others in headquarters, both in Shanghai and New York, found the success of new ways hard to bear because they implied criticism of the past. When enthusiastic reports came in from city after city, as much opposition as applause was provoked, even if the opposition was for the moment muted.
The meetings which Buchman held were usually small affairs, so that the problems of individuals could be thoroughly dealt with. 'Our meetings are all carefully planned for in groups of 25,' he wrote to his family from Nanking in October. 'I am conducting four of these a day in addition to many interviews. I have been lately spending 16 to 18 hours a day with men.'31 At Whampoa in November Christian workers of every age and denomination had found freedom from the sins that were keeping them from spiritual power. In Canton in the same month 150 personal workers brought 150 nominal Christians to a Sunday afternoon meeting. 'The result is beyond telling,' wrote Buchman enthusiastically. 'One of the miracles was a Member of Parliament.'32*
(* Buchman also remarks, in a letter dated 18 April 1918: 'Just had tiffin with a descendant of Confucius. ‘This was apparently a 76th-generation descendant of the sage, and he and Buchman spent time in quiet together asking divine guidance on some local political matter.)
It was during this tour that Buchman first met Samuel Moor Shoemaker, a recent Princeton graduate, who was working on the faculty of a business school which Princeton maintained to teach Chinese boys the rudiments of English and business methods. It was lodged in the Peking Christian Association. 'Few men got along with other people more easily than young Shoemaker,' writes his biographer, Irving Harris. 'He not only had what is tritely called "a winning personality" but he influenced most of those with whom he associated so that they in turn enjoyed a measurable increase in self-esteem. The younger Chinese lads in his classes delighted him, especially those in his Bible class.' He was, however, disturbed that attendance at this class had declined from twenty to seven in his first three meetings. His methods, he thought, must be faulty.
Hearing Buchman speak, he cornered him to explain his predicament. After many preliminaries, he said that if only Buchman could touch one or two of the leaders of his Bible class, they might affect the whole student body.
Buchman, who had been following Shoemaker's life story up to this point 'with flattering attention', suddenly leaned back and laughed. 'Tell me,' he said abruptly, 'why don't you get through to at least one of these fellows yourself?'
'The younger man was ready for almost anything but this,' continues Harris. 'Heretofore, religious leaders had invariably patted him on the back and told him how fine it was that he was going into the ministry. Now Shoemaker didn't like to be thus unexpectedly put on the spot; his pride was hurt and, since the best defence is often an offence, he countered with a question of his own: "If you know the trouble, why not tell me what it is?”’
'Might be sin,' Buchman replied, and then went on to describe how resentment in his own life had for over a year kept him from spiritual freedom and power.
'To say that Shoemaker was nettled would be greatly to understate his reaction. He quickly made his excuses, broke off the conversation and walked home alone across the city, determined to take no part in such "morbid introspection".
'But he couldn't get the conversation out of his mind, especially Buchman's reference to sin. He recalled that someone had once explained this three-letter word as any barrier, great or small, between oneself and God or between oneself and other people. He could see plenty of barriers in his own life. Several were what might be called "reserved areas". One had to do with his service in China. He had come out to the Far East on a short-term basis. Was he willing to stay on indefinitely should God indicate the necessity?….
'More troubled in mind than ever, as he ate supper he continued to consider the future - his personal life, marriage, the kind of a ministry that God might be calling him to - and then again (perhaps with animosity) he thought of Frank Buchman. How long this all took one would hesitate to guess, but there came a moment…. when, unable to sleep …., he finally slipped to his knees and entered into a wholly fresh spiritual transaction. He now realised how greatly he needed forgiveness. It seemed to him that he heard someone saying, "You want to do My work but in your own way." As the sense of God's love enfolded him, he .… agreed that he would serve him anywhere indefinitely.'
The next day, according to Harris, Shoemaker sought out Buchman. 'Frank,' he blurted out, 'you were right. I have been a pious fraud, pretending to serve God but actually keeping all the trump cards in my own hands. Now I've told Him how sorry I am, and I trust you'll forgive me for harbouring ill-will against you. This sprang up the moment you used that word sin!'
Buchman said that he freely forgave him. 'Now what's the next step?' he added.
Shoemaker told him he had a long-standing arrangement to have tea with one of the Bible-class boys. 'What shall I tell him?' he asked.
'Tell him just what you've told me. Be honest about yourself,' replied Buchman
Shoemaker did exactly that - and the boy said, 'I wish it could happen to me.' 'They talked …. of the honesty and purity and faith required of any individual who gives his total allegiance to God, and when the student expressed his readiness they prayed together,' concludes Harris. 'Each man felt deeply moved and very grateful.'33 For Shoemaker this was the beginning of a twenty-year association with Buchman.
Buchman still wanted to meet with Sun Yat-sen. By the beginning of 1918 Hsu Ch'ien had joined the Southern Military Government at Canton as Chief Secretary to Sun. With the help of an introduction from Hsu, Buchman had at least two meetings with Sun in February 1918. Sun's own position at the time was insecure, as rivals within his own party were working towards demoting him from Generalissimo to being merely one in a committee of seven. Nonetheless, Buchman was convinced that Sun could become 'the great liberator of China', and their talks were unusually candid. At their first meeting, on 23 February, when various of Sun's associates were present, Buchman spoke of the moral weaknesses which Hsu had told him lay at the root of China's anarchic condition. Five days later they met again in a cement factory converted into working quarters for the President and situated on an island only reachable by water. There they had privacy.* Sun said, 'Politically we have succeeded. We have established a republic. But we have many problems that we can't answer. Can you help us? What do you think is wrong in China?' Buchman said, 'Three things. One is corruption - squeeze. Another is concubines. And the third is the poppy - smoking opium.'
(* A young soldier on guard in the cement factory that day came forty years later to the Moral Re-Armament headquarters in Switzerland as a general, and told how astonished he and his colleagues had been that Sun should ask advice of an American.)
Buchman then told Sun that even some of his own supporters said that he had too many wives. Sun had, in fact, divorced his first wife under Chinese law and married the woman who had previously been his concubine - Ching-ling Soong, sister of Madame Chiang Kai-shek and later Vice-President of Communist China.
After the interview Buchman received an indignant note from Sun, declaring that there must have been some misunderstanding. He had never, he said, had more than one wife and had divorced his previous wife quite correctly before marrying his present one.34 Hsu, however, encouraged by Buchman, continued to press the point. He told Sun bluntly that his divorce might be justifiable under Chinese law but that it certainly did not conform to Christian teaching, which Sun admitted to be true. He gave Sun the Bible and asked him to read the story of David, Uriah and Bathsheba. His first wife had, Hsu reminded him, married him when he was in great trouble, and it was against Chinese custom to desert a wife who marries you in such circumstances. Also, she had borne him a son.35If he did not obey the laws of God, asked Hsu, how could Sun have any power from God to save his country? Sun finally thanked Hsu for his 'faithful counsel'.36
At first sight, it seems odd that both Buchman and a practical politician like Hsu Ch'ien should be so persistent in this matter. However, Sun's action was not just a moral weakness but was leading to political weakness. The son of the President of the Parliament which elected Sun Yat-sen President and Generalissimo showed me, in 1983, a photograph of Sun among the parliamentary leaders with his secretary, Ching-ling Soong, sitting beside him in the place of honour, and his wife several seats away. Sun's insistence on this arrangement, he told me, shocked his father and Sun's other colleagues. The Soong family were also 'horrified', according to Emily Hahn, when their middle daughter announced her intention of marrying Sun Yat-sen, because 'she was going against the conventions of both Christianized and non-Christianized society in China'.37 The whole affair weakened Sun's position. It contributed to the intrigues which led to the legislature stripping him of his military powers and transferring the government to an Administrative Committee of which he was only one in seven. In May 1918, when this Government Reorganising Bill was passed, Sun resigned and left Canton for Shanghai.
In June Buchman and Sun were travelling on the same train in Japan. Sun heard that Buchman was on the train and sent for him. Buchman wrote Hsu that 'he seemed mellow and very responsive to every suggestion …. You did a courageous thing in speaking so frankly to him. You possess the fearlessness of a Lincoln... I believe God is going to use you in bringing about His great plan for China.'38
Buchman's message, meanwhile, was as straightforward as ever. 'If sin is the disease,' he told an audience of missionaries in Shanghai, 'we must deal with sin. Sin first of all in ourselves, the "little sins" that rob us of power and keep us from being able to go out in deep sympathy to men in sin. Ill-will towards others, jealousy, ambition, self-will, criticism. And then sin in others. We fail to get at the sin which is keeping a man from Christ. Fear often holds us. We say we are too reserved, that no one should infringe upon another's personality … and all the time there are men about us who long to share the deepest things in their hearts... The woman at the well had no feeling that Jesus had infringed upon her personality when He put His finger upon the cause of her heartache.'
Eddy, who had by now arrived in China and was campaigning with Buchman, was evidently delighted by the effectiveness of Buchman's preparatory work. If the enthusiastic endorsements of this work which Buchman was apt to quote sound overstated, Eddy echoed them. 'I may say at the outset,' he wrote to K. T. Paul in India in April, 'that Buchman's work in China has developed by a growth of evolution into a movement of immense proportions, far more powerful and fruitful than any similar preparatory movement we have ever had in the past in any country.'39 Yet, within three months, Buchman was to be asked to leave China.
1 John R. Mott to Buchman, 21 April 1915. Buchman wrote accepting 23 April 1915.
2 Chinese Recorder, August 1916.
3 Buchman to E. C. Carter, 9 November 1915.
4 Buchman to John R. Mott, 10 November 1915.
5 Buchman to Sherwood Eddy, 27 March 1917.
6 K. T. Paul to E. C. Carter, date unknown. A subsequent letter from Carter to Buchman is dated 16 August 1915.
7 Quoted in Theophil Spoerri: Dynamic Out of Silence (Grosvenor, 1976), p. 79
8 Bishop Pakenham-Walsh to Buchman, 3 July 1916.
9 See Russell, pp. 76-81.
10 Buchman to mother, 6 November 1915.
11 Buchman to Sherwood Eddy, early 1917.
12 Sherwood Eddy to Buchman, 13 January 1916.
13 George Lerrigo to Sherwood Eddy, March 1916.
14 W. W. Lockwood to Buchman, 7 June 1916.
15 Buchman to mother, 2 July 1915.
16 Buchman to Dan, 8 November 1915.
17 ibid. 13 November 1915.
18 Buchman at Kuling, July 1918 (see note 5, Chapter 7).
19 Notes by Edward Perry on Buchman's Lectures at Hartford Theological Seminary, November 1921-March 1922.
20 Howard Walter to Buchman, 26 December 1916.
21 Buchman to Douglas Mackenzie, February 1917.
22 George Paloczi-Horvath: Emperor of the Blue Ants (Seeker and Warburg, 1962), p. 49.
23 Buchman to Dan, 27 September 1917.
24 Sherwood Day, Memorandum of 1933.
25 Howard Walter to Sherwood Eddy, 4 October 1917.
26 See Russell, pp. 70-75.
27 Buchman at Kuling, August 1918.
28 Chinese Recorder, September and November 1917, February and March 1918.
29 ibid., December 1917.
30 Buchman to Sherwood Eddy, 25 October 1917.
31 Buchman to parents, 25 October 1917.
32 Buchman to Sherwood Eddy, 20 November 1917.
33 Irving Harris: The Breeze of the Spirit (Seabury Press, 1978), pp. 2-6.
34 R. S. Sun, writing as instructed by Sun Yat-sen, to Buchman, 1 March 1918.
35 Hsu Ch'ien to Buchman, 29 April 1918.
37 Emily Hahn: The Soong Sisters (Cedric Chivers, 1974), pp. 82-3.
38 Buchman to Hsu Ch'ien, 3 July 1018.
39 Sherwood Eddy to K. T. Paul (Martin MSS, April 1918).