Venden Leftovers

"Converts just don’t stick.” The speaker, critical of the conference spending money on public evangelism, was arguing that there are few lasting results from public meetings and therefore the money should be spent on more worthwhile things. You may, by reading further, see why I disagree.

The Venden brothers—no, not Morris and Louis, but their father, Melvin, and his brother Dan—held evangelistic meetings in Medford, Ore., in the fall and winter of 1933–1934. I, an eight-year-old boy, was among those baptized in the Rogue River that following summer. Did these converts stick? Does any fruit remain? I’ll let you be the judge.

Teenager Helen Schlinsog attended the meetings, stepped out and was baptized, willing to be the “odd one out” in her family. She had a friend, Kenneth Kamberg, whom she interested in Bible studies. He was baptized, and they later married. Eventually her mother and father joined, as did her two sisters and two brothers.

Corabel (Smith) Corwin remembers her father dropping her off at the auditorium and then going to pick up another carload to take to the meetings. Only seven years old, she was baptized later.

James Woods and his wife were baptized with their two oldest sons. A younger son, Jim, was baptized later. One of the boys held a series of evangelistic meetings as a Walla Walla College student during one summer in Wimer, Oregon. I decided to do the same thing the next summer. That experience was a deciding factor in my becoming a minister. The Woods family became my “foster parents” for a time after I had to leave home. One of the older sons took a break from the church, but I had the privilege of re-baptizing him when he returned to the Lord.

I was baptized as was my brother Bill, sister Joan and mother. Our children and grandchildren continue to work for God's cause.

Gertrude Clymer Salmans was baptized. She has three children and “too many grandchildren to count,” she says, but they were all raised in the church.

My initial commitment to Jesus Christ in 1933 gave me the privilege of serving the church for 46 years as a pastor, college teacher, missionary, mission pilot and conference and union president. I had opportunity, while the Venden brothers were still living, to express my heartfelt appreciation for their leading me to my Savior and a life of service.

But that is not all. Have you heard of Classroom B? (See GLEANER May and June 2003 issues.) It’s the Sabbath School classroom in the Medford Church that has sparked four 50-village evangelistic missions to India resulting in the building of 200 church buildings and nearly 40,000 baptisms in the last two years. Now listen to this: The Venden brothers held their meetings 70 years ago, but six of the converts are members of Classroom B today!

Although church records for that long-ago time when the evangelistic meetings were held no longer exist, some of us have tried to reconstruct the list. Memories fail, but we can account for more than 35 who were baptized at that time and remained faithful, another 44 are children or grandchildren of those baptized and are faithful.

The meetings probably cost about $3,000. I guess that has been pretty well paid back by now, wouldn’t you think? And who can calculate how many others have been won to Christ and baptized through the influence of their faithful lives and witness? The full story will never be told until we stand on the Sea of Glass before the Father’s glorious throne in the New Jerusalem.

December 01, 2003 / Perspective