Tribute to a Faithful Gospel Preacher
It has been over twenty years since first meeting our brother Ward, and my first impression was this – a little man with a big heart. He was a plumber, and then became a sawyer, operating a saw mill in partnership with another brother near Blue River, Wisconsin. Arthur’s stature and smile were the opposite, for even though small, he often manifested a big smile. It was his countenance that first attracted me to him. Not only this, I soon learned that this man loved righteousness. This drew me even closer to him until one day I asked him if he would like to pioneer with me in the gospel. I will never forget the look of joy on his beaming face when this was proposed. Not long afterwards, Arthur and I were setting up camp in Craigsville, WV, over 200 miles from the New Creek assembly. We were in the heart of West Virginia, the “Mountain State.” Our travel trailer provided us with the essentials and our 40 by 60-foot tent provided ample shelter for those who came to hear us preach. Needless to say, my brother became homesick, and quite a few phone calls were made on a daily basis to his wife Marlene, whom he described as “the best wife in all the world.” He was a very devoted man to his wife and five children.
The area was mountainous and wooded. In those woods were many little saw-mills and it was quite amusing to see Arthur’s attraction to these mills. I had to stop at every one he saw. He would go in and use his sawing experience in speaking to those burly men about their souls. He was tactful and never once did I see a lumberman or lumberjack become angry with him as he moved the conversation to eternal things. His one disadvantage was that he was a foreigner, an “intruder” from Wisconsin, but his big advantage was four-fold: his experience as a lumberman, his glowing countenance, his big, big smile, and his burning love for souls.
When I entered the Lord’s work in 1963 I was under the wing of older servants. At times they gave me good advice and being 25 years older than brother Ward I felt a responsibility to do the same with him. Never did he balk at my advice – he was so thankful for any help. This betrayed to me his humility and willingness to learn. One thing though, he couldn’t hide his feelings, and when news would reach him of unrighteousness, distress was very visible on his countenance. As far as I could see he was not a hypocritical man, but pure in thought, pure in motives, and pure in deed.
As for his preaching, he faithfully told it as it was. He never sold his conscience to please carnal believers. I believe he could have said like Paul, “I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). In fact, when brother Ward was finally commended to the Lord’s work, his ambition was not to be an “important preacher,” but rather to be a faithful soul-winner. He wasn’t a man to rush for the conference platform, and he also patiently stood in the food line with the rest of the saints. He detested self-importance, popularity, and worldliness, so often seen among us.
We have lost a good man, a brother beloved. We shall meet him again on the heavenly shore, and also others who will be there through hearing our brother preach the gospel faithfully to them. Considering his sudden home-call, this verse comes to mind: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!” (Rom 11:33). Until the shout, we say, “Farewell” to a servant loved by many.