One Way To Reach Men
After the financial depression the number of applicants for help at The Moody Church rapidly increased until, finally, a stream of people, principally men, was flowing in and out of the church doors from morning till night. Some of the cases of need were most touching and we began to pray much for God to show us how this sudden and special need could be met, and not only the bodily wants of these workless people relieved, but their need of Jesus Christ pointed out to them. Finally we were led to open the church every morning to give sober, unemployed men bread and coffee, and to preach the Gospel to them. The need of the women and children could not be met in this way, but our church visitors and members redoubled their efforts to relieve them as far as possible in their homes. Our women have sent them over 400 articles of clothing, have supplied coal, provisions, doctors, nurses, money, and have worked in co-operation with the charitable organizations to prevent suffering so far as possible.
The first morning that we opened the church, 62 men responded to our invitation. That number has increased to about 1,500 daily. We have given over 40,000 meals, which means about an equal number of loaves of bread, and about 160,000 cups of coffee. 40,000 Gospel tracts have been handed to the men as they entered the room.
Before eating, every man was asked to bow in prayer while thanks were given to our Heavenly Father. The quiet, reverent attention of the men during prayer and all through the breakfast and the meetings which followed, has been noteworthy. While eating, members of the church and of the Moody Bible Institute have played and sung Gospel hymns, and in the meetings the men themselves were taught to sing some of the newer songs.
Our pastor, Dr. A.C. Dixon, several of the neighboring pastors, and a number of evangelists, church members, and Institute students have made short Gospel addresses. The Lord’s blessing has been upon the work from the very beginning, in the conversion of many, and on some mornings over forty have given themselves to Christ. 600 have come into the inquiry rooms after the meetings, knelt down in prayer for forgiveness, and have confessed Christ as Saviour and Lord, with every apparent token of sincerity. Many of these have remained true.
One man rose to ask our prayers who had fully decided to commit suicide. He came here from New York with $500.00, a trunk full of good clothes and a tool box. While drunk he was robbed and stripped of everything, could not find any work at his trade as a machinist, and became discouraged. In this frame of mind he came for the first time to a morning breakfast and what he heard put new hope into his heart. He came in the next morning and gave himself to Christ, and within twenty-four hours the Lord had opened up work at remunerative wages. A body wandered into our reading room, which was opened in connection with this work so these men need not be forced to go into saloons for shelter on cold and stormy days. He had been walking in Jackson Park all night, and was so exhausted and hungry that when spoken to kindly, he cried like a child. He was a backslider and, soon, on his knees, found forgiveness and restoration. A rescue home for young men that a gentleman, himself only a convert of four months standing, had opened for just such cases, received him. After praying for God to supply work he started out saying, “I feel as if God was going to help me.” On his way down the street the wind blew a fragment of a newspaper up against his legs, he picked it up, found in it the part of “want ads,” read them, saw one which was in his line of work, went to the address, and secured the position at $2.80 a day. He came back saying, “Surely God does answer prayer.” Many of these men have tested and found true the words of Jesus, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” A young German lad came here from New York city and was robbed. He wandered into breakfast and later in the noon meeting gave himself to God. He wrote back to his former employer who sent him money to return. When going he said, “I am glad I came to Chicago and went through all this trouble because, by coming, I have found God. I came to find a position, but I found salvation instead, which is a million times better.”
Drunkards have been reclaimed, men have written home to mothers and fathers, or to sons and daughters, after years of silence. One drunkard upon writing home received a letter of rejoicing from his Christian wife who had been praying for him, promising to send him ten dollars to return so that he might start up again with her the little bakery which had been lost through whiskey. One young man had lost $1,900,00 through the suspension of a bank and his only means of support has been through these breakfasts. In fact, it is the only food many of these men have had for weeks. He gave himself to Christ and later received notice that the bank would resume payments within a month. A man over fifty years of age brought up in a Christian home gave his heart to Christ for the first time, and has been a very happy worker. When asked why he had not done this before he said “Because I have always had plenty of money to spend on myself and did not think it necessary then.” So that, to many of these men, this period of want has been a blessing, and it has driven them to God. Man’s extremity is surely God’s opportunity.
One of the most earnest workers is a young man converted just a short time before the breakfast began. He is nineteen years old and was a thief and “hold-up man,” whose custom was to “work alone” with a revolver. This man has given every evidence of real conversion. He is now steadily employed and doing well. He owns up to stealing $19.00 in a case where he knew the man from whom he had taken the money, went to him and confessed the matter, though he knew he was in danger of arrest and jail sentence. However the man forgave him and prayed with him. Gamblers, thieves and crooks of all kinds have been saved. The Gospel of Christ can settle the pauper and crime question quicker and more satisfactorily than anything else in the world.
But in our morning audiences tramps and criminals have been comparatively few. The majority of them showed eagerness to get work and most of the six hundred who have given evidence of conversion are from the ranks of honest workingmen who have come to want, for the most part, through sin against God rather than through sin against the state. One of them who has a wife and two small children and who had been out of work for months, found employment in answer to prayer almost immediately after his conversion and in two weeks was earning over two dollars a day. He brought his wife to Christ and then his mother and is now working for the salvation of his father and brothers. Another man, a musician, who had been a church organist but was brought down through drink, was a backslider. He came back to Christ and his first work for the Lord was to put the cabinet organs in the church into good repair. He is now at work at his trade, and hopes soon to be able to go back to his people. One of the young men is the son of the superintendent of a Pacific Coast railroad. He left home after trouble with his father and went to Alaska with an uncle, gold mining. His uncle died and he soon lost all his money. Too proud to write home, he drifted to Chicago, and, unable to obtain work, was glad to come to the church for a free breakfast, where he was saved. After that the pride was gone and he wrote home. His family immediately wired that they were sending money, and in a few days he received a hundred dollars to pay expenses home.
One of the converts said that he had no use for the church and Christianity until he saw the work being done in feeding the hungry. This touched his heart and, as a result, he gave himself to Christ. Another young man, driven by need to the morning breakfast, was a graduate of Cambridge University, England, and a prize winner. Another had been a professor of Greek in one of our colleges. In no other way could these men be gathered for Gospel service, and they seem to appreciate our efforts to help their souls as much as they appreciate the food for their bodies. The fact, as discovered by a show of hands, that only about ten percent of them have been in the habit of attending any church, indicates that they are not surfeited by religious services and is another proof that this is the only way by which ninety per cent of such men can be brought in touch with the Gospel which saves the soul and transforms character. It is to a large extent virgin soil for Gospel truth and speakers have been struck by the eagerness with which they listen.
The total expense of the work up to date has been about $1,500.00. That is, every dollar, has given more than twenty-five men all the bread they wished to eat and the coffee they would drink. This money has come from every direction, both within and outside of the church, and has been given most generously. One poor little boy brought one dollar that he had saved up. A woman who is a domestic brought five dollars, which must have been nearly a week’s wages. And many others have given in the same spirit of sacrifice. Again and again the committee having special charge of the work have had occasion to thank God for answered prayer, as the money has come in just when it was most needed. Many of the church members have worked most patiently and with much self-denial, in cutting and buttering the bread, and in serving the breakfast. By a carefully worked out system, the committee were able to seat all the 1,500 men within ten minutes after the doors were opened, and to supply them with all they cared to eat in thirty minutes. The men themselves, especially those who were converted, proved very willing to help, and some fifty of them would clean and arrange the rooms after the breakfast and wash the dishes.
The after meetings in the inquiry rooms were often intensely interesting, as man after man would relate experiences he had been through, and the extremity to which sin had brought him, and then would tell what Jesus Christ had done for him. Such testimonies, re-enforced by the lives and examples of these changed men, well repaid for the labor involved.