Sproulie Denio - Early Days - Phoenix, Arizona - November 7, 1954

Perhaps this evening, we could spend a little time talking about some of the work in the Far East. I don't think the time would be wasted in speaking about this thing tonight because it should be in all our interest to know how God's work is carried on in some of those other lands. We have often been asked what caused us to want to go to Korea.


That is a question that is difficult to answer. Quite a number of years before, I went out to Korea - the thought was in my heart and if I had any doubts whether it was of God or not, those doubts have been banished since I have returned to this country. The reason I feel now more than ever before that God laid it on my heart is because I have a greater desire to go now than before I knew the country the people and the language, but I have a deeper desire now than in the beginning.


When we decided to go to Korea, we were given two opportunities to study the language. One at the university of California or we could go to Hawaii. We chose to go to Hawaii because there were seven or eight thousand Korean people in Hawaii. We felt it would be better to go where we could talk to and be among those people.



Shortly after we landed in Hawaii, we began looking for a teacher. I visited a church. I was told there was an old lady that spoke English very fluently and we went in see her. She said, "No, l am too busy. Come in anyway, I would like to talk about your faith." We went in and Don Garland and I gave her a little bit of our testimony. While we were in talking to her about the things we believed, her heart had become deeply interested in that thing. She had been bitterly disappointed in the Methodist church. We sat around her table every day for about a year and three months and the only text book we had was the Bible because Korea, for forty years, was dominated by Japanese and they were trying to stamp out the Korean language. They did not allow any books to be printed in Korean. If any Korean was found speaking the Korean language, he was flogged unmercifully. We had a New Testament that we studied out of.



The Korean language is very easy to learn to read and write, to learn to speak the language takes a long time. About five years before one can have much liberty speaking the language. We studied the Bible chapter by chapter. The first month, we could only take a few verses a day because it was so difficult. Soon we were able to take a chapter a day. We studied all the New Testament in the Korean Bible.



After about a year and three months, we were given a permit to enter Korea. We spent six days in Japan, then had to take an airplane in to Korea because there were no ships. The day we landed was in August was very warm.



That was one of the loneliest days I ever spent. We were total strangers. It is not a very nice thing to land in this country a stranger but even worse when you don't even know the language. We handed them our passports, I handed mine first. He asked me if I were Mr. Denio. He said there was a man here asking for us a couple of days ago. You can imagine my surprise. I learned that while I was in Hawaii about a month before, I had gone to a Korean church. While I was there, I met a man that was traveling from America to Korea and he spoke English fluently. He was a Korean. He said, "Look me up when you get to Korea." I had forgotten but he hadn't. He knew the exact date of our sailing and he was looking for us. That man befriended us many times. We feel we owe him a great deal. He advised these men to send us to a hotel in the center of Seoul. We got two rooms and had to stay there for eleven days while we looked for a place to stay.



It is a city of one and half million people. The second day we were out walking and we met a young man that spoke good English. He said, "Would you care if I came to your room and you would tell me a little of the way of God?" That was the beginning of almost a continual string of young men and women coming to our room to talk about God. We learned later that we were the first missionaries that had opened their homes to the Korean people to come in. Most missionaries live in compounds with walls around where no Korean man or woman can enter without a permit. Through these contacts, we discovered a man in the city that wanted us to come live with them.


We moved over with this family. The first night we stayed there, we met a young man about 25. He said, "Would you have a little Bible study with us?" These people were Buddhists. There were about eight or nine there that night and we spoke about the Bible and the way of God. We will never forget how intently and eagerly they listened. Then we decided to have one every night for three months.



After three months, we had to leave due to circumstances they had to sell their home. They had become interested and were very anxious for us to find a place where they could go to meetings with us. We found that some of their relatives were anxious to have us come live with them. These rooms were too small for meetings so these young men tried to find a place that was big enough. They found a classroom in a girls' high school. We started meetings in English. From that time until we finished, about nine months later, we had an average crowd of fifty or sixty every time we had a meeting. Some of these young men and women, just a week before we had to flee that city said, "We believe the things you are talking about are the truth of God and we would like to become one in this fellowship." Little did we know - in a few days, we would be scattered to the four winds.


The day the war broke out, we were walking home from our meeting and we saw trucks fully equipped for battle. We didn't know what this was. These men seemed so deadly in earnest. I asked a passer by and he told me about a war breaking out at five that morning. It didn't trouble us so very much. We went back to our rooms. We had a few visitors that night but the next morning when we got up, we could hear the sound of the guns not so very far away. We knew the war had drawn closer in the night. That evening we stood on our porch and saw the sky alight in the north with those great shells. When we went to bed that night, we didn't sleep very well.


We got up early and my companion said, "We better get to the American Embassy." I said, "Let's go about nine or ten." He said, "I think we ought to go now." Just then one of our Korean friends came in and his face was as white as a sheet.  He said, “Are you going to the American Embassy this morning?" He said, "Please go now." Then he walked out, We decided we better go now. When we got out on the street we understood why this man was troubled. I haven't seen such confusion and panic. The street was clogged with people fleeing from this great enemy that was marching into the city. We didn't know it then. We rushed to the Embassy building and when we got there we found there were ten large American buses loaded with Americans ready to leave in 15 or 20 minutes. We had left the house with nothing, not even our pocket books. The Americans tried to get us on quickly - we decided to go to our house and back again.



My companion started to run. I asked him not to run because I know we could never got back without something to take us. He got lost in the crowd. I wondered if I would ever see him again. I turned and walked to the center of the city - I was struck forcibly by the fact that there were no cars on the street. It occurred to me that the South Korean army had confiscated all automobiles.



There on the street was an American jeep with a Korean driver and another man standing on the street. I asked, “Will you please take me to my house?" “NO. I don't have time.” I pleaded with the man on the street. He said, "You better take that man to his house." We drove off and I was looking for my companion, but could never see him. We soon got to our house and I rushed to pick up what I could. About two weeks before this, I had a feeling that some thing might happen that we might have to leave quickly, so I packed the things I valued most. Then I packed another suitcase with some other things. That day I packed three suitcases with things I wanted to keep. I don't know why I felt that way because there was no sign of the communists making a break. I didn't say anything to my companion because I thought maybe it was just a strange feeling I had. So when I got ready to leave, I had everything ready.



When I was leaving, Don came rushing up and he was almost exhausted. He had run that mile from town. He had lost almost everything. We carried our things down to the jeep. I will never forget that scene around the jeep. Our Korean friends were gathered around weeping. They urged us to go. They knew if the communists caught us, it would be the end.



When we got back, every one of the big buses had left and there was a driver only in one bus. He was using the bus just to get himself out of the city. We got into the bus and that was the wildest ride I ever had. When we got on the highway to the airport, there was a red plane strafing the highway and shooting at buses and cars but he didn't shoot at us. We got to the airport and they told us we would have to go down into the basement because planes were shooting at the building. Then we were told that General MacArthur was sending seven airplanes to take us out.



We would have to go out on the field and take our chances. We lined up in groups of 60. These planes didn't want to stay long. The women and children were put in first group. Don and I were in the second. When we had just gotten organized, we saw one of those Red planes coming in. We didn't know what to do. While we were discussing the matter, we heard strange noises and above were 35 or 4O jet war planes circling the field. I cannot tell you how much comfort that was. One of these jets dropped that Red plane in a paddy field not far from where we were standing. These planes circled the airfield until every plane had left. There were 61 of us with quite a load of baggage. When ready to take off, they were unable to remove the steady rest from under the tail section of the plane due to the overload, so they asked us to move ahead in the plane that it might be better balanced. I was sitting there watching behind the pilots. We took off and when they turned into the wind, he open the throttles and the plane picked up to flying speed but when he pulled back on his wheels to lift it in the air, it didn't lift. He tried to make it go faster and was working his controls to pick it up, it didn't lift. You can imagine how I was feeling sitting there watching this! Out ahead was a little group of Korean houses. Just maybe 1OO feet before we reached the end of the runway, we felt the plane beginning to bounce and just before we got to the end of the runway, we became airborne. We weren't over 2O ft above the houses.


With every one of these planes, there was an escort of five planes that followed us clear to Japan. Our plane was attacked twice on the way to Japan. The jet shot down two of the Red planes on our trip.



We were kept 6 or 8 days by the American army and then were delivered into the hands of workers in Japan. These first months were some of the darkest days of my life. I had spent about two and half years of the hardest study I had ever had, and there seemed to be people drawing near to the Kingdom and then we had to leave quickly. I could not understand why. Here we were in a country whose language we couldn't understand one word.


After a few months, we began to feel that there were no circumstances but what one could do something. So we decided to try to have meeting in English. This was something that had never been done before. We decided to go down to 0saka, a city at four million people. I went first because I knew we would have to stay in a hotel. They are rather expensive. I stayed there three weeks walking the streets every day trying to find a place to live. During the war, there were so many homes that were destroyed that houses were at a premium.



After three weeks, I had almost decided that this was not the place for us. I was packing to go to another place when they called me down. There was a Japanese lady on the phone. I had looked at a room before but when she saw I was an American, she was afraid to let me in. She had never had foreigners in her home before. I rented the place and sent my companion a wire.


The first night in that home, I was talking with the young lady in the house. I said, "Would you like to have a little Bible study with us in English?" She said, "Yes, I would." She invited a few of her friends. There were four people there besides my companion and myself. As we talked to them, I'll never forget the look on the face of one of these women. That woman never missed a night of those meetings for over a year. That was the beginning of the longest series of meetings that I ever conducted. It lasted a year and half. After six months, this woman professed. She was talking to me one day and said, "You will never know what your coming to this city has meant to me. One week before you came here, I was so discouraged that I thought seriously of taking my own life. I had been raised a Buddhist and that had meant nothing to me. The world had been disappointing and I felt I would take my own life. [Which is a very common thing in Japan.] For the first time in my life I was given a hope for eternity." With tears, she said, "This thing that I have found has meant so much to me that I want to offer my life for the Lord's harvest field." We told her a little of what it means and she said, "I don't care what it means. I want to spend the rest of my life telling those things to my country people." She is looking forward to the time when she can join our ranks.


We conducted meetings for a year and a half and after that time we were able to establish a little church there. There were 10 or 12. That crowd started with four people and increased until our rooms didn't contain the people who wanted to listen to the Gospel. So we got a larger place and most of those people came over and continued to come to our meetings in the second place. Since then, there has been another established in that city. That has been three years ago. We have two little churches there now.



There is one thing that I would like to tell you about our work in that city. When we first came to that city, no workers had ever been there. We didn't know one person - couldn't speak the language. The obstacles seemed so great.  The Lord opened the door for us and lead us to the exact spot in that city where there were a few men and women who could understand English, and had a desire to know the mind and will of God. I feel ashamed o the smallness of my faith when I went to that city.



Another interesting thing about our work there:  during the three years that we were in that city, we never invited men and women to come in to our meetings like they do here, going door to door. The reason was because we couldn't speak Japanese. Every one of the contacts we made were made seemingly by accident. We know, of course, that they were not by accident but the eye of the Lord leading us to man and woman with honest and upright hearts.



We got on to a train one day and sat down by a woman that was doing some needle work. Just to pass the time of day we said to her, in what little Japanese we were able to speak, that her work looked very nice. She answered us in almost perfect English. We talked to her and gave her a little card and said we would like to have her come to our meetings. She didn't say much. The next night, that woman was in our meeting. We learned that night that her home was only five minutes walk from the place we were living. You can imagine us meeting that woman in the center of four million people. The next night, she brought a man with her. The next night, she brought a young woman. We found out that those two young people were not her brother and sister as we had thought but were her children. For many years she had passed these people off as her brother and sister to hide a terrible tragedy. She came to our house one day and said, "I must talk with you today." She began to tell us about her past life and I told her we didn't want to hear it, "We don't care what your life has been." She said, "I cannot enter into fellowship until I tell you all that has taken place in my life." She told us one of the saddest stories I have ever heard. As I told her about the love of God, we saw peace come over her face that was never there before. That woman has taken her stand and son and daughter have also taken their stand. A little later, this lady's old mother made her choice to serve the Lord. Now, one of the churches meets in her home.



All the contacts made in that city were made in exactly the same way. Another example:  this first woman that came got on a station platform and noticed the title of book a man was reading was "The Life Of Christ." She said to the man, "May I speak to you?" This is very unusual for a Japanese woman. She asked this man if he was interested in the life of Jesus. He said, " I am intensely interested." She gave him our address and that man walked for three hours trying to find our address but couldn't find it. He started early Sunday evening and walked until he found it. After many months, he took his stand to serve the Lord and now one of the churches meets in his home.



We can see the hand of God leading us here and there through that great city. Our contacts were made as we rode on bus or as we stood in a street. When I got ready to leave those people, all wanted to see me off. I tried to dissuade them because I knew they would have to miss a day's work. A day's work in Japan means a lot to those people. They all took the day off and went 26 miles on the train down to the port. I found my ship was way out in the bay. I would have to take a launch out to the ship. They insisted on going out to the ship. Due to regulations, they could not board the ship. I went to tell them goodbye and they all began to sing that song, "I Have Made My Choice Forever." They were trying to show this choice they had made had been forever.


The people over there are the most grateful people I have ever preached the Gospel to. They are all grateful to you here for having sent us over there to tell them the story of Jesus. We here in America don't appreciate the Gospel as we should. These people's future was so dark and so little to live for that when the Gospel shines in their lives, it makes them the most grateful people. I don't think there was ever a meeting I sat in, but several times in the meeting, they didn't pray for the brothers and sisters in America. I wondered if our brothers and sisters in America pray for the Christians in Japan. The prayers of their hearts are often that God would keep you in the faith of Christ. Remember that they are the same as you are.

There is a little difference in the color and faces but under the skin they are the same as you. An author once said, "The East is the East and the West is the West and never the twain shall meet." That man didn't know anything about the power of God. I have sat down with the people of the East and have had some of the sweetest fellowship l have ever known.


The question asked of me was, "Was I coming back?" I have just tried to tell you of a little of some of our experience as we tried to sow the Gospel. I can say I love those people just as much as I love you. I am just as willing to give my life for them as I am here in America. Most of you know I plan to go to Korea next year, if there is not another war. I can say this, that if I never preach the Gospel in Japan again, there will be a part of me that will ever remain in that land. I could gladly spend the rest of my life in Japan, if I cannot return to Korea. I hope you will pray that young men and women will lift up their eyes to the harvest field that is white. Over here, we have seen many things to distract us but these people appreciate and value the Gospel of Christ so much that it is easy to preach the Gospel to them.


I do not know if we can return to Korea. It is very difficult to enter that land because we have to have a military permit. In one of my last letters from there, the lady pleaded for us to return as soon as we could. Those young men that came to the meetings have kept in touch with us. Not one of those people that took such a deep interest was affected by the war, I mean physically. Many lost their goods but their lives were left untouched. Nearly two million Korean casualties in this last war. Another thing, those two families that took us in, their home was left untouched by the bombing. Most of you know that the war swept through that city three times and it was left almost in total ruin. The first home was left untouched. We feel the Lord remembered these people for their kindness in taking us in.



I hope we can go back before too long. I feel that Korea would be a most fruitful country, if ever the door opens for workers to return there. There are several young men and women whose eyes have been lifted up to that little country and they desire to return to the country with us. We feel that there is hope for that country because God is laying it still on the hearts of men and women to go give their lives. I hope these things will give us a better understanding of the work in these countries. Most all the other workers here have had exactly the same experience. They have been speaking in Japanese. The only drawback was that we could only reach a certain class of people. Only the educated people can speak English. Nearly all that have professed are people that are quite well educated but the other workers touch all classes of people.



I hope you will be able to pray a little better for the work and workers in that land.