Some one has said that if a man can make some one thing better than any one else, even if only a mouse-trap, he may go to the most remote sot on the earth’s surface and the world will make a beaten path to his door. This could well be applied to the influence which a man exerts on others. Even though a man goes to the remote districts of northern Labrador, working among isolated and scattered groups of fisherfolk, if he has the Christ spirit of service and a genius for helping men, his influence will spread throughout the world. This is preeminently true of Dr. Grenfell and his unique service for others way up north in the Labrador.
I have just come back from service in Russia, which would be one of the last regions that one would expect to find influenced by Dr. Grenfell. Yet here we find American men who have caught the vision of service to others in work with Dr. Grenfell, who are now translating this same spirit into deeds of love and kindness for the Russian people.
The work among the German and Austrian prisoners of war showed that there were secretaries who had been with Dr. Grenfell who were trying to do in a small way for the prisoners what Dr. Grenfell was doing for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. In prison camps of 10,000, these men were building Y.M.C.A. huts, which would become the center of all that was best in the camp. Here the prisoners could organize classes for themselves under the leadership of professors and presidents of universities who were prisoners of war. Sometimes the text books would have to be written in the prison amp by hand as it was impossible to purchase any. Nearly always the music notes were so written. Here, making their own instruments from material provided by the American secretary, they developed splendid orchestras. The weekly concerts which resulted, took all the prisoners away from the hardships of prison life and made them happy, at least during the concerts.
Religious services were established according to Dr. Grenfell’s theory that it makes less difference what the creed is, than it does how much the real spirit of love and sincerity permeates those who hear. Consequently, there were held Jewish services, Catholic services, and various forms of Protestant services all in the same building.
There was medical relief work carried on by prison doctors, with oftentimes improvised and inadequate sanitary equipment. The prisoners all donated their books and libraries were formed. Athletics began to flourish. Regular foot ball contests provided amusement and relaxation for all.
Not only did one see Dr. Grenfell’s influence in the work for the prisoners of war, but one found his influence permeating the work among the long-suffering and heroic Russian solders. Here was an army of 12,000,000 men, stretched along a battle front of 1500 miles, with soldiers receiving the pay of twenty-five cents a month instead of the American solders’ thirty-three dollars.
Then a wonderful thing happened. The Russian soldier found that there was an organization which was really trying to provide a club for him with all the things that he never realized were possible for a soldier to have. So there were found along the Russian fronts and in the rear cities moving pictures showing in the open air for the Russian soldiers with an attendance of over 3,000 men nightly. There were writing rooms where paper and envelopes were provided free of charge. There was a tea room with a gramophone where the soldier could sit and sip tea. The Russian soldier was initiated into the mysteries of American foot ball, basket ball, volley ball, and base ball, which often he had never seen before. Among the thousands of letters written by Russian soldiers in these clubs, there were many who wrote like the following: “The only happiness and comfort I find in my life here is when I can come to this wonderful Y.M.C.A. Club. I never before realized that there were people who were trying to help like this.”
The above picture was taken after the fighting at Odessa in the civil war between the Ukraine and Bolshevik soldiers and shows both parties lined up on either side a big trench which they used for a common grave to bury their dead.
On the Ukraine banners were the words: “To the victims of the social revolution.”
The Bolshevik banners read: “To the victims of the Bourgeoise (rich people) provocation.”
Former Grenfell men helped to carry in the dead and wounded during the fighting. These are the kind of soldiers we are trying to help.
Then there was work for the Russian peasants with a large steamer given by the Soviet government, the Soviet government paying for all the fuel and the salaries of the captain and crew. The Y.M.C.A. provided educational moving pictures on one side of the steamer’s hold, while agricultural machinery was on the other side. There were eleven different departments with exhibits, on the main floor of the steamer. These departments ranged from chicken raising to horticulture and bee keeping. A representative of the Y.W.C.A. was on board, who tried to teach the peasant women how to care for their babies. A representative of the American Red Cross was on board to assist in medical relief. During two months, these exhibits showed to 40,000 peasants along the Volga. Do you wonder that the village people formed processions of thanks, given in honor of the Americans and their agricultural help? In one village the peasants said: “This is the first boat that has ever come to our shores to give and not to take.”
Dr. Halsey, a former Grenfell man, was up in the North, amid the darkness and the ice and snow, working for the English, French, American, and Russian men. He was rendering a typical Association service to men who had no other place to go except the Association, and incidentally he was showing the same spirit of friendship which he had seen demonstrated by Dr. Grenfell in the North.
This little illustration of how the spirit of Jesus Christ, as it has been translated into action by Dr. Grenfell, has permeated even the throbbing life of the far off Russian revolution, is typical as showing how Dr. Grenfell’s spirit is coming in every country throughout the world. As we came back from Russia, through England and France, we noticed that in those countries are still more former Grenfell men who are spreading the same unselfish service of love throughout the world.
The wealth of man is the number of things he loves and blesses, which he is loved and blessed by.