Buchman arrived in Saratoga Springs in late November 1942. On 20 November he had news of the death of two friends, one the son of the London business man Austin Reed, killed in action, the other a notable suffragette and Republican grande dame, Mrs Charles Sumner Bird, who with her granddaughter, Ann, had played a major part in putting on You Can Defend America in Boston in August 1941. Buchman was devoted to them and had just written the granddaughter encouraging her to get to know the women leaders of the Garment Workers' Union in her city: 'I think this development is akin to that which came to your grandmother through the suffragette movement. Some people here are dying on their feet because their only goal seems to be the end of a cigarette and the next cocktail. You are truly doing what happened in the New Testament. I remember some lines when I was a boy: Dare to be a Daniel, dare to stand alone, Dare to have a purpose true, and dare to make it known!
For Daniel you have only to put in the name "Ann". There are people who won't understand, but I would rather rave the appreciation of those four hundred Garment Workers than all the modern tittle-tattle which all of us have to listen to, but not always agree to.'1
That evening in Saratoga Springs, in a relaxed and radiant mood which brought the sense of eternity into the room, he talked with a few friends about the two who had died: '"The memory of just men made perfect!" Many funerals are so unnatural and inadequate. They should breathe what is necessary into the next generation. What a joy to have people who will give you a setting at your passing which will make others rise up and lake on your work.'
He said the benediction which he loved most: 'The Lord bless thee and keep thee; the Lord make his face to shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee; the Lord lift up the light of his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.' Then he went to his room. 'He was', recorded his secretary, 'supremely happy with a deep sense of the triumph of death in Christ.'
Next day, walking down the hotel corridor to go out, he suddenly collapsed. The local doctor, Dr Carl Comstock, was there within ten minutes and found he had had a stroke, which had impaired his speech and paralysed the right side of his body. However, half an hour later Buchman was speaking a little. Shortly afterwards, he sat up, and then, with his younger colleagues too astonished to stop him, he got up and walked to the bathroom and returned to bed unaided. Comstock, told of it later, said he had never heard of anything like it. But the prognosis was bad, and with local nurses away at the war and an influenza epidemic in the town, nursing would be difficult.
Without knowing anything about the emergency a New York doctor who was a friend of Buchman, Irene Gates, had had a strong inner compulsion to visit him that day. A few hours after his stroke, she walked in. Paul Campbell, a rising young physician from the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit who had resigned his job to work with Buchman, arrived to join her. In the next days he and Dr Gates nursed their patient through successive crises, supported by the prayers of thousands to whom the press had carried the news. Several times Buchman's pulse disappeared almost entirely, as his friends watched hour by hour. Each time they prayed, either by his bed or in an adjacent room, and each time he pulled through.
Three days after the stroke Buchman sent for the friends who had come to stay nearby. Campbell's diary reads: '11 pm 24 Tuesday: Evidence of circulatory collapse. Frank felt approaching death. Asked for Communion Service. Had everyone come in. Called, "John, John - he is always with me." "You mean Mike?" "Mike! Yes, Mike, Mike, Mike." Mike came in. Frank looked at him, said quietly, "Sit down for a while," and broke into tears. "How long, four years?" Mike answered, "Eight years, eight good years." Frank then asked for his wallet. Went through every item of it with Mike, distributing the money, designating some cheques to be sent back. Then he called us all in. Standing around the bed in this order - Ken, John, Grace, Enid, Garrett, Elsa, me, Mike, Ray, Irene, Ellie, Laura, Morris. "I feel death close." "Funeral Allentown, Sunday or Monday." Ken: "We will go on fighting". Frank broke into tears again. Then he looked at Garrett and said, "Pray." Garrett led us all in the Lord's Prayer. ..'
Another of those present recalls that after they finished the Lord's Prayer, Buchman 'slowly and with difficulty repeated, "Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory." "I want to say goodbye. But I hate to leave you." He asked that the two hotel maids who looked after the room come in so that he could thank them. Then he slept.'
Some of his friends spent the night in prayer. Others worked through the night handling press enquiries and considering urgent decisions. Again next morning he was at his weakest and felt he was going. 'I'm sixty-four. I'm ready; but perhaps the Lord won't take me yet. But you must get to work.'
'The following day was Thanksgiving Day. Again he asked his friends to come, and prayed, 'Oh, sweet Jesus, wilt Thou use us, and bless us, and own us.' He paused between each phrase and then opened his eyes. 'I saw the outstretched arms. It was wonderful. I have been waiting a long time for this. I am ready.'
Later, however, he was a little stronger and was able to be given news of friends who had enquired after him. When he heard that Henry Ford had telephoned, a twinkle came back: 'He doesn’t like using the telephone.' The ex-bootlegger from Tahoe had been enquiring after him, and cables had come from William Temple, who had become Archbishop of Canterbury that year, and Lord Lang of Lambeth. Friends in Britain had made a chain of continuous prayers throughout the country. 'Perhaps God will give me ten days or so more,' he thought that night. But from that Thanksgiving Day he began very slowly to improve.
Some time later he spoke of this experience: 'The old doctor was there. He expected me to go, but I had the experience of a glorious victory. I saw the glory of the other world. I saw the outstretched arms of Christ and they were marvellous. It was better than anything I have ever seen, the vision of the life beyond . . . I'm going to stick to that vision. The unfathomable riches of Christ. It was glory. I knew I was on the rocks out there in Saratoga. But after a time it came clear, "The time is not yet. Your work is not finished. You have other things to do." I'm glad I stayed.'
To Ray Purdy one day Buchman added, 'I saw Jesus. He showed me where I was going wrong. I have been organising a movement. But a movement should be the outcome of changed lives, not the means of changing them. From now on I am going to ask God to make me into a great life-changer.'
This dilemma in Buchman's life was crystallised for him by his illness; but it was perpetual, and inherent in the undertaking of doing personal work with individuals on as wide a scale as possible. The temptation to movement-mindedness may also have been usually more obvious to him in his colleagues than in himself.
Slowly, to the amazement of Dr Comstock, Buchman pulled back to convalescence, handicapped only in his right hand and leg. On 11 December, he first sat out of bed in a chair. On 9 February he paid his first visit to the bathroom. On 11 March he went downstairs for the first time, and on 18 March departed by car and train for New York and, next day, on to Washington to see five of his colleagues off to the army. 'He was still desperately sick but insisted on risking the journey,' writes Hale. 'As he was carried in, he looked paper frail, but his eyes were combative.'2
When Dr Comstock came to say goodbye he told Buchman that watching him during those weeks had restored the faith he had long abandoned. He refused to submit an account, but simply said, 'I am your debtor.' Later in the war when his own son was seriously wounded he wrote to Buchman that, without this refound faith, he would at that moment have despaired of life.3
Buchman's recovery was slowed down by a long-term heart condition, of which he had first been warned by a German doctor in the late 1930s. Campbell's notes for the summer preceding the stroke sometimes show his pulse shooting up to a rate of 130 or 140. He also suffered chronic and often acute pain from haemorrhoids. All these symptoms were to persist for the next twenty years and Campbell cared for him almost the whole time, only taking a break when he was needed for MRA work elsewhere and when another doctor could take his place. He believes this stroke saved Buchman's life, for otherwise he would have killed himself through overwork.
His friends did not find Buchman an easy patient. He had always maintained there was a right way and a wrong way of doing everything, a belief partly inherited from his mother. Now what he had applied for years to his world-wide activities all seemed concentrated into his one room. The curtains had to be just right and every other detail correct. His friends could see he wanted or felt about something intensely; but often he could not speak or only used Pennsylvania German. 'Food?' they would say. It wasn't that. 'Drink?' No. 'You got to longing to find the right thing, which seemed so obvious to him,' one of them recorded.
Campbell says, however, that, throughout his long convalescence, which was such a traumatic change from the crowded activities of his former life, Buchman showed no signs of frustration. Once early on, when he found that Campbell had been discussing with Dr Comstock whether 'anxiety' was aggravating his situation, Buchman said to him, 'You don't understand me yet, do you?' Comstock wrote later of his 'calm, unperturbed attitude with no evidence of fear for the future, either here or there, so to speak'.4
His prayers at this time were short and simple. 'Cure me,' he prayed on 30 March, 'and I promise to be a good boy,' and on 17 April, 'You know I am far from well. Grant me wisdom for the sight I need for today, and tomorrow and the next day. I am just a poor, weak, helpless child of Thine coming to Thee for aid.' But most of his prayers were for others, and especially for those being drafted into the services.
For New Year's Day 1943, a matter of five weeks after his stroke, Buchman dictated a message for the friends and colleagues who were carrying on his work in America, which reveals something of his style of leadership. It reads in part: ‘The call of God is to spiritual leadership, the rarest, the most precious and the most urgently needed commodity in the world. The need for it is universal, its possibilities infinite - and it remains unrationed. Our task as a fellowship is to provide that leadership...
'New Year is the time to take stock. Don't miss it. May the call of God take precedence over every other call...Everyone longs in their hearts to play some part, however humble, in the remaking of our world. They will respond when given a chance to see how . . . Build up in every way you can, and build in to every situation, every home, every person, all you can of this life-giving spirit. Never hesitate, never be inferior...
'Don't let the failures of 1942 get you down - learn from them and march on. Don't go by them but by the call of God and the power of God. They never fail. Remember this especially under attack. There is no power on earth can stop you, or even divide you, if you live in humble dependence on Almighty God, in simple obedience to His Holy Spirit, and in fellowship with Him and with one another.
'Always be ready to change, in whatever way you are shown. Never be proud or obstinate, but give all you've got. If feelings dominate guidance, he sure there's selfishness somewhere. Let all that go at once. God alone can satisfy...'
During the early weeks of his illness a fierce campaign against Buchman was being carried on in certain newspapers in New York, where the decisions about his overseas full-time colleagues had to be made by the local Draft Board since it had been their port of entry. These decisions sometimes became available to enquiring newspaper-men even before they had been officialy taken, or the person concerned interviewed. One British newspaper published in the morning the decisions of a meeting to be held in New York twelve hours later.5 General Hershey, National Director of Selective Service, publicly condemned such practices as 'unjust', and was attacked for exercising influence from Washington.
On 4 January 1943 the New York World-Telegram carried a headline right across its front page accusing Washington of 'protecting draft-dodgers'. It was the toughest blow so far and with Buchman still seriously ill in Saratoga Springs his friends hesitated at first to show the paper to him. When they did, he looked it over and commented, 'Well, we've certainly made the front page this time!' Alongside the story he saw the pictures of the Washington men accused of exercising 'influence', among them Congressman Wadsworth, Admiral Byrd, and Senators Truman, Thomas and Capper. 'That's a team I'd be proud of anywhere,' he said. 'Thank God for them. God's truth goes marching on.' And he laid the newspaper aside.
Buchman's allies in Washington stood firm. Admiral Byrd told the press, 'These men are working long hours without pay in an effort to show all people that everyone has got to do his part to win the war.'6 Congressman Wadsworth wrote, 'Moral Re-Armament is not only helping us immensely in the war effort, but we shall need it just as much in the aftermath of this war as we do during the actual fighting of it.'7
The American attacks, but not these replies, were reported in parts of the British press, stimulating more attacks in Britain which were in turn given wide publicity in New York and Washington. Hale, who was in New York, states that 'for five whole weeks we were on the front pages of the more sensational papers every day'.8 This left the New York State Director of Selective Service, whose decision regarding Buchman's last twenty-two men was final, facing a political rather than an administrative problem. On 12 January he decided to forbid any further appeal by Moral Re-Armament to Washington, as he was by law entitled to do. Buchman received the decision lying, still very weak, in his room in Saratoga. 'I'd be a fool if I didn't recognise what this means. But I can't take it out of the realm of the Almighty. I hate like sin to lose these men, but now others must take off their shirts. I probably made a mistake or two in these cases, but I don't think I'll be a politician. Let's have guidance.' With his left hand, for the first time since his stroke he wrote, 'Change - Unite - Fight! Probably my battle is over - for six months at least.' 'It will mean a maturing for you,' he added. 'Now you take on.'
Then looking out of his window, he added, 'It's beautiful out there. It's all I've got - about three or four miles. But I accept it. Whatever comes, tempest or peace, you've got to accept it. It's a torn world and it's going to be more torn still.' He turned towards the small group of men bound for the armed forces and prayed, 'Father, these men are going out into the wide world. May they be able to bind together a group of men to be like-minded men. Keep this old country together. Thou hast a better idea for it than we. Guide, guard and keep us all from danger of body and soul, through Christ our Lord.' His farewell was, 'I wish I could come with you. It's a great battle.'
Buchman was left with those above military age, several who were rejected on medical grounds and some who were ministers of religion. An attempt by the New York Board to induct these last was ruled to be illegal by Washington. The loss of key personnel meant, among other things, that it was no longer possible to show You Can Defend America in the United States, although the follow-up programme in industry and elsewhere continued apace.
In June 1943 William Jaeger wrote Buchman, 'We now have something like 1,500 labour allies in this country. We have stayed in the homes of a good many.' In September he wrote that eighty-six labour leaders and their wives had been at Mackinac that summer. By January 1944 he estimated the 'labour allies' at nearly two thousand. Similar work was going on with management.
During the spring and early summer Buchman steadily recovered strength, staying with different friends in the warmer states of the East. Though from this time he was never robust physically, he was mentally and spiritually as active as ever. He followed the activities of his colleagues, which included adaptations of You Can Defend America in Canada, Britain and Australia, with the keenest interest. In Australia the Prime Minister, John Curtin, adjourned Parliament early so that the revue Battle for Australia, could be seen in the Members' dining room, which was converted into a theatre for the occasion. The Minister of Navy and Munitions cabled Buchman, 'There is new light coming to Parliament through your vision.'9
Buchman was particularly interested by the findings of an intelligence analysis for the Selective Service Administration. It noted that Moral Re-Armament drew the fire equally of Nazis and Communists, of the extreme right and extreme left in politics, of aggressive atheists and narrow ecclesiastics. It had been charged by radicals with being militaristic and by warmongers with being pacifistic. Certain elements in labour denounced it as anti-union: certain elements in management as pro-union.
In Britain, the report went on, MRA was accused by some of being a brilliantly clever front for Fascism: in Germany and Japan of being a super-intelligent arm of the British and American Secret Service. One day a section of the press would announce that MRA was defunct: and the next that it numbered nearly the entire membership of the British Cabinet at the time of Munich, and was responsible for engineering Hitler's attack upon Russia.
'Nothing', concluded this analysis, 'but a potentially vast moral and spiritual reformation of global proportions could possibly be honoured by antagonisms so venomous and contradictory in character, and so world- wide in scope.'10
Meanwhile Buchman was grateful to have time to think of the meaning of his struggle and of life itself. Carl Hambro and his wife Gudrun were now in the United States, and he wrote from Florida to her, 'We have come to the Southland to recuperate. The warm balm of summer is on us and we are enjoying a wealth of honeysuckle, laurel, iris, dogwood and roses, and it is real country like your own Norway. It brings us closer to eternal truth - the thing that matters. There are so many real truths we want to learn for which we never seem to have time. Since this illness one has more time.
Thou, O Christ, art all I want;
More than all in Thee I find;
Raise the fallen, cheer the faint,
Heal the sick, and lead the blind.
Just and holy is Thy Name,
I am all unrighteousness;
False and full of sin I am,
Thou art full of truth and grace.
These lines come with a great life-giving experience. I remember all the good times we have had in life together. Will they ever come back? The day in Interlaken with you and Carl and your daughter: and in Geneva, and all that you and Carl made possible.
'Now you have come by mercy protected and your life has been miraculously spared to carry on further your good work. Rest assured I follow you and yours in God's loving care and keeping.'11
In July came news of her sudden death. 'Gudrun loved you dearly', wrote Carl Hambro, 'and you were often in her thoughts. She was intensely grateful for all you had given her - and us. And so am I. I send you her love.'12
By then Buchman was back in Mackinac with his team. En route from the South he had stopped in the quiet North Carolina countryside at Tryon where he attended the wedding of George West, the Anglican Bishop of Rangoon, to his own former secretary, Grace Hay. Sensing some agitation that the principals were a little late, he remarked, 'Think of the wedding in Cana. That wasn't just ten minutes and then all over. Christ made it something greater. The point about a wedding is not whether it's at five or a minute past five, but whether God is there.'
At Tryon, too, he celebrated his sixty-fifth birthday. ‘It has been an amazing year,' he said on that occasion. 'I feel God has a great plan for the future. I am marching forth with certainty because I believe something bigger is coming. We have got to prepare. My job is not to worry about anything. I go to bed at night. I go to sleep. I wake up in the morning. This morning I was awake at half-past three, the time I was born. Since the first week of my illness certain things have become fixed. New things have become important. Things I once thought important no longer are. The Lord gave me a thrombosis because I wouldn't learn to go more slowly. I thank Him for the past six months, and the next. It would be wonderful to be well again, but maybe, if I go to work again, I'll change some more. If I had my life to live again, I would only do the things that really matter.'
1 Buchman to Ann Bird, 28 November 1942.
2 Hale, Vol. II, p. 2.
3 Frank Buchman - Eighty, p. 176.
5 Daily Mirror, 14 January 1943.
6 21 January 1943.
7 Congressman James Wadsworth to Buchman, 5 December 1942.
8 Hale, Vol. I, p. 102.
9 Melbourne Age, 25 February 1943.
10 The Fight to Serve (Moral Re-Armament, Washington, 1943), p. 80.
11 Buchman to Gudrun Hambro, 17 May 1943.
12 Carl Hambro to Buchman, 31 July 1943.