A year after Buchman's conversation with Grand Chief Kalumba - on the day of Buchman's death - a cable arrived at Caux from Kalumba saying that a peace treaty between the Luluas and Balubas had been signed in the presence of President Kasavubu.26

How did Buchman, without forming a sect or order, without binding anyone by vow, contract or financial guarantee, gather so many full-time and part-time colleagues of the most various kinds, who stayed with him for his lifetime and with each other afterwards?

It was certainly not eloquence or any of the usual charisma of a popular religious or political leader. There was nothing flamboyant or emotion-rousing about him. No one called him handsome; some indeed thought him ugly. 'God knew what he was doing when he gave me this nose,' he said. 'He didn't want people to be drawn to me personally.'

Hans Bjerkholt

His own explanation, when asked in the early 1950s, was, 'I have always liked people.' And while some cordially disliked him, widely differing people liked him in return. For example, one of the founders of the Norwegian Communist Party, Hans Bjerkholt, writes, 'My first meeting with Frank Buchman showed me a very humble man, a man gifted with exceptional affection and understanding of other people, a man who did not think of himself. Once when I met him he looked at me and said, "I feel there is something left in you of your old life." That was a very tactful way of putting it. The truth was that there was still left in me a great deal of my old life.'1

Bjerkholt took such concern as a sign of friendship. So did an international businessman, a Dane, whom Buchman told bluntly that he needed three things; 'Humility, humility and humility.' The Dane was grateful and, over the years, developed accordingly. But not everyone took it that way. A British industrialist and politician had shown increasing interest in Buchman's work in industry and promised to open many doors. He visited Caux in the late forties and expressed a wish to talk with some of the miners there.

Paul Campbell, who was present at the conversation, told Buchman about it later in the day: 'He walked in and assumed immediate charge, without being introduced. He took a large packet of cigarettes from his pocket and handed them round. Almost everyone turned them down, which rather unsettled him, but he sat down, puffing away, and dominated the discussion.' Buchman, knowing that some of the miners had silicosis and had, to the relief of their wives, just given up smoking, was angry. Go and tell that man what he has done,' he said to Campbell.


Photo: Hans Bjerkholt, pioneer Norwegian Communist.
©Arthur Strong/MRA Productions