From the Depths of Despair to the Heights of Glory.
The following remarkable letters were written to Sister Zelma Argue. Sister Argue states that although she had not yet met the young woman who wrote them, she has met a friend from the West who had talked with those who knew this young woman personally, and this friend vouched for the truth of the story told by the letters. For obvious reasons we are withholding the name and address of the writer.
September 5, 1937. Dear Miss Argue:
I do so hope that you will excuse my great presumption in writing to you. My great need for God is all that prompts me to do such a thing, but as I am desperately in need of spiritual help I am overcoming my better judgment and writing anyway.
And now to explain how I heard of you. It all happened in a most unexpected manner. Several months ago I was stricken down with a venereal disease. Discharged from the hospital (though still required to make a weekly report) I came home, still very weak. That was two weeks ago. After I had been here for a few days my aunt, who is in deep sin, took me out for a drive in a large bus. There on the seat I found a copy of your book, "Garments of Strength," and also a copy of the Pentecostal Evangel of August 28. My first impulse was to hand them to the driver in order that the rightful owner might be ascertained, but an inner Voice said, "This is what you need. You had better take them home and read them."
"Well, I read them through-not once, or twice, but many times. Never before in my life have I heard of anything so wonderful. When I came to the chapter entitled, "Be strong in peace," I realised that what I needed was that peace of God which you mentioned. But of how to make it mine I have no knowledge. In other chapters of the book you speak of people being "saved." I think that is what I need-if I am not too great a sinner to be "converted."
I was brought up a Christian Scientist. However, while still a child I often felt dissatisfied with the religion. They told me there is no sin and yet I saw evidences of its power on every hand. There is no sickness, they said, and yet many of my friends were suffering. Death, they said, is a fallacy, and yet had not my parents crossed the dark river and was I not left alone in a world, not of purity and innocence, but rather of sin and shame? Before I grew much older I had drifted away from the teachings of my childhood, for they did not satisfy the longings of my heart.
Because life held no other joy for me, I threw myself whole-heartedly into education, winning five scholarships which enabled me to put myself through university. At the age of seventeen I took my B.A. degree. "Surely," I thought, "I shall be satisfied now." But no! I was still restless-still longing for something I knew not what. Education was great, and yet even education could not satisfy that hunger in my heart.
Once out of university I was as a ship without a rudder. I did not know which way to turn. No one ever spoke to me of this Jesus whom you mentioned in your book. No one ever asked me to go to a church. My sensitive nature reached out for something to cling to. Being of a somewhat dramatic turn of mind, I was flattered into pursuing a career on the stage. Oh, Miss Argue, it may seem thrilling to many young people to be so engaged, but oh, if they could only see behind the scenes,- beyond the bright stage lights-beyond the gay costumes-beyond the glamour-into the HEARTS of those who are entertaining them! There are no bright lights shining in the hearts of many poor, heart-broken girls. The costumes may appear beautiful to the eye, but how often they cover sin-scarred bodies. The "glamour" ceases to be glamour when purity and innocence are "dead," and "the mere lees of life are left this vault to brag of!"
Several months were spent on the stage but I was not satisfied in my pursuit of peace. Education had failed to meet my need. "Society" had brought no peace to my troubled heart. Even the bright lights of the world failed to brighten my darkened heart. Still consumed by an intense longing for joy and peace I started smoking-then drinking- then deeper sins, and-I fell. Many, many times I tramped the streets homeless and friendless. Still no one ever spoke to me about my soul. Discouraged by my utter failure to find peace and rest, I decided it was no use trying to go straight, so I entered whole-heartedly upon a career of infamy. Indeed, everything I have ever undertaken-my education, my life on the stage, my pursuit of sin -all were undertaken in a whole-hearted manner. The months passed by and the police raided the house where I was staying. I was then only eighteen years of age. I was arrested along with the others and was given two years in the penitentiary. Feeling that my last opportunity to lead a good life had slipped by, I became very disheartened. I served my term and left the institution-not better for my punishment, but calloused by the seeming injustice of it all. Back into deeper sin I plunged, not stopping at anything. My reputation was gone; why should I stop?
Never possessed of a strong constitution, my health broke down in less than a year after my discharge and I contracted syphillis. For several months I lay suffering in hospital-not only suffering physical pain but also that "incessant torture of remorse." There I lay-minus the cigarettes, minus the drink, minus the dope, minus my
companions in sin-but .still hungering for that elusive "something" which I had missed. Everything that could be done was done, and while I have improved sufficiently to be home for a while I am still classed as an "incurable" and have been given three months at the most.
Well, I got home and then it was that I read in "Garments of Strength" and in "The Pentecostal Evangel" of that which my soul longed for. Oh, Miss Argue, do you think salvation is for such as I? You speak in your book of an actress who was "saved," and that gave me hope that I, too, might find this peace which is "not as the world giveth."
I found your address in "The Pentecostal Even-gel. " I do so hope this reaches you and that you will pray for me-I feel my great need of Christ.
When I told my aunt of my intention to write to you and ask for help, she was angry and said, "If you get 'religion' it will be the 'last straw' and out you go, home or no home!" But if I could only come to know Jesus I wouldn't mind anything. I should be willing "to make Christ all" (as you say in "Garments of Strength").
Please, please, Miss Argue, excuse my boldness in writing this letter. I realise that I am far too sinful to write to you but I thought that perhaps you could help me find Jesus.
September 28, 1937. Dear Miss Argue:
Praise the Lord! Hallelujah! I'm so happy I don't know just where to begin!
You can't think how surprised I was to receive your letter on Friday last. Immediately after mailing my letter I began to tremble at my great audacity-to think that I, a woman of the street, an ex-convict, should dare to write to a preacher of the gospel. However it was a genuine desire for God that prompted me to do so and, in the days that elapsed before I received your unexpected reply, that hunger was becoming more and more intense. Although my hunger for God increased, my physical condition became worse-so bad, in fact, that I was confined to bed all last week. On Friday my aunt brought in your letter. She said (seeing your address on the outside of the envelope) "I hope this will settle your religious notions. I hope that lady will tell you that religion isn't for such as you."
Tremulously I opened the envelope and read your kind letter. I was surprised. I was melted. No one had ever spoken to me kindly before. Oh, I had been honoured-and flattered-and praised- but never in the twenty-two years of my life had anyone spoken to me as you did in that letter. You said you would like to talk and pray with me personally. Well, Miss Argue, it seemed that you were indeed SAYING to me, "I want you to dare to believe the Lord!" I did not wait to read the tract you so kindly sent. I got right out of bed and knelt down. I had never prayed before. I didn't know how to begin. The Christian Scientists pray after a fashion, but they do not come to God confessing their needs. They merely make affirmations. They "know the truth" but they never get the truth-into their hearts.
I knelt there for some minutes in silence. My sins seemed very black indeed, but as I knelt there, I heard you saying, "Bring to Him every heartache, every failure, every broken commandment, and leave them with Him." I took courage and began to confess my sins to God. I said, "Oh, God, you know I am a sinner-you know I have stopped at nothing-you know all about me. I am sick of sin. Oh, cleanse me now!" I didn't get any further, Miss Argue. The tears coursed down my face. I shook from head to foot. Some mysterious power drew my hands upward. A great joy replaced that intense" hunger. I wanted to thank God but I didn't know what to say. Finally I shouted "Hallelujah!" I didn't know what -it meant when I read it in your book, but somehow it just expressed my feelings as I knelt there. I shouted once, twice, three times-and then I lost count.
The longer I knelt there the more I shook. It was as if a mighty electrical current was surging through my body. I felt inexpressibly happy but didn't know what it was all about. At last I began to speak in a language I did not understand. My native tongue is Spanish but it was not the Spanish language I was speaking. At University I had studied French, Latin, and German, but I wasn't speaking one of these languages either. It seemed very strange for me to be uttering unintelligible words, but I thought that perhaps that was what happened when anyone got "saved."
I must have knelt there for over two hours. Then I arose, and to my amazement I found I was healed! No pain, no sores, no scars of sin. I do not know how it happened but, oh, Miss Argue, I do know that I asked Him to bind up the broken heart and life and that He did not fail. Next I read the booklet you sent. I had never read the Bible, so decided I had better purchase one. I got ready, and, still shaking, began to walk down the corridor. The first person I met was one of my companions in sin:-a Norwegian girl. I went to tell her what the Lord had done for me, but to my amazement I couldn't speak a word of English! I grabbed her by the arm and talked and talked. I didn't know what I was saying, but she began to cry. She motioned for me to come to her room, and upon entering it she fell on her knees and howled and howled.
At last I found my tongue and said, "Oh, Fay, do not weep! Rejoice! Why, the Lord has saved me!" She asked me when I had learned Norwegian. I told her I 'didn't know a word of it. Then she told me that I had said, "Get down on your knees and seek God before it is too late. Trust in the blood of Jesus and it will cleanse your every sin." Her people back in Norway had been Christians, but she had "given it up," -she said. It seemed
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incredible to me that anyone should know of salvation and yet fail to tell everyone they met. Accordingly I asked her why she had not told me about God, and then she cried some more. Finally I told her of my intention of buying a Bible. She volunteered to get hers out so that we might both read it right away. .
I didn't know where to begin to read, so turned to Acts because they sounded interesting. I read through the first chaptef and then the second. I read how the apostles spoke "in other tongues" and began to wonder if that was what was the matter with me. Then I remembered that I wasn't an apostle. Still I read on. I came to the verse where Peter said, "Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy." Once again I began to think that I had found my answer. But alas, I remembered that I was the daughter of a prostitute and had lived in sin myself for five years.
Still seeking an explanation for what had happened I read on to that wonderful 39th verse, "The promise is unto you (but I had been a harlot) and to your children (but my mother was a prostitute and my father I knew not what - surely the promise was not unto their children?) and to ALL THAT ARE AFAR OFF (yes, I was indeed afar off) even AS MANY AS THE LORD OUR GOD SHALL CALL!" Oh, how happy I was to think that the promise was unto "all that are afar off."
I now had an explanation for my strange behaviour; so I bade good-bye to my friend and went out to purchase the Bible. When I got back my aunt was in a furious rage. She said, "You are upsetting the girls terribly with your religion. You must not give vent to your feelings in this manner. Why, several saw you pass down the hall and said they felt guilty at the very sight of you." I replied that I had been saved and healea. She said, "That is impossible. Why, religion is for decent, upright people, not for women of the street!" I replied with the Bible words, "The promise is unto ... all that are afar off." She retorted that I had better get "afar off" before any of the others got religious mania. I was frightened at being told to go, but knew it was no use arguing; so I said that I would leave in the morning. '
I did leave and now have a position in a home, in the country. Of all the details I haven't space to tell you, but will do so in another letter if you wish.
There is so much I would like to tell you-of the strength received through reading "Garments of Strength," of my encounter with the doctor, of my trip to the mission hall, of how the words, "There is only ONE WAY-to make Christ ALL!1" echoed through my mind as I left the home of my aunt, but I must close as I have work waiting to be done. There are questions, too, that I should like to ask you. I haven't the courage to do so, though.
Thank you again for your loving reply. To think you would call me "friend," the knowledge that you were praying for me, the love you sent, all gave me courage to "believe the Lord."
Lovingly, humbly, gratefully.