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'My God shall supply all your need.'
When Ann Sherwood stood waving good-bye to her college friend, Joy Ridderhof, in 1930, her cheerful smile misted with the tears that stood in her eyes, it seemed that the parting of the ways had come for them both, and that their paths might not cross again. Joy was bound for Honduras as a missionary, and expected to spend her life there, while Ann was going into work among children at home. But ten years later they were to be found together again, united in a work to which God had assuredly called them, and which was to carry them both farther than their most extravant imaginings.
It all came about in the most natural way, and without any planning on their part. At the time Joy returned from Honduras, Ann's mother was taken ill, and Ann gave up her home mission work in the north to come back to Los Angeles and care for her until she died. Thus, when Joy was beginning to discover how much work and attention to detail was involved in the production of gramophone records, Ann, who of course knew all about the project, had quite a lot of free time.
'Joy,' she said quite casually one day, 'would it be any help if I came along a couple of afternoons each week to do some letters for you? If you give them to me I can be typing them while you get on with something else'. Readily was the offer accepted, and it was not long before Ann found there was something else she could do besides typing letters. Joy was scrupulously honest in all her financial dealings, but her method of recording them was somewhat irregular. Her accounts were all to be found in a drawer of her desk--entered on the backs of used envelopes. After all--why not? Used envelopes cost nothing, and there was plenty of room in the drawer. . . .
However, when Ann showed her the accounts all neatly entered into a book in the orthodox way, Joy smiled her delight.
'Why, Ann, that's just fine! That drawer was bound to get filled up sometime'. Then, turning to the matter that was absorbing her immediate attention, she added, 'What do you think is the best musical seeing for this song? It's a wonderful song, and makes the way of salvation so plain, but it needs arranging to make it more interesting: we must get something that will help fix the words in the mind. What do you think?'
And because Ann had musical training and experience, what more natural than that she should take a share in selecting the score, and in helping at the rehearsals of the singers and choirs recruited for the record programmes? More and more of her time was spent in Joy's attic, sharing the work, and they laughed together at the letters that came in from people and places they had never heard of, addressed to:
SPANISH GOSPEL RECORDINGS
122 WITMER STREET
and which commenced:
'Can your organization supply us with 100 of your Spanish records . . .'
It had all commenced in such a small and simple manner, and was still maintained in an equally unostentatious fashion, that the idea of it being 'your organization' had not occurred to Joy. As time went on, however, it dawned on her that whatever she felt about it herself an organization it was certainly becoming, and one that was evidently growing. Already it was involving far more work than she could do single-handed.
'You know, Ann,' she said one day, 'you're giving practically full time to this work now, and I don't know how I'd ever manage without you. But I've got no capital and no income, as you know. I can't ever give you any money. . . .'
Ann looked at her and asked simply, 'How do you manage yourself?'
Just as simply Joy told her, 'I just look to the Lord. It's His work I'm doing; I know that. So I trust Him to supply what He sees I need. And He does'.
'Well,' said Ann, 'I can trust Him to do that for me, too. . . .'
On that same basis every other worker who later joined Gospel Recordings Incorporated, as it is now known, entered the fellowship. None receives a salary. All money contributed is put to the production of records, the maintenance of the work and the provision of premises, unless specifically donated for the support of the workers, etc. and individual stories of God's supplies would fill many books. The God of Elijah, Who could preserve His servant in the midst of enemies during a time of famine has an equal variety of resources in the twentieth century. And the promise of His Son stands firm today: 'Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you'.
So that matter was settled once and for all. Joy, with her vision and acute sense of Divine guidance continued to launch out with new plans for meeting the increasing demand for Gospel records, while Ann stood behind her, cheerfully attending to practical details. All money that came in for the work was devoted to the production and dispatch of the records; nothing was retained for personal expenses, except what was given for that specific purpose. And when, in 1943, Virginia Miller, a highly qualified secretary, left her handsomely-paid position to join the Gospel Recordings 'staff' she came on the same basis.
It is worthy of note that she became Joy's secretary before she even had an office to work in--the attic room was still headquarters. But extension was under way at last. Joy's earnest prayer that a suitable studio of her own might be provided had been answered when, looking around her father's backyard one day, she had noticed a derelict timber building, originally erected as a stable. It had been there for years, but it had never occurred to her, or anyone else, that it was of any further use than as a storehouse for junk. It had an uneven dirt floor, its walls were askew, and the broken doors hung lopsidedly on rusty hinges. But on that particular day she looked at it with new eyes. It was, after all, a building. It appeared to have a good roof. It was large enough to act as studio and office. And it was right on her very doorstep--or, to be more accurate, in her family's backyard. As is often the case, God's provision was there already, just waiting to be recognised.
Almost as soon as she decided that this was the place she received her first gift for it. She was invited to visit friends who lived outside Los Angeles, and while there they said to her, 'We would like to make a contribution to your studio,' and presented her with a stout, second-hand door!
There was something very significant about that unexpected and unusual gift. Perhaps it did not dawn on Joy immediately, for her first reaction was to wonder just how and where it would fit. But she received it thankfully, and as she drove home in her old Ford car, the door banging up and down against the roof, her heart began to sing.
A door! A door! 'Behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it'. It was one of the verses that had early been impressed upon her mind with a peculiar intensity, as though it had suddenly been spoken directly to her. Rattling along the broad highway that led home, she was reminded of it again. 'I have set before thee an open door; and no man can shut it'. Joy knew quite well Who had spoken it. She knew her Shepherd's voice. It was because He had said it that her heart was rejoicing now. 'Behold, I have set before thee an open door. . . .' If the Almighty God had opened a door, who could shut it?
'We may have nothing else yet,' thought Joy, 'but we've got a door, and it's an open one!' She calculated that the cost of this building project would come to $300, but that seemed to her like a fortune. The materials however were ordered in faith and although this need was not made known, except to the Lord, a check was received from a friend for this very amount just the day it was needed.
Clad in their oldest clothes, armed with pails and brushes, hammer and paint, Joy and her friends set to the task of cleaning out the stable and levelling the dirt floor with pick and shovel. Carpenters were called in, saws and hammers were energetically plied, and before long the place was transformed into a neat little soundproof studio, complete with a desk for the secretary, and equipment to record the Gospel songs, sermonettes and Scripture portions that were sounded forth through throats Mexican and Spanish, Navajo and even Chinese! It was a thrilling joy to record in their own studio the message of Life that would find its way on little black discs into crowded cities of the East, as well as to lonely hamlets of the West. And here the little team of women discovered again and again the amazing resources of their Heavenly Master, Who had promised to supply all their need.
America had entered the Second World War by this time, and certain supplies for private enterprises became practically unobtainable. The day came when they had but one acetate record blank left--not sufficient even for that one day's work. they had plenty of money in hand--but something more than money was needed to obtain those record blanks in wartime. So they closed the studio doors and knelt to pray.
After a time they heard a knock, but they disregarded it, and continued their earnest intercessions. Soon they heard a knock at the other door, and one of them rose quietly to open it. Outside stood a wartime woman worker, rather indignant at being kept waiting.
'I've brought you an order from the warehouse,' she announced coldly. 'Record acetates--three hundred dollars' worth. Kindly oblige by taking delivery now'.
Record acetates! Three hundred dollars' worth!
Almost breathless with delight, they obliged!
But perhaps the most outstanding answer to prayer during those years was when a tall young man appeared at the door of the studio one day and announced that he believed God had called him to come and help in Gospel Recordings. For some time the little group of workers had been conscious of the need of a man with some practical experience in electrical equipment. Fully qualified electronics engineers, of course, commanded very high salaries, and when, as often happened, something went wrong with the equipment and experts had to be called in, their bills were heavy ones. To expect a fully qualified electrical engineer to join the staff of the insignificant, practically unknown organization was almost more than seemed reasonable to expect, but they did pray that a man would join them who would be both willing and able to do some of the heavy work, and also some of the repair jobs connected with wire and wheels which somehow always seem to baffle the most ingenious woman! 'He needs to be young and strong,' they said to each other, 'and willing to do any type of work, however hard and menial. And he must be good-natured and tolerant--able to get along with a bunch of women!' They laughed, and one of them suggested putting an advertisement in the papers, specifying these requirements and adding that no salary could be paid, but that the applicant must be prepared to work full time, and pay all his own expenses, including board!
They put no advertisement in a paper, but they made their request, in the name of Jesus, known unto God, and the six-foot-three inches of fair-haired young Herman Dyk, they found, fulfilled all their requirements. When Joy recovered from the surprise of his unannounced appearance on the doorstep, and learned he had come from Montana, two thousand miles away, to join them, she explained the unusual financial basis on which the work was run, and he evinced no dismay. Indeed, he asked if he might give a donation to the work! As for himself, he was sure that God had led him to Gospel Recordings and that was all he required to know.
It was a great relief to have as another helper a young, strong man. He fitted in immediately with the Gospel Recordings staff, almost entirely composed of women, for he came from a large family of girls as well as boys, so was quite at home with the opposite sex. He took to hard work without any demur, and had a wonderful way with wires and wheels. He seemed to understand delicate intruments as accurately as a gardener knows his plants. 'Herman will fix it,' became the automatic response now to every breakdown in machinery. For Herman, it transpired, was an experienced electronics technician!