Chapter 5: Golden Moments

Chapter 5: Golden Moments


When Joy came to review the five months spent on the Alaskan trip, she realised that the deepest impression made on her had been through a casual remark in the course of conversation on the very first day they arrived in the Copper River Indian Valley. The surprising thing was that the casual remark had nothing whatever to do with Alaska.

The young American missionary couple living in the Valley had already started planning the recording programme. They knew how short would be the brilliant summer when wild flowers added their vivid colours to the rich green that ran like a carpet to the base of the mountains that were forever capped with snow. Right now they were laying in stores of food and logs in preparation for the biting cold of the long grey winter. Opportunities for travel must be grasped quickly, they insisted, and they had maps and information ready for inspection, while names like Kotzebue and Kuskokiwin, Diomede and Malemute slipped readily off their tongues, and a dozen more besides. Then suddenly, in the midst of it all, a memory had flashed something to the surface of young Clark's mind.

'Talking of tribal languages, Miss Ridderhof', he had said. 'There are scores and scores of different groups in the Philippine Islands. I was there in the war, and saw some of them. All different, all speaking their own language - and most of them without the least knowledge of the Gospel. Any amount of tribes there...'

He had turned back to the map of Alaska then, eager to get on with the task on hand. He pointed to Hudson Bay and Fish River, indicated the places where they would have to go to get recordings, and the places where there were bi-lingual Indian Eskimos who could be persuaded to come to them. These were the people he was responsible for. The tribes of the Philippines subsided into the past, where as far as he was concerned they belonged, and he was back again in the present, in Alaska, where God had called him.

But for Joy it was different. Her eyes followed his finger as he pointed here and there, and her mind fastened on the information and plans while Ann, as usual, rapidly jotted them in her notebook. But that night when she crawled into her sleeping bag on the front seat of the Pontiac parked beside the Clarks' little log cabin, it was of the palm-fringed islands of the Pacific that she found herself thinking.

The Philippines. The great archipelago stretching like a chaplet of jewels off the mainland of Asia had been headline news during the Second World War, when the United States of America was pitchforked into action by the Japanese undeclared aerial attack on Manila. Descriptions of the islands, of the loyalty of the people to the Americanos who had promised to return, the stories of bridgeheads made by the gallantry and courage of the U.S. Marines, the battles in the air, on the sea, on the land, the ultimate victory and the delirious joy of the liberated islanders had all made stirring reading. Joy, like the rest of her nation, had warmed towards the people of the Philippines. And there, hidden in the mountains and the jungles and the lovely, far-off beaches, were tribes, scores of them, who were waiting to hear that God loved them, waiting to be released from the fear of evil spirits and death that held them in bondage.

It was as though a Divine searchlight had flashed suddenly upon a far distant scene, focussing her attention momentarily on something she hadn't known was there, but which she could now never forget. Throughout the varied experiences of the Alaskan trip, which included journeying by train, steamer, fishing boat and aeroplane, recording in such unusual places as a Russian cemetery and Indian wigwams, the thought of the tribes of the Philippines remained in her mind, ready to rise to the surface the moment it was undisturbed by other matters.

The Alaskan recording trip went well from the first. On the very day Joy and Ann left Los Angeles they decided suddenly that they would take advantage of an offer made by a friend to obtain for them one of the new portable tape recording machines that were just on the market. They had no money to pay for it, but realising how much more they would be able to accomplish if they could travel light they believed God would provide it when the time came. They'd leave it to Him. They put through a telephone call and ordered one. They mentioned it to no-one, not even at places where they were invited to speak about the work, but by the time they reached the Canadian border, where they had arranged to pick up the machine, they had received all they needed to clear the account.

The four thousand mile journey was accomplished without so much as a punctured tire, and as they sped along over the Alaskan Highway they exclaimed, 'What a marvellous feat of engineering it is!' Joy wrote of it later, for it had provided her with an analogy which inspired and challenged her.

'As we rode along this gravel-covered road which spanned thousands of miles through a vast wilderness and jungle, we read about its construction. Some engineers drew the blue prints, some men handled the trucks, others worked with their shovels, cooks prepared food in make-shift kitchens, nurses and doctors attended the wounds and insect bites of labourers, aviators and trucks brought supplies from distant markets, carpenters prepared temporary shelters for workmen, officials and labourers together sweltered or froze as the case might be, working out of doors in this place of extreme temperatures. The struggles and the dangers were numerous. Wild animals, pests, mire and desolation all had their part in hampering the progress of the road. Money was constantly being supplied from the citizens of our country. The purpose was to provide a highway for military advance...

'They had a great incentive before them and the time was short. They pushed ahead through every obstacle, counting not the cost, with the result that a way was made where there was no way - a highway in the wilderness, and goes on record as having been one of the greatest engineering accomplishments in such a short period of time.'

In the spiritual realm, this was what she was to do - to carve a highway for God in regions and among peoples who had not yet heard of His salvation. She saw the task was not hers alone. Each varied activity played an indispensable part. Her unqualified appreciation of what others did in the less prominent positions in Gospel Recordings, the workers in studio and office and factory, had the effect of knitting them into a team in which each was conscious of making a distinctive contribution. They were in it together, and the steadily mounting number of new languages captured and records shipped farther and farther afield were achievements in which they all had a share.

The shipping of records had by this time extended far beyond the American continent. With the end of the war, new and unthought of opportunities began to present themselves. In China particularly the door stood wide open for evangelism, and reports came in of the records being played over public address systems to hundreds of thousands. It had been simple to obtain recordings in the Chinese dialects, but who would have thought it possible to send records in the Lisu tribal language to the far-away mountains bordering on Burma? The arrival in Los Angeles of two missionaries who had been working among those colourful people had made it a reality. And since colleges in the USA were now receiving Asians from lands made free at last, Joy and Ann spent months visiting them after the Alaskan trip to make recordings in tongues that would be understood in such remote places as the borders of Tibet and the foothills of the Himalayas. They had captured twenty-one languages in Alaska, and in the year following their return sixty-six more were added, bringing the total up to nearly two hundred.

So they came to the tenth year of Gospel Recordings, and the fact did not pass unnoticed. The event must be celebrated in a fitting manner, that a spiritual Ebenezer might be raised, and credit given where it was due. 'Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.' Let all know that what had been achieved was due to His help, His provision, His guidance. Let all work stop for a week, that we may rejoice in His goodness, and share it with others! Open House for all comers, and a series of meetings at which the speaker shall be one who knows how to draw deep, satisfying nourishment from the Word of God! What better way to celebrate?

For Joy it was the highlight of the year, that week in June when Dr. McQuilkin again came to Los Angeles to conduct a series of meetings on the deepening of the spiritual life, when with her friends she was refreshed and inspired, and when the wonderful things God was doing through the little records were recounted amid prayers and praises.

There was something new to rejoice in at home, too. Albert Rethey and Herman Dyk had produced Gospel Recordings' own record pressing machine, housed in a room lent to them in Hollywood, where teams of voluntary workers could go by night as well as by day to fulfil urgent orders. Now the two men were turning their attention to the matter of making brand-new gramophones, easy to handle and light to transport, to replace the miscellaneous collection of patched-up old machines.

More full-time workers had joined the staff - a charming young musician for whom Herman Dyk gladly sacrificed his single status; one of Ann's older sisters; a secretary from Illinois trained in a lawyer's office; and Sanna Morrison Barlow from Tennessee, whose slow southern drawl and courteous southern manners marked her out as an aristocrat among the heterogeneous company bustling around in Witmer Street.

It was admitted in secret that they didn't quite know where Sanna would fit in. She was willing to try her hand at anything, but to see her standing near the kitchen sink with a bewildered smile on her face, obviously without a clue as to how to set about washing up the pile of dishes and saucepans that had accumulated there, made it evident that she knew nothing at all about doing household chores. And as she had been trained neither as teacher, nurse nor secretary, knew nothing about mechanics, and had little outlet for her social accomplishments or Bible teaching ability, there were those who wondered how long she would be able to stand the work-a-day world of Gospel Recordings.

But underneath the gentle, diffident exterior was the resilience of supple steel. Perhaps Joy recognised it. Perhaps she was drawn to Sanna because, like herself, she was a graduate of the beloved Columbia Bible College. Perhaps she felt a personal responsibility for one who was not finding a niche in the work in Los Angeles.

Perhaps she herself did not really know why she decided to teach Sanna the rudiments of recording, by taking her on a quick recording trip through the Pacific Northwest, across Indian reservations into Canada. When an instinct which she did not spend time in analysing but had learned to recognise moved her to a certain course of action, she obeyed it confidently. Her colleagues eventually ceased to be surprised at what she did. Things always seemed to work out all right.

Chapter 6: Angel Guides


Count it all Joy! / Capturing Voices - First published in 1978, this is a down-to-earth biography of Joy Ridderhof and the beginnings of Gospel Recordings.