Mr. Williams and Pastor Watson were worried.* The news didn’t sound good. Everywhere people were losing their jobs. Many didn’t have enough money to buy food or clothes. And lots of people were scared.
“What shall we do?” Mr. Williams asked Pastor Watson. The two men worked for the Adventist Church. Pastor Watson was the General Conference president. Mr. Williams was the undertreasurer. There were two treasurers: Pastor Shaw and Mr. Williams. They were responsible for all of the tithes and offerings that came to the General Conference. They made sure that the bills were paid, workers were paid, and most importantly, the missionaries were sent the money they needed to teach others about Jesus.
“Things don’t look good,” Pastor Watson replied. “I’ve been praying that the Lord would show us what to do.”
“I have a very strong feeling that we should do something and do it quickly,” said Mr. Williams. You know I have already taken cash from the bank and placed it in a safe place where we can get it when we need it. I have been praying and praying. I still feel like we should do something more.”
Pastor Watson thought a minute. “I have had the same strong impression. I believe the Lord wants us to make sure that His work is cared for.”
It was Thursday evening, March 2, 1933, and Mr. Williams was tired. He was ready to finish up at the office and go home. But Pastor Watson had other plans.
“I think you should go to New York. Tonight . . . on the midnight train. When you get there, go to the bank and send money to each of our missionary headquarters, enough to take care of them for two or three months.”
“That’s a lot of money!” exclaimed Mr. Williams. “It’s after work hours and you and I are the only ones here. Do you think this is what the Lord wants us to do? What about telling the others? What about Pastor Shaw? Shouldn’t we talk about this first?”
“Normally, we would,” replied Pastor Watson. “But I feel an urgency to make sure this is done now. Something is telling me to act quickly. You have shared with me that you feel this as well. I think the Lord has impressed us both to take strong and fast action.”
Mr. Williams went to get his coat. He found his secretary, Chester Rogers, working later than usual. Should I ask him to take me to the train station? What if he asks me why? Lord, what should I do? Taking a deep breath, he said, “Chester, you’re working late! I need to go to New York right away. I’d like to take the midnight train. Would you mind driving me to the station?”
Chester looked up from his work. “I’d be glad to, Mr. Williams.”
Mr. Williams boarded the train. It was a long ride and he arrived early Friday morning, March 3. He went to the first bank. He quickly calculated how much money he should send and then gave the information to the bank clerk. Mr. Williams often went to New York to do business and the bank clerks knew him well. He always sent the same amount of money, but this time he gave a much larger amount. He wondered if the clerk would question him, but he didn’t. Then Mr. Williams went to the second bank. He did the same thing there. It was time to go home. He took his seat on the train, settled down, and took a nap. It had been a busy morning.
Mr. Williams woke up suddenly. The train wasn’t moving. What was happening? He asked the conductor.
“Oh, there has been some delay up ahead. Shouldn’t be too long,” the conductor said. Mr. Williams relaxed and sat back in his seat.
When the train finally pulled into the station, it was already Sabbath. He walked home passing the Adventist church on the way. He could hear the people singing hymns for vespers. Not wanting to see or talk to anyone, he hurried past.
The next morning, March 4, he woke up to the sound of a boy calling in the street. Curious, he went to the window. A newspaper boy was yelling, “Get your paper! Get your paper! Banks closed! No money today! Get your paper!”
Mr. Williams couldn’t believe his ears. He did something he would never normally do on Sabbath—he threw on his robe, ran out to the street and bought a paper. Right there on the front page was a headline telling everyone that all the banks in the United States were closed. He turned to the business section. In big black letters it read “Banks Are Suspended Thruout the United States!” Mr. Williams knew what that meant. Even if the money belonged to you, it was locked up in the bank where you couldn’t get it. What would the church do? And then he remembered. Yesterday, he had sent enough money to the mission field to care for their needs for three months. And the money in the vault was enough to pay the General Conference workers for three months as well! God was good! He went back into his house and immediately fell on his knees to thank Him for His goodness.
When the sun went down that evening, his telephone rang. It was Pastor Shaw. He spoke so fast that Mr. Williams could hardly understand him. “Meeting, tonight. My office. We have urgent things to take care of!” He hung up so quickly, Mr. Williams couldn’t tell him what he had done.
When Mr. Williams walked into Pastor Shaw’s office that Saturday night, the men looked very tired, sad, and worried. He knew they thought the church’s money was locked up in the bank. He knew they were worried about how the missionaries would be able to work with no money. He knew they thought the workers at the General Conference wouldn’t have enough money to buy food for their families. Just then Pastor Watson arrived. The two men looked at each other and smiled.
Soon the whole room was full of smiling faces. The men were so happy that God had taken care of His church. Because two men listened to God speaking to their hearts, the Adventist church didn’t have to worry about money to help others learn about Jesus. God had taken care of them when the banks closed.
This story is how we think it might have happened. No one, including Mr. Williams, Pastor Watson, or Pastor Shaw wrote down exactly what happened and what people said. We do know from letters written by Watson that $150,000 cash was placed in a safety deposit box in the bank and they sent $500,000 overseas to the mission field. If someone at the General Conference were to do that now, in 2009, they would be placing $2,435,000 in a bank vault, and sending $8,121,000 overseas. That’s a lot of money!
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