In Reedsburg, Wisconsin, Eric found his uncle's friend waiting for him with a hearty welcome. Mr. Conrad loaded Eric's baggage into the panel truck that he used to deliver honey. It even smelled like beeswax and honey.
On the way from the station to the Conrad home, Eric thought to himself that perhaps he would soon be driving this truck. Instead of hauling manure with a tractor he would deliver a much sweeter load--honey.
Eric found Mr. Conrad, his new employer, a generous man. "I don't want you to work in the beeyards too soon," he said. "If too many bees sting you right away, you will get discouraged."
He put Eric to work in his shop. He helped build new hives and repair old ones, and helped construct frames on which the bees would deposit their honey. Later Eric learned to work with the bees--two thousand hives of them.
Wisconsin with its rolling hills and waving grainfields, its orchards and gardens, reminded him of Unsen and the Süntel.
Mr. Conrad followed the same religion that Uncle Arthur and Aunt Charlotte valued so much. He took Eric to church with him and often included him in what he called his "missionary work." He handed out tracts and magazines to people and told them about the Adventist belief.
Now Eric began to wonder about the Sabbath. From reading his Voice of Prophecy lessons, he could see that God had commanded men to observe the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath. Yet his thoughts troubled him. Father and Mother had always been Christians. Nobody could convince him otherwise, yet they kept Sunday.
That summer Mr. Conrad took Eric on a short trip to Florida where he had an additional fifteen hundred hives of bees. They found plenty of work waiting for them. They cleaned the beeyards and put them in shape. Later in the fall the Florida caretaker would harvest the delicious orange-blossom honey. Eric had tasted it and understood why it sold so well.
Back in Wisconsin the summer's work kept both of them busy. Eric had begun to like the job of beekeeper.
One day while Eric worked with Mr. Conrad in the beeyard, his employer said, "Eric, I think you ought to go back to school. I would like to send you to a Christian high school, and I will help with your expenses."
Eric felt as though someone had doused him with a bucket of icewater. "Me? Me, go back to school? Never!"
Mr. Conrad didn't say any more that day, but Eric couldn't get the words out of his mind. For the next few days he tried to shut from his thoughts the challenging questions Mr. Conrad's suggestion had raised.
What did he intend to do with his life? How much actual schooling had he gotten in Germany during the war years? Would it be adequate for a man's lifework?
In spite of his attempt to stifle them, these questions and others kept rising up before him as though some other part of himself stood up and argued with him.
"Your school study in Germany didn't amount to much. The bombings disturbed it too often," the inner voice said.
Yes, Eric must admit that he hadn't studied a great deal.
"You are making a new life in a new country. Better learn all you can, you'll need it."
Eric admitted the truth of this argument too.
"God has important work for you to do. Shouldn't you prepare yourself?"
Eric hesitated at this suggestion. Where could it be coming from? Must be that he'd listened too much to Uncle Arthur and Aunt Charlotte's religion. He'd gone to the Seventh-day Adventist church too, and then this spring and summer with Mr. Conrad had gotten him to thinking like an Adventist. But he wasn't an Adventist. He'd been baptized as a baby, and confirmed during the war years, in the old Lutheran church in Holtensen. Sure, he'd been a Christian all his life, but what could all this conflict have to do with going back to school?
Through the days that followed, as Eric helped Mr. Conrad finish his summer work with the bees, the older man brought up the subject of school again and again.
"We have a fine school here in Wisconsin. I'm sure you would enjoy being there."
Eric didn't answer, "Never!" as he had the first time Mr. Conrad mentioned school; but his mind began to grapple with a great problem, and he spent many serious hours in thought.
All his life he had been pushed by circumstances. He had gone through the war years in Germany in the Hitler Jungvolk, and later the Hitler-Jugend, where he had followed orders. He had seen Hitler rise to power and go down to a dishonored grave dragging a ruined country with him. Eric realized that up to now he had never made a strong decision for himself. Never before had he stood up and chosen a course of action with deliberate intention. Now he felt himself being dragged into a personal conflict for which he had no weapons.
He knew that the Bible taught seventh-day Sabbath-keeping. He knew that not one text could be found to support Sunday observance. Yet his mind always went back to Father and Mother. He remembered so many things that convinced him that they were true Christians. Yet they kept Sunday as a holy day. Could such good and dedicated people be mistaken?
For days he thought about these things, and his mind became more and more troubled. He knew that this school must be a Seventh-day Adventist school. If he should go there, wouldn't it be some kind of commitment?
One day Mr. Conrad put a letter by his plate at lunchtime. "An application blank from the school," he explained. "Look it over. Maybe you will decide to fill it out."
Eric pulled the paper from the envelope and unfolded it. A series of questions caught his eye:
Have you ever used tobacco? . . . Liquor?
Have you ever attended motion picture shows? . . .
Theaters? . . . Dances?
Have you played cards?
Eric would have to answer "yes" to all those questions. Would his application be rejected because of that? Of course he hadn't done any of these things while he lived with Uncle Arthur and Aunt Charlotte or later when he came to work for Mr. Conrad.
Do you use profane language?
He could mark a big black "no" for that one. Mother had taught him never to use profane or vulgar expressions.
Are you desirous of being a Christian--of living a Christian life?
This question struck at the heart of the problem he had wrestled with for days. Living a Christian life meant letting Jesus live in his heart and mind and letting Jesus direct his actions. Living a Christian life meant keeping God's holy law, and the Sabbath commandment stood in the center of that law.
Eric picked up the envelope and the application blank and started for his room.
"Don't worry about clothes or entrance fees. I'll see that you have the proper things to begin school," Mr. Conrad called after him.
"Thank you. I have to think about this." Eric went into his room and shut the door. He knew that Mr. Conrad must have seen the worried look on his face and supposed that financial problems troubled him.
He took the Bible his Aunt Charlotte had given him and the unfinished packet of Voice of Prophecy lessons. He looked to see what lesson he had sent in last--one about the Sabbath. And the next one? Another lesson about the Sabbath!
Strange that a day of the week could raise such a disturbance in his mind. He tried to calm himself and think the matter through. He had read the Genesis story and knew that God had named the days of the week at Creation; first day, second day, third day, and so on. No one could doubt that God had established the seven-day week, or that He had set apart the seventh day as a holy rest day.
Eric opened his Bible and turned to the fourth commandment:
He closed his Bible and took out the application blank. He answered all the questions and signed his name. The next morning he mailed the letter. He had decided that if the school would accept him, he would go.
"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
but the seventh day is the Sabbath
of the Lord your God.
in it you shall do no work:
you, nor your son, nor your daughter,
nor your manservant,
nor your maidservant, nor your cattle,
nor your stranger who is within your gates.
For in six days the Lord made
the heavens and the earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
and rested the seventh day.
Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day
and hallowed it."
Mr. Conrad seemed delighted over Eric's decision. "Now, don't worry about anything. All of us will help you. The registration comes soon now."
And they did help him. Mr. Conrad and the church people helped him with clothing and bedding. Eric had grown taller since he had come to Uncle Arthur's house almost ten months before. None of his clothes from Germany fit him anymore.
Eric saw the things being readied for him, and he couldn't understand why Mr. Conrad could be so sure that the school would accept him. But in a few days the acceptance came, and Mr. Conrad loaded Eric and his belongings into the honey truck and took him over to the dormitory at the school.
Eric thought to himself, "It should be easy for me to be a good Christian at this school--no smoking, no drinking, no dancing, no bad language. These young people must be the cream of the country."
He liked the school grounds. Although the buildings looked old, the lawns around them spread a green plush carpet, and the trees and meadows reminded him of Unsen.
The farm manager assigned Eric work in the barn, and he felt at home there. He helped care for the cows and did other chores. In the classroom he did not feel at home. He felt awkward. He understood and spoke little English. At Uncle Arthur's home it hadn't mattered about English. They all talked German. Later with Mr. Conrad he had spoken German too. The letters he received from Germany every week and the ones he wrote home were all in German. He had to face it--his knowledge of English amounted to almost nothing.
He studied long hours and applied himself with all the energy of his new decision to prepare himself for a successful future. The first semester's grades were a disappointment.
Other things began to trouble him too. Sometimes when he went into the other boys' rooms he smelled tobacco smoke. A few times he saw a playing card dropped on the floor and knew that a card game must have ended suddenly when he knocked on the door. Hadn't these boys filled out the same application blank he had? Weren't they trying to be Christians? He knew that some of them belonged to a special seminar group and were planning to become preachers. Eric couldn't figure it out.
One evening he came upstairs in the dormitory after work and saw a big garbage can standing in the hallway right at the top of the stairs. Two boys carried buckets of water from the bathroom and filled it.
"What are you going to do with that?" he asked.
"Wait and see," one of the boys chuckled. "We're going to have some great fun with all this water."
Eric saw the boys tip the full garbage can down the stairs. The water made a tremendous splash. Most of it rushed into the dean's apartment at the foot of the stairs. Eric could imagine what that water did to the dean's carpet.
He went into his room and shut the door.
So this is a Christian school, he thought. Father had always taught him
to respect other people's property. This school had been dedicated to God.
The teachers were always reminding the students that this was a dedicated
place. How dare those boys damage the Lord's property? He felt more discouraged
than ever. Why should he stay at this school any longer? That night he
made up his mind to leave.
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