The young sailor was not accustomed to speaking in public, and the thousands of eyes fixed on him must have embarrassed him mightily. Still, he had a duty to perform and a promise to fulfill.
He was twisting his white sailor cap, until it became a wilted piece of cloth, and in a trembling voice he said: "Friends, you all remember what happened in this Temple a week ago last Sunday night. You all know how Sister McPherson wore a little white sailor's cap in honor of us boys, and how she preached the illustrated sermon with the ships, the lighthouse and the rock with the cross up here on the platform.
"You know how hundreds of us boys listened to her and how some of us cried when she had finished, how we came down these aisles and how we knelt here at the rail. You remember all that."
He paused for a moment, looking down at his own fingers, still twirling his little cap. And then he went on, seemingly gaining confidence as he spoke:
"My buddy was in that explosion Mrs. McPherson just referred to. I was there, and I know that one of those boys killed in that explosion was saved.
"I know he was saved, because he died with his head in my arms. He was here that Sunday night.
"He said he hadn't been to church for years. But when Sister McPherson invited the whole fleet to her service, he came. He told me that his mother was a Christian and always prayed for him, but that she had been called home to glory before she had seen her boy saved.
"He spoke of the sermon Sister McPherson had preached...as she pictured us all adrift on the sea of life without compass or guide, and he answered the altar call and took Jesus Christ on board the ship of his life....That was two weeks ago.
"After that tank exploded, when we carried him into the [sickbay], he looked up into my face-though he was in mortal agony, burned so badly that the flesh was dropping from his bones-and he said to me: 'You go to Angelus Temple and tell Sister for me that now I know I will be there, sure. And I'll meet my mother.'"
A Holy Interruption As he continued with the details of that awful tragedy and told of those few precious moments of life when the other boy, stricken unto death, lay in his arms, the sailor on the platform wept.But these were not tears of weakness; they were tears of strength that coursed down his cheeks.
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