November 2012

"I Shall Never Forget Him": A Black Man Remembers Abram La Rue

Elder John E. Fulton, who for many years was a worker in China and in the South Sea Islands, was a student at Healdsburg College during the time Mr. La Rue attended school there.  Concerning the far-reaching influence of this pioneer, he writes:

"Years ago I stood at the graveside of this humble follower of the Master and thought of his sacrifices, of his faith in the message, of his courage to stand alone; and I felt an inspiration somehow in thinking of the contact I had had with the life of this dear brohter.

"On leaving China I did not know that I would again come in any special contact with his history, but I took a tour through the South Seas, and the ship on which I was traveling put into a little harbor in the Tongan group, where it was to be loading copra for a few hours.  I thought I would go ashore and look around, and knowing that there are some Fijans who live in Tonga, I thought it would be a good opportunity to find some one of this race with whom I could converse.  I did not know the Tongan language.

"The Tongan people are lighter-skinned than the Fijians.  Seeing a dark-skinned man, I walked over to him, thinking he might be a Fijian.  When I came near to him, I found I was mistaken; for he addressed me in good English, and I knew at once that he was an American Negro.  From my dress or appearance, someway he seemed to know that I was a minister, and he addressed me as such.  He asked me if I was a Methodist.  'No,' I said, 'I am not a Methodist.'  Then he wanted to know if I was a Baptist.  When I told him I was not a Baptist but an Adventist, he asked, 'How is Battle Creek?  Do you have any Signs or Reviews?'  Then respectfully and quietly he asked, 'Did you know Brother La Rue?'

"I then asked, 'Did you know Brother La Rue?'

"'Oh, yes,' he said, 'I knew that dear man.  I went to Hong Kong a careless, wicked lad, and in some way came in contact with this wonderful man.  He spoke kindly to me, he gave me literature, and he advised me as a father.  I shall never forget him.  He did much for me.'

"To me that seemed a wonderful testimony.  Brother La Rue never was known as a great preacher, or a great administrator, or a great leader in any sense other than that he was a great follower of the Master, but he left his influence in the heart of this dark-skinned man.  His kindness was remembered, his attention, his words of instruction.  Somehow I feel that when the record of the heroes of the cross is written down in the books above, Abram La Rue will be mentioned as one."

-From Pastor La Rue: The Pioneer by Mary Carr Hanley and Ruth Wheeler, 186-188