Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Hail to the Rescue Missions and Their Role in A.A.'s Beginning; thanks to Andy Bales and his mission in L.A.
Dick B., Copyright 2013 Anonymous. All rights reserved.
Andy Bales of the Los Angeles mission was kind enough to send me good wishes on my 27th year of continuous sobriety. And I take this opportunity to thank him and to highlight some important A.A. landmarks emanating directly from A.A.'s beginnings with the missions:
1. On Bill W.'s third desperate trip to Towns Hospital, Bill was told by Dr. William D. Silkworth that Bill would die or go insane if he didn't quit drinking.
2. Bill and his wife Lois were there and were devastated--asking if there were any hope.
3. Silkworth told Bill, as he had told other patients, that the "Great Physician" could cure Bill of his alcohlism. And this is something Bill specifically confirmed--that the "Lord" had in fact cured him--on page 191 of the 4th edition of the Big Book.
4. Bill's longtime school-mate and drinking friend Ebby Thacher had just been lodged in Calvary Mission--a rescue mission run by Rev.Sam Shoemaker's Calvary Episcopal Church in New York--the place where, as Shoemaker put it, "Jesus Christ changes lives." And Ebby's was sure changed. He miraculously got sober after years of heavy drinking. And he visited Bill to witness to Bill what had happened. Ebby told Bill that he had "got religion." He told Bill all about the Mission and the altar call Ebby answered. Bill concluded that Ebby had been born again and had, in fact, been reliant on the Great Physician Jesus Christ.
5. Still suffering from drinking, Bill checked out Ebby's testimony at Calvary Episcopal Church. Bill decided that if the Great Physician and the Calvary Mission had helped Ebby they could perhaps help him (Bill)
6. Bill got drunk, went to Calvary Mission, and answered the altar call when it was given. Several, including Bill, attested to the fact that Bill had there accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and started on the road back to healing. Mrs. Samuel M. Shoemaker was there, and she told me in a telephone interview that she had seen and heard Bill "make his decision for Christ." Bill Duvall, an assistant at the mission, confirmed the event. Bill's wife Lois reported at a recorded meeting in Texas that Bill really had, "in all sincerity, gone to the altar and handed his life over to Christ." To top it off, Bill specifically wrote in two different places; "For sure I'd been born again." See Dick B., The Conversion of Bill W. www.dickb.com/shtml.
7. Drunk again, desperate, and depressed, Bill headed out for his last visit to Towns Hospital. Bill decided that if there were a Great Physician, he'd better call on him now. Bill checked into Towns. The thought about the Great Physician returned, and Bill cried out to God for help. Bill's room blazed with an indescribably white light. Bill sensed the presence of the Spirit; and he exclaimed to himself: "Bill you are a free man. This is the God of the Scriptures". See The Language of the Heart, page 284.
8. Bill was healed on the spot. He never again doubted God. And he never again touched a drop of liquor, Much of this is told in what Bill wrote several years later in his own autobiography--Bill W. My First Forty Years.
I have twice spoken at an International Conference of the Gospel and Rescue Missions. I have also long worked with Rev. Michael Liimatta who was their education director and in charge of their Alcoholics Victorious work; and I have been much involved with rescue mission leaders in many different areas.
The joshing title for the rescue mission work has been "soup, soap, and salvation." But--like the Salvation Army--this group of rescue workers goes way back two centuries in its work to have derelicts and drunks recognize their seemingly hopeless plight, accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and then go on to do constructive life-building with the support of the missions.
Two of the best known leaders in America--who literally helped thousands and thousands of drunks--were Jerry McAuley who founded Cremone Mission and who inspired S. H. Hadley, the successor head of the famous Water Street Mission. And their techniques certainly had much to do with many of the ideas adopted by early AAs--including the original Akron A.A. requirement of accepting Jesus Christ as Lord.
For further information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org