This parable was written by my grandfather, Joe Bayly, and is part of his collection of stories, The Gospel Blimp (and Other Parables). A recent email from a Christian organization inspired me to republish it here for free. 

Judson Dormer came out of China in 1949. He was swept out by the Communist regime, along with thousands of other missionaries and their dependents. They left the church behind, its hospitals and schools and other institutions possessed by the enemies of God.

After a short rest in the small town in upper New York from which he had first gone to China, and to which he had returned several times on furlough, Dormer began to accept meetings in various places. In the early fifties, people were immensely concerned about Communism, both in China and also in our country. Senator Joseph McCarthy was then alerting Americans to the danger of our own Trojan Horse.

So this returned missionary, Judson Dormer, was much in demand as a speaker. Primarily he took church engagements, but he also spoke at Kiwanis and Rotary and other service clubs, as well as at high school assemblies.

Let me tell you, he was an imposing person. He had what we’ve come to call charisma, at least as far as I understand it. He stood up there on the platform and looked you straight in the eye, and you just had to believe that what he said about the Red Menace was true. When you went home afterwards, like I told my wife, even the headlights of passing cars looked red.

I guess the big reason for this was that Dormer had himself suffered at the hands of the Communists. He was able to tell us what they were like up close.

First time I heard him was at Second Church in Iowa City. I had supported his missionary society for some years—actually, it was one of the first obligations we had taken on after we were married—and so I decided to drive in to the meeting when I heard he was to be there.

Marian was in the midst of canning, and she said, “You go alone. I can hear him some other time.” So I got into the pickup truck and drove into the city by myself.

A lot of speakers start out by telling how glad they are to be in Iowa City, or how at home they feel in a Baptist or Presbyterian church. Or they tell a funny story.

Not Judson Dormer. He stood up there in the pulpit, right after the pastor had introduced him, and looked us straight in the eye. He was silent for maybe a minute, then he held up five slender, pointed sticks.

“These bamboo rods,” he said, passing them from one hand to the other, “were pounded down under my nails with a hammer by my Communist jailers. They interrogated me for as long as fifteen hours at a stretch, trying to get me to deny my faith and admit that I was an American imperialist agent. But God brought me through, and I’m here tonight to warn you that what happened in China can happen tomorrow—tonight even—in the United States of America.”

He told us how he had been arrested at the missionary compound, separated from his wife, and hauled off to prison in an army truck. He was in that prison for ten months, he said, and those months were the closest thing to hell that anyone could imagine. Interrogations for long periods of time, under a single light bulb, with teams of fanatical, sadistic Communists taking turns questioning him. Almost daily beatings, living in an isolation cell with only a bucket. These were the things he endured.

Those bamboo sticks pounded under the nails were among the least of his sufferings. He could not describe others in a mixed group. (He probably could today; things have changed that much.)

I don’t remember everything he said that night, but I do remember thinking, during my fifty-mile drive back home, that America was in tremendous danger. I also thought how proud I was, although that may not be the right word, to have had a part all these years in his mission’s work. I might be an Iowa farmer, but I had done something to stem the Red Tide in China.

When I pulled into the yard, I went right into the house, not even stopping to check the barn. I headed straight for the kitchen.

“Marian,” I said, “did you ever miss something tonight. Judson Dormer was just great. You’ll have to go tomorrow night.”

“I will, if I get this canning done,” she said.

She was tying spices up in a bit of old sheet to put in the vinegar she had boiling on the stove. It smelled good, like fall.

“Look,” I said, “you’ve got to go, whether it’s done or not. I almost feel ashamed of myself, coming back to the land and cattle and house—even cucumber relish—after what I heard tonight.”

“Tomato relish, green tomato relish,” she corrected me. “What did this man have to say?”

So I told her, as best I could. By the time I finished, she was ready to call it a night and go to bed.

The next night we both drove in to Iowa City. If anything, he was better than the night before, including more details of his ten-month imprisonment.

We went up to the front to speak to him after the service was over. I introduced myself and Marian to him, and told him how much his messages had meant to me. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Don’t thank me, thank God.”

Then he asked me what I did, and I told him about the farm. I didn’t say much, because there were other people waiting to shake his hand. I also told him that we had supported the work of his mission in China for a number of years.

Before he turned away from us, Dormer took out a little black book and asked me to write down our name and address. The book was filled with other people’s information.

Driving home, I asked Marian what she thought about Judson Dormer.

“He is certainly a good speaker,” she said. “He holds your attention, and you’re surprised, when he stops, at how long he’s spoken. At the same time . . . ”

“What?” I asked. “Was there something about him you didn’t like?”

“Not really.” And I couldn’t get anything more out of her.

To Marian’s credit, in all the years since, she hasn’t mentioned the misgiving, or early warning signal, she had that first night. But that’s the sort of woman she is.

A couple of months later, we had a letter from Dormer. It wasn’t on his mission’s letterhead. In this letter he told how the Lord had led him to establish a new work, an independent testimony to the faith. He called it “Truth Against Communism,” and there was also the verse on the letterhead, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

He appealed for money to support his work, and of course we added him to our list of missionaries and Christian works. This wasn’t too hard, since the corn harvest that year was especially good, and prices were high.

I’ll pass over the next few years, only explaining that every fall Dormer returned to Iowa City. The meetings outgrew Second Church, and were held in the municipal auditorium. Thousands of people heard him, and hundreds became members of Truth Against Communism. (For a ten-dollar contribution, you got a membership card for your wallet, and a subscription to Alarm!—his monthly paper.)

One fall when he was there, he accepted our invitation to come out to the house for dinner. It was a long trip out and back, but he seemed to appreciate getting to see the farm, and—of course—Marian’s cooking. We had a steer butchered and put in the locker that week, so we had some good steaks. And, recalling that first night I ever heard Dormer, I got Marian to break out some of her green tomato relish.

After dinner, while Marian was getting ready to go into town with us, I took Dormer for a little walk through the pasture.

“You know,” he said, “I grew up on a farm. It wasn’t at all as big as this; farms in New York State usually aren’t. It’s a very simple life, but once you leave it, you never can go back. Shanghai, or even Iowa City, I guess, gets in your blood, and you’re sunk.”

I must admit, when he said that, I felt a little dissatisfaction with my life. What had I done? Where had I been, except in Cambridge, Iowa, all my life? Still, when I thought about it later, I got some satisfaction out of thinking that Marian and I had at least sent our money to China and the Congo and other places, to serve the Lord there.

One day, about four or five years after we had first met Dormer, we had a different kind of letter from him. The letterhead read “Reclamation Mining, Ltd.” Judson Dormer’s name was there as president, and the address was a Canadian one. I had a moment of surprise that he was in business rather than his anti-Communism mission work, but that was soon dispelled. I kept the letter—here it is.

Dear Brother and Sister in Christ:

As you know, I have given my life to stamping out the brushfires of Communism in China and the United States.

One serious obstacle to mounting an all-out attack on the enemy is the lack of money. This is true not merely of Truth Against Communism; it is true of every other work of the Lord.

How much more could you do if you had ten times as much money—even a hundred times as much money—to give to the Lord’s work as you are now giving?

God has now made this possible. I am writing to let you know about a miracle by which your money can be multiplied like the loaves and fishes.

As you doubtless know, there are many worked-over gold mines in the West. They are worked-over, but not exhausted. Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of gold still lies there, some on the surface, some underground in abandoned mines, just waiting to be reclaimed.

Why was this gold missed? Because it was too expensive to separate from the ore. And it would still be too expensive if it were not for the miracle I mentioned.

That miracle is a new mining machine, representing a totally new concept in ore separation, that has just been invented. I am teamed up with the inventor (his name is at the top of this letter, as vice president and treasurer) and we are announcing the availability in Reclamation Mining, Ltd., on the following basis:

1. Anyone may invest at $1,000 a share (Canadian or American). You may buy as many shares as you wish, with the following proviso: since I want this whole project to benefit the Lord’s work, every investor must agree to give a minimum of ten percent (a tithe) of the profits to Christian work. You need not give this to Truth Against Communism, although I hope many of you will do so.

2. For every $1,000 you invest, I guarantee you will receive $500 per month, starting one year after you have bought into the operation.

3. Anytime after six months, you may get your money back, with ten percent interest per annum, simply by requesting it.

Some of you may want more information about the Miracle Machine. I regret that I cannot describe it for you, except in the broadest terms. The inventor has no intention of even registering it for patent purposes, since that would enable any unscrupulous person to duplicate it.

But I can tell you that a prototype is now operational. I have seen black ore transformed—by God’s wonder of modern technology—into the purest gold. Gold, I might add, that is like the product of suffering in the Refiner’s fire.

We will soon be closing this offer, so I appeal to you not to be overly long in deciding to invest . . . for His kingdom and your financial independence . . .

I read that, and I read it again. Then I took it in the house and got Marian to read it.

“What do you think?” I asked. “Do you think we should invest?”

She folded the letter and put it back in the envelope. “You’ve decided about buying the farm and farm machinery and cattle up to now. You’re the one who decides when to sell the corn. And I’ve been pretty well satisfied. So I don’t see why I should have to be a part of this decision. You make up your mind and I’ll go along with it.”

“But we’d have to mortgage the property.”

“If you decide to mortgage, I’ll sign for it with you. But you decide.”

Two days later I went to Cambridge State Bank and arranged for a $7,000 mortgage loan. I explained that it was for an investment. Since we had finished paying off the old mortgage on the property several years before, I had no trouble getting the money.

I had the check made out to Reclamation Mining, Ltd., and sent it off airmail. I enclosed a short letter to Judson Dormer, explaining that Marian and I were with him in this, and that we wanted seven shares.

A few weeks later, we got a receipt for the money.

The next year passed pretty fast. That was the year we had torrential spring rains, and you couldn’t get a tractor into the fields until late in May. Whenever I got worried about the crops, I’d think about our shares and be at peace. That’s how much confidence I had in Judson Dormer.

As the end of the year approached, Marian got enthused too. We’d talk about what we’d do with the money after we paid off the mortgage. One thing was to buy a camping trailer. Another was to increase our giving substantially—way beyond the tithe—to the Christian works we were interested in.

I never expected a check right on the anniversary of our investment. But when two weeks passed and then a month, and then two months, I began to get a little concerned. So I wrote a letter to Judson Dormer, asking if maybe the check had gotten lost in the mail.

Several weeks later I had this mimeographed letter from Dormer in reply:

Dear Friend,

Unexpected complications in securing machine parts have delayed our reclamation mining project.

I regret that this has delayed the payments on your investment that I guaranteed. This is doubtless a disappointment to you, as it is to me.

Be assured that we are working night and day to become operational, and will keep you informed by regular progress reports.

It will be worth it, I think you’ll agree, when your monthly checks begin to arrive . . .

I hated to show the letter to Marian, but I did. She just said, “I guess all of life has its complications. So we shouldn’t be surprised if this does, too.”

Six months later, we had another mimeographed letter. This one was signed by Ernest Madling, Certified Mining Engineer.

Dear Investor in Reclamation Mining, Ltd.,

At the request of our mutual friend, Judson Dormer, I am writing to give you my professional opinion about the ore separation process and related machinery in which you have purchased shares.

The process is absolutely sound in chemical engineering theory.

Of more importance, I have seen the machine working at an abandoned mine in the West. (Discretion forbids my identifying its location more precisely.) Quality and quantity of gold reclaimed for the ore are excellent . . .

Well, this encouraged us. So we just waited eight months more, and had the mortgage on the farm converted to run a longer term. It still wasn’t easy making the payments.

By this time, I was writing to Reclamation Mining, Ltd., every six weeks or so, sending a letter to Truth Against Communism at the same time. The last letter I sent, I asked them to return our total investment of $7,000, as Judson Dormer had promised he would at the very beginning. I sent the same letter to both addresses, by registered mail.

When this letter produced no results, I wrote to the missionary society Dormer had served under in China. They replied that he had resigned from the mission about six years earlier, and they regretted that they could supply no information about him.

A month or so later, reading the Saturday church newspaper of the Iowa City paper, I noticed that a missionary of this society was going to be speaking at a church there the following day. So Marian and I drove in to that service on Sunday morning, instead of our own church in Cambridge.

The missionary was good, but I could hardly wait for the service to end. I wanted to ask him a lot of questions.

Marian and I waited around until everyone else had left the church, except a few people talking at the front. Then we introduced ourselves to the missionary.

“I’d like to ask you about one of your former missionaries,” I said. “That is, a former member of your mission.”

“Judson Dormer?” he asked.

“Yes. Do you know about his mining project?”

“That’s why I thought you wanted to ask about him. Did you invest any money?”

“Seven thousand dollars. Is there any hope, do you think, of getting any of it back?”

“I’m afraid not. I was just up in Canada, and it’s a pretty big mess. If an investor who’s Canadian would lodge an official complaint, the government would investigate. But nobody will.”

“How about here in the States?”

“It was a Canadian operation. The Securities and Exchange Commission won’t get involved. Incidentally, I lost two thousand dollars myself. Money I had saved for retirement.”

“I’m sorry. With the farm and all, it isn’t so serious for us.”

Marian had been silent up to this point. But now she said, “You know, it’s sort of strange how he hoodwinked us—and a lot of other people, too.”

“No doubt about it,” the missionary said. “And most of the people couldn’t afford it any more than we could.”

“Makes you wonder,” Marian continued, “about all those other things he told us—about the things that happened to him when the Communists took over in China.”

The missionary was quiet for a few moments. Then he spoke, “You know, he never was in any Communist prison.”

“He wasn’t?” we both exploded.

“No, he made that whole story up. Very few people in the mission even knew that, and when he resigned, our leaders decided not to say anything about it. I guess they thought he was no longer answerable to them, and it would be an act of Christian love to cover it up.”

“Love for whom?” Marian asked. “The people who believed him and supported Truth Against Communism, and later invested in his mining scheme?”

“Nobody could have known at the time—before it all happened—how it would turn out,” the missionary said.

“What about that report from the certified mining engineer?” I asked. “He said the machine really worked.”

“Ernest Madling isn’t a mining engineer,” the missionary said. “He’s a pastor out in the prairies. Dormer evidently persuaded him to write that letter and sign it as he did.”

“Do you have anywhere to go for dinner?” I asked. “We’re going to eat here in Iowa City before we head for home, and we’d like to have you join us.”

“Sorry, I’d really like to,” the missionary said. “But I’m going home with the pastor.”

So we said goodbye and went out and got into the pickup truck.

“Do you know what?” Marian said. “You’re going to take me to the best restaurant in town for Sunday dinner.”

“Sure,” I said. “Anything else?”

“Yes, one more thing. I like that missionary. He wasn’t flashy, but he had a lot to say that was worth saying. I’d like us to think about giving to his support.”

The dinner was great, except the relish wasn’t as good as Marian’s.


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