Gary Moore, Philco, two-tone cars, The $64,000 Question, Maidenform bras on TV, Captain Kangaroo, "See the USA in your Chevrolet." That's what I remember of the 1950s. I distinctly recall there were no Christians in America until 1974.
You can imagine my surprise when I came across Arnold Pent III's Ten P's in a Pod: A Million-Mile Journal of the Arnold Pent Family. The saga begins when Billy Sunday blew into Philadelphia in the early 1900s, and the owner of Pent Brothers Cigar Manufacturers wasn't the least bit interested. But street preaching was loud and he overheard John 3:16, scared up a Bible, sold his store on Juniper and Sansom plus two others, and at age 45 studied for the ministry. Friends told him he was crazy.
They hadn't seen anything yet. His son Arnold II (not knowing it couldn't be done) purchased an already out-of-style 1932 Pierce Arrow and drove his bride over the threshold of many a state with their children (soon there were eight). They went wherever in the lower forty-eight and Canada he felt the Lord was calling them to sing, speak about Jesus, and put on Bible recitation programs. Hunkered down in the back seat among schoolbooks and Campbell's tomato soup boxes stuffed with "Swiss cheese type undershirts" and "double entry socks," the third offspring and second son was preserving it all in his diary.
Sometimes they got financial remuneration, sometimes they didn't. Always God provided. Their "tentmaking" was a fertilizer and landscaping business, which Pent found quite amenable to the Lord's peripatetic assignment. "Many times God uses the combination of men and their money, but often and with more glory and pleasure, He uses the combination of just men and their Almighty God. He wants men to trust Him completely for their welfare. Once this is learned and practiced, things go much more smoothly."
There was the time when they had not even a quarter to get across the Hudson River on the ferry. Father "walked into the woods above the ferry and carefully dug three New England birch trees, just large enough to fit into three paper cups; then driving to a residential district he went from door to door selling New England birch trees at three for a quarter."
They rented two cabins in northern New Hampshire, after registering their fertilizer and getting a license in Concord, then drove into Littleton looking for a prayer meeting. In a Congregationalist church in the town square they found two old ladies huddled in prayer, and father Pent got them so excited they went across the backyard to invite the small prayer group from the other church, which was worlds apart in doctrine. A revival was sparked in both churches. The Pents were asked to speak to the town's 350 teenagers at their high school the next day and to hold a special service in church on Sunday. Many believed, but being farmers, didn't have much money for an offering-which was OK because the Lord blessed the sale of plant food.
That's a Polaroid snapshot of 10 P's on the road. I like the story of how they had to get from Ontario to Manitoba. Mother expressed concern as they embarked from Bloor Street, Toronto. "'Do you really think we have enough money to get all the way to Winnipeg? It's fifteen hundred miles, you know.' With both hands firmly grasping the steering wheel and shoulders squared, he set his countenance solidly and with only the slightest trickle of rebuke said, 'My dear, we have enough money to go as far as God wants us to go. My calculations tell me we'll get these eight kids and the three cars about half way. From there on, I don't calculate, I just trust God.'" Which proved to be a wise calculation.
There was no typical day except for one thing. "The number one item on the agenda early Monday morning to prepare for the trip was not packing, map reading, or house cleaning, but Bible reading." That was non-negotiable, through snowstorms and broken axles-a half hour for the younger Pents, an hour for the older ones. Then after breakfast, family devotions. When you think about it, how else could this have worked?
If you have a question or comment for Andrée Seu, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.