The Life and Experiences of a Layman by Charles Boller

Pages 7 - 12


Introduction
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Along with a description of the life and experiences of the writer this book contains subjects for Sunday school lessons and groups of living examples.

That which is discussed and reported herein I attribute singularly and solely to the grace of God and I extol grateful praise for his help in that I have succeeded in creating interest among the scattered congregations of this land as well as those in Germany and Switzerland, which I have visited four times. The main reason for my traveling back to the old fatherland was this: something burned within my heart which I wished to communicate with others. Also let it be known that I often discuss humorous and amusing things in order to enter the hearts of the audience and many times I have achieved this. May the Lord be thanked. It has also been my experience that a good anecdote containing a useful moral reaps great blessings from Sunday school students. Thus the reader will find much edification in the conversations I had with President Th. Roosevelt, with Karl Gerok and with the world famous minister Spurgeon in London.

                                       The Author


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1. A Description of the Life, Conversion and Experiences of the Author

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I was born in the year 1827 in Upper Hörgern near Butzbach in the Wetterau region of Hessen-Darmstadt. In order to learn the carpentry trade I attended a school for drafting for three years and then I spent another five years abroad. In the year 1848 the "Revolution" broke out. I was a left-winger and wrote certain articles against the government. After the battle of Waghäusel on Rhine the gates of the prison were left wide open. One morning I received word that they were on my trail so I left that afternoon with a French pass. After thirty-five days I landed in New York and two days later I arrived in Buffalo in the company of a traveling companion, who paid my fare for me. Upon arrival in the city neither of us had a penny with which to buy something to eat even though we were very hungry. On Exchange Street I asked an innkeeper if he would advance me a meal with the promise to repay him with the first money I earned and this I did.


On the evening of the third day I wandered aimlessly through the streets of Buffalo with a stinging conscience and a feeling of homesickness so strong that I broke out into tears. On the northeast corner of Spruce and Sycamore Streets I experienced a turning point in my sinful life. With a sick and remorseful heart I overheard a spiritually rich hymn coming from a small woodframe church. I immediately decided to go over there. With a downcast heart I opened the door; to my amazement I saw twenty-five to thirty young people kneeling around the altar, bitterly crying. Others surrounded them, enthusiastically singing in exultant voices. The preacher went down the aisle of the church singing with a smiling face. As he came to the rear he talked to the people in the pews. At the time I thought: He's also coming to you in the corner. I'm still amazed by what he wanted. And behold, he set his gaze on me too. He laid his hand on my shoulder, gave me a friendly look and asked, "Are you converted?" I answered him while avoiding his gaze and politely apologized that I had just arrived from Germany this past week and things were still quite foreign to me here.


"Yes, it's the same for me when I come to a strange place," the preacher said. "Just come regularly and the thing will make itself known." I went back to my room and wanted to sleep but "the thing" came to mind. What in this world did the pastor mean? You're not a heathen, nor a Jew, nor a Mohammedan! You have been baptized, confirmed and you go twice a year to Holy Communion. Of course I bear a heavy burden of guilt and a great list of sins and I am very much alone in a strange land. Since I was still drawn to the little church, I went in and heard a remarkable sermon concerning repentance. On the third evening I went back. I was shattered and I squirmed like a worm in the dirt. I couldn't eat properly or sleep or work. Oh, how sick I was. But praise God at the crucifix I found rest and peace for my poor soul. I gave myself completely over to my Savior and He washed me clean of all my sins with His true and precious blood. Praise be to God, I became a new man! Now I loved what previously I had hated and hated


what I had previously loved. Now I understood what the preacher meant by "the thing." Within a short time the Lord gave me friends, brothers and sisters, money and clothes. Oh, how fortunate I was!

The love of Christ now burned in my new heart. The first missionary work I performed was to relate my experience to my parents and siblings in Germany. Likewise after my conversion I prayed devoutly for them. The Lord heard my prayer. My brother and my sister came to me in the following year and within two weeks they had converted to the Lord. A year later my parents came to America along with my younger brother and my sister with her husband. Within that year they too had converted. Father and mother, sister and her husband are no longer with us; they are in a better land where death and separation no longer exist - they live in the eternal homeland. The other four are quite close to the border and awaiting the command, "Come, pious and true servant, for among the few you have remained faithful. I will set you among the many. Enter into the joy of the Lord."


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Text provided by Lockwood Library, State University of New York at Buffalo, BX8080.B65

Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks