Wheaton logo 2020 color version also for mobile

#MyWheaton Alumni Blog

Posted November 11, 2016 by
Tags: Graduate School Spiritual Life

At an especially dark moment in my life, because it was a dark season in my attempt to minister pastorally, God scheduled the light I needed at a distant event I had decided to skip. Thirty-eight years ago, I drove north in Minnesota to moderate a session as state chairman of our association of churches in the morning. I excused myself to hurry home for an especially difficult funeral that afternoon. Presumably enough by then, I had decided to skip a training session required of me as an army reserve chaplain. Without being aware of changing my mind, I changed into uniform and drove to Clear Lake, Iowa. I reported in as the first day’s sessions were ending. 

The next morning began with devotions by the newly assigned staff chaplain of Fifth United States Army, up from his headquarters at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. This was Chaplain Colonel Duncan Stewart ’47, with whom I had worked in his previous assignment as executive director of the Armed Forces Chaplain Board. 

He told the group of chaplains he had managed to get in only two years of undergraduate work at Wheaton College when he was drafted into the army during World War II. After training as a combat medic, he was promptly deployed to one of the South Pacific islands we were invading. While caring for a wounded soldier, he was himself hit by a machine gun bullet. The projectile hit his spine, bounced around within his body, grazed a lung, and then exited. 

Both legs were paralyzed, and he lay helpless on a cot in the hospital tent, awaiting evacuation to the States for surgery. In that war, this took a long while and he waited with nothing happening. Sooner than he could have expected, a letter arrived from President V. Raymond Edman.  

The letter began abruptly without formalities: “The God who has been faithful to you and us in the past did not become unfaithful on or about 19 November 1944." So it began, and then its ending: “Never doubt in the darkness what God has made clear in the light.” 

Afterward in thanking Duncan, I said, “And I know how Dr. Edman signed it: ‘Cheerily, Me.’” He did, indeed. I had received such letters from Prexy when I moved in my ministries, although I never knew how he knew. 

So, too, had I heard him several times say (as I remember it), “Never doubt in the dark what God has made clear in the light.” I can’t count the times I have quoted Dr. Edman in sermons and even more often in private counseling. At this latest dark moment, I recalled it yet again and began to see light again.

Then Duncan told me privately what Prexy wrote between these portions he quoted. He had assured him of his own constant prayers and how students voluntarily held special prayer meetings in Pierce Chapel to pray for alumni and former students in harm’s way around the world. Shortly after receiving Dr. Edman’s cheery letter, Duncan began to sense feeling in his legs. Then he began to move them and then stand on them. Even before he could be evacuated, he was almost walking. The medical officers attributed this to his upper body activity releasing a pinched nerve, but Duncan felt Dr. Edman had provided the better account. 

Duncan Stewart, since deceased on January 2, 2001, told me one other thing that day in Iowa. After this veteran returned to the Wheaton campus, this time as a pre-seminarian, Dr. Edman confided he had never before used this now famous axiom, and he did the same day to another wounded former student. 

Dr. Wallace Alcorn ’52, M.A. ’59 is a minister, writer, and researcher with Wallace Alcorn Associates. Photo caption: President V. Raymond Edman writing at his desk in 1954. Photo courtesy of the Wheaton College Archives, Buswell Library.