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The Little Black Book — My Conversion
I took the examination to nurse in Davenport, Iowa, and was called to work in St. Luke’s Hospital under the same doctor who had taken care of me during my recent illness. I had taken nurse’s training in my early Convent years because I had planned to be a Sister of the Nursing profession. After I had qualified to become a Registered Nurse, Mother Superior convinced me that I had the qualities for a cloistered Nun. So I entered the Cloistered Convent instead.
Mrs. Wardlow entered the Hospital for an abdominal operation. Since I was a surgical nurse I was chosen to be her special nurse. I heard her praying before the anesthesia took effect and then l heard her thank God for sparing her life as she regained consciousness.
One day she asked me if I would read the 91st Psalm to her from the Bible. She pointed to a little black book in her suitcase under the dresser. I picked up the Bible and began fumbling through it. I was embarrassed to tears. I asked her where I would find the 91st Psalm. Although I was reared up in a devout home, and I had spent twenty-two years in a religious order, I had never read a Bible.
Very kindly she told me to hand the Bible to her and she would find it for me.
I began reading:
He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD. He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust ... For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
What beautiful words! I wondered why this book had been hidden from me.
Saints from the Full Gospel Assembly came and prayed for Mrs. Wardlow. On the tenth day the doctor released her from the Hospital in my care. I was asked to go to her home and continue to help her, for her case was special and the doctor gave me his consent.
On Mrs. Wardlow’s second day at home, I went out to the kitchen to prepare some broth for her. I turned from the stove and gasped as I saw Mrs. Wardlow standing in the doorway! I rebuked her severely and told her she was not to be on her feet so quickly after such an operation. She merely asked me what I was fixing for her lunch, to which I replied I had some good, nourishing broth. She laughingly told me she didn’t want broth and that she wanted some pork chops.
I dropped everything and went to the phone and called her doctor. He came out immediately and tried to explain to her that eating pork chops would be committing suicide.
Mrs. Wardlow told him, “Doctor, you performed the operation and did a splendid job, but God has done what you couldn’t do. He has healed me, therefore I’m perfectly whole.”
I might add that Mrs. Wardlow lived for many years and always enjoyed pork chops.
One evening she invited me to go to a little Mission where a Revival was being held. I sat in the back while she walked briskly to the front pew and sat down.
The minister preached, “There is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.”
Those words struck into my heart like a dagger! I kept repeating them over and over so that I wouldn’t forget them. I reasoned in my mind, “One mediator?” And I had been praying to Saint Mary, Saint Joseph, the Apostles and a host of others, believing that Virgin Mary could intercede to Jesus for me.
When I arrived home that night I asked permission to take the Bible she had given me and go down to the basement. There alone with God I searched the Scriptures and prayed until the wee hours of the morning.
I continued attending the Revival services and also continued spending the after-hours in the basement. I was determined to understand the Bible and find God.
The fourth night I stayed in the basement until 4:00 A.M. and then slipped to my cot in my patient’s room and went to sleep.
I dreamed that one of the ladies in the church had led me out to a beautiful flower garden. Following her down the path we came to a small foot-bridge. She hurried across. I attempted to follow but it opened up as I got to the center, and I fell into the flames of fire.
I began screaming, which wakened sister Wardlow as well as myself. I told what I had dreamed and she jumped up in bed and told me God was showing me that I was lost. At last I was convinced and I promised God if He would allow me to attend one more Gospel Service I would surely go to the altar.
Evening came. I sat waiting breathlessly for the minister to finish his sermon. He had hardly ended when I began weeping and ran down the aisle crying out as loud as Uncle John had, “Pray for me. I’m lost!”
I had my rosary with me and began praying on the beads. Someone kindly took them from me and said I didn’t need them, that I should just talk to Jesus.
At first I began to name every act and sin audibly to God. Again a dear saint of God whispered in my ear that I didn’t have to tell my sins to the people, but just breathe them to Jesus. She told me He alone could hear and forgive my every cry.
Many moments passed as my tears of repentance fell on that altar. My burden lifted and I felt clean all over as God forgave every sin. I startled everyone by jumping up to my feet and asking sister Wardlow to take me to the telegraph office immediately. Then I wrote three pages to Dad, explaining my conversion.
As I handed the sheets to the telegraph operator, he remarked that it would cost me a lot of money to send that. But I insisted every word was necessary, and I was only too glad to pay. So the telegram went on its way.
The following days I went about my work rejoicing in the fact that I truly knew Christ. Sister Wardlow’s home is up on a high terrace. I heard the brakes of a car screech as it came to a sudden halt in the street below. I parted the curtains and looked out.
Was I seeing things? No. My eyes weren’t deceiving me. I ran to Sister Wardlow and told her that my Dad and two priests were coming up the steps and asked her what I should do. She told me to invite them in and remember that I was a Christian now.
Dad immediately blurted out that he had come to take me home with him. I unhesitatingly told him I was sorry that I couldn’t go, but that I had to go back to the Mission where I could hear more of the Gospel.
For me to stand on my on two feet and make my own decision seemed to shock Dad. I had been a mere robot for most of my life. I’d been under the jurisdiction of my father until I entered the Convent. And then I began adhering to the rules and laws of the Convent by strict obedience for almost a quarter of a century.
Dad insisted that I get my clothes and return with him, but I refused again. When the priests and Dad understood my determined decision, the atmosphere changed. My father’s confessor stepped over and told me I had damned my soul and that I wouldn’t even have a chance in Purgatory. He told me that the day would come when I would want to crawl back to the Church and ask forgiveness for my sins.
I asked him to show me in the Bible where I had to confess my sins to man, and I would begin crawling right now. That statement so infuriated him that he grabbed my Bible and flung it on the floor, grinding it under his heel and breaking the binding. This merely proved to me that he had no love for the Bible but regarded it as trash.
Father Blankenship then began pronouncing the curses of the Church upon me. Some were so filthy and vulgar that actually it would be too obscene to print. However, the following is a bit of the sacred ritual of the curses for the damned.
He named every vital organ of my body and put a curse on each. He asked the maggots to devour each organ. He put a curse on my eyes that they would fall out of my head and rot. This particular curse terrified me for a moment. I remembered when I had my eyes burned with some potent liquid which Mother Superior threw in my face while I knelt in prayer in the chapel of the Convent. I recalled the horror of gross darkness for many days. I didn’t want to go blind and be unable to read the Bible that had grown so dear to my heart.
The last final curse was finally uttered by the “Most Reverend.” When they started to leave, Dad turned to me once more, called me by my childhood pet name and said, “Hookie, you won’t go home with me?” Through tears I told him I couldn’t go and leave what I had found.
As he stepped out the door and got into the car with the two priests I wondered in my heart if I would ever see my Dad again. I picked up my crushed Bible, retired to the bedroom and there spilled many tears as I talked it over with my new Friend, Jesus Christ, my counselor.