by Mrs. David L. Cooper
“I Press on Toward the Goal ...” (Philippians 3:14a)
It seems quite fitting in this story which pertains to God's answers to prayer for the Biblical Research Society to tell something of His providential leading in the lives of my husband and myself in preparing us for this world-wide service. I shall therefore in the beginning relate something of the life struggle and the motivating force back of the endless study and unremitting search for truth of David L. Cooper whom God called to leave all in order to give the gospel to Israel.
It is the story of a long struggle and many difficulties, met and overcome; of privations endured by him and his family; of lone hours of hard physical and mental labor spent daily; and of God's moving in mysterious ways to prepare a man for the service He was calling him to do. It is the story of courageous ignoring of personal fatigue, inconveniences, and hardships in order to be true to a vision and to the Lord who gave it. His desire for truth eventually led him through several universities and a seminary. It led him to study in a number of libraries in Europe, and into a period of study in the Holy Land and travel through seventeen countries. God does not deal with any two of His children in exactly the same way; yet the sharing of one's experiences with others is often a means of helping to bring encouragement to some weary, frustrated believer. There are of course some things which cannot be shared — those deeper, innermost soul experiences which God grants to His children — but there are many instances of prayer answered and objectives attained, the relating of which prove a real blessing to others. Whatever measure of success has attended my husband's efforts, the entire credit goes to our blessed Lord. “A man can receive nothing, except it have been given him from heaven” (John 3:27b), “... for he is faithful that promised” (Heb. 10:23b). And we have indeed found that “when he hath put forth all his own, he goeth before them” (John 10:4a).
From Freight House to Pulpit
In his early teens David L. Cooper was working in the freight depot of the N.C. & St. L. Railway at Nashville, Tennessee, trucking freight. The height of his ambition at that time and the goal toward which he was working, was to become a railroad engineer, “pulling the throttle on a fast express train on the Burlington Route out of St. Louis.”
But God had different plans for this ambitious young man, plans which had nothing to do with pulling throttles or blowing whistles on a speeding train. And thus in due time, before young Cooper was nineteen, the Lord had set in motion circumstances which brought him face to face with his lost condition and his need of salvation. He heard the Word of God and accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour. And then God called him to service. The call was so definite, and the urge in his innermost soul to preach God's Word so strong, that he immediately made up his mind to resign his work with the railway, enter school, and train for the ministry. The next fall he left the freight depot behind him and enrolled in a Bible college, thus making the first step toward his preparation for the service which God had for him. The last thirty dollars which he had, he paid on tuition. Fortunately for him he lived at home and could walk the mile to and from school. In his lonely walks through the woods he practiced public speaking (trying to overcome stammering and the impediment which he at that time had in his speech) by preaching to the trees.
This period was the beginning of his struggles. He had no money, not even a nickel for car fare to the city until Christmas vacation, when he earned a few dollars. In the summer time, as a young evangelist, he preached in country churches and in tents in out-of-the-way places, receiving only a very small remuneration.
Five years of schooling, work, and struggle passed. During that time the friendship which he and I had formed while we were at same college deepened, and at the end of the five years we became engaged. We did not contemplate immediate marriage, and he accepted a position as teacher in a Christian high school in New Orleans, Louisiana. He left that position to become cashier for the Cumberland Telephone Company, at Gulfport Mississippi. The manager of the Louisiana and Southern Mississippi district of the Telephone System appreciated his honesty, faithfulness, and ability so very much that he offered him a permanent position anywhere he wanted to work in his territory. The manager promised to “shove him to the top” as fast as he could learn the system. This was indeed an appealing offer and one that would tempt almost any young man. Opportunity knocked, not only in this proposition, but with nine other offers within a few weeks' time. These offers were positions such as dean of a college and pastor of churches.
Naturally he wanted my reaction to these different offers, and so he wrote me, asking which I would prefer his accepting. This was several weeks before the date we had planned for our wedding, and it was certainly a problem for me to know what to say. It was not, however, necessary for me to make a choice; the Lord had not forgotten the young man whom He had called so very definitely into His service. It was just before the time for the wedding when he wrote again saying, “I am not going to accept any of the positions I have been offered. God has shown me that He wants me to go back to school. I am going to Louisville, Kentucky, to study again. Would you be willing to go with me?”
This seemed a sudden decision, but there was a reason for it. Just prior to, and incidental to this decision, while he was in the pulpit delivering a prophetic message, God showed him a certain truth, and he realized that he was teaching error! Stunned by the sudden revelation, he floundered in his sermon for about ten minutes, and then stopped. David L. Cooper was then, as he is now, of such a sober, honest, sincere nature that, when he discovered the fact that he had been teaching error, he was almost petrified. He felt that he could never preach again, lest what he taught might be error. I sympathized with him in his quandary, but I knew instinctively then, what I have since learned by much experience, that the calling's of God are not repented of and that “God's commands are His enablings.” So I wrote him: “If God called you to preach, He is not calling you to be discouraged and to stop preaching! You should preach what you know beyond all doubt to be truth. Go to school again, and learn more truth.”
A week or so after this incident we were married (June 12, 1912), and that fall we went to Louisville, where he resumed his studies, and where his real struggles began in earnest. My husband then earned our meager livelihood by preaching alternately each Sunday at two small churches in the country, receiving $10.00 a Sunday. Since the day the Lord called him into His service, he has had an unquenchable desire to teach God's Word. And this desire through the years has made him willing, whenever possible, to help others in their efforts to learn the truth. During these early days in Louisville we took into our home young ministers to whom we gave room and board at $3.00 a week in order to help them in their struggles to learn more of God's truth as they, too, took Bible classes daily.
The next year our son, David, Junior, was born, and thus our expenses were heavier. My husband had enrolled in the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and was also taking work at the University of Louisville. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University and later his Master of Theology degree from Seminary. While he was working for his Doctor of Theology degree at the Seminary, our financial difficulties became so great, that in 1918 it was necessary for him to seek additional employment. By this time our family had grown to six — the Lord having given us another son and two daughters. My husband therefore took a position in the Manual Arts Training Department of the Louisville schools — Central Departmental — that he might earn enough to support his family, and he continued with his studies at the same time. The school where he taught was on the same block as the Seminary and three blocks from the University. Teaching hours were from eight in the morning until one o'clock. He then went to his classes in the Seminary until six. After that he would do research until nine in the evening in the Seminary library, studying in the non-literary papyri of the First Century and working on his thesis for his Th.D. On Saturdays he sold flour from a truck, house to house, for a flour mill; and on Sundays, as usual, he preached in the country. Thus he struggled for eight years, occupying every possible moment of the time, without sparing himself, until he finished his work at the University and the Seminary. Only the fact that He and I and I were sure that God had called him could sustain us in this rigorous life. But that knowledge and the additional fact that the Lord had given him a strong body and a determined mind made it possible. To the Lord be all the Glory.
While he was studying for his Doctor of Theology degree, I began to run a fever daily. I was sent to a sanatorium at Battle Creek, Michigan, and the children were placed in the homes of different friends. In 1920 while I was still confined to the sanatorium, there came to me and unquenchable desire to attend a Victorious Life Conference at Cedar Lake Indiana. I put out my “fleece” before the Lord and asked that if He were the one who had put that longing in my soul, that He would send me one hundred dollars to enable me to go; and if not, that He would withhold the money. In less than a week I received a gift of two hundred dollars. I wrote my husband, telling him that I had asked the Lord for one hundred dollars and He had sent two hundred, and that I believed the Lord wanted him to go with me, inasmuch as I was so very ill and weak. I told him that I knew it was God's will for me to go, and that I was going, whether he went or not, stating that I would be on a certain train arriving in Chicago on the first Monday in September and requesting him to be in Chicago and meet me at that train. There was not time for a letter from him, so I asked him to telegraph me. All Sunday I waited for a message, but none came. Along toward evening I became weaker and began to be very heavy at heart. It was a great disappointment to me not to receive the message, knowing that the train I had asked him to meet was leaving at eight the next morning. Kneeling beside my bed before retiring, I prayed and wept bitter tears before the Lord saying, “0 Lord, I know you want me to go to the conference, for you dampened my fleece by sending me double the amount of money for which I asked, and you know I want to attend those Victorious Life meetings more than I ever wanted to do anything in my life; but Lord, I cannot go by myself; I am too weak and timid.”
As I wept, the Lord spoke to my heart, “Suppose you get the telegram in the morning, you won't be ready to go.” “No, Lord,” I said, “I will not let anything like that happen!”
Drying my tears, I immediately arose and packed My suit-case, placing the rest of my things in my trunk for storage so that I could give up my room while I was away, thus eliminating that expense. The exertion of packing was too much for me. I retired, only to toss from one side of the bed to the other throughout the night.
Morning came at last, and I arose, dressed myself for the trip, and went to the breakfast table where I ate my prunes and milk (the diet which the doctor had prescribed for me), and waited for the telegram. As time for the train to arrive drew near and no telegram came, my spirit again began to sink, and my heart was as heavy as lead. Eight o'clock came. I knew that I should have been downtown ready to board the train but I wailed, “Lord, I cant! I just can't go by myself!” My disappointment, needless to say, was great. A few minutes after eight the telegram came. It read, “Will meet the train in Chicago, You be on it.” But the train was due at eight o'clock. It was already past eight, and there I was five miles from the station. Feeling humiliated because of my doubts and fears, I cried, “Lord, what have I done? I have not only failed you, but I have failed my husband also! What can I do? What must I do?”
Hurrying to the information desk, I asked what time the next train would leave for Chicago. I found that another would be leaving in an hour. With a feeling of a little relief I said, “Please order a taxi for me at once.” “One has already been ordered for another lady,” the clerk answered. “If you can be ready in twenty minutes, you may take it.” “Send the porter, please, to take my trunk and place it in storage,” I replied. “I will be ready in twenty minutes.”
All I had to do was to put on my hat and coat and have my suitcase, ready for the taxi driver.
When we arrived at the station, I hastily bought my ticket, just as the train came chugging in. “Where is that train going that is coming in now?” I asked the agent. “To Chicago,” was the reply. “Can I take it? I asked.” “Yes your ticket is good on it” was the agent's answer.
Breathing a sigh of relief, I hurried to the train. Upon boarding it, I found that it was the very train I was supposed to take in the first place. It was one hour late! The first thing I did after finding a seat was to thank God for helping me, in spite of all doubts and fears, to catch the right train.
“Lord,” I prayed, “I thank you. I failed you and failed my husband, but Thou hast not failed me. Truly, Thou failest never!” Again and again I praised Him for His faithfulness in this another instance of His loving care for those who love Him and are His.
When the train pulled into Chicago, my husband was there to meet me. Had I not been on that train, he would have been greatly upset, knowing how ill I was; he would have been much worried, wondering what had happened to me. “If we are faithless, he abideth faithful: for he cannot deny himself” (II Tim. 2:13).
Doubting Christian, throw away your fears! You may be weak and wavering, but He whose “eye is on the sparrow” is not going to let you fall! Just lean hard on His everlasting arm and go forward in His strength.
“To the Jew First ...” (Romans 1:16)
We arrived at the conference grounds in Cedar Lake, Indiana, on the opening day and attended only one service that evening. The following day we attended three services in the morning, one of which was a Jewish missions course. There were nine different mission courses being offered, but my husband suggested that we attend the Jewish hour. We went to three services also during the afternoon and evening.
The following morning it was almost impossible for me to get up, as I was completely exhausted. At the breakfast table my husband said to me, “Would you like for me to ask the minister of Moody Church to pray for you?” “Yes,” I replied.
He went to the minister and asked him to pray for me.
Although my husband was very insistent that I go back to bed, I had such and insatiable desire to understand God's Word that I begged to go to the Bible class. He reluctantly consented, and I walked with him the few steps to the meeting. The lessons in the class were exposition of Romans, chapters 6, 7 and 8. My soul was being fed, and I reveled in the new truth I was learning. I had sought for years to get the truth on this portion of Romans, concerning the doctrine of sin in the flesh and sins in the life. At last the light was breaking in my heart. What joy of soul was mine, I could never tell you.
At the close of this class my husband said, ”Now you must go to bed.“ But I pleaded to go to the Jewish missions class, and over his strong protests I went with him. The leader of the Jewish course asked that everyone who was not willing to make a solemn vow before God that he would devote the rest of his life to the giving of God's Word to Israel, to leave the room quietly. He made the request, not only once, or twice, but three times. My husband and I seemed unable to move from our seats, although before this time it had never entered our minds that we would spend the rest of our lives working for the cause of Israel. We sat there, held by some power beyond our control, and prayed for guidance. It was a real crisis in our lives — a most solemn hour. We told the Lord that, if He wanted us to enter the Jewish field, we would do so, going wherever He willed. When we left the room after the session was over, my strength was completely gone, so much so that my husband had to hold me up. The minister who had been requested to pray for me saw him assisting me to our tent and called to us. He was sitting on a bench under a tree, and he told me to kneel there and pray. With the effort of kneeling, I was so exhausted that I could not speak aloud, but said a few words in an audible whisper. Then the minister prayed, asking the Lord definitely to heal me. God answered his prayer, and from that hour to this, I have not had the slightest trace of tuberculosis, the trouble which had caused my illness at that time. Before the healing, however, I made an unconditional surrender of my life — my all — to our blessed Lord. Only after surrendering all to Him did He answer this prayer. Our lack of absolute surrender often, hinders God's answering our most earnest petitions. The next evening my husband had to leave. I was supposed to return to the sanatorium the following morning.
That evening at the conclusion of the missionary message I went to a women's prayer meeting and when I was called upon to tell what the Lord had done for me, I testified that I had been healed. I also told what a blessing the conference had been to me, and that it was with real regret that I was leaving, but that I had to return to the sanatorium the next morning. The leader of the group said, ”Why are you going back to sanatorium? You just testified that you have been healed. If you are really healed, why go back there?“
I was somewhat taken aback, but I replied, ”I am supposed to go back. I left my trunk there; and besides, I obtained only a three day leave.“
This apparently did not convince her, for she said: ”If you have really been healed, I do not see one reason for you to go back to the sanatorium. Would you be willing to get on your knees, and tell God that you are going back to the sanatorium unless He blocks your way?“ ”Yes,'' I answered. “Then let us kneel and pray,” she said.
In her prayer this teacher asked the Lord that, if He had really healed my body, to block my way so that I could not return to the sanatorium. The next morning, before time for my train to leave, I received a letter which had been forwarded from the sanatorium. The friend who had been keeping our eighteen-months-old baby girl had written to say that she could no longer keep the child, because her own son was ill and the baby worried him. She wrote that I would have to come to get the baby. I immediately read this letter to the leader of the prayer group; and she said, “Well, I take it that this development is God's blocking of your plan to return to the sanatorium. Instead of going back there, you should take the train, get your baby, and write the sanatorium authorities that you have been healed, that you are therefore not returning, and that they should express your trunk to you collect.”
Realizing that I was actually healed, and seeing that God had blocked my way of returning to the sanatorium (where I was booked to stay for five months), I telegraphed my husband that I had really been healed and was not returning to Battle Creek, but was going to Pekin, Indiana, to get our baby. Promptly a telegram came reading, “I have the two boys. You bring the girls and meet me at the depot in St. Louis.”
Following his instructions I met him in St. Louis. From there we went to Harper, Kansas, where he had shipped our furniture. He had accepted a position as substitute teacher for a year in the English department of the college there. The doctor had advised him to take the children and me to a drier climate. He had arranged to teach beginning the following year in the seminary of a religious college in Abilene, Texas.
While my husband was teaching in Abilene, we lived in this beautiful new home, pictured here, which my father had built for us. While there we took six young students — one a full-blood Sioux Indian — into our home, giving them room rent free and furnishing a kitchen in which they did their own cooking, in order to help them through college. The entire upstairs of our home was given over to these six students. Subconsciously we were trying to soothe our conscience which pricked us sorely when we remembered that we had promised the Lord that we would give His Word to Israel. It was not that we had given up the idea of working in behalf of Israel, but the trend of events seemed against our doing anything definite at that time for God's Chosen People, the Jews. My husband was teaching in the College at the time. The six students were in his classes; but, not content with that, he taught them two evenings a week in an effort to give them all of God's truth that he could. The Sioux Indian saw more light as the result of his teaching and surrendered to the Lord, and Dr. Cooper had the joy of baptizing him. Later he married and went as a missionary to the Indians in Oklahoma. This seemed real compensation for all the time and money spent on him, and it brought joy to our hearts. At the same time Dr. Cooper's work of teaching, our lovely home, and the comparative ease and comfort which surrounded us and our children failed to give us the joy and peace that one might think they would. How true it is, dear friends, that one cannot step aside from any call of God and at the same time have peace of soul.
During this time in Abilene I did what I could by visiting in the homes of Jews in the town and in trying to point them to their Messiah. My closest neighbor took me visiting in her car. I made friends with a number of Jewish families, but I soon realized that making friendly contacts and being a good neighbor was not giving them God's Word. And I found out also that I was not competent to teach them. It was then that I began to pray in earnest, asking the Lord to call my husband to witness to Israel. I felt that he had the necessary Biblical knowledge and training. And I believed that, if the Lord would lay the burden heavily enough upon his heart, he would give the truth of God's Word to Israel. He had taken seriously his vow to the Lord to spend his life doing what he could for the Jews, and had put a Jewish history course in the Bible Department of the College where he was teaching. He was subscribing to several Jewish magazines to acquaint Himself better with Jewish thinking and more efficiently to prepare himself for teaching this course.
The Lord laid the burden of Israel's salvation heavier and heavier upon my heart, and I prayed an hour each day concerning the matter. Often my neighbor came over to our house and prayed with me. Insistently I prayed, “Lord, call my husband. Call him. Call him! You know the vow we made. Please call him to leave his position at the College and to give your Word to Israel!”
“Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18)
Day after day my prayers went up, “Lord, call my husband!” until finally one afternoon in the spring of 1924, when he was busily engaged at our cowshed, doing his evening chores, the Lord answered my prayer in a wonderful way. As he told me of his experience, I praised the Lord in my heart for His faithfulness.
He said that as he worked at the cow house, there came before his mind the terrible reality of the lost world. He seemed to see a great panorama of millions of Chinese passing into eternity without God and without hope. Likewise he could see myriads of other nations marching into eternity without God. And finally, last of all, there came to him a vision of the terrible plight, of lost Israel and God's plan for the Jews. The thought of Israel's having been called to be a channel of world blessing and of the Jews' still being in a state of rejection overwhelmed his heart. He leaned against a tree, wept bitterly, and prayed. There he decided that, since the Lord was calling him to go to Israel, he must resign his position and go. While he was standing there weeping, one of the other teachers of the College came by and said to him, “Professor Cooper, are you in trouble? Is there anything I can do?” My husband replied, “No, God has just made me realize the deplorable condition of lost Israel and has called me to do what I can for His people, the Jews. I am going to resign my position.”
When he came into the house, he said to me, “Sweetheart, God has called me to give His Word to Israel. I am going to resign my position at the College and devote my life to giving God's Word to the Jews in Palestine and to doing what I can for them.” Needless to say, I was so thrilled that I could have shouted. But I restrained my joy and merely said, “I shall be glad to go with you anywhere you want to go.” Later when I told him that I had been praying for months that the Lord would call him, he understood clearly how it was that God had so definitely laid the burden upon his heart.
We offered ourselves for service in Palestine, but on account of my frail health and our having four young children, we were not sent. God's hand was in this disappointment also, for He had planned another way for us to serve Him. He had overruled to bring about a greater advancement in work for Israel throughout the world.
For three years we had lived in our beautiful home which my father had built for us, and in which he thought we would be settled for life. With its nine beautiful rooms, its many conveniences, and its spacious grounds, we had almost forgotten the struggles of the early years of our married life. But when God called us anew to keep our vow and to work for the cause of Israel, these material things seemed of little value compared to obeying God's command.
We left our home, with broken ties and sad farewells, but we had proved the promises of God, and we knew already that “... to them that love God, all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28). We had taken that for our life's verse. And thus began a new chapter in the story of God's dealing with us.