by Mrs. David L. Cooper
“He Called Them ... And They Straightway Left and Followed Him” (Matthew 4:20, 22)
When the time came for us to leave our lovely home, which my father had built for us, the Lord definitely led in our moving.
My dear, precious dad came over to see me and found me dashing here and there through the house, packing into barrels for storage my beautiful hand-painted china, carefully handling my much-prized oil painting's — things which represented many years of hard work (before I married, art was my chief occupation and delight), packing bed linens, blankets, and hundreds of other thing's — even the furniture for storing.
With the joy of knowing that we were answering God's clear call and with all the work I had to do, together with four excited children at my heels, I could not sympathize as thoroughly with my poor father as I otherwise would have done.
Following me about, he asked, with such a distressed look on his face, “Lita, what are you going to do with this house? I built it for you and the children so that you would have a home. If your husband wants to wander over the earth, let him go. If you and the children will stay here, I will take care of you.”
I did not have the heart to tell him that I had prayed for months that the Lord would call my husband to leave all and give God's Word to Israel. I merely said, “O Dad, I couldn't do that. When I married him, it was till death do us part. I must go with him wherever he goes.”
My poor dad said again, “But what will you do with this house?” “Sell it,” I said. “That is impossible,” he replied. “I have had it up for sale ever since you first told me you were leaving.” “If you will let me handle it,” I continued, “I will get it sold this week for cash.” “Very well,” he answered. “Do what you can.”
I immediately called fifteen real estate men, told them that our house was to be sold that week for cash, and asked them if they would bring some prospective purchasers in to look at it. Then I went to my knees in earnest prayer, asking the Lord to help me sell it immediately, as I had only one week before leaving.
Did God hear and answer His child who had given up everything — father and mother, houses and lands — to follow the Master when He said, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel,” “to the Jew first”? Well, dear reader, what do you think? Four days later our beautiful home was sold for cash, and my heartbroken father kept the money. He, though sick in body and heavy in heart, helped me to crate the furniture and to place it in storage — where it later burned. But that, is another story. My father took the children and me to the train. It was a sad parting, but God gave the strength and grace which we needed.
When our train pulled into Chicago, my husband met us. (He had preceded us by some months in order that he might take the Jewish course in the summer at Moody Bible Institute and could begin his studies in Hebrew and other Semitic languages in the University of Chicago, in further preparation for his work of giving God's Word to Israel. We arrived with eleven dollars in my purse. Dr. Cooper had only a few dollars himself. From a financial standpoint it was a gloomy outlook. But we were serving Him who said, “The silver and the gold are mine,” and we were trusting the Lord to provide for us.
The weary search for an apartment began. Naturally, with four small children, this was a real problem. Finally, in desperation and in order to get in off the streets, we took a one-room apartment on the third floor of an apartment house.
This room was twelve by fifteen feet. A closet four feet square was used as a kitchenette. At night we let down the sanitary couch for the two boys and pulled out the trundle bed from under the double bed for the two little girls. My trunk was placed on top of my husband's trunk, and the one rocking chair in the room was put in the hall, where my husband did his studying each morning and evening for three months. When the beds were down, there was not room even for one chair. And besides, it would have been impossible for him to concentrate on his studies with four restless children around him.
That first evening, after our family devotions, the six of us got into bed, weary in body, but with souls that were filled with the joy that can come only to those who have truly left everything to serve the Lord Jesus in the field to which He has called them.
Next morning I put the children in the State Street School at Chicago and State Streets. Then I registered in the Jewish course of the Moody Bible Institute four blocks away. When I entered the room where the class was seated in session, a lady whom l did not know stepped up to me and handed me an envelope saying, “Give this little note to your husband.” Then she walked away so rapidly that I did not get a good look at her.
I put the envelope in my purse and promptly forgot about it. The weekend passed by, and Monday came. I asked my husband why he did not go to the University.
“It is no use,” he said. “I cannot register for the fall term, as I do not have the ten dollars registration fee.” “Well,” I said, “let us kneel and ask God for the money.”
We prayed, and he decided to go on and trust the Lord as he went. As he walked out the door, I thought about the little note in my purse, so I called, “Wait a minute! I have a note which a stranger handed me for you, and I forgot to give it to you.” He took the envelope and opened it. In it was a ten-dollar bill and an anonymous note which read, “God has told me you needed some money to enter school.” We dropped back on our knees and with praise and thanksgiving in our hearts thanked “the giver of every good gift, and every perfect gift” for again meeting our need. The Lord had overruled so that I would give it to him at the strategic moment. Had I given it to him on Saturday, we might have been tempted to use it for food and incidentals. Our Lord knew just when to remind me to give it to him.
Months later in a prayer meeting I told this incident as an illustration of God's faithfulness in meeting our needs and in answering prayer. A lady present came up after the meeting and told me that it was she who had handed the envelope to me. She said the Lord sent her down to the Moody Institute to hand the gift to a student whose husband needed money to enter school. “And I never met you again after that,” she said. She was thrilled to learn how God had used the ten dollars to supply my husband's registration fee.
While we were living in the one-room apartment, we had guests for a week. A minister and his wife came all the way from Texas to see us. As they expressed it; they came to see “what in the world Professor Cooper was doing anyway.” This minister had said to my husband before we left Texas, “Cooper, you must be crazy. If I had two thousand dollars in the bank, I could not quit my job and go to school. You do not have a dollar in the bank, and to my personal knowledge you have not even received your last two months salary.” What he said was true, but we had something far better than money in the bank. We had a definite call from God and the assurance that He would supply our every need—not our wants—if we would obey His call. If anyone obeys Him, He never fails that one.
No doubt you are wondering where we put the minister and his wife to sleep. One of the tenants was on vacation, and he permitted us to rent his small room for our guests. We all ate in the little four-foot-square kitchenette. I sat on the ledge of the window behind the small cook table, the minister friend at one end, his wife at the side, and my husband in the doorway at the opposite end of the small table. The four children ate at the second table. Crowded? Yes. Inconvenient? Yes. Quite a comedown from our large nine-room house in Texas, from man's point of view. But how happy we were, and how full of peace and joy were our souls, knowing that we were in the directive will of God and at last were preparing ourselves to fulfill His call to minister to Israel, the Lord's brethren.
Every moment I could spare I was looking for a larger place to live. For three months, I looked daily; then finally I found a three-room apartment. This, too, was on the third floor of an apartment house. How good the Lord was to us! In answer to prayer my husband got a job on Saturdays and Mondays, selling neckties in Marshall Field's store. Other days he went to the University. Every evening he clerked three hours at the post office. On Sundays he preached at a mission church. It was a busy life for me, too. After school each day I took the children to the playground for exercise, and on Saturdays to the Field Museum, where in the afternoons they could see Ernest Thompson Seton's pictures and hear his lectures on animals. We found the true-life stories which he told about animals most thrilling and educational. On Sundays we attended Sunday school and church services. This was the way I kept the children employed, happy, and satisfied. During that time they rarely saw their father except on Sundays, as he had to leave early is the morning before they were up, and he returned from his job in the post office after they were in bed asleep.
Thus we lived and worked. Our material possessions were few, but our faith in God and our eagerness to do His will were great. And our spiritual life was heightened by the self-denial which we had to undergo.
While taking the Jewish course at the Moody Bible Institute, I went with the students on their assignments. I had such joy and blessing in the work, and God was using me to give the light to many Jewesses, when, without warning, I was stricken down with illness. I grew rapidly worse. My husband began to despair of my life, and one day he said, “Sweetheart, you are so ill that I cannot depend upon these doctors any longer. I am going to telephone Mrs. McDonough (the leader of one of the Moody Church prayer groups) and Mrs. Warner (a member of that group) and ask them to come and pray for you.” (Both ladies were wives of elders of the Moody Church.)
“I wish I could be anointed and prayed for, as the Lord told us to do in James 5,” I said weakly.
“I'll call Brother Beck,” was his instant reply. “I'll ask him to come and anoint you.” (Mr. Beck was personnel manager at Marshall Field's, a deeply spiritual Christian, and a leader in the little church where Dr. Cooper preached. He and the two ladies came. He anointed me and prayed. Mrs. McDonough and Mrs. Warner prayed also. While Mrs. McDonough was praying, the Lord touched me, and the fever left. I was healed of that illness.
I had never been to Mrs. McDonough's prayer meeting, although my husband had often insisted that I attend it. But after that experience I said, “If God hears her prayers like that, I'm going to be a member of her prayer group.” Each week then when Friday came, I went to her house around nine o'clock in the morning for the prayer meeting which lasted until five in the afternoon.
“In My Distress I Cried Unto Jehovah, and He Answered Me” (Psalms 120:1)
Months later, I was stricken again, and this time it seemed necessary for me to have a major operation.
Summertime came, and the children were out of school, so we took them to Cedar Lake, Indiana, to a children's conference which the Moody Church was sponsoring. We obtained a tent for living quarters and put them in the care of a young woman friend. Then I went to Rochester, Minnesota, where Dr. Charles Mayo, of the Mayo Clinic, performed the operation.
When I arrived in Rochester, I found that the sick were being brought to the Mayo Clinic by train loads. Over five hundred sick persons registered the day I entered. The Doctors Mayo (two brothers) could not operate upon, or even examine, all that vast number. They had 365 doctors in the Clinic assisting them. Dr. Charles Mayo was on his way home from Europe, so he was not even there when I registered.
Every day for a week three surgeons examined me, took blood tests, spinal X-rays, and even X-rayed all my teeth. At the conclusion of the tests they had a consultation, the result of which was that they dismissed me, stating that they would not attempt my case — that I was beyond medical aid. I telegraphed my husband that I had been dismissed and that I was coming home, since nothing could be done for me. He immediately sent a telegram back saying, “Do not come home. Try to see Dr. Mayo.”
My sister was there with her husband, a patient; and she suggested that we call for Dr. Charles Mayo, who had just, one hour before returned from his European trip. We called for him. After listening to the case history which one of the surgeons read to him, he examined me and then said to these surgeons, “You have completely missed her case. She needs a Mayo operation, and I shall take care of her myself on Monday morning at eight o'clock.” He at once engaged the operating room and a room for me in St. Mary's Hospital (Catholic institution where the Mayos did their operating). I telephoned my husband. He came, and the operation was performed on Monday as Scheduled.
On the third day after the operation, which was for the removing of a malignant tumor, I grew worse and began sinking fast. My husband thought I was fainting, and he began bathing my face. The head sister of the hospital, Sister Otelia, kept saying to me, “Breathe deeply, Mrs. Cooper.” I was struggling hard for every breath. My fingernails blackened, and numbness crept up to my elbows. My hands became stiff and rigid, and my eyes rolled back in my head. At that moment my distressed husband said to the sister: “I want to go and send a telegram to a prayer group in Chicago and ask them to pray.” The sister said, “No, don't leave the room! I shall have the messenger boy come to the room.” The telegram which he sent to Mrs. McDonough read: “Please pray. My wife is sinking fast.”
When Sister Otelia saw that the numbness and stiffness had crept all over my body, that the heart had stopped, and that the breathing had ceased, she immediately took the air cushion from under me, also took the pillow, straightened my hands down by my side, removed the covers from the bed, and placed over me the death sheet.
The last words I had uttered were, “My hands are stiff. I cannot bend them.” When I had stiffened and the skin had tightened all over my body till I felt like a marble statue, suddenly everything cleared in my mind. Motionless though I was, a silent cry went up to God from my innermost being, “O Lord, do I have to go into your presence empty handed, with no souls to bring with me?” My joy had left me. The thought of meeting my Lord empty handed broke in on my hitherto peaceful soul, and I was horrified.
Now, I had, like most mothers, spent my life up to that time cooking and caring for my husband and our children and keeping a clean house. Although I had taught Sunday school and Bible classes and had made some effort toward contacting Jews for the Lord and caring for the sick, I really had taken very little time for such work. But in that crisis when I was face to face with eternity, I saw as mortal eyes cannot see that I would have very little reward in the other world. I was frantic!
I saw also in what a predicament my going would leave our children. I saw them hopeless and helpless, as human eyes could never see. And I began to cry out in my heart to God: “O Lord! The girl I left with the children won't stay with them a year.” (To show you that I saw the truth, she married one month after she had left the children, although she had promised me that she would rear them if I did not return from the hospital.) Again I cried silently to God, “Please give me back to my children. I will rear them for soul winners.” I also promised that I would spend the rest of my life in His service, which thing I have faithfully done to this moment.
Upon that promise the Lord gave back my life. I knew when my heart started to beat again. Then I began to breathe so very easily that no one perceived when I began, although for an hour I had struggled for every breath until I ceased breathing entirely. Next, I vigorously opened and closed my hands under the death sheet. They had been stiff, and when I found that I could bend them, I knew beyond doubt that God had heard and answered my prayer.
When I realized that God had really given me back my life, I prayed aloud in a strong, clear vice. My husband said I never had had such a strong voice before. And this is what I prayed: “Although doctors and nurses have failed, Thou art able, and I am trusting Thee. Help quickly, Father God; I am trusting.”
Just at this point the night sister who was on duty, but who had not been in my room that evening, dashed in, rushed up to the bed, and as quick as a flash grabbed my right arm and shook me violently, commanding me to hush. She said “Dry that up right now! You are alarming the hospital, and I won't have it for a moment!
I ceased to alarm the hospital, but my husband said that they all could see that I did not cease praying. When the night sister shook me so hard, she tied me back to earth again. I had seen everything very clearly with spiritual eyes. When she shook me, my eyes flashed open; and in one glance I saw the group around the bed: the intern, the night sister, and my husband on the right side of the bed; Miss Fine (my nurse) and Sister Otelia on the left side of the bed; and two other doctors at the foot.
Although Sister Otelia kept on talking to me, I did not answer but continued praying, until finally Dr. Stenson came in. He was Dr. Mayo's second assistant at that time and had my case in charge. When he spoke to me, I opened my eyes and answered him.
In the records of the Clinic it is written that I was unconscious for such and such a length of time.
Friends, when the body ceases to function entirely, it does not mean that the soul likewise ceases to function. There is no such thing as unconsciousness as one approaches death. When one faints — and I have fainted several times — there is a total blackout of the faculties, but not so as one approaches death. The doctrine of soul sleeping is false. And all those who have espoused that theory will know it is false when they, too, repose under the death sheet, as I did. If every preacher in the world and every doctor on earth taught soul sleeping, I would still know that such teaching is false. And when such teachers get to the place where I was, they, too, will know better.
The night sister, when she realized my condition, brought in a rocking chair for my husband to sit in and told him that he had better stay all night. The sisters thought I had rallied for just a few moments and that I would soon be gone. Dr. Stenson then made a thorough examination. He even took blood from my ear and had it examined. He pronounced that my condition was good and that I would go through the night—that they need not worry. Why should I not have been in perfect condition when God had heard and answered prayer? Although the night sister had told Dr. Cooper to stay all night, and Sister Otelia had put my hand on his and told me not to worry, that he was going to sit in that chair throughout the entire night, nevertheless when the doctor said my condition was good, they made him leave. He went across the street and got a room, walked the floor for and hour, then came back. He kept returning to the hospital until finally at two o'clock in the morning the night sister told him that if he came back once more, they would not even let him in when morning came.
On the first Sunday after my operation on Monday, there were four churches in Chicago praying for me, and also the congregation at Cedar Lake, Indiana, where we had left our children, were praying. During that day and night I slept without sedatives for eleven hours. It was through the power of prayer that this was made possible. The doctors and nurses thought I was going into a coma.
Early Monday morning Dr. Stenson came in, looked at my chart, and read aloud: “Patient slept eleven hours without the doctor's rest medicine.” I looked at him, smiled, and said, “Yes, Doctor, I slept yesterday and last night like a baby, by the power of prayer.” He shook his head from side to side and kept muttering, “Prayer must help; prayer must help; prayer must help.” Then he had a consultation with Sister Otelia, the night sister, and the nurse, Miss Fine.
After the consultation Sister Otelia pulled the rocking chair up to my bedside and said, “Mrs. Cooper, can you explain your case to me? You have us nurses and doctors baffled.” “I don't, know what you mean,” I answered. “Well,” she said, “you slept eleven hours yesterday and last night without the rest medicine in spite of all the agony you were in. It was so abnormal that we thought you were going into a coma. But every time we did anything for you, we had to wake you from what seemed a natural, normal sleep. You told the doctor you were sleeping by the power of prayer. Will you explain that to us?”
I told her that there were four churches in Chicago whose ministers had promised to pray for me, and that the people at the conference where my children were had also promised to pray. I said, “I could feel the power of their prayers.”
“Well,” she said, “I can understand and that explains all right why you did so much sleeping; but how can you explain the fact that three days last week you made such marked improvement, and all the other days you either slid backward or merely held your own?”
“I do not know how to explain that,” I replied, “except that on Tuesday afternoons Mrs. Voltz's prayer band, another group of friends in Chicago who were interested, met from one to three o'clock, and I know they were praying for me, as they promised they would. Then on Fridays the large prayer meeting of which I am a member prays from nine in the morning till five in the afternoon, and I know they were praying for me.”
“Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday were the days in which you made such marked improvement,” Sister Otelia said. “You tell your sister,” she continued, “when she comes today to write your husband (he had returned to Chicago on Saturday so that he could preach on Sunday) and tell him to ask your praying friends to pray, not just three days a week for you, but to pray every day — that you need it. Tell them that Sister Otelia said you had got through by prayer.”