Part 3: The War Years
Editorial Note: As the late Dr. L.C. Johnson prepared to step down from his long tenure as president of Welch College (then Free Will Baptist Bible College), Contact magazine asked him to write a five-part series of articles. In these short accounts, Johnson traced God’s hand in forming, building, and keeping the denominational college.
The task of establishing a Free Will Baptist College was much larger than this inexperienced young pastor would ever have dreamed. Little did I know about the diversities in doctrine and custom that existed among Free Will Baptist churches across the United States.
However, this was one instance when ignorance of the facts was a blessing to me. Had I realized the true situation in 1942, I do not believe my faith in the movement could have survived.
One thing of tremendous importance in those early days was the student body God gave us. Though small, they were easily inspired and accepted instruction with great enthusiasm. These students became our best public relations workers.
J. R. Davidson was business manager, but I like to call him the “evangelist” for the institution. He preached its worthiness across our denomination and helped continue the spirit of hopefulness we needed so desperately.
These were war years. Travel was difficult and uncertain. Young men old enough to be in the armed services had to have a good reason to escape the draft. Brother Davidson and I rode buses and trains many nights when we had to stand in the aisles. However, we were glad for that privilege in order to make appointments.
During those days, Brother Davidson counted offerings with the loose change people dropped in the hat, rather than in checks and $20 bills. While he took care of that aspect of the work, the rest of us were busy trying to inspire our students and teach themthe basics of the Word of God.
In the early 1940s, a standard of conduct had to be determined for our students and decisions made regarding the basic structure of the institution — decisions that determined the course of its future journey.
In retrospect, it seems these decisions were not made out of calculation. Rather, I like to think the hand of God was guiding, and His Spirit was putting thoughts into our minds beyond our own human reasoning. We must remember the college did not grow because of experienced administrators and educators, but because of a strong desire to do the thing most pleasing to God and provide our churches with the best caliber of leadership possible.
I must pay tribute to our students from those days. Though small in number, they had a spirit of enthusiasm and dedication that assured them the best training anywhere to be found. They were proud of their school, and out of that spirit of loyalty other students were attracted, and the student body grew.
During those first few years, we did not determine whether to go the Bible institute route or the Bible college route. These decisions came later. But the institution was now a reality, along with confidence God was in the movement, and it would succeed.
L.C. Johnson, president, Free Will Baptist Bible College
(Adapted from Contact magazine, March 1979, page 31.)