Billy Graham Center

Click here to return to the "The Zamzam has been a long time in sinking!"

Text of three letters Walter John Guilding wrote to Ralph Davis, home director of the United States branch of Africa Inland Mission. Notes by the editor are in brackets []. Punctuation and spelling is from the original letters. The originals are in the Billy Graham Center Archives, Collection 81, Box 23, Folder 4.


16 Hrs from Jersey City
S.S. “Zamzam”
March 21st 1941

The telegram sent by Dr. [H. A.] Ironside [pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, which supported several Africa Inland Mission workers] + you was greatly appreciated by the group.

We did not get away from jersey City until 10 p.m. last night. There were the usual rumors going around as to when we would sail, but nobody knew until a little while before we started. There was much changing of baggage from one hold to another for some reason or other + a general mixup, but finally matters got straightened up fairly well. I think I should mention that the forwarding agents did a very poor job on our boxes. People had quite expected they would have printed on names, destination, etc. I saw on one of my cases only a tiny label indicating name + destination. Such a label could easily get torn off and the case go astray.

As we pulled out of harbour many of us grouped together and sang a few hymns. It was so cold and a high wind that we could not stay out long.. It is warmer to-day and the sea is quite calm, so the people are well and happy. Mrs Buyse is not very well, however, she got a bad cold and stayed in bed yesterday. I learned she is better today and will be up this afternoon.

We hear we are to call at Baltimore + that is the reason I an getting this word ready to post from there. We should be there early in the morning.

It is hard to say exactly what the boat is like. There seems to be a general assent that the food is good. The cabins are fairly roomy, but some have had no heat in them and people have been almost perished. We have a warm cabin. Water for washing seems to be at a minimum and there is no soap to be seen anywhere. We are glad we have some. There will be some discomforts, but we have so much to praise the God for that we shall bear them without murmuring.

We have just made arrangements for prayer-meetings.

There is a playroom that is empty most of the day and the steward said we could use that aby time, so we have made known to many p.m. [prayer meeting] for 3p.m. this afternoon. Several of other missions will be there. A little later we will arrange for some bible study and also Sunday Services. This Sunday we may be in port. If so we hope to go to some church in Baltimore.

We are finding a lot of nice people on board. Several very earnest Christians. Some there are who would not see eye to eye with us, others at S.D.A.s [sic] [Seventh Day Adventists] and there are some 17 Roman Catholics. We are looking forward to a very happy voyage and there might be conversions. A number of passengers are just worldly people, but we do not note any of a rowdy nature. They need Christ, however and we do He desires to work through us for their salvation.

How we shall look back again and again to our good time of fellowship with you and the rest of the staff in the office and home. It was a lovely time and I am sure profitable to us all. We shall have a greater desire to remember you all in prayer through the contact we have had with each other.

I think I will now add a little space and add a word when we get to Baltimore.

March 22nd. We landed here in Baltimore about 7a.m. As far as I know we leave to-morrow morning. I believe most of our people are going ashore. Some of the people have colds, but, I think the warmer weather will prove to be all they need. I personally keep very well. The sea air gives me such an appetite. Mrs. Buyse is feeling better and was at the table last evening.

Trust you had a blessed time at the different meetings, that souls were quickened. May the Lord use you in the further meetings you are to speak at.

Perhaps others are writing you, in case not, I’m sure all the group send their Christian greetings to you and all at the office.

Yours in Him,

W. J. Guilding


[Stamped “Apr 23 1941", apparently the date it was received.]

On Board the S.S. “Jamjam (Zamzam)
March 26, 1941

Dear Brother Ralph:

I want to get a brief word to you ready to mail at Trinidad. It will probably be three more days before we reach there. I shall add just a word at the time of mailing this.

We are having very lovely weather + the sea is fairly calm. I would say very calm, but as a few people are under the weather I suppose there must be a little motion. Some of our people have not been very well, not through sea-sickness, but colds. I am glad to see all of the group out today + know those who have not been well are now better.

We are finding out that many of the passengers are lovely Christians. Our daily prayer meetings are bring us closer to each other in Christian fellowship. A little committee has been formed to arrange these meetings + choose a leader each day, not forgetting of course that THE leader is the Lord Himself by His Spirit. We have had some real blessed times + it will surely mean blessing to our own souls + those we come in contact with + we trust above all that it will bring glory to our Lord. About 40 people have attended the meetings. Some cannot come on account of their children, others do not seem inclined to come. There are a number of S.D.A’s [Seventh Day Adventists] on board, but none of them come.

You will have received my brief word from Baltimore. While there we had the pleasure a visit with Mr. + Mrs. John Steel + their son. They came to the boat + spent about 3 hrs with us. We so enjoyed their visit. On the Sunday in Baltimore we had the pleasant surprise of a visit with Mrs. Stevenson + her sister who came down to have another farewell with the daughter. In the afternoon before sailing we had a meeting on deck. The boat pulled out in the middle of the meeting + the wind blew rather strongly. Mr. Brill brought a fine message, of course rather brief. People I am sure enjoyed it.

There are some Lutherans on board going to Tanganyika. They are very fine Christians, I am sure very spiritual. One, Mr. Johnson, is very good at ki-swahili + has also commenced classes. Several of our party are taking advantage + going to these studies. Mrs. Guilding + I are making an attempt at what we have so long neglected, namely a study of this language. We are afraid it might confuse us with ki kamba.

Some little improvements have been made in the boat. For instance, we now have running water in our cabins and are also able to take baths. The food is quite good on the whole. As I said before, we have so much to thank of gracious Father for [sic] that there is no room for murmuring or complaining.

March 29th. It is now expected that we shall arrive in port to-morrow morning. The Purser informed us that we shall be allowed on shore. We expect to stay in port for the day. It may be we shall find some church on land where we can attend service. We have arranged for an evening meeting on ship-board. We trust that the Spirit of the Lord will work + that some precious souls will be saved. We must continue to pray much. All our party seems to be pretty well now. Greetings in the Lord Jesus’ name from we all to you all in the office, remembering of course Mrs. Earle + her family.

Yours as ever,

W. J. Guilding.


[Handwritten at top, “Brooklyn Rec’d Apr. 17 HDC” probably Henry D. Campbell]

On board the S.S. Zamzam
April 7th 1941

Dear Brother Davis,

Just a brief word to let you know all is well. There is much for which we are thankful + praise God for traveling mercies thus far.

In my last letter I quite to mention one matter + that is when I send a cable from Cape Town as to my safe arrival will you pass on the word to the S.A.G.M. [South Africa General Mission] office + also the S.I.M. The Muirs of the former mission + the Ohmans + Miss Beam of the latter would greatly appreciate it.

There is not much news to report. We are just journeying on toward our desired haven. The going is a bit slower than we expected as were told we would reach Permanbrco by yesterday, now we expected [sic] to reach there tomorrow. All this is working out for good, no doubt.

Yesterday (Sunday) we had some nice meetings. The morning service was held in the lounge which was packed. A Dr. Norberg brought the message + I was asked to conduct the Service. In the evening we met on deck when a good evangelistic meeting was held. There were a few listeners besides the missionaries. We believe one man has been converted. The Muirs have been dealing with him + a couple of days ago he went to their cabin + wept on his knees + asked God to forgive him + save him. He needs our prayers + all the help we can give him. We feel sure the Spirit is working + of course the Devil is also.

We have had it a bit rough. There has been a very high head wind for a few days lay [sic] some people low. Our party is well, some minor ailments, such as head-aches. Miss Blanchard had that for a few days, but is now better. Mrs. Brill was poorly yesterday, but alright this morning. Marian Buyse is a little poorly. Mrs. Fix not too well, but you know the reason (the 2nd child is on the way)

Some people were a little scared yesterday morning about 4:30 when the fog signal started blowing. There is one woman with six children to care for + she was quite agitated until we assured her it was nothing.

On Saturday we crossed the Equator + there certainly was some doings. There is no swimming pool so the hose was used. A few of our party went through the ordeal. It caused some fun, but was taken to the extreme + one fellow was hurt.

Our daily prayer-meeting continue [sic] + I believe with added interest. The room is crowded. Sorry to say some missionaries do not attend; apparently not keen on prayer. A few I fear are worldly (perhaps 3 or 4) , but the great body are just fine Christians + we have grand fellowship together.

Trust all are well at the office. May the Lord have been magnified in meetings + may you always have sufficiency in all things abound [sic] unto every good work.

Yours in Him,

W. J. Guilding

Return to BGC Archives Home Page

Last Revised: 5/1/07
Expiration: indefinite

Wheaton College 2007