(Sam Burton is a deacon at the Chapel and preaches the sermon on the second Sunday of the month.)
TESTIMONY OF RECEIVING THE LORD
THROUGH A GIDEON’S N. T.
By Dr. Sam W. Burton
Saturday, May 12, 1945 –Okinawa
“Anchored in Keremo Retto. Loaded ammo. … During last night’s action, the DD Hanby was repeatedly attacked while on radar picket duty. She shot down nineteen planes and was hit by five others. She was later abandoned and sank. At dusk this evening two Japanese planes came … and attacked the Wick (U.S.S. Wichita) and the New Mexico. Ours was the first and crashed about 1,000 yards on our starboard beam. While everyone was engaged in our “buzz boy” the second came in low astern of the New Mexico strafing her the fall length of her stern and crashing into her at the base of her stacks and bridge. She burned fiercely for about ten minutes, and there were several explosions before the fire was brought under control. While firing at these planes, a destroyer fired a 5″ shell into our catapult, spraying two 40 MM mounts with shrapnel. Thirteen men were injured One died at 0130, Three suicide boats were sunk during the night, with two more probably sunk.”
Tuesday, May 15, 1945
“Bombarded all day and all night. Two enemy plane raids, but no attacks.”
This was during the Battle of Okinawa. I was aboard the U.S.S. Wichita during this time.
But, the “rest of the story!”:
I was born in New York City (Manhatten) of parents who were in the theater. Because of their careers, they came to Hollywood and San Francisco and left me with a family when I was 1 1/2 years to 2 years old — from 2-7 years old — 5 years during the Depression, Of course, I owe my lífe to that family, the Benke family.
At seven I was put on a train headed for California with other children and a nanny. In California I met people I did not know, my parents. I was put in boarding schools during my elementary school years but did live with my parents in Laguna Beach, CA, during my high school years.
Upon graduation on June 8, 1944, I went immediately into the Navy on June 10, 1944, and went through “boot camp” in San Diego, CA. I received a New Testament from the Gideons and put it in my “ditty bag”.
After boarding the Wichita in the South Pacific (Ulithi) and being in several naval battles, we found ourselves on a 10 month deportation and the Battle of Okinawa. During this time, I practiced boxing aboard and began reading the Gideon’s New Testament. One thing was a great embarrassment to me, a filthy mouth. The Lord convicted me as I read this New Testament and led me into His truth. I read,” Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled” (Matt. 5:6),”Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). And then I read: Rom.: 3:23, 6:23, Eph 2:8,9.
After reading the entire Gideon’s New Testament and the decision page, I received the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior on May 15, 1945. During this time I also attended a Bible study on board ship led by Hudson Armerding, my radar division officer and later president of Wheaton College. We studied Fundamentals of the Christian Faith from Moody Bible Institute. At the end of the War, the ship went through the Panama Canal to Philadelphia. I met some Christian young people at a Servicemen’s Center and attended church and was baptized on April 4, 1946. I was 20 years old.
I thank the Lord for the Navy. I learned to say, “yes, Sir”, and “no, Sir”; I was saved by reading a Gideon’s New Testament and I got four years of GI Bill of Rights education. From 1946-1950 I attended Westmont College as a history major. It was here that I met Betsy who has been such a tremendous blessing to me for 70 years. Dr. Charles Ryrie married us on April 29, 1951. While at Westmont my new found Christian faith was grounded through Bible courses, the Navigator memory system and practical Christian ministry with the American Sunday School Union (now the American Missionary Fellowship) and two summers with the Canadian Sunday School Mission.
After graduating from Westmont, I studied at UCSB for a teaching credential and a year
of Bible and Theology at Multnmah School of the Bible in Portland, OR. After teaching school
on the Hoopa Indian Reservation in Northern California for three years, and after much prayer, Betsy and I and our three little girls moved to upstate New York where I taught school.
On October, 1957, we boarded a German freighter, the Bertioga, and headed for Argentina. It was our privilege and joy to serve as missionaries for 38 years in Argentina, Uruguay, the Amazon River in Brazil in church establishing, and in Mexico and Guatemala in Theological Education by Extension which grew from 80 students to 700. Our family grew from 3 children to 8 including an adopted Brazilian.
I was able also to continue studying and received an M.A. in Education from Azasa Pacific University and a Doctor of Ministry from Southern California Bible College and Seminary. My doctoral dissertation was published by William Carey Library Publishers in Pasadena with the title Disciple Mentoring – Theological Education by Extension.
What a privilege, too, to teach Intercultural Studies (Missions) at Christian Heritage College in El Cajon for 15 years as an adjunct professor (adding my junk – Ha!). I am now teaching courses with SCBC and S, mostly in Spanish.
AND — all because of that Gideon’s New. Testament. Thank you Gideons International!
Praise the Lord!